John Dexter Jones

Comrades, Comradiation, Craith.

A month before Covid-19 entered the fray, I sat in a pub with two old friends. One of them has been a lifelong sparring partner, the other a seldom-seen but lifelong influence. Both are wonderful artists, neither pays particular heed to any sort of conventional outlook, they know each other well, and it’s fair to say that as the ale went down in the Auckland in Menai Bridge, there was never a chance that a plot would not be hatched. This was probably the first time the three of us had ever sat around a table together in our lives – an amazing thought in itself – and yet it felt like the thousandth. During the course of the evening, the die was cast – or at least a vague gesture was waved in the air amidst the rising tide of inspiration… and the beer.

When Covid came, it proved to be the strangest of catalysts. Reduced to solitary summer houses, garden sheds and back rooms, and with so many public creative endeavours suspended, we revived that conversation from the Auckland.

Alan Holmes, my friend John’s elder brother, who oversaw my musical education, from the (brilliant) pop staples of the 1970s to the more expansive textures of rock, folk-rock and progressive rock when I was a kid, and Pete Jones, Sibol, in whose company I have seen pretty much every facet of humanity, took hold of the ‘gesture’ and we got to work.

Since joining JUMP in 1990, I haven’t really been involved in many ‘outside’ musical projects. I enjoyed working with former Marillion drummer Mick Pointer as he created his ‘Script’ project but the tour wasn’t for me. I did some rehearsals and a toe-in-the-water gig to get it started and wished them luck. On a memorable night after an eminently forgettable volume of drink, the same Pete Jones played me one of his compositions over a ‘nightcap’. Under the monicker of Union City Blue, the song Valley on the Coast made its way into the public domain, but aside from that, I’ve stayed pretty much exclusively inside the warm cave of JUMP.

And then, following a flurry of emails, I received some file transfers from Alan. There were twenty in all. I’d describe them as soundscapes. Atmospheres, even. Crucially, they not only struck a chord with me, but almost immediately prompted a series of word-scapes. Sitting at the bottom of the garden in our little summerhouse, headphones on, I began working through Alan’s numbered pieces. They evoked the times – the strangest of times – but also echoed a sense of a past that seemed to waking up. Events associated with laying bare the truth about Britain’s ‘stately home’ legacy were in the news, opening the eyes of the oblivious to the reality of oppression. Simultaneously, across the Mediterranean and the Channel, refugees were on the move in their tens of thousands, trying to escape the political carve-ups brought about by yet more ruthless empire tendencies.

Over the weeks, I sent Alan and Pete some crude demos. Literally me singing into an iPad with the track playing in the background. Pete sent through some video ideas. I enlisted the help of youngest son Charlie (Tal Jones), who helped me elevate the crude demos into ‘slightly better’ demos, using a decent mic and his laptop…

Over the last eighteen months I’ve revisited the material, and have been pleasantly surprised. This is like nothing I’ve done before. Half-sung, half-spoken, there’s no ‘rock’ to speak of; no lungfuls of air, no scrunched up face or tensed torso straining for the note. It occurred to me only to open my mouth and voice the ideas.

I’ve no clue when the ‘finished product’ will appear. The three of us continue to work on a wide variety of projects but we edge things forward whenever time and a following wind allows. One of those projects is ‘Comradiation’ – an eclectic musical collective of artists who are in some way connected to the football community in and around Bangor. The album ‘Abbey Road’ will soon be available for download, and features fourteen tracks put together to support the mental health wellbeing and drop-in centre of the same name. Some of the most eminent names in Welsh music have lent their support to the project, and, alongside a wealth of emerging talent, there is one obscure four-minute piece credited to ‘Craith’. That’s us.

If you buy the digital album when it’s released on December 3rd, you’ll be investing in an hour of fantastic sounds, you’ll be supporting a resource that has never been more important to its community, and you’ll also get to hear the first tentative steps of what happens when three very different ‘artists’ are let loose in a pub.

From Friday December 3rd: