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Brand X: We never took ourselves too seriously

After 17 years, Brand X have reunited. The jazz fusion pioneers are back on the road and have just released their first album in 20 years. Percy Jones looks back, and forward…

“We were working under strained circumstances – it wasn’t very easy,” says Brand X’s Percy Jones, recalling a meeting in 1979 after a lawyer in the group’s management company said the band should make more commercial music.

Jones sighs heavily as he remembers the moment. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, shit. It’s come to this. I’ve got a lawyer telling me what to do musically.’ My feeling was we’d just alienate the people already buying our records and probably not gain a different audience anyway. I put my foot down and said I wasn’t doing it.”

The compromise was to have two different line-ups record tracks in order to cater for both directions. Jones teamed up with ex-Quatermass keyboard player Peter Robinson and drummer Mike Clarke, while Brand X co-founder and keyboardist Robin Lumley, Phil Collins and bassist John Giblin provided the other half, with guitarist John Goodsall diplomatically maintaining a foot in both camps.

“We recorded in shifts with the other band working in the day and we’d go in and record all night. That was the only way we could get it done,” says Jones ruefully.

The result of these dual sessions was 1980’s Do They Hurt? and 1982’s Is There Anything About?, the latter released after Brand X had disbanded. Jones’ hunch proved correct, with the group failing to pick up any new fans with the more song-oriented approach.

“I went out and bought a copy of that last one because nobody sent me a copy. I listened to it once and I gave it to the kids next door. I think they ended up playing frisbee with it.”

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