Interviews Photos

Jack J Hutchinson discusses ‘Who Feeds The Wolf’ – new album due October 19th

Interview and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

Header Image: Rob Blackham

With a new album, ‘Who Feeds The Wolf?’, due out in October 2019, we caught up with Jack Hutchinson at this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair where Jack has been a regular (both on stage and at the bar!) for the last few years.

Having first seen him perform in 2017 in the Blues, which by 2019 have evolved into a full outdoor Blues Stage, acts like the Jack J Hutchinson band have reinvigorated the blues rock scene in the UK and brought a new wave of musicians to the public’s attention.

With a solid line up that features regulars Lazarus Michaelides on bass and Felipe Amorim on drums, Jack is also joined on the latest single and album by Alberto Manuzzi on keys. Latest single ‘Justified’ can be seen below:

AH: Jack, thanks for taking some time to chat. The new album has been part funded by a Kickstarter campaign, is that right?

JH:: Yes, I did a campaign which was to essentially raise money to pay for the mixing of the album and to have the album produced on vinyl, which is something that I’ve never done before with any of my records. And so it is quite an exciting thing to contemplate doing your own vinyl. I buy vinyl’s when I’m purchasing albums myself, and I’ve got quite a big vinyl collection. It’s just expensive to get it done on that format. And so without the Kickstarter campaign, I guess I would have struggled a little bit to raise that money.

AH: So how does the vinyl then work, normally? Is it mastered typically for the CD release.

JH:: It’s a slightly different mix that my producer Tony Perretta does. So he’ll do it in a slightly way, mixed one for CD, one for vinyl and also digital mix as well.

And essentially with the vinyl mix, you just got to kind of crank up the bass up a little bit. And you just tinker with it slightly. But it all be essentially the same mix.

Tony, my producer, he’s always kind of mixed records to vinyl anyway. So when he’s worked with other bands, that’s the mix he’s aiming for. And so it’ll be interesting to hear how it sounds when it comes through on the vinyl. I mean, when the RHR album, Mahogany Drift came through on Orange Vinyl, it was amazing hearing one of my songs on that format. Never had it before. Listening to ‘Rapture’ on that album was just amazing to hear. It sounds different to me. There’s a lot more depth in it.

AH: You’re in a very tough market yourself in terms of music and your style. It’s a heavily saturated market at the moment, the 3 piece blues set up. What do you / can you do, do you think, to make sure you stay at the top of the league rather than beside it?

JH:: I think my main focus has always been song writing. I think there’s a lot of music that I come across within this genre and on the scene that is kind of focused a lot on guitars. And there’s a lot of songs that seems to want to skip the actual song and go straight to a guitar solo. Which is fair enough. But, my main musical influences have come from people like John Lennon and Neil Young. That kind of classic song writer, has been a massive influence on the way I’ve approached music.

Obviously I’m really into guitar players as well. I look at Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde, Slash, most of the rock guitarists. But I’ve always  approached my music from a songwriter’s perspective which means that a lot of what I do is my personal. I write about my personal experiences. And I think that translates in songs. And so this isn’t psyching anyone else off, but it’s just that I approach it more from a way of trying to get my own intimate feelings across through the crafted song.

I think that’s really important. Obviously, it’s also important to look cool and be bad ass on stage and all that sort of stuff. And I think we delivered that. But it’s a tricky market. I think it’s really crowded at the moment and I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now and it feels like there’s more bands than ever.

And there’s an ease with which people have access to bands. Particularly, this sort of new wave of classic rock scene that’s crafted over the last 12 months. There’s just so much music out there, and it is hard to kind of break through it and get your voice heard.

AH: I agree. A lot of self promotion has to be done as well. You’ve got to keep dipping into the small social media groups and things like that. Saying, “Guys, have you heard this? That must be quite time consuming?

JH:: Well the thing is, I’ve always loved social media. So I really enjoy that level of communication that you have through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And I think it’s a really great way of meeting people and spreading your kind of message to different people. I know a lot of musicians that say it’s a real pain in the ass, and they don’t like it. And they think it’s a waste of time. But I don’t approach it as I need to do this as a promotional thing. Obviously, you do. But I kind of approach it as I like chatting to people. I like talking to people in reality and it’s just similar to that. It’s just on your mobile phone or your computer.

AH: Another angle that I think sets you apart from the herd is the the stuff you do as a session musician as well. Presumably that then puts you in a situation where a different style of playing, a different environment makes you work and play in different ways?

JH:: Yes, it’s very different. I mean when you play guitar for the people, you’re obviously directed in a way where you’ve given up that sense of creativity. And when I’ve worked through with the bands, it’s been quite an interesting experience and quite frustrating at times. It’s helped pay the bills. But what I think it does, is it means when I come back to write my own material and work with my own bands, I’ve got more enthusiasm for it. Because if I’ve spent a week in a studio with somebody playing their stuff, and then I can go out and rock on my material, I just have a lot more energy for it.

AH: Does it effectively clear your mind as well and give you that creative spark back?

JH:: Yes. You’ve almost got to treat it as a job. And so you can use the skills that you’ve got as a guitar player. I mean, I’ve also done sessions where I worked on vocals as well. Which is quite the fun. And I’ve only done that recently, in the last two years. Because I’ve always been a guitar player. I’ve only really been a singer for the last 4 years. And that was just to cover in bands with singers who are acting like dicks who kept not turning up to shows. And I was forced to sing instead of them.

JH:: And so, yes. I think it’s a lot of fun and it can be really testing in terms of your technical skills. But it means that you’re pushed in directions that you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise go. So you learn styles that you wouldn’t otherwise play. You know? I could spend time sitting around in my bedroom playing along to Cinnamon Girl for hours on end. But then I did this Ska track about a year ago. I was doing the backing vocals on it and it’s kind of funny. Because I think when I approach singing, I come from this sort of Chris Robinson, Paul Rogers background. But when I do backing vocals, I’m more suited, you know? Kate Bush.

I think that I’ve got quite a wide vocal range, really. But obviously I’m playing southern rock, and playing blues. It’s more suitable if you’ve got that kind of whiskey, scarred, vocal chord going on.

AH: Absolutely. Yes. Because it’s not supposed to sound like your about to sing ‘Babooshka, Babooshka’ then?

JH:: [Laughing] Well, yes. I mean that’s- I don’t know whether I can manage that… [Note, it’s still early in the day at RMF and we’re sitting by the Civil War camp. Best not to scare the soldiers by trying a bit of Kate!]

AH: Now the three of you, [Jack, Laz and Felipe] when you’re out about and you’re touring, you seem like quite a tight unit. There’s a dynamic between the three of you that works really well. You play off against each other to almost… put a smile on people’s faces. With Laz and Felipe, it’s almost as if they’re like a couple of old women bickering.

JH:: Well that’s because they are. [Laughs]

I think it’s because Laz and Felipe have known each other for a lot longer than we’ve been in a band together. And they’ve done session work before, they’ve been function bands and they played this Pink Floyd tribute acts, and things like that. They’ve got a history that I’m not a part of. So they came in to the band as a unit that was kind of already existing.

And that extends to when you’re in a tour bus driving around or on ferries, and they’ve been in each other’s company way too much. And they just end up getting on each other’s nerves. And it’s a little bit like when I hang out with my brother for too long. You kind of annoy each other, but you’re never going to massively fall out. You just make up and have a beer and then it’s all forgotten.

It’s usually about like, who’s eaten the last sweets in the van, or something like that, you know? It’s really–

AH: Just the serious stuff then!

JH:: It’s never about the music. But what’s great about them is that they dissect gigs afterwards and they analyze how it’s gone. And they’re constantly looking for it to be perfect. And that has made me work a lot harder and really assess how I perform. And it’s just raised my game being in a band with two people who are so professional about that.

AH: As far as the new album’s concerned then, how is the writing dynamic there? Is it all on you and they’re just putting their on spin on what you’re asking them too? Or is it a three-way effort?

JH:: So I write all the songs. And then I send them the songs as a demo. And then they give me feedback. And that’s never really happened before. Every band I’ve been in, I’ve just given them the songs and it’s just like, “You play the bass part like this.” So even on on my last album, I played a lot of the bass. Whereas this one, I’ve sent the tracks and Laz is quite open in terms of his opinions and stuff. And he just says, “Look, I think you’ve got better songs.” And that has been a really interesting process because he’s made me just think harder about the quality of the songs. And instead of just going, “Right. I need an acoustic track. Let’s stick that on there,” he was like, “No. We want every single song on this album to be a single.”

I think that’s what makes it a really good album from start to finish. It’s quite strong in terms of every song. Instead of just having one big chorus, it’s like let’s have three choruses in a song. Let’s have it really catchy. And Laz is a massive Beatles fan. So he kind of listens for the hooks. And Felipe is really into the sort of Zeppelin riff stuff. So that kind of analysis has been really useful for me to develop as a song writer over the last 12 months.

AH: Nice. How was it though when the feedback first started to come? Because given that you’d never obviously had to experience that before, you’ve been able to sort of dictate how it’s done. This time you’ve got, “Well, actually no.”

JH:: I said, “This is my f*cking band. I’m the boss. F*ck off.” No. I didn’t really say that. But I was sort of thinking it. But yes.

I was a bit like, “Who the hell are you guys,” you know? But I think that’s great because as opposed to having people constantly just saying “Yes” to me, for fear of being sacked or something. I don’t know. I’m not that mean, [laughs]. These guys, I recognized really quickly that they were just  offering constructive criticism.

And you know? Just it can be little things in songs. I mean, we’ve experienced that when we’ve been doing the mixing over the last three or four weeks for the record where, we’ve all listened to tracks and gone, “Look, it needs more ‘X’ on that section, it needs to maybe bring the guitars up.” Laz frequently says the bass is too low in the mix which isn’t surprising. But yes. I think it works really well.

AH: Where are you launching the album?

JH:: We’ve got a launch gig at The Black Heart in Camden on the 22nd of October. And we’ve got two great support acts. Stone Thieves and Jack Browning. The reason we chose the Black Heart is that I used to live around the corner in Camden. So I’ve been drinking in that place for years. And it holds a lot of special memories for me. Where…. well why not have it in a place where I basically got smashed continuously [laughs].

AH: Yes? Aside from the launch party, what are we going to be seeing? More videos? You have another single beforehand?

JH:: Yes. We got another single called ‘Kiss your Ass Goodbye’ which is coming out. And that is a sort of southern rocker, Blackberry Smoke sort of vibe.

AH: But also presumably, that’s going to provide a chorus line that we’d able to sing along to every gig going forward with a title like that?

JH:: Well that was the thing. We played that song on the Kris Barras tour when we were supporting him early on in the year. People haven’t even heard that song and were singing the chorus back at us. Then we have another single just after the album comes out. Which is a track called ‘I Will Follow You’, which is a quite personal song. And it’s quite ballad-y. I’ve never really released ballads as singles. But that’s a song that’s really about my Dad who hasn’t been doing very well over the last 12 months. He’s got Alzheimer’s…… so that is definitely going on the record, you know? I’ve never experienced anything like that. I think probably I got quite lucky in life up until this point. So this has been quite a shocking thing for my family really. And it’s been really sudden. And my Dad was the guy that bought me my guitars, used to drive my band around in his car. He’s been a big supporter of me. Part of this record, I guess, is sort of written for him. And that is the song that is definitely kind of covering what me and my family have been through over the last 12 months.

AH: Got you. Must have been- if you don’t mind, it must have been quite tough to write.

JH:: Yes. Well, I did  it actually at HRH Blues. We rather fortuitously got offered a main stage slot at that festival.

After a band dropped out. We did that song at the festival. And actually I was almost crying on stage. I’ve never, ever felt like that. But it was just, you know? People sang the chorus back and they’d never heard that song before. And it was like, a quite and emotional experience being in that position where 3 or 4 weeks before that, he sort of gone into a home and stuff. So, it just shows that music can be a really powerful thing that unites people. And tons of people have been through what I’ve been through over the last 12 months. And I’m not under any illusions that I’m unique in that respect. But I think being able to write music and write an album has been a great way of channeling a lot of emotion and sort of anger towards what was going on.

As we draw a close to what was clearly an emotional discussion point for Jack, it falls to us to remind you that the album launch show is at the Black Heart in Camden, October 22nd. Details can be found below:

http://www.ourblackheart.com/events/2019/10/22/jack-j-hutchinson-band

 

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