Howard Jones Interview ~ The Songs, The Synth and the Stories.

Howard Jones Interview | The Songs, The Synth and the Stories.

The year is 1983, unemployment’s sky high, wearing seatbelts has just become mandatory and vinyl collectors are shaking their heads in disbelief as the first compact disk arrives on our shores, oh and Cheryl Cole’s just cried for the very first time.

It's also the year that a certain feathery blonde haired Howard Jones first appeared in the pop charts with his own blend of futuristic synth sound and thought provoking lyrics. ‘New Song’ set out his manifesto and a swathe of crowd pleasing hits followed.

Once the subject of bad press, he says he felt like a soft target and subsequently developed a bit of an attitude towards being interviewed. Thankfully though, any animosity has long since passed and he was in fine fettle when I spoke to him yesterday about his tour.

Howard Jones’ solo show is billed as an intimate trip through his illustrious 30-year music career, he will also share behind the scenes stories and reveals the inspiration behind the songs.

I’m going to talk about how the songs were written and the stories behind it. I’ll talk about live aid and the Grammies, all sorts of fun stuff.


Early dress sense aside he doesn’t consider himself to be the most colourful of characters so let’s not expect any revelations of debauchery - instead just good stories and interesting stuff for music fans.


I'm about creating an emotional impact on the listener and I don’t care how it’s done. I want to move people with the words that I write and the sounds that I create.


Now synonymous with the synth, I ask him if his reputation has become a burden and i'm suprised to learn that he doesn’t like talking about the equipment he uses, he cares exclusively about creating an emotional impact on the listener and he doesn’t need a keyboard to do that.

I love using instruments that make new and unusual sounds and the synth was just that but I don’t usually like to talk about ‘Gear’ because it’s not what I’m about. I’m about creating an emotional impact on the listener and I don’t care how it’s done. I want to move people with the words that I write and the sounds that I create. It’s like asking a brilliant painter what brushes they use.


I’m interested in the idea that music can make you feel and make you consider things differently, and I don’t care how’s it’s done, it can be strings, brass sections, keyboards, whatever is in front of me, that’s what’s important to me.


As far as instruments go he described himself as just a keyboard player, he did try to learn the guitar but figured it would take him too long to get as good as he felt he needed to be. He did play the French horn at school and that gave him the sense of what a brass instrument is like to play.

It was just before going to high school that he discovered he could listen to music and then play it on the piano, and it would be 3 years later; after a challenge from a school pal that Howards creative talent would emerge. He describes that as being a ‘definitive moment’.

There was a guy at school that used to write reams and reams of poetry, he gave it to me and said “can you put some music to this”, it was the most difficult words you can find to put to music, I persevered, it was at that point I realised I could do it.


His early creations were never recorded but served as his starting point to learning the process of crafting a great pop song. An exploration he still pursues today.

If you think about a good pop song – it should be this beautiful simple structure with a few twists and turns, something familiar but that suddenly grabs your interest as well.  

I like unexpected and unusual chord shapes and I love great grooves, things that you can move too and an original voice that doesn’t sound like anyone else - that’s what I’m interested in, that’s why I like to have a look at songs that are amazing.

I’ve started to learn “God only knows” by Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) I’m interested in how that song works and what the chords are doing, it’s the most exquisite pop song.


While we chat quite happily about his music taste the conversation meanders towards collaborations and Howard buzzes with excitement when he recalls the time he toured with Beatles legend Ringo Star.

It was an honour. It was brilliant, I’ve always loved Ringo as a musician, I’ve always thought he was the best drummer ever and I still do. It was great being in that band, especially as the relative ‘new boy’.

I do listen to other people, Hurts from Manchester I love and Swedish Outfit Dirty loops, they do high octane Jazz funk using technology to achieve it.


No stranger to the Manchester music scene, Howard Jones played the 02 Academy as recently as last Summer and he also studied Piano at RNCM, which is coincidently the venue for the Manchester tour date. He said he practiced there for 8 hours a day for 2 years until the desire to start recording his own material became overwhelming, an endorsement from his favourite Piano teacher Colin Hawsley reinforced his decision.

I came in one day and told him I was leaving because I wanted to start recording my own music and I couldn’t wait any longer. He said play me something you’re working on and I sat down and played and he begged me not to leave, but my mind was made up.



Success would surely follow and not just with ‘New Song’, The first two albums, ‘Humans Lib’ and ‘Dream into Action’, brought Howard a host of hits including ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, ‘What is Love?’, ‘Pearl in The Shell’, ‘Like to Get To know You Well’, ‘Hide And Seek’ (which he performed at Live Aid), ‘Look Mama’ and ‘No One Is To Blame’, which reached No.1 in the US.


Personally I think Breaking Bad was one of the best bits of TV ever made so to have a song in it is like the ultimate for me.


To Howard’s delight ‘New Song’ was used in a pivotal scene in ‘Breaking Bad’, it’s the scene in the diner where Aaron Paul’s character Jessie questions if he wants to ‘play by the rules’.

Personally I think Breaking Bad was one of the best bits of TV ever made so to have a song in it is like the ultimate for me.

I spoke to the music supervisor, an amazing guy and he said I chose New Song because that was the song that was absolutely reflecting what Jessie Pinkman was going through at that time. He was deciding what his future was going to be and the lyrics of the song totally relate. If you know the song it triggers the words and you have that contributing to the scene. It’s really interesting.


Expect to see more of Howard Jones’s music popping up on TV and film in the coming months, in particular look out for a couple of brand new tunes appearing in the new Eddie the Eagle movie due for release this year.

30+ years have passed since Howard first introduced himself to popular culture, unemployment’s been replaced with zero hour’s contracts, vinyl’s back and the classically trained, feathery ‘now grey’ haired muso has flogged more than 8 million albums across the globe and he continues to sell out venues far and wide. His next performance in Manchester will be on the 18th February at RNCM, a gig which will see him return to the venue where he first honed his craft, support on the night comes from Elise Yuill, a protégé of Howard and a testament to his ethos of encouraging the next generation of singer songwriters.


18th February

MANCHESTER – Royal Northern College of Music

Box Office No: 0161 907 5200

Website -

Tickets - £22.50 advance | @HowardJones

Writers / Contributors: