Gonzo Jones (Melbourne) talks solitary creation, ruthless self-reflection and riddles

Our very own Melbourne man of mystery, Gonzo Jones is here to spike your intrigue. His extraordinary debut EP, Misty Dreams, seemingly pushes you one step closer to exposing the truth. And whilst his stark deliberations appear as transparent as ever, the man himself remains an enigma. And that’s just the way he likes it.

Misty Dreams is a shimmering first offering. A collection of works that are so undoubtedly different, but manage to simultaneously tie together with ease. His conveyed messages are teamed with dream-like sounds. Slacker guitar tones so perfectly placed, fragmented synths, curious samples and toe-tapping rhythms. The contrast is palpable.

I was lucky enough to speak with him post elbow-carrot-grater massage, leaving him the perfect combination of relaxed and on edge, the perfect state for revealing secrets, philosophies and the limitless possibilities of multi-limbed multi-instrumentalists.

You’re a several trick pony, recording, mixing and mastering your first EP, Misty Dreams. Do you think that being the sole contributor to your work effects its outcome? Is there an obsessive nature or does the autonomous control ease you?

Yeah, you nailed it. It’s yin yang. It’s great because you are completely dependent on yourself. I’ve been mixing – not so much mastering – but I’ve been mixing a lot of other people’s stuff for quite a while but when it’s your own project, it can be quite taxing after a while because you’re so into it that you might miss little things. You just end up going around in circles. It gets hard to pinpoint the right time to stop recording and to actually just go with the stuff that you have.

Often, I’ll be trying to get the EQ right on guitar or something like that and I’ll just record it again. Normally, you don’t have that luxury with someone else’s work. Having said that though, I really like it. Something that I’ve learnt as someone who’s creative in their mix, trying to bring the song more life and more oomph to it (laughs)… oomph is a terrible word by the way.

I was just thinking how much I enjoyed your use of the word ‘oomph’.

(Laughs) Okay great, because I fucking hate that word. It’s actually a word you use when you’re completely out of words to use, so you say ‘oomph’.

(Laughs) We can agree to disagree.

Yeah I guess… I’ve always kind of worked on projects where I’ve been writing with other people. I think I’ve just enjoyed writing by myself so much this time, because I never had to check my work with anyone else. It’s completely whatever I wanted it to be. So then taking that in, mixing it and then mastering it as well, I never had to bend to anyone else’s will. I’m really happy with how it came out. I did mix it for a very long time. I did record the stuff for a really long time. But it’s got my fingerprint completely on it.

Yeah, that’s pretty incredible. What did you anticipate when you set out to make this EP?

I had absolutely no idea. I’d been playing in another group for a little while. We had written an EP and put it out a couple of years ago. Then we wrote another one and dragged it into the trash bin on the computer and never did anything with it. I went to Japan at the end of 2014 and I took a break from writing for a while. Just started really listening to a lot of other peoples work.

I took a lot of inspiration from what other people were doing and I was writing a lot at the time, but more, I guess… poetry or just scribblings in my book and some lyrics, just ideas and stuff like that. I sat down and the first song that I wrote for the EP was “Misty Dreams”. I felt like that was a catalyst. Once I’d written that, I felt really good. I had so much fun writing it. I wrote it in a couple of days, then I tracked pretty much all of it in a couple of days as well.

That’s crazy.

Yeah! Then from there, I just kept writing. The next songs that I wrote off the EP were like, “Passengers”, which is like a summery, almost tropical, disco jam. After that it was “Westwards”, which is completely different from the other two. I never really had a project in mind. I think once I got “Westwards” down, I felt like there was something really developing and I could start to feel that something that I liked was coming out of it. I just kept writing. I just kept finishing the songs and then starting new ones and repeating the process.

So you sort of opened the floodgates a bit and it just kept on coming?

That’s it.

You delve into notions of self-analysis, the important nature of being present, desire and instability. A refreshingly honest examination of the world. Would you say it’s in your nature to be up front? Why was it important for you to discuss these issues?

I’d say I am [up front] around the right people. I feel like there’s so many people writing, there’s so many people making music that at the end of the day; the only way to put something across that people can connect with is if you actually scrape back all the barriers and all the bullshit, which you kind of hide behind, and put something forward that other people can connect with.

I mean, if you listen to some people’s work, the subject matter that they’re talking about, some of those songs are so deep and so personal. That’s what makes it really refreshing. To listen to something where someone’s pulling their own character apart. They’re assessing how shit they are in some situations, or assessing how their brain works in different scenarios. Some songs on the EP are there just for the sake of it. “Ride or Die” is more of a jam that I’ve always wanted to write. Kind of like and R&B jam, but then “Cigarettes and Silhouettes” is more about me being a complete piece of shit (laughs).

(Laughs) In what way?

I don’t know, like the second verse is just like, ‘Search for a reason to be a man, can someone give this boy a hand?’ It’s about never growing up, about never feeling like I can support the ground I stand on. ‘Will anyone remember back and think fondly on a loser and a drug abuser?’ Is there any point in life where people will look back and think that that was a good thing to be? Coming to the forefront… that everyone has that side of them. Not necessarily addiction or anything like that, but more in the sense of not being completely happy with who they are. Or just self-reflecting and accepting who they are. Maybe not so much not being happy, but being able to acknowledge, ‘Hey, that’s a side of me that I have.’

It’s interesting that you say that everyone has that side of them or that capacity to do shit things, but I guess on the other hand, not everyone has the ability to be able to self-reflect. I think it’s pretty cool you’ve been able to do that.

Yeah, thank you. I think when you’ve been in the studio by yourself for five days straight with not much human contact, it’s pretty easy to realise that there’s things about you. I think getting away from people is such a good thing. I go down to the country, there’s a little place down near Wilsons Prom, Cape Liptrap where I grew up. There’s a cabin down there. I used to go there before I started working on this project. The shit that you end up writing when you can get away from everyone and there’s not someone peering over your shoulder; you can sit back and not be afraid to let it fester and you can pull the pieces together of what you’re trying to do.

I love that part of Victoria. I googled you today.

(Laughs) Massive stalker vibes.

Oh yeah, big time stalker vibes. I was met with waves of praise on the music front, most notably from Hugh, I think it was, ‘easy listening for making macramé’ (laughs).

(Laughs) Yeah, that’s definitely one of them.

But I also noticed a lack of information on your background. Who is Gonzo Jones? Or would you prefer to remain a man of mystery?

I feel like I wrote something a while ago about that. I haven’t published it yet. It’s along the lines of being born twice into this world.

Ooooh yeah, I saw something about that.

In some ways, I do like to share about myself. I feel like in terms of how this project has gone, I feel like it is a type of rebirth. I’ve found this the most refreshing thing I’ve done. There’s parts of my past that I like to share and there’s other musical things that I’ve been involved with that, I guess, have had good press, but I almost try to not pull the two together, I guess.

Yeah, that’s totally fair enough. So I did read something on the born twice. Can you elaborate a bit for me?

Let me see if I can find it… We are born twice into this world. I was born out of admiration for those who never saw 28. Born out of a slippery slope of experimentation, in all its forms, glory and destruction. Born of doing 20 in a 60 zone. Born from the genius of Manzarek & Krieger. Belonging to a place no one has heard of. Trying to connect my thoughts with your fingertips. Developing in the dark basement surrounded by euphoric shapes and deafening drums. Eating more than my fair share. Too much sleep can be bad for you. I feel like that sums up from childhood to now, I guess how I’ve evolved as a person.

Musically, I’m very much influenced by a wide range of music. From going out to parties like Animals Dancing, some of my mates throw those, the guys from Otologic… and kind of developing in that way and getting a new understanding of dance music away from the shiny disco balls and whatever else that comes along with that. To gain a real appreciation of electronic music and what it actually is.

Inspirations like The Doors have been a huge influence on me. When everyone thinks of The Doors, they go straight to Jim Morrison, who is a huge part of The Doors. I think his writing and poetry is incredible but I mean, the band behind it, they could have been a band with a different front man and been just as successful. Or maybe not just as successful, but extremely successful. They merged jazz with rock and roll and blues like no one else ever did.

I was always the kid that was drifting off into the distance as people were talking and not really paying attention. Not in an arrogant way, I just liked to be alone in my own thoughts. I was always doing things, but I very much liked my solitude time. I mean, still now, people will message me to go and do something and I’ll make up that I’m already doing something when I’m actually not. I’m actually just at home (laughs).

Oh my god, I’m gonna tell your secret to the whole world, all of your friends!

Nooo, don’t!

They’ll never believe a single text you send ever again (laughs).

(Laughs) Now I’m gonna have to prove that I’m busy, like save some pictures in my phone and reuse them later.

I like it, taking it to the next level. You’ve gotta commit to the lie.

Yeah, exactly. That’s good advice. That’s excellent advice… commit to the lie (laughs).

Sounds like music has always been a pretty big part of your life?

Definitely, yeah. I think what has been interesting for me is I always kind of looked at music as more of an outsider and a listener than actually playing it. When I got to 19, some friends of mine had started a band and I had never played guitar before, I’d never done any singing, I’d never done anything like it. Their band fell to shit and I said I’d borrow my brother-in-law’s electric guitar and have a jam. They were all pretty sceptical and I sucked; I had literally never played guitar before. We kind of just stuck with it and kept playing together and doing rehearsals and writing songs. Terrible, terrible songs. I’ve never had a guitar lesson, I’ve never had an instrumental lesson for anything. It’s been interesting.

I wouldn’t say that technically, I’m the world’s greatest guitarist or bass player or vocalist or anything like that, but I kind of like that I was able to find my own way of doing it. Not to sound like a fucking cliché, but I feel like doing things my way hasn’t always worked out that well for me, but in some ways it has. I like to go and do it my way, rather than going to learn in an institution.

Even when I studied Audio Production, I learnt an infinite amount more working in studios with this one producer, Malcolm Beasley who’s done Gold Fields, City Calm Down, Client Liaison, lots of big Australian acts. I learnt more from him in two weeks than I did in three years of Audio Production. I worked with him for about four years. Finding a way instead of being schooled in something, finding a passion, finding the reasons you want to do it and then just figuring it out as you go. I think that kind of works for me.

Yeah definitely, I think with more hands on stuff you pick up things more quickly because there’s no room for you to lag behind. You get thrown in the deep end a bit.

Yeah, exactly! Like you learn how to play guitar by playing guitar.

Oh my god it makes so much sense! I can’t believe no one’s ever thought of it like that before (laughs).

(Laughs) I’ll go write a book about it in three years and the market will be flooded with it. Yeah, great, self help for the helpless.

I think you just found the title for your autobiography.

Self Help for the Helpless. Excellent.

And your EP launch is next weekend?

Ahhh, a couple of weekends away, July 9th.

You’ve got a new band, which is exciting.

Yeah, I do! I’m still trying to come up with a name for them. We were tossing up between The Bleachers and The Dragons.

Or The Helpless?

That’s pretty good! Gonzo Jones and The Helpless. That’s acutally… you might see that. If anyone asks…(laughs).

I won’t steal the glory… actually, I can’t promise that. How’s it going in terms of translating the sound to more of a live environment?

It’s going really well. There are some songs which definitely translate better… not better, I guess better is also a terrible word… easier. Songs like “Misty Dreams”, the more bandy songs sound really good at the moment. Songs like “Passengers” are proving quite difficult. We’re definitely getting there and I think it’s sounding really good but there’s like, 20 different synth lines going on and I’ve got one keys player, who is also my guitarist. So you sort of run out of stuff that people can do with their hands.

You’ll just have to start using other limbs.

Yeah exactly, unless someone has invented extra arms, like robotic arms, I would love that. The two guys I’ve got involved have been incredible and so behind the project and just great guys to play with. We’re just rehearsing lots at the moment, sounding really good and having a lot of fun.

What are three things we can expect to see on stage?

Me, Julian and Michael (laughs).

(Laughs) What a cop out.

Massive cop out. I think you’ll see a real commitment to the front man, I think that’s one thing that’s lacking in some ways in the music industry these days. I mean all groups have a front man, but I think that the mystery of a front man has kind of disappeared somewhat from shows. People are so transparent; I think that’s why I hold back a little bit. I think mystery is intriguing.

It’s so intriguing. You have me super intrigued.

Good! So I guess that’s one. There will definitely be some props, there’s gonna be a few guest appearances from other musicians. The drummer couldn’t play this show because he’s playing interstate at another festival, so I’ve got a fill in drummer from a very, very well known band. If one person guesses, they can get a free ticket.

Can you give me a clue?

Hmmm.

Something really cryptic.

Something really cryptic? So they did Like A Version recently and their clue for it was ‘Sandy Churros’.

You just made it so easy for me to Google, dude. I’m not gonna do it, because I like a challenge.

Oh shit, forget I said anything. They recorded with the guy I used to… no now I’m really saying too much.

(Laughs) I’m just pulling it out of you. We better stop it there.

This is dangerous.

Thanks so much for chatting!

Thanks for the call, it was lovely meeting you? Speaking with you?

We’ve telephone met? We can coin a term. Something less shit than that. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but I’ll think about it…

Get your ass along to Gonzo Jones’ first ever live show.

Saturday 9th July
Doors from 8pm
Hugs & Kisses, 22 Sutherland Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
RSVP here.

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