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Photo by Jeremy Gordon
Photo by Jeremy Gordon

Brand X's Percy Jones - Fusion returns! / Q&A

By JEFF MELTON // The band reformed over the Summer of 2016 and they're out on tour. Appearing at Alberta Rose Theater Wednesday, November 8

Brand X makes their first ever live appearance in Portland at the Alberta Rose Theater this Wednesday November 8.. OMN recently caught up with founding member, and fretless bass icon Percy Jones to see what long time jazz fusion enthusiasts can expect on the band’s current tour in support of their new live album, “But Wait… There’s More.”

As I understand it, both you and (guitarist) John Goodsall decided to put the band back together with Kenwood Dennard and release a new live album?

Jones: We actually got back together last year in mid-July.

While prepping for the tour it looks like you have been rehearsing music from the first three Brand X records including Livestock which is a personal favorite of mine.

The first three records are some of the most popular so we thought we’d start with those. We’re gradually working up to later records. We’re doing the Poke from Masques and others.

Are you happy with how your new live album turned out? What do you like about it?

I’ve only listened to it once, but it sounded pretty good to me for a live recording. From what I could tell the energy was all there.  Back in the day it was a quite energetic, dynamic band. I think we still have that which is important.

Having a high energy drummer in the band is pretty important too. For example, for your first album, “Unorthodox Behaviour” (1976) could almost say that it’s a drummer led band.

Yes I agree to a point. With a band like this it’s important to have a good drummer. You know – a guy who has good time and good chops. And a sense of dynamics, light and shade. You don’t need someone who’s going to overplay and fill up all the spaces. Phil Collins was good in that respect.  The problem we had with him was that he was busy with Genesis most of the time. We were getting opportunities to go out and tour so we would start using other drummers. We were lucky we had a few good drummers including Kenwood Dennard, Mike Clark (from the Headhunters); both very good. But for the last couple of runs we have another drummer because Kenwood teaches at Berklee School of Music since he’s a professor. He’s teaching all of the time so he’s got limited availability. So we’ve used Kenny Grahowski

I’ve seen the YouTube videos of a few of those performances from earlier this year. I can tell from just the surprise on the band member’s faces for tracks like “Nuclear Burn” shows just how good he is!

Yeah, he’s a very good drummer. In terms of it being a drummer’s band, It’s been widely stated that Phil Collins started the band, but he didn’t. He was actually one of the last people to join.

Who were you working with early on then?

It was John Dillon; the band originally had vocals. It was sorta like Average White Band. We actually did a record for Island Records. They liked it and were going to put it out. We didn’t like it so we asked Chris Blackwell if we could do another one and make it all instrumental. He agreed to that but it was hell finding another drummer because John Dillon’s style wasn’t really quite suitable. He was a great drummer for the stuff we doing earlier but not for instrumental blowing. That’s when started looking for someone else. We originally tried out Bill Bruford, and he was trying us out as well. He said he didn’t want to spread himself too thin; he was playing with other people at the time. So he turned the job down. One of the A&R guys at Island suggested this guy from Genesis, and I admit we didn’t know much about him at the time. This was Phil so he came down and played. He liked it and we liked him so it went on from there. Then Island refused to put the record because they didn’t like it! Luckily Charisma records picked it up probably with Phil’s help since Genesis were on Charisma. “Unorthodox Behaviour” almost never saw the light of day.

That album is highly regarded as one of the top fusion albums from the 70’s.

It was well received when it came out. It took awhile.

It will be great to see you out here in Portland.

Actually I’ve never been to Portland ever so it will be a first for me.

So you’re new drummer is up for playing all the tracks on the new live record?                   

He’s rehearsed with us all the material we were doing with Kenwood plus we’re doing some other tunes. We’ve added on “Disco Suicide” from Moroccan Roll, “The Poke” from Masques and “Noddy Goes to Sweden” from Do They Hurt?

Can you tell me where you found your keyboardist?

Last summer, we had a financial opportunity to put the band back together. You see John and I never received any royalties from any of the Brand X stuff. It was being recouped by Genesis’ old manager; he was taking the royalties, publishing: the whole thing. We weren’t in a position to put the band back together because we were geographically spread out. I’m in New York, John lives in Minnesota. Robin Lumley lives in England, Morris Pert passed away a few years ago. Phil: I don’t know where he is, but he wouldn’t be into playing anyway. We needed some help to put it back together so me, John and Kenwood had a rehearsal and it was quite good; I thought from the get go. This sounds pretty good considering we hadn’t playing together in 35 years. So we rolled with it and it’s been pretty successful so far.

Well we’re glad you’re back together and out on the road again

Thank you; we’re looking forward to it.


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