Howard Jones: Orange is the New Black
BY KRISTI YORK WOOTEN FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST
When Howard Jones asked his fans on Facebook to wear orange to his performances this summer, he was not alluding to the Netflix series about women in prison.
The 59-year-old British pop star — who sported a spiky mullet in the 1980s when he recorded hit singles (“New Song,” “No One is to Blame,” “Everlasting Love”) and gave an unforgettable sing-along performance on Freddie Mercury’s grand piano at Live Aid — may have cut his pumpkin-colored locks since his MTV days, but he still loves to dress in his favorite hue every night when he hits the stage on the Retro Futura tour along with Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), Midge Ure (Ultravox), China Crisis and Katrina. From the looks of things, Jones should have no problem getting to 60 with no regrets (as he sings in the famous verse from his 1985 song, “Things Can Only Get Better”).
HoJo and company are in the midst of a month-long journey across the U.S., stopping in hubs most of them haven’t played in years or even decades (Bailey, for one, hasn’t performed Thompson Twins’ material in America since 1987). Jones is a tech wizard and a pioneer of performing with Apple computers; his optimistic choruses, classically inspired keyboard riffs and danceable beats have been known to put multigenerational audiences on their feet. Fans of new wave music couldn’t be happier — they’re eating up Retro Futura’s smorgasbord of synthesizers as fast as Jones and his cohorts can sling their key-tars.
I chatted with Howard the morning after opening night on the Retro Futura tour:
On his Retro Futura setlist:
I’m starting out with a new song called, “The Human Touch.” I’m also doing a new version of “The Prisoner” with all synths and no guitars, a brand-new electronic version of “Everlasting Love,” and an EDM version of “Things Can Only Get Better.” There are quite a few surprises in there, as well.On how his spiritual life affects his songwriting:
I’ve been practicing Buddhism for 21 years now, and I’ve been working on that side of myself. I believe in personal transformation. We’ve got to do the work on ourselves to view the world in a positive way. We must have dialogues and conversations with others – face-to-face and not just through electronic media. Look people in the eye, get to know them and take the risk that dialogue brings. We are global citizens and connected to each other so closely. Whatever we do affects the others. I try to bring that to my [music].
On reuniting with his pals in China Crisis:
I opened up for them on my first tour that broke me nationally [in England] and we formed a close bond then. I adore their music, as well. [At Retro Futura], I’m the one at the side of the stage singing along with all of the songs. They are a very special band. The melodies and the chords are so original.
On convincing Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey to join the tour:
I really wanted him to come out on tour with us and I promised him he’s going to have a good time. People want to hear those songs again. It’s a long time since he’s performed, but last night he was really good.
On technology and human’s lib:
I’ve got a completely new rig onstage, all generated from my MacBook Air, a tiny one. It enables me to access pretty much any keyboard sound ever invented and layer it and control it. It’s gotten so sophisticated. I’m finally able to wander around [onstage] with my mobile keyboard and make all of these incredible sounds. It’s what I dreamt of when I first started out. But technology is a double-edged sword. There are too many young people in their rooms who never actually communicate with a human being properly anymore. And that’s not good. On the other side of it, we can connect with people across the planet so easily and exchange ideas. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t lose the human contact. Otherwise, we can’t develop as people.