Bruce Foxton (From The Jam) chats with Kevin Cooper about his friendship with Paul Weller, his time with Stiff Little Fingers, the new album Smash The Clock and their forthcoming tour.

Bruce Foxton is an English singer, musician, and composer. With Paul Weller, and Rick Buckler he gained worldwide fame as a member of The Jam, one of the most popular and influential acts in the history of rock music. His backing vocals and prominent basslines were the foundation of many of the band’s songs, including the hits Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, The Eton Rifles, Going Underground and Town Called Malice. After the band’s break-up, he pursued a brief moderately successful solo career releasing one album, Touch Sensitive in 1984, and later joined the band, Stiff Little Fingers in 1990.

Bruce Foxton played bass with The Gift, which later changed its name to From The Jam. From The Jam toured the UK in late 2007, finishing with a concert at Brighton Centre on 21 December 2007 to mark the 25th anniversary of The Jam’s final show. Bruce Foxton is still a member of From The Jam and continues to release albums, with the latest release Smash The Clock being available early next year.

Busy preparing for their forthcoming tour, Bruce Foxton had a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Mr Foxton how are you?

I’m good thanks Kevin. Thanks for asking.

Let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

Its ok mate. My pleasure.

I have to ask you, how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at the minute Kevin is very good. I was supposed to have a knee operation back in August because it is damaged which is basically down to wear and tear after leaping around the stage like an idiot for 30 odd years. It would have meant me taking a couple of months off in order to recuperate. However I don’t know if my knee got wind of it all but it seems to have become a lot less painful. So I didn’t have the operation so we have had the whole of August off as a break from it all really. So we are now about to prepare for the forthcoming onslaught of shows (laughter).

Funnily enough I was recently chatting to Nils Lofgren who informed me that he has had both of his hips replaced for much the same reason.

(Laughter) that’s the problem Kevin; you reach sixty years of age and everything seems to start falling apart (laughter). With me it’s just the wear and tear of doing what I do really. It’s the price that I have to pay I suppose.

I was trying to be clever and have an interview with you without mentioning The Jam but I have to be honest with you, it’s impossible (laughter).

I would imagine that being particularly difficult as I am going out on the road to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sound Affects album (laughter).

You mention the Sound Affects album and I have to say that it is my favourite Jam album especially Pretty Green and Start which I feel showcase your excellent bass playing.

Thanks for that Kevin; I don’t know what to say really. I have recently been listening to the album again in order to rehearse along to it. There are some songs obviously which I don’t have to revise or swot up on but there are others which we haven’t played now for a long; long time tracks such as Scrape Away and Set The House Ablaze. I needed to hear them to figure out just what the hell I played on them (laughter). It sounds conceited but believe me I don’t play Jam albums at home every day of the week (laughter) but I was taken aback by the quality of the writing and the playing on Sound Affects. I was impressed basically and I would have gone out and bought it yesterday if it was a new release.

Where does it sit in your list of favourite Jam albums?

With me Kevin, every album regardless of where it got in the charts, means something to me for various reasons. For me All Mod Cons was the make or break album with the record label and so if that hadn’t have been successful then who knows if there would have been a Sound Affects. Obviously In The City would have been my favourite initially because it got the ball rolling. Modern World, although it got panned by the press, I thought that was a bit harsh and that there were some really good songs on there which tended to get overlooked because at the time the press wanted another In The City 2 or something. Then you have All Mod Cons which is a really great album. So what I would say Kevin is that Sound Affects is right up there, probably in the top three.

When you recorded the album some 35 years ago, could you ever have envisaged that it would still be as relevant today?

No not at all Kevin, I didn’t even think about it. It was just of that moment. It hits home when these tours come around, I think Christ, that was 35 years ago (laughter). I can remember a long time ago when The Who were pushing 40, we all said that they should give up (laughter). Talk about having to eat your words now Kevin. Here I am at 60 and still doing it and I now obviously realise just why they wanted to keep going.

It’s funny that because you look around at all of the sell-out tours in recent years and it’s the Who, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones. All of the older groups who the audiences still want to see.

Well yes, maybe it’s a bit sad in some ways but it’s a testament to the quality of the songs of that time. I think that the majority of The Jam songs, whenever I hear them being played on the radio, still sound very contemporary today. Considering that they were recorded in the late 70’s and early 80’s it’s incredible really.

Whilst on the subject of The Jam, were you surprised that you didn’t have more number one singles than you did?

(Laughter) you can’t be greedy you know Kevin. We had four number one singles and they broke lots of records at that time, so I think we did alright. I think that we did splendidly well to be honest in terms of chart positions. It was fantastic to enter the charts at number one with Going Underground; amazing to be honest, but our main objective at the time was to push ourselves as songwriters and musicians and see what we could come up with.

What was your first appearance on Top Of The Pops like, did it shatter an illusion?

Like almost everyone else Kevin, I would rush home from work or wherever I was in order to watch Top Of The Pops. It was the only way really to see the bands that you liked at that time. But I have to say that I wasn’t as disappointed as Paul (Weller) was at the studio. I was still wrapped up in the whole thing and feeling that it was very exciting to be appearing on Top Of The Pops. In terms of the technical side, yes that was a let-down because you were miming, and you could hear your foot tapping louder than your track that they were playing back to you to mime to. From an audience point of view that must have been a bit disappointing because they literally played the track on speakers and we would mime to it.

We were all moving around on the Top Of The Pops stage and you could hear us clunking around on the stage louder than the music. So I suppose from an audience point of view it might have been a bit disappointing, the fact that it wasn’t actually live, but they didn’t have the capability of doing it live at that time.

The point which artists who have appeared on Top Of The Pops usually tell me is that you think that there is an audience of thousands when in fact there are actually around fifty people all being herded around the studio from stage to stage (laughter).

Yes Kevin (laughter) it was a bit like the old shepherd trying to get his sheep in a pen (laughter). It was a bit like that. The space for the audience was limited because at that time they had those big old cameras going in-between the crowds and stuff.

You have mentioned Paul (Weller) and I have seen that you have been working on a few bits together. What I would like to ask you is has the moment for a Jam reunion passed?

Hopefully the two of us working together can carry on. We are really good buddies once again which first and foremost is the most important thing of all. The music is important but the two of us being friends once again is fantastic. Paul is playing on a couple of tracks on the new Foxton album. It’s nice to know that both of us are on the end of a phone if either of us wants to call. Paul doesn’t have too much organised too far in advance in terms of me playing on his record or him playing on mine; things just happen; they simply come about Kevin. In terms of the two of us being mates once again and Paul playing on my next record, is about as far as we got and I am very pleased with that. I hope that we will now stay friends until we die. So who knows what the future holds for Weller and Foxton.

Didn’t you and Paul visit the recent Jam exhibition together?

Yes we did Kevin, that’s right. We went to the preview together and we managed to hang out together for a bit there and then we went back together when it was quieter after the initial impetus of the press being there. So at this moment in time it is all cool, it’s all good.

I have been coming to From The Jam gigs for about nine years now and I have to say whether you are playing Rock City or The Rescue Rooms, the gigs are always an amazing evening. Do you get a similar buzz playing here in Nottingham?

Yes Kevin absolutely and I’m not just saying that. Our Rock City gigs are always amazing; it is a real proper rock venue and we always have a good time there. This time around we are in The Rescue Rooms which we have played before and they both have a good vibe. What can I say other than the fact that I am really looking forward to it. In fact I am looking forward to getting going, full stop (laughter).

In 2013 you performed All Mod Cons in its entirety, then you did the same in 2014 with Setting Sons and now this year you are doing the same with Sound Affects. Do you enjoy playing an entire album on stage?

Well what can I say Kevin, it has kind of caught on really (laughter). I think that by doing it this way there is something there for the audience. You have got the real aficionados of The Jam, who want to hear the album in its entirety. Then you have got the other Jam fans who are more familiar with the singles. So by doing it this way it hopefully gives the audience a great mix Kevin. Also for us as a band it is quite challenging. You mentioned Setting Sons, well I have to tell you that The Jam never played Wasteland live for instance which we did on the Setting Sons anniversary tour. It’s a really nice song and it went down a storm.

Some of the songs on the albums get overlooked sometimes and moving on to Sound Affects obviously we have played Set The House Ablaze, That’s Entertainment, Pretty Green and Start. Scrape Away and But I’m Different Now are on there which we haven’t played that much. I just think that it gives the audience a bit more I think. Hopefully those who have just come along to hear the singles will go away thinking that the album sounded okay and they may actually go out and get it.

In 2012 you worked with Steve Cropper on Don’t Waste My Time. What was it like working with The Colonel?

It was amazing Kevin, he really is a legend isn’t he. You just have to look at what he has done in the past. And he is such a lovely man. Obviously we have aged a bit (laughter) since I recall seeing him on the TV but a really lovely man. Nothing was too much trouble for Steve. What he did on that track was him, which summed him up and he came and went. I gave him a thank you and a bottle of wine which he drank before the show he had that night, so god knows what that was like (laughter). He was lovely. At that time it was coming up to Paul’s birthday and I got Steve to do a personal message for him which Paul was really made up with.

A really nice guy and I have been very fortunate to have a few of my heroes play on tracks on my Smash The Clock album which is going to be released next year. Wilko Johnson is on a couple, Paul Jones from Manfred Mann has played on a couple of tracks too, and Paul is on there too so they are still exciting times Kevin.

I was fortunate enough to interview Steve and it was fascinating just listening to stories of him and Otis (Redding) writing and recording together.

I know what you mean Kevin. There is so much that you want to ask the man but you don’t want to get on his tits as well (laughter). He has answered the same questions so many times so you try to be enthusiastic whilst at the same time trying to be cool with it (laughter). You don’t want to overstep the mark.

From 1990 to 2005 you were a member of Stiff Little Fingers. Were they good times?

Yes Kevin I have to say that they were fantastic times. Obviously Jake (Burns) myself and Dolphin (Taylor) who was on drums for part of that period, were all good mates. Our paths, The Jam and Stiff Little Fingers crossed a few times whilst we were out on the road and Jake and I became really good friends and drinking buddies. In 1983 we actually embarked upon writing some new material. With hindsight I wish that I had pursued that option rather than my short-lived solo career (laughter). I was offered a record deal as a solo artist and so I jumped that way. So when Ali (McMordie) left in 1990 Jake phoned me up when I was playing up in Halifax with a band called The Rhythm Sisters who really weren’t doing much and I was a bit depressed about it.

The phone rang in the morning and Bill (Nelson) who was the songwriter for The Rhythm Sisters told me that it was Jake Burns on the phone and that he wanted to speak to me. I thought that I may as well have a chat with Jake and he told me that Ali had left the Fingers and asked me if I would like to join the band. I thought that it was a fucking great offer as I had come to a crossroads thinking wether I was going to stick with The Rhythm Sisters or what. What I did know was that I wanted to stay in music and Jake’s offer came along at the right time. We had a lot of laughs and contributed to a few albums. And don’t forget that it actually lasted twice as long if not three times longer than The Jam (laughter).

It was great but it all came to a crossroads because as well as the Fingers I was also in The Casbah Club with Simon Townshend, Mark Brzezicki, and Bruce Watson. As hard as you try to be in two bands, it works for some musicians but for others it is just too much and you finish up letting one or the other down. Whilst I was very sad to leave, I left the Fingers because I really did want to pursue a career with The Casbah Club. We had the possibility of doing a tour with The Who which we actually did in Europe and it was very exciting. But it would have meant letting the Fingers down for that period, hence that is why we moved on.

You have briefly mentioned the new album Smash The Clock. You have used PledgeMusic once again. Is it a nice fit and was it a pleasurable experience for you?

All that I can say to you Kevin is that it works you know. When I put out the Back In The Room album I had never heard of PledgeMusic and it was all totally new to me. Initially I found it all pretty weird and struggled to get my head round it all and exactly how it worked (laughter). Having said all of that it is a fantastic way to get your fans and audience involved because literally, without them, you wouldn’t be in the position to be making the record and I think that they like that. It is important to them to feel that they are contributing to help make the album. They feel that we couldn’t make the album without the tenner or whatever for the CD that they are pledging, and we couldn’t. It works great. We have almost achieved our goal; I think we are currently at 95% and there is still over five months left to pledge.

The simple fact of the matter is that it is still very expensive to make records, plus you have to take the studio time into consideration. The engineers need paying plus any outside musicians which you may get involved with the album. So it is quite a financial chunk but touch wood, it seems to be working well again this time around which is comforting as we are going to get a really large bill come February (laughter). It’s great.

Will you tour the album?

I don’t know Kevin as that is a big step really. I think that if it was on a major label and it was riding high in the charts and a lot of people got to hear it, then maybe. It all depends upon what interest we get on the album. If we get some TV coverage, a few appearances and there are enough people know that I have got the album out then maybe. Although we could maybe do a small tour, I haven’t really given the live side of it much thought as yet. Maybe I could just do some small dates with it. I will just have to see how it goes.

What I can say is that I am very proud of what we have got so far. We are about three quarters of the way through recording it because we are trying to fit it around studio availability and our live work. It’s so frustrating when you think to yourself great, we have got three days off but then you find that the studio is unavailable. It’s all a bit of a juggling act but we are getting there.

Are you disillusioned with the current state of the British music industry?

Yes I am to be honest with you. But that is probably a lot to do with me being older; I don’t want to sound like my dad but I probably am (laughter). There is not a lot out there to be honest that I am enthusiastic about which is a sad state of affairs really or maybe I just haven’t been pointed in the right direct. Perhaps someone needs to introduce me to a few good new bands that are out there. The other thing is that I am so wrapped up with what I am doing like the Sound Affects tour and writing the next Foxton album with Russell (Hastings), outside of that when I come home I don’t really want to go and see a band. I need a rest and I want to do more normal things at that stage (laughter).

Good old Bono and U2 put added pressure onto artists by giving their last album away. Everyone now expects you all to do the same.

Well we can’t afford to do that but it worked for them (laughter). Plus they dumped it onto everyone’s iPhones which I think was a little bit naughty. Actually my father-in-law who is a bit older has never even heard of U2 (laughter). He looked and shouted out “who’s put this on my phone”. So we won’t be doing that Kevin I’m afraid, we need all of the help that we can get.

When you formed From The Jam what did you hope to achieve?

Well Kevin, it just seemed to snowball really. The Casbah Club played a gig with Rick’s (Buckler) band The Gift at the Guildford University back in 2006. At the gig I got asked if I would get up on stage with Rick and Russell and play a couple of songs with them. So after The Casbah Club had played their set I got on stage and played a couple of numbers with Rick and the boys and I have to say that it was amazing. It went down so well; people in the audience were crying in a good way (laughter) and it was a very emotional evening which was shared by Rick and myself. So towards the tail end of 2006 I did a couple more special guest appearances and played a few more songs and come January 2007 it was going so well and the demand was there that Rick and I said let’s give it another shot.

The amount of interest was unbelievable and the shows were selling out within a couple of hours. It was almost like being back in the big time, almost. The size of the venues which we were playing were unbelievable.

At what point in your career did you feel most musically satisfied?

I don’t think that I am ever going to be totally satisfied Kevin. Whenever I do anything new I strive to hopefully make it better than the last thing that I did I suppose. So I have never been totally satisfied but I am very happy with just how it has all gone (laughter).

Is there anywhere in the world that you can still go and remain unrecognised?

Well I think that the older you get people don’t seem to recognise you so much (laughter). Obviously because Paul is still, quite rightly, in the public eye I am sure that he will still get hassled wherever he goes because everyone knows what Paul Weller looks like now. Whereas I haven’t been on the TV for a long while now. If you are gigging and you are in a certain town and you go out wandering around you might get spotted I suppose by people that are coming to the show. To be honest I am quite happy that that side of it has dwindled. I’m not fussed really because even in the heyday it wasn’t like Beatlemania. It was controllable and you could go out and do the everyday things that you had to do; going to the supermarket for example. It was never out of control even in our heyday.

I suppose that if I hang around long enough somewhere I will get eventually get recognised especially if I have got some Jam albums under my arm (laughter). It is something that I can take or leave, I’m not offended by not being recognised, let me put it that way (laughter).

Is Bruce Foxton’s glass half full or half empty?

(Laughter) I think that it is most definitely full to the brim Kevin. I think of myself as being very lucky. I am very proud of my time in The Jam and of the band in general. We achieved so very much. In respect of the music side of things I am very happy with how things are going; touch wood. To still be selling out shows at a reasonable level and to see people enjoying The Jam music is fantastic. As for my personal life, as you will probably know I sadly lost my first wife in 2009 through cancer which was horrendous, because she had been my buddy since 1977.

But then things took a massive turn for the better when I met my current wife Kate. We have recently celebrated four years of marriage and I am the happiest person on the planet regarding that; I am so very lucky to have met someone like Kate. So overall things are good, touch wood.

Are there still any ambitions left to achieve?

I want to perform to the best of my ability and long may that continue. I want to do a good job performing those Jam songs and also I would like the next Foxton and Hastings album to do well and we will give it our best shot.

That’s a good place to leave it I think. Mr Foxton thanks for taking the time to speak to me and good luck with the tour.

It’s been a pleasure. Cheers Kevin.