Back in the early 80s, The Jam dominated the charts with anthems such as That’s Entertainment, Going Undergroundand A Town Called Malice. Nowadays, The Jam is reincarnated, in part, as From The Jam, featuring original member Bruce Foxton and with a new frontman, the charmingly cool Russell Hastings. ESP reporter Sarah Tempest caught up with Russell to get the lowdown on their latest tour, ahead of their Peterborough show on June 18…
Although currently enjoying some downtime at his home by the sea in Sussex, Russell clearly loves to perform. “It feels to us like we’re on a permanent tour!” he laughs “but it’s what we do and it’s going great. Most places are sold out and not just with die hard The Jam fans, it’s a complete mixture. They’re all having a great time, and so are we! We’ve had a real surge again recently with the new single coming out and lots of favourable press – we seem to be Goldenballs at the moment!”
But easy as he makes that sound, no-one could accuse Russell of not earning his music stripes. “I was always into music from a very young age, from 5 or 6 I was into melodies and songs themselves so I was a big music buff from an early age and alway played over the years but with little commercial success. But then in the early 2000s, I started playing with [original The Jam member] Rick Buckler and we just went out playing Jam songs to people.
“Then about a year later, we played a show at Guildford University and Bruce [Foxton] happened to be on the bill as well. He jumped on stage with us, sang Down in the Tube Station at Midnight with us and the place went nuts so the next day we met up to discuss what we’d do about it, and it’s gone from there!”
Although Rick decided to hang up his drumsticks about 3 years later, he was replaced with Mark Brzezicki [from Big Country] and From The Jam carried on.
Acknowledging that it’s funny how his life has worked out, Russell admits he was always a fan of The Jam, “I was at a lot of the shows right from 1977 through to the last show at Brighton” but is quick to correct false claims that he used to perform as a Paul Weller tribute act. “It’s a common load of old b*?!!@#s!” he laughs, “started by the jealous brigade! That one really irritates us because it kind of belittles what we do. I never find myself in Paul’s shoes, despite taking on the part Paul did years ago, especially with the new material coming out. There’s a lot of bands out there who’ve had different front men over the years, like Queen with Adam Lambert, and I perform 100% as Russell every night.”
Despite his success, Russell admits that he can suffer badly with nerves. “It’s ‘orrible!” he says in his Southern twang, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t suffer with it. I spoke to Paul [Weller] about this [he name drops in a way that doesn’t sound like name dropping, earning him a load more points on the cool scale!] and he always used to be sick, and still can be.
“There’s nothing you can do about it, apart from not eat, take a deep breath and get on with it!” none of which, I can’t help commenting sounds very Rock ‘n’ Roll, surely he must have some vices on tour? “None!” he laughs, “I used to but I hung up my drinking hat 19 years ago. I’d be a cup of tea and a biscuit man but I’m trying to get out the way of the biscuits too – it ain’t cool to be fat on stage!”
So what can we expect from the show, when From the Jam perform in Peterborough on June 18th? “You can expect loads of energy, great songs, nice and loud in your face! Come to the show, you’ll have a lot of fun!
“We’ll be playing some classics as well as some new songs off the new album. Paul [Weller] actually plays guitar and piano on a couple of the tracks on the album; he came in and we hung out which is nice as he’s a lot more friendly than people think he might be. Yeah, that is pretty cool!”, he concedes, laughing at my dropped jaw.
“I’m also extremely privileged to be recording songs that are owned by the people really, like That’s entertainment or A town called Malice and I’m privileged to play them with the type of musicians that I’m playing them with. Me and Bruce are the best of friends, have been for the last 10 years as well and we go on holiday together too. Isn’t that weird?” Erm, yes?!
So with the kind of life where you get paid to tour the world, performing songs you love with your best mate and where hanging out with Paul Weller is normal, what possible hopes and dreams could Russell have left? “Just to have some more of it! And to health and happiness because we’ve all lost people around us and it makes you realise how short life is. Where I used to hope for a Porche Carrera, my dream now is just to be healthier and happier” And as long as he stays off the biscuits, I’m sure he’s got plenty more rocking years in him!
From The Jam are performing at The Cresset on June 18. Call the box office on 01733 265705.
Photo: Derek D’Souza