Trampolene’s Jack Jones on surviving Pete Doherty’s birthday, re-opening The Bataclan and life on the road with Liam Gallagher
Last year, Welsh three-piece Trampolene released their critically acclaimed debut album ‘From Swansea to Hornsey’. The record, which comes with its own tale of success, saw the band set up recording at The Kinks’ Ray Davies’ home studio which, miraculously, he allowed them to use for free and have since toured non-stop.
Sitting down with front-man Jack Jones during the penultimate night of their tour, backstage at The Harley in Sheffield, as he began to reflect on their “crazy” last couple of years which has seen momentous highs such as touring with Liam Gallagher and him joining Pete Doherty’s band as an honouree Libertine. All of this, in context, is something Jack could never have even dreamt of being able to achieve when he continued to battle Crohn’s disease, an illness which hindered him from living his life to the full for six years between the ages 18 and 24.
I first became aware of Trampolene when Jack supported The Libertines on their 2016 Arena tour as their resident ‘tour poet’. He explains how this strange opportunity materialised and changed his life forever: “I think it all came about through all the poems I wrote, it’s a fucked-up thing really,” he said with a wry smile on his face. “I was putting poems out, the band’s always been a mix of rock ‘n’ roll and poems, that was our world we wanted to create. We were putting out videos on YouTube and hardly anyone had seen them, I think they had like 200 views and one of them was Pete Doherty just so happens you don’t need millions of views you just need the right person seeing it,” he added with more than an air of optimism.
That tour wasn’t all plain sailing however as he recounts this tale from the Bournemouth gig of the journey: “It was so fucked up, nobody really knew me at the time, and they were all like who the fuck is this twat? When I was in Bournemouth, I remember I was getting booed and when I was doing ‘Poundland’ everyone was throwing pound coins at me, there was about 40 quid on there. That’s about as much money as I’ve ever made,” he says while breaking out into laughter.
Following that tour, his band Trampolene played their biggest gig to date with a stellar show in London and then duly went out to celebrate afterwards. What happened the next day he could never have guessed: “I woke up at one the next day thinking life doesn’t really get any better than this, then Peter’s manager rang me having seen me playing the guitar on the tour bus (with The Libertines) and he said ‘Peter wants you to be his guitar player, go pack some socks and a bag because we’ve booked you on a flight to Buenos Aires at seven tonight’, so I had to get my fucking shit together. And then I had to learn like 20 songs on the flight and was listening to his songs thinking what the fuck’s that, cos he plays some weird shit but in a good way,” which he says with the utmost admiration.
The first show the 26-year-old played with Doherty’s band was the re-opening of The Bataclan in Paris, November 2016, following the 96 deaths of music fans who were watching the Eagles of Death Metal earlier in that year when terrorists struck on innocent fans hoping to enjoy a night of rock ‘n’ roll.
That special night is certainly one he will never forget and recounts vividly: “I don’t know, I might look back at that night one day and realise that as one of the proudest moments of my life. I’m not quite at the stage to look back now. It’s a big thing, a very big thing for me. It was so good that night. Pete was so good, it literally was like two of the best shows of all time. I remember just going in there for the first time when they were cleaning and there was this whole heaviness there then when everyone arrived, they came there to celebrate and like Pete’s a fucking hero in France. If you shoot a load of heroin and wear a nice suit you’re going to do well in France. He’s a God out there. I don’t think Peter will be appreciated in this country until he’s dead. It’s horrible.”
Another memory Jack has created with Doherty in France is the Libertines man’s birthday night out this year, which sounds even more Pete Doherty than you’d imagine. “I survived, which is my claim to fame. I survived Pete Doherty’s birthday,” he says proudly. “We were in France, we played a gig in a fisherman’s pub without anyone knowing to 20 fishermen. Pete loved it. He thought it was the best gig he’s ever done, and it was fucking great. They couldn’t pay us, they could only give us the rum they make in the pub, so they were just giving it to us constantly throughout the show so by the end of it we were all completely steaming. Me and Peter ended up in the sea swimming then I woke up at 11 the next day and both of us had our heads down on the dining table, we looked at each other and decided it was best go to bed.”
It’s not just France where Jack has had the pleasure of experiencing in the last couple of years, a world which couldn’t be more distant to rural Wales where he was born and raised. He elaborated: “I’ve been everywhere, I never thought I’d travel and I never really cared that much for it. I was just obsessed with guitar playing and writing. I’ve been all over Europe, South America, the only places I haven’t been to are Japan and America and that’s because they won’t let Peter in.”
The politics of the music industry is something which he tries to shy away from, instead of spending his time focusing on playing the guitar, writing songs and playing shows. “We don’t have a booking agent or anything like that, we book all our shows ourselves. Yeah, there are lots of fingers in pies, agents giving each other blowjobs so it’s hard to get on festivals. There’s always politics involved, it’s so shit,” he says notably frustrated.
He adds: “There’s no politics involved with Peter and that’s what’s so refreshing about him. Saying that, there’s no politics involved with Liam [Gallagher] – two completely unique people who don’t let any politics or bullshit get in the way. Everything is done from their own vision of themselves.”
Liam Gallagher is a man who has personally helped Trampolene along the way, handing the band an opening support slot for on his latest arena tour and asking Trampolene back to support at his huge, sold-out Finsbury Park show this summer. Jack doesn’t have a bad word to say about the former Oasis man: “I had one really nice night with him, he keeps himself to himself, y’know. I don’t even know how much time he even spends with his own band. He’s always there on time, very professional, I’d describe him as like an older brother. He’s got a lot of wisdom to share.”
Peter and Liam are two of the most famous figures in British rock ‘n’ roll history and the Welshman explains why he thinks they’re so loved: “Those two, they embody rock ‘n’ roll, maybe Peter the darker side and Liam’s the fucking poster boy for having a few drinks which is like the medium of happiness which everyone can connect with.”
“The thing about them is their both front-men, the thing for me it’s really interesting to see everyone in the audience, people talk about writers, I’m a writer myself and I have a lot of appreciation for people who embody everything. They both embody the song, the ambition, the whole ethos of everything comes through them so the experience of the audience all comes through them so that person needs to live and breathe the truth because people are able to tell.”
Morrissey is another controversial figure placed at the forefront of British music’s history, but Jack doesn’t respect him as a man like Liam and Peter after comments made in the 58-year-old’s book which blame Crohn’s disease on eating meat – a condition the Trampolene singer suffers with despite being a vegetarian.
Crohn’s has been part of Jack throughout his adult life although fortunately his condition has dramatically improved recently but it’s not always been straightforward: “It’s not easy man, it’s very tricky. I’m going through a bad patch though to be honest if this stuff started happening to me a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t be able to do any of it. Stuck on the toilet like 30 times a day in a lot of pain, up all night but I’ve been alright recently… touchwood.”
“I went through loads of mad shit in the past like nine weeks of not eating, living off drips and injections. The thing that works for me is I go for a transfusion every month, I’ve been doing it for two years and with a really disciplined diet means that I’ve been able to have some fun recently for the first time in my life.”
His life from ages 18-24 was more rock ‘n’ rice than rock ‘n’ roll’: “For maybe five-six years I didn’t drink, didn’t take any drugs, didn’t eat any fibres or anything acidic, just ate very plain baked food and basically lived off fucking rice, soup, bread and butter for like five or six fucking years. I missed a lot of my adolescence so I’m reliving it now. I suppose much to everyone’s displeasure apart from my own,” he says with a grin.
Mental illness is somewhat of a taboo in the music industry. Look no further than the recent and tragic news of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison taking his own life, Jack spoke openly about the difficulties that come with the touring life: “It sounds like such a fucking primadonna problem y’know, ‘you’re on the road get over it!’ but the psychological difference is huge, especially if you’re a sensitive person it’s like all of a sudden your fucking anchors have been taken away from you and you’re floating about you don’t know where you’re going.”
Jack believes that his illness has helped positively and shaped him as a person: “If I wasn’t ill with Crohn’s, I think I’d have let the reigns go and lost control but because I had to be so disciplined it made me focus. Wayne used to call me fucking mini Hitler even though Hitler was quite short anyway. I was adamant about practising five times a day and we turned our house into this mental Welsh hippie revolution refugee camp, there were rabbits flying around and about twenty people in a three-bed flat.”
That chaotic flat in Hornsey is where Trampolene was born after they all moved to London when they were just 18, which he explains the reasoning for: “All our mates were going to uni and we wanted to be in a band so we thought ‘fuck it let’s try’. The move to London wasn’t about London per se but Tom Jones did it, so I thought I’d do it. It was about getting out as soon as you get out and having no security there, you really find who you are and grow up which is why I think it’s important to do.”
Trampolene’s show at The Harley in Sheffield was pure unadulterated chaos with crowd-surfing from the very first tune, the sort of energy that an early Libertines gigs in sweat pits must have been like. It was exhilarating from the start right until the end when Jack finished on his poem ‘Poundland’ with every member of the audience joining in to proclaim: ‘It’s a pound love, everything’s a pound, you’re in Poundland, this is Poundland’. There isn’t a band in the country who are as exciting as Trampolene are, if you get a chance to experience one of their shows then jump at it and I promise you won’t regret it.