Jim Jones has been preaching his blues-driven swamp-rock gospel for three decades now. From his days fronting Thee Hypnotics through to recent triumphs with the Jim Jones Revue, he has barely paused for breath along the way. Super Natural, the debut album from his latest ensemble, the Righteous Mind, delivers a darker and weirder take on a familiar formula, but it’s no less explosive or exhilarating as a result. And Jones is full of excitement at being able to start rocking out again.
The Righteous Mind started as a change of direction, but rock’n’roll took over.
Jones has always operated in the sweaty haze between balls-out punk’n’roll and skewed Delta blues, but the first Righteous Mind song released, 1000 Miles From The Sure, suggested he was pursuing a new course. Not so, he says.
“Initially I wanted to get as far away from the sound of the Jim Jones Revue as possible, but all I want to do now is rock out again. It’s my default setting. There’s a lovely Tom Waits line: ‘If you go far enough away, you’ll be on your way back home’. That’s what this feels like to me.”
They took their name from a highbrow book.
Jones was at home, piecing together lyrics and images for his new project, when on top of a pile of books he spotted The Righteous Mind, a book about morality and its driving forces, by noted social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Immediately he knew what his band would be called.
“I always liked that early-seventies thing of saying cool things sound ‘righteous’,” he enthuses. “Coming from that whole MC5, Black Panthers thing of righteousness; not meaning it religiously, but more in the sense of ‘bitchin’!’ This is righteous rock’n’roll, you know?”
Unlike Jones’s previous band, the Righteous Mind are fully pedal steel-enabled.
Putting his new band together has been quite an arduous task, with no fewer than three piano players and numerous exponents of the pedal steel guitar falling by the wayside along the way.
“You have no idea how hard it is to find a good pedal steel player,” he explains. “I met a few, but the trouble was that I couldn’t persuade them to not just play straight Nashville stuff. To be fair, they’ve spent all that time learning how to play it properly, and then I come along and ask them to make it sound like a rocket taking off [laughs].”
The Bible provided some inspiration – but not that Bible.
“I was thumbing through The Satanic Bible recently – as you do,” he says, laughing. “Anton LaVey says that you may ask the question: ‘Why does this need to be a religion? Why the ceremony?’ He said that the purpose of a ceremony is to reinforce things that you know intellectually and make you believe and understand them emotionally. That’s what a good concert does. The band is a conduit for that.”
Super Natural is the darkest, weirdest record Jones has ever made.
From its menacing, monochrome artwork to the grubby cacophony that lurks beneath the surface of rowdy psycho-blues anthems like Boil Yer Blood and Base Is Loaded, the band’s new album is a grimly surreal affair.
“It just leaned in that way, from the first song,” he shrugs. “It conjured up all this imagery, of esoteric gentlemen’s clubs and that kind of thing. The artwork goes with the tone of the record, and takes me back to my childhood love of Hammer Horror movies and that whole dreamlike, esoteric world. It’s another dimension to explore.”
If you’re looking for some real rock’n’roll, Jim Jones will deliver.
“A lot of music sounds like it was made in a laboratory, to fit human demand, but there’s no humanity in it,” he concludes. “That’s what pushes me further towards making my music more raw and bony. That’s why the album’s called Super Natural; it’s two words, meaning it’s more natural than fucking ever. It’s ultra-natural, warts and all.”
Super Natural is out on May 12 via MaSonic.
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind - Super Natural album review