After more than a decade away, Sean Jackson of 18 Wheeler returns with his debut solo album, we caught up with him to talk about his time on the label, life since the 90’s heyday and his excellent new album.
Below is a track from his new album ‘Slots’.
What was your first introduction to music?
I was 10 when John Lennon died, and suddenly Beatle music was everywhere. I couldn’t believe anything could be that good. I loved all of it, without reservation. I began to study their history, and that led me off in a thousand directions. A lot of people are pretty snotty about the Beatles these days, but they are still the best.
Did you always want to be in a band?
I got a guitar for my 11th birthday. From then on, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do.
Coming from Glasgow were you a fan of Creation and how much influence did this have on your music?
I’m actually from the Highlands, but lived in Glasgow for a few years in my late teens/early 20s. I could tell that Creation was the place to be.
How did you come to be on the label?
Via the Laird o’ Rock (aka the legendary Dave Barker). Norman (Blake) heard our demo and advised sending it to Dave, who was then running PaperHouse. He told us he was moving to Creation to set up a subsidiary, called August, and that he wanted us to be on the label, which in due course we were. When August wound up, Alan moved us to Creation. (By the way, if you ever read this, Dave – get in touch!)
You were on Creation during a period many period have split opinions about. What were your highs and lows of being on the label?
I remember being in the old office pre-Primrose Hill (the one that used to be a brothel) a fair bit, though I was never at any of those parties that went on there, honest m’lud. When they moved to Primrose Hill, it clearly got a bit more “corporate”…but only a bit. I didn’t really care about all that nonsense. The best thing about being on Creation for me, aside from the laughs, was that it was all about getting stuff out. It used to amuse me when we were labelled “slackers” by some people. In 5 years, we did 4 albums, about 15 eps, and lots of touring in various places. There were many highs, but a few random memories – playing the Albert Hall as part of the UnDrugged night, being Kim Fowley’s backing band for one show (he told us, without hearing them, to ditch the tunes of his that we’d rehearsed, and just improvise – either loudly or quietly, at his signal, while he ranted), spending an evening with Alex Chilton in the pub, touring with Teenage Fanclub, Sebadoh, and many other great bands, experiencing a mild outbreak of Wheelermania in Japan… I could drone on…
Did you go to Knebworth?
Yes. My main memory of that was that everyone was given Oasis binoculars. There was a VIP bit of the backstage beer tent, where people such as Kate Moss were sitting behind a rope, on a little raised platform. So Al (bassist) went to the edge of the rope, and trained his Oasis binoculars on their very important platform…much to Kate Moss’s displeasure, and my amusement.
You played at the Labour Party Conference in 1996 and were introduced onstage by Tony Blair. How did feel performing at such an event?
We all do stupid things when we are young.
Which 18 Wheeler tracks bring back the best memories?
Probably The Ballad Of Paul Verlaine, which I thought turned out well, and which used to be the last thing we played every night when we toured Year Zero, and maybe one or two things off the 4th album, which was good fun to record. But I don’t know, I don’t listen to it.
Was it a shock when it all came to an end. How did you adjust?
We had almost finished the 4th album when we got dropped. I thought they would have been as well to release it, as it had already been paid for, but by that point Sony’s accountants were in no mood for more Wheeler. I knew that Creation wasn’t going to last much longer when Graham Gillespie was let go and they shut the warehouse down. Graham was like the ravens on the Tower Of London – when he went, that was clearly going to be it. It certainly was for us, at any rate! It wasn’t a shock. We’d never been that successful in Britain. I had (and continue to have) a lot of love for Alan and Dick for the way they stuck with us. Incidentally, our manager compiled a work tape for the 4th album, and a few months later gave it to Creation, after we’d been dropped, just for their interest. I heard that they’d been playing it in the office, and when I ran into our old A&R guy a bit later, he told me they thought it was “fucking brilliant”…which I thought was quite funny, in a way.
Any plans to release the ‘lost’ forth 18 Wheeler album?
I wouldn’t mind, but I certainly don’t have any plans to release it. There may be an 18 Wheeler compilation before too long, and if so there will be a few tracks from it on there.
I interviewed Alan Hake earlier last decade and he said you were in Russia at the time? How was that?
It was fantastic. I went to live there post-Wheeler, and had a very interesting time for a few years. The Golden Age still exists, if you want to go and find it.
Where are you living these days?
No fixed abode.
What are the other members upto currently?
Al is a full-time father, and also running a website dedicated to his love of vinyl singles – 45cat. Google it, it’s great! Neil has disappeared.
You played some solo gigs 2 years ago, how were those shows?
They were very low-key, but I enjoyed them a lot. I hadn’t played in 10 years, so they were really to see if it was enjoyable – actually, in terms of playing, they were more enjoyable than most of the Wheeler gigs. I’m hoping to get that band together again soon.
Have you done anything else musically between 18 Wheeler and those shows?
I’ve done some recording in London, and I write on and off all the time. Everything is so much slower these days.
You are about to release your debut solo album, how did that come about?
Originally it was going to be on Must Destroy (Al’s label). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another record, even though I’d been writing and had tons of new songs. But Al said he’d release it, and Iestyn Polson offered to produce it for free at his home studio, and also using down time at the Church, which he has a hand in. I thought under those circumstances it would be churlish to say no. However, we did it on and (mainly) off and by the time it was done, Must Destroy was no more. So I asked Joe Foster if he’d like to release it, and he said yes. And here we are.
Whom would you say influenced you on this album?
I wasn’t specifically influenced by anything, though there is maybe a slight folk influence on one or two things. I’m always influenced in a general sense by “classic” song structure – I enjoy writing within those confines. Stuff I’m listening to at the moment includes Bill Monroe, Earth, Loose Fur, Beatles, Mighty Baby, Howlin Wolf, Khanate, though there’s not much of that on my album.
You are currently working with Joe Foster again releasing the album on his Poppydisc label, how does it compare to Creation?
It’s very hands-off, which is fine by me. Joe is still a great character.He is old school, in the best sense. I’m glad to have had the chance to get re-acquainted with him.
Will there be some more shows?
I hope so. There is talk of one or two things, but I don’t really want to say what in case it doesn’t happen.
Do you have any more plans for solo material (or with a band)?
The next album is written, and there are a few demos on my My Space page. I plan for it to be a double album (in old money) – 80 minutes long, and full of 2 and a half minute songs building to the final track, which will be a 15 minute sludge-drone opus called Vow To The Sun (also currently up on MySpace). So there!
Finally, do you have a message for the kids today…???
Brush ‘em if you got ‘em.
Interview: April 2010
You can order the Sean Jackson’s album ‘Slots’ from amazon by clicking here.