After seeing From The Jam and been mightly impressed we contacted singer / guitarist Russell Hastings who agreed to give us an exclusive interview.
First of all who is Russell Hastings & who are 'From The Jam'?
Russell Hastings is someone who's lucky enough to of had a colourful life!! From The Jam are Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and myself.
How did you become involved with From The Jam, was it through working with drummer Rick Buckler in a previous band?
I've known Rick for some years and he'd been showing signs of wanting to get back into playing so we went into the studio for fun really and that's how The Gift was born. We toured as The Gift for 18 months or so before meeting up with Bruce on the road which was the start of From The Jam.
What were yours, Rick's and Bruce's expectations of 'From the jam' when the band was first formed? Whose idea was it originally and who came up with the name?
Don't know what we expected to be honest? I guess just to have a great time and play songs that Bruce and Rick had such a big part in. When Bruce and Rick are introduced socially they are introduced as "Rick and Bruce from The Jam" so seemed like a good idea. Only if all of the three members are together are they allowed to be called The Jam i.e. Paul, Bruce and Rick.
What's it like working with two legends of English music?
At first it was pretty daunting but I have got used to it over time. We are great friends as well as in a band together. From time to time I'll glance behind me or to my left and think "Fuck me that's so and so!!
How much 'fun' do you have on stage with 'From the jam'?
Lots of fun! Most of the time!
Did you have any fears in 'replacing' Paul Weller?
Of course! I wondered all the usual things i.e. will they like me, Will they compare me, will they respect me... All added pressure that I could have done without! As it turned out they couldn't have been better to me and have had so many emails from around the world thanking me for being part of it and doing what I do. Plus meeting fans after shows was a confidence boost as they let me know what they thought and Jam fans don't mince their words!
Do you think from speaking to Bruce and Rick that there will ever be a time that you will have to 'step aside' for Paul? Has Paul Weller ever commented on his views on what 'From The Jam' are doing?
From what I hear I would think it unlikely but I never say never. I think the media have a lot to do with Paul's comments about the band. I've never had direct feedback from him so I don't know the honest answer so you'd have to ask Paul.
What are your memories of The Jam, did you ever see them play and do you think it's fair to compare The Jam to From The Jam?
I saw The Jam many times from late 77 through to the last Brighton gig and have some great memories! As do many fans who saw the band. The energy is what sticks in my mind and Bruce and Rick have plenty of that on and off stage! I've not seen From The Jam so it's hard to comment personally but I've had some great reports back from die hard fans that they love what we are doing.
Just for the record this is what we wrote in our live review of From The Jam, "Russell Hastings who provides the vocals is pretty damn good, he sounds enough like Weller to make the songs sound right but doesn't try to rip him off or act like his just stepped out of a tribute band, phew that's a relief!" Is that a common reaction to your vocals? What's the worst reaction / comment you've seen written about you?
I'd say that's a common reaction thankfully. Paul and myself are form a very similar part of the world so have a similar accent and seeing as a lots of Jam songs are like spoken word we are going to sound alike. I probably wouldn't work is Barry Gibb was in my shoes if you get my drift?! Haven't seen any negative reviews but then I don't spend all day looking for them! I've always been myself on stage which is the best way to be in this situation.
How many gigs have you done with From The Jam? Any favourites?
Hundreds! Favourites… Newcastle Academy, Glasgow Academy, Sydney in Australia, New York Blender Theatre spring to mind. Birmingham's always good. To be honest 99% of the gigs have been great! Like most things in life it depends on your mood that day.
We've seen pics on your myspace pages from as far afield as Bondi Beach and New York. Did you ever imagine travelling the world as 'From The Jam'? And what has the overseas reaction to the band been like?
We never thought we'd get to the places we've been to this year! I have some great memories on the road last year and being on Bondi with Bruce and Rick and the crew is one of them! We stuck out like a sore thumb on Bondi (lol) because we just invaded the beach in the good old British fashion. We got so burnt that day and had a gig that night in Sydney and could hardly get our cloths on in the dressing room! New York was amazing but fucking freezing! We created quite a buzz there as what seemed like the whole music media turned up at the after show party. I remember Debbie Harry and Clem Burk walking past our dressing room and saying hello and MTV executives giving us their cards and saying "Great show guys! Call us when you're coming over again"
By the way you can plug your / the bands myspace pages and website if you want!
www.fromthejam.net (official site)
There's also a picture on your myspace page of you on stage when you were 16, what other bands have you been in and were any successful? Is there any tunes that you think we should try and find (what are they and where would we be able to find them?).
Ha ha me at 16! (Innocent and youthful and naïve). That was the band Paralysis who were playing the pub/club circuit circa 79/80… Did a few gigs with Long Tall Shorty, F.A.B, 007, Purple Hearts etc… fun, but only lead me to a life of the usual rock and roll trappings. I basically partied HARD till I was 30 and was a washed up a wreck so decided to turn my life around and get on with a real life and get back into music. I did some vocals for a well know album which gave me confidence in my voice and played with a few bands and known players. Gary Grainger from Rod Stewarts band and Kenny Jones's band was a big help to me and we had a lot of fun so I guess he helped me find my way back into the biz.
From The Jam have written, played live and recorded new tracks who's idea was that and who in the band gets involved in the writing?
We all get involved in the writing as Bruce and Rick used to in the old days which I think got forgotten? They are great in putting ideas together and making a great song! One person may come up with a riff and then we'll kick it around till we make sense of it (hopefully)
What's the crowds reaction / fans feedback to the new material?
Surprisingly good! We were always gonna be up against it cause Paul's songs were so strong but were happy with peoples responses so far! I think you have to remember that Jam songs have years of history and are ingrained in people.
What's your favourite Jam song to play live and why?
Changes daily but here are a few… To Be someone, Strange Town, Man In The Cornershop, Private Hell.
Does it surprise you that a lot of people fail to realise that Bruce actually wrote a number of The Jam's songs? Do you find that when you play these songs at gigs that you get a different crowd reaction?
It does surprise me yeah! Bruce and Rick played a massive part in the writing of Jam songs… Just never had their names on the credits. Bruce's bass lines for example are just so individual; nobody sounds or plays anything like Bruce Foxton. And Rick Bucklers drumming!! He's great fun to play with. I say to Rick "I can always tell when you're having a great gig by how high your arm goes in the air in the middle section on Strange Town!" True!
We've just heard that Dave Moore (who played Keyboards & additional guitars) has announced he's left the band. Did this news come as a surprise to you & how do you think somebody else joining the band will change the dynamic of the band?
It wasn't a surprise to us and we all wish Dave well in the future. Dave has been a close friend of mine for 30 years and was very supportive to me when my life was upside down some years ago. He'll be missed! We're not going to replace Dave as such, just use a session keyboard player and I'll take back those guitar parts.
Can you list your five favourite songs of all time (by any band or artist not just The Jam!) and if so what are they?
"Elusive" by Scott Mathews
"Solid Air" by John Martin
"Anarchy In The UK" by The Sex Pistols
"I'd Rather Go Blind" Ruby Turner
"Babylon's Burning" By The Ruts
What is the most embarrassing song in your collection and why did you buy / download it … please be very honest!
"Guilty" by Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb. Great song and she's got such a great Voice!
What was the last song you listened to and why?
John Martin's Solid Air cause it sets my mood straight and allows me to put life in perspective… Plus it's a fucking great song!
We believe you do solo gigs too, what songs do you play in these gigs?
Yeah I do a handful throughout the year for fun mainly. I play all Jam songs and maybe the odd old cover. I use the acoustic mostly but do pull out the Rickenbacker when I feel the urge!
Where do you think your musical career and that of 'From The Jam' can go from here?
Who knows!? Be nice to carry on doing what we are doing and of course bring more new material into the set. I think the main thing is to have fun with your mates on the road and earn a living… pretty much the same reason as most people in life!
If you really had to could you, in ten words, write your own press release (swearing is definitely allowed!)…
This band does what was thought fucking impossible! A must!
Shaddersonline.com - January 2009