Monday, 9 April 2012

Keepers: Onda Rock: Italian Interview by Gianfranco Marmoro

Fifteen years have not brought out of limbo the production of Miracle Mile. Despite critical acclaim, the stylish pop of Trevor Jones and Marcus Cliffe has not achieved the acclaim deserved.
On the occasion of the second solo album, Trevor Jones tells the secrets and passions that lie behind a long string of memorable songs and talks about his universe of friends, and looks towards 
a world of real people:

More than twenty years of musical association with Marcus Cliffe does not seem to have appeased the desire to find new solutions sound to your music, what is the secret?

I call us ‘The Hunchback and The Scientist’. I’ll leave you to guess which is which. I suppose that you could say that, broadly, I am the songwriter and Marcus is the arranger and musician. At the heart of it Marcus and I are good friends. We enjoy each other’s company and, musically speaking, compliment each other well by not encroaching on the others’ area of expertise. We have never predetermined our roles and therefore I’m reluctant to articulate the relationship; sometimes by giving something a name you can threaten the breath that sustains it. Some artistic combinations thrive on dissonance to stimulate creativity; in our musical world, I think that ‘calm’ is the essence of what we do, therefore our easy friendship is reflected in that musical balm. Before any new album, we’ll meet, open a bottle of red wine (or two) and gently slide into things, by discussing our lives and loves; what we’re listening to, reading, watching. This creates the appropriate environment and ambience for that which follows.

The orchestra seems to have a more important role in this new album, while giving up some more modern atmosphere has increased the emotional range of music, how you arrived at this new sound  structure?

Sonically I wanted ‘Keepers’ to be a natural development from ‘Hopeland’. The subject matter was rooted in the same environment, so we kept similar restrictions on the acoustic instruments that we used, but with ‘Keepers’, discord and sadness had entered the room. I wanted to suggest this by introducing a new element, the orchestra. Using a refined template we could be both ‘grand’ and ‘intimate’; by using strings we could suggest the river and the sea, the pebble and the mountain. I wanted to capture the grandeur of the island, particularly in the finale, the last 30 seconds of the album. Only an orchestra would have that kind of presence. I think that Marcus did a brilliant job with his arrangements and translated my mutterings into something beautifully articulate.

Your voice seems to grow in intensity and expression over the years, due to studies or artistic maturità?

I’m afraid that my voice is what it is. No lessons could tame the untamable. There is a crude Yorkshire saying that goes “you cannot polish a turd” (a ‘turd’ is ‘shit’) and I think that applies here. I just speak and sing as honestly as possible. The listener can sense pretention and, as our music is about ‘connection’, it is vital that people believe me and trust my voice.

The first two albums ('Blue Skies Than This, 'God's Own Swimming Pool') no longer appear in the discography of the Miracle Mile, an artistic or market choice ?

Those two albums were made solely as demos with the intention of getting gigs and maybe a recording deal. A lot of those songs were then remixed and went on to form the bulk of our debut ‘Bicycle Thieves’. I think that both ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and the follow up ‘Candids’ are due to be re-mastered. Maybe then we’ll include some of the unreleased stuff from those demos.

I was surprised by vehemence of  'Folding Sheets' a typical folk song but at the same time prepared with a charming arrangement, you're particularly attached to this song or do you prefer some other tacks from 'Keepers'?

It’s too early for me too make an objective judgement about the songs on ‘Keepers’. They are all my babies; sometimes you love the cross-eyed ones more than the beautiful ones. ‘Folding Sheets’ seems to be one of the handsome ones; it’s a favourite of many.

How much influence will the new direction of the Miracle Mile take from this test record? Marcus is planning some solo album ?

I keep prompting Marcus towards a solo album; he’s sitting on so much creative juice. We have discussed another Miracle Mile album but at the moment nothing is planned. Maybe once the muse kicks in again Marcus won’t be able to hide from me!
* Since this interview MM have commenced work on a new album, 'In Cassidy's Care', due out later in 2012.

Do you use 'Jones' as artistic name to avoid being confused with the famous composer of soundtracks?

I have been confused with that famous film composer ‘Trevor Jones’ before. He is South African and I once ate and drank very well in various restaurants in and around Cape Town by introducing myself as ‘the musician Trevor Jones’. They normally discovered my deception as we ordered desert!
So, of course it was a consideration; also ‘Jones’ seemed easier to remember…

The lack of success and the little attention the press is a result of your choice or bad luck?

I wouldn’t choose for my music to be ignored. I suppose that there’s cold comfort in knowing that a lot of great music goes unnoticed. You just have to make the most of your circumstances. The benefit of independence is that you can honour yourself. You don’t have to manicure your work to suit some corporate template. You can develop naturally
As my music is ultimately an attempt to observe, communicate and connect with the world, I recognise that it’s a humbling moment when we recognise that we’re all made of the same stuff, therefore it’s heartening to hear if a song has resonated in the way it was intended to, and that a listener has appreciated the finer details of the writing. The people who take the time to listen to the music as intended: as a piece; in sequence and in one sitting, are invariably the friends who stick with us.

Who would like to collaborate in the future?

Marcus, always Marcus.
I have had discussions about a project with David Bridie (an Australian film composer and musician who produces a lot of ‘World Music’) but we’re currently oceans apart.

Except the 'CANDIDS' cover, all seem to follow a precise graphic design, who has the final choice between you and Marcus?

As with all final product, Marcus and I both need to agree on the covers for Miracle Mile; we have always used the same graphic artist, Nick Reddyhoff, in order to develop a consistent style. I chose a different artist (Barry Cross) for the solo albums to help draw a line between the two different projects.

Are you going to write a book?

It’s already done and lays dormant under my bed.

Your ten albums for a desert island? 
1. Joni Mitchell - Blue

2. Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen (the remastered version which includes the acoustic versions) 

3. The Go Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane 

4. Blue Nile - Hats 

5. Tom Waits - Asylum Years 

6. Ennio Morricone - Once Upon a Time in America

7. Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde 

8. Frank Sinatra - The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning 

9. Neil Young - After the Goldrush

10. Elvis Costello - King Of America

Gianfranco Marmoro


  1. Great Top Ten Trevor - All much listened favorites of mine at some stage or other (bar the Morricone). It's not that I don't appreciate Morricone but I just don't have the record. My own top ten would probably feature a lot of the same artists, if in different clothes - Swordfishtrombones by Waits; Imperial Bedroom by Costello; On the Beach by Young; Highway 61 by Dylan; Liberty Belle by the Go-Betweens - but of course it is forever in flux.
    See list from way back at if you want to find reasons to disagree with my taste.
    By the way, thinking on favorite albums, were you a fan of The Stars of Heaven. Their albums are available from their label (for FREE) here - If you haven't listened to them you should. I think you'd enjoy them.

  2. Seamus, I tried to download the Stars of Heaven albums but failed miserably; am I a dunce?
    I admire the Independent label greatly; often thought that (if we were to be signed) they were my kind of host (Nonesuch also....) Emmit Tinley, The Handsome family and particularly Josh Ritter feature prominently on my shelves.
    I remember buying Swordfishtrombones at the Arndale centre in Doncaster and playing it non stop, esp 'In the Neighbourhood' and 'Soldier's Things', much to the chagrin of my parents and older sister who were trying to bedazzle me with Sinatra and T Rex...
    All of your other choices are 5 star; Imperial Bedroom my second best Elvis; wordily wonderful.
    Try Ennio; the film is long (4 hours uncut) but is wonderful; once watched you'll not forget the music. There's a lovely YoYo Ma plays Ennio CD out there that compliments the original soundtrack beautifully; sure it's emotionally manipulative but then so's... Yeats and... Sinatra.

    1. Re: Downloads - if you right click on either of the two small album covers under Download Free Albums and save link as they should download - it works for me.

  3. I remember seeing Tom Waits on The Late Late Show (long running Irish chat show) playing The Piano Has Been Drinking. He made a good impression on me while my parents laughed derisively. A few years later I got Swordfishtrombones and within two months I had everything he had released up to that point. So many great songs. Got to see him twice on the Frank's Wild Years tour - fantastic. It's a toss up for me between Swordfishtrombones and The Heart of Saturday Night, or Small Change "Wasted & wounded, ain't what the moon did,I got what I paid for now" "The dreams ain't broken here, no, they're walking with a limp" etc etc
    Lucky you - older siblings pushing Sinatra and T-Rex. I was the eldest so largely had to make my own way but early exposure to Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen helped.
    I have seen Once Upon a Time & do remember the music but haven't listened to it separately - or seen the film in two decades.