Sound thief Mike Edwards says perverted samples keep Jesus Jones from getting sued

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 16, 1991

By Steve Newton

Mike Edwards is a very talented thief—a thief of sounds, that is. When the 26-year-old Brit hears something he likes, he takes it. And puts it on a Jesus Jones album. And sells a bunch.

“When it comes to sampling, I just pick sounds that I like,” says Edwards, on the line from Boulder, Colorado last week. “It doesn’t matter who makes it. I’m not interested in whether the band’s any good or not: if they’ve got a good sound, then I’ll take it.”

Jesus Jones’s first album, Liquidizer, was made “under the influence of” almost 40 different groups, films, and TV programs, all credited in the liner notes. “Every single one of those names—with one notable exception—appears on the album at some point,” says Edwards. “It’s basically a list of samples, taken from the hip-hop idea that if you credit the people up front, they won’t sue you. In our case, there was never any probability of us being sued, really, because the samples are so perverted, so messed around and distorted, that they’re not really recognizable.”

On Doubt, the second and most recent Jesus Jones offering, singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer/spokesman Edwards continues to heist nifty noises from the rock collection, taking five-finger discounts on the guitar line from the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” (on “Blissed”), then snagging a sample from the Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” (on “Welcome Back Victoria”). He also lifts bits of Star Trek, along with the sounds of a crashing plane and a ringing phone.

But this time around, Edwards’ cross-breeding of Acid House technology with guitar-heavy rock has paid off with an album that’s a huge hit at home and abroad. Its success led to Jesus Jones’s second North American tour, which brings the band to the Commodore on Sunday (May 19). And Edwards claims that the wild array of samples so well represented on his band’s records will not suffer any in the transference to the live arena.

“We have someone in the band whose sole role it is to reproduce those sounds,” he says. “He connects a keyboard up to a sampler in virtually the same way as I connect a guitar up to an amplifier. If he hits the key at the wrong time—or the wrong key, whatever—it can mess the song up. But there’s plenty of room for improvisation as well. The whole idea for me is to use the records as a blueprint to work from.”

Before forming his current band, skateboard freak Edwards—who actually cut short a midday skate to do this interview—used to play “pretty standard and uninteresting guitar music, as a great deal of people do”. Then, changes in the music scene itself brought about the birth of Jesus Jones.

“It’s the music outside of Jesus Jones that makes Jesus Jones what it is,” asserts Edwards. “We formed because of the sudden spark that happened when rock music and rap music and dance music all met. It was the impetus from outside forces that really got us going.

“To some extent, it’s rather like what was said of David Bowie—that he is good when music in general is good. I see us as being the same way.”

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