Jon McClure, (Reverend And The Makers) chats with Kevin Cooper about upsetting Nottingham’s taxi drivers, being a proud Northerner, the release of their latest album Mirrors and the last night of their tour at Rock City.

Jon McClure, best known as The Reverend, is an English musician. He is the lead singer and frontman of Reverend And The Makers. After gaining a first class honours degree in history and politics at the University of Sheffield, he decided that music was for him and formed his current band in 2004.

The band’s debut album was The State Of Things which was released in 2007 and which helped them gain success in Britain as well as a UK top ten single with Heavyweight Champion Of The World. Their second album, A French Kiss In The Chaos (2009) led to the band being invited to support Oasis on their final tour, playing venues such as Wembley Stadium.

The band’s third studio album, @Reverend Makers (after the band’s Twitter handle), was released in 2012, and the band’s fourth studio album, Thirty Two, was released in 2014. This album was so named after Jon’s age.

In the build-up to the album he travelled the country playing acoustic gigs in fans living rooms which they won through Twitter. On the tour to promote it, which Jon titled ’32 House Gigs’ there was a wedding proposal, a dog named after him and much television and press interest. The 32nd gig was held in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens.

Jon McClure puts on an acoustic gig in the car park of most venues. These sets normally last between 30–45 minutes and this is the type of thing that McClure is becoming synonymous with amongst his fans.

Having been on tour since the middle of November to promote their new album, Mirrors, he took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what he had to say.


Hi Jon how are you?

Hi Kevin I’m good thanks mate.

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

It’s no problem man.

And just how is life treating you today?

Actually things are going very well Kevin. The new record, Mirrors is getting a great response from everyone who hears it. We have had quite a bit of radio play and so we can’t moan too much about that (laughter).   We have been travelling around doing house gigs and playing in random places during the last few months. I have been all over the place playing in people’s houses and it’s been great and I have to say that the response to the new material has been wonderful. Long may it continue.

You are playing here in Nottingham at Rock City as part of their 35th Anniversary celebrations. Are you looking forward to that?

I am very much Kevin because it’s only a few years ago now that we were still playing in The Rescue Rooms, but we are back in the Main Hall which must mean that we are doing quite well again. I love playing Rock City; the place has such a great vibe. That will be the last day of our tour so it is going to be party time. I am going to have a great time down there in Nottingham Kevin. We are going to find a local boozer for after the gig and carry on in there. We are going to have a proper session (laughter).

The last time you played Rock City didn’t you manage to upset a number of local taxi drivers?

(Laughter) that’s right Kevin. I got myself into a bit of bother the last time I played Rock City because after the gig I took everyone outside with me and my acoustic guitar and there were a thousand people standing in the middle of Talbot Street, totally blocking the road. As you say the taxi drivers were not very happy with me (hysterical laughter) because they couldn’t get down the road. Let’s just say that I am not very popular amongst Nottingham’s taxi community (laughter). It’s just me; I like to do a few things that are slightly left-field which keeps things interesting for me and my fans.

The problem with me is that I think that rock and roll has become dull. A lot of bands currently make records and tour with them but they are not entirely sure why. So it is just my way of trying to keep the spirit of rock and roll alive. People love it and that’s why, I think, we have got a cult following. We used to be so serious but now we are just having a party which people tend to gravitate towards. Being the last day of the tour you would like to think that we will be shit-hot by the time that we rock up to Nottingham (laughter). I have only ever felt warmth whenever I have played in Nottingham.

So I take it that you enjoy playing Rock City?

It is such a great venue Kevin. It is one of those places that echoes on beyond its own borders. It is a great place and such a lovely place to watch music. It has a nice wide stage and good sound; what more could you ask for. Whenever I play at any of the O2 Academies I always say the same thing, “who the bloody hell has built this” (laughter). They are all built out of breeze blocks and have absolutely no character whatsoever; they are soulless. They are all geared up like a club PA whereas Rock City is a rock and roll venue; it is built for rock and roll Kevin. Whenever you walk into the place you can feel the history.

You have worked closely with PledgeMusic in relation to the new album Mirrors. Was it a good experience for you?

We are different to most other people who work with PledgeMusic Kevin. We have a record label behind us so the album was actually paid for before we got PledgeMuisc involved. It was not as though we were asking for pledges in order to make the album. But by using PledgeMusic it keeps the album out of the hands of the big companies and it takes the album more direct to the fans. I know what it’s like to be a music fan and I don’t want to see any of our fans being ripped off by the big companies. We are just not into skanking people. We make a decent enough living without having to rob people. The response for pre-orders of the new album through PledgeMusic has been absolutely amazing. It’s all been good.

You were quoted as saying that you wanted to make an album that you loved. Have you managed that with Mirrors?

Absolutely Kevin, I absolutely adore it. I love it so much, I think that it is brilliant.

My two favourite tracks on the album are The Trip and Misterglasshalfempty.

(Laughter) I know a lot of people in the Midlands and up North who are all a bit glass half empty. When you live up here like I do you sometimes wear ‘moaning’ as a badge of honour don’t you (laughter).

On that point are you a proud Northerner?

Yes Kevin, very much so. I am a very proud Northerner. But don’t worry because I always consider the Midlands to be part of the North (laughter). The places where we sell the majority of our concert tickets is the North and the Midlands. People have this image of Sheffield as being a dark and dirty industrial shithole but Sheffield has got more trees than any other Western European city. I bet that you didn’t know that Sheffield was recently voted as being the happiest city in England. You won’t be seeing me crying Kevin; I’m as happy as Larry living here in Sheffield (laughter).

Who are you currently listening to?

I absolutely love the Sleaford Mods. I think that they are brilliant and I have loved them for a long time now. They are absolutely wonderful. Jason Williamson’s words are very refreshing and they articulate everything that I think. Apart from the Sleaford Mods there is not a lot of music out there that reflects just how pissed off the people are Kevin. Having said that, I am always weary of musicians whose career revolves around causes. It is almost as though they use bad things in order to propagate their own career. I just think fuck off mate, have you not got anything that you can do that is not related to charity or a political cause (laughter). Why can’t they just make good music?

Is there anyone coming out of Sheffield who we should look out for?

There is a great four piece band at the moment in Sheffield called The Sherlocks who are starting to do really well. Radio One have started to Tweet about them. There is also a young lad called William Barstow who writes some lovely songs and I really like what he does. Sheffield is a very fertile place for music Kevin, so I always try to keep my ear to the ground.

You have a First Class Honours degree in History.

Well Kevin to be honest it’s actually a subsequently re-marked Honours degree because it had originally been marked down (laughter). I did a dissertation on the Suez Crisis but it was at the time of the Iraq war. To make things even more interesting, at the time of the Iraq war I also had an Iraqi girlfriend (laughter). I wrote a really political piece saying that the Suez Crisis was a total disaster and utter folly and that it would prove that Iraq was too. My tutor at the time was massively in favour of the Iraq war but as time passed history proved me to be right so I asked to have my degree re-marked.

Did you ever harbour any desires to be a politician.

(Laughter) no, no, no, no, no (laughter). I have been asked by a few people to stand as the Mayor of Sheffield and whilst I think that it is alright to be political, sometimes you just want to go home and watch the footy. I think as a musician that if you are political all of the time then eventually it will come to define you. My political views have never changed one bit. I am well known as being left-wing and everyone knows my views. However I feel that if I keep repeating the same argument on record then it all becomes very dull and you run the risk of lecturing people. You run the risk of hammering the point home too much and people get bored very quickly.

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

The problem is Kevin that lots of the record companies are far too keen to write off artists after their first album. If your second album is not as good as your first then they simply write you off. What annoys me is that other so called established artist are allowed to make shit record after shite record after shit record. Without sounding arrogant Kevin I feel that Mirrors is far better than anything else that is current out there. What annoys me is that we send copies out to the people in the media who are supposed to be the gate-keepers of good taste and the majority of them simply won’t listen to it so what do you do? So what I do is get out there and do my house gigs. I continue to make good music whilst trying to be interesting. I am just trying to do what I can. I don’t want to do things by the book.

You have recently released your book, The Lyrics And Poetry Of Jon McClure, which has Illustrations by Horace Panter from The Specials. Was that something that you felt that you had to do?

The reason why I did it was because on the internet there are lots of websites with all of the lyrics of fans favourite bands which rely upon fans submissions. Mad fans of mine who have the lyrics tattooed on their bodies, or they will type out what they think the lyrics are and upload them to these websites. I was looking at some of them thinking I don’t say that, and I found that because I have a broad accent whenever I sing, a lot of people were misinterpreting my lyrics. It was making me look as though I was a bad lyricist which I’m not, I’m a good lyrist. That’s why I thought about the book so as to enable me to put my lyrics out there so that people could see exactly what I was writing and singing. It’s gone down really well Kevin, people love it.

It’s great that people like it so much but my real passion is my novel which I work on every day. I am totally obsessed with it and all that I can tell you at the moment is that it is a historical fiction. It has nothing to do with music at all (laughter). I want to be able to say to people who come from a similar working-class background to me that it is ok to be artistic and that it is alright to have an accent.

I have a problem with the British press who feel that they simply have to pigeon hole everyone.

Yes of course they have Kevin and we have all got to go into a box but the problem is that I don’t really fit into a box (laughter). A young girl from the NME said that because I was friends with Noel Gallagher I must make Mod Music. Mod Music; I couldn’t be further from a fucking mod if I tried (laughter). I never buy clothes and I am as hairy as fuck; I’m not a Mod. But as you say Kevin they just want to put you into a box don’t they. People like me don’t fit into boxes. At first they always called me the Artic Monkeys mate; then I was that political ranty guy, and then I was Noel Gallagher’s mate.

I just keep doing things that jump through their boxes and eventually people say that they didn’t really like Reverend And The Makers until they heard the new album and they are really surprised at just how good it is. I’m like “welcome to the fucking party mate, I’ve only been doing it for the past eleven years, congratulations” (laughter). In the past eleven years I have not received one piece of critical acclaim ever, and now all of the revues are saying that Mirrors is a masterpiece. Some are even saying that it is better than The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. It’s like I have wanted it for eleven years and now that I have got it I don’t want it; I’m like “will you just fuck off”. It’s all just a nonsense really.

The problem is that everyone thinks that they are fighting the system from within but they are not, they are all just stooges man. That’s why I admire The Sleaford Mods because with them there is no compromise. I think that in this day and age to be like that is such a refreshing thing. There has got to be a reckoning Kevin. People forget just how bad things got in the 80’s; it was all Phil Collins, T’Pau and shit like that. We are in that spell now but it has just lasted a bit longer. However what happens eventually is that something dead cool comes along such as the Acid House scene, Madchester, Brit Pop and Grunge and that is what is going to happen again.

I will survive the fucking flood because I have been around for so long and I have never compromised. I told everyone that it was all bollocks at the time (laughter). I have done my own thing; I have chartered my own path and there are not that many people around who are doing that is there.

So from what you are telling me, am I to take it that you won’t be playing the Butlins nostalgia circuit anytime soon?

No Kevin because we are not going to split up and I am not going to keep making my first record over and over again (laughter). I intend to carry on doing interesting and artistic things. I look at Richard Hawley, he just keeps on making good record after good record and he will be doing that until the day that he dies. That is what I am going to do. I’m just going to keep going, trying to please my cult following. I’m not going to make any more shit records. I am ashamed to admit it but I made the mistake of trying to make a record that would get played on the radio and let me tell you, I won’t be fucking doing that again. I am never going to do that again. I am literally going to concentrate on making good art.

The revues for the new album speak volumes and I think that if I keep making good records then after a while they will have to put me on Jools Holland and they will have to play me on the radio. I just need to keep doing it really Kevin. I intend to just keep going; why would you not want to make your living from making art and making music. I can spend time in the day with my new baby and all is good man.

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

That would have to be when the new album was released and every one of the bands that I like were Tweeting saying just how good it was. All of the reviews were saying that it was a masterpiece and like all other artists, I have a yearning for the fans to love my work. It was great to make a record which hasn’t had one bad review. I may not be the most famous; I may not be the richest, but I have made a record that is really good. Everything is good and I am happy.

Who has inspired you?

In the early days I was inspired by the Sheffield Electro scene; Cabaret Voltaire and people like that. I was inspired by poets; people like John Cooper Clarke. Moving forward I got into a lot of dance music and now while we were making the album I got back into The Small Faces, The Byrds and The Flamin’ Groovies. Others who influenced me were Sly And The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane and The Beatles of course.

What was the first record that you ever bought?

That would be Twist And Shout by Chaka Demus & Pliers featuring Taxi Gang. It was fucking awful (laughter). You asked so I answered Kevin (laughter). I’m sure that a lot of other people who you ask that question will tell you that it was The Velvet Underground; well fuck right off (laughter). I fucking hate people who give you answers like that. They probably like The Velvet Underground now but when you are young you just buy shit don’t you. Whenever people ask you want you are into, just be honest. As long as you are honest then that’s cool.

Who did you first see playing live?

That would have been Babybird and The Longpigs, who were one of Richard Hawley’s early bands at an outdoor concert here in Sheffield. They were the two bands on the bill that were known to a wider audience. I was only fourteen at the time; I got totally blotto and such a bollocking off my mum when I got home (laughter).

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Probably having the people who I love musically dig what I do. The NME once asked Ian Brown if he thought that I was trying to sound like him when I was singing. He replied “does he fuck. He makes rebel music. He’s alright so leave him alone”. If someone had told me when I was thirteen years old that Ian Brown would be saying that about me, I would have been blown away. So having people like that liking my tunes makes my life a wonderful thing.

One thing that was really good; I was peeling the spuds in our old house a couple of years back and my mobile phone rang. It was Mick Jones from The Clash. I dried my hands and took the call. Mick asked me if I would play with him at The Leadmill in Sheffield at the Justice For The 96 concert. I jumped at the chance and I absolutely loved it. That could possibly be one of the greatest things that will ever happen to me. We need more bands like The Clash Kevin, they were real.

What next for Jon McClure?

To continue working on my novel and then we are going to tour with The Libertines early next year. After that we will be playing some festivals through the summer and then we will just keep on keeping on. But watch out for the novel Kevin as it is going to surprise a few people.

Jon on that note let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

Top man Kevin. I’ve really enjoyed it. Speak to you later.