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Mick Jones Finds Self, Not in Supermarket

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Mick Jones Finds Self, Not in Supermarket

Mick Jones Finds Self, Not in Supermarket

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I got a pretty big thrill the other day when Mick Jones came through BPP headquarters. He's one of the founders of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite. His current project is a band called Carbon/Silicon. It's him and another London punk legend, a guy named Tony James.

Anyway, Alison, they show up…



BURBANK: …and I mean, this guy was in the freaking Clash, right, so.

STEWART: I saw. I was a little bit jealous.

BURBANK: He's done, like, a million interviews with, you know, Rolling Stone and everyone else in every kind of environment you could. So it's like - I don't think he's going to be that amped up to do an interview with the BPP…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

BURBANK: …on a Tuesday afternoon at, like, two. And also, they don't really want to play their songs because they don't play them acoustically…


BURBANK: …very much, if ever. So when they get in there and I'm a little nervous, I'm thinking that this be Siguros redux.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: And, no, they turned out to be really nice and funny. And we even got them to play a song. Let's listen.

You guys look amazing, by the way.

Mr. MICK JONES (Guitarist): Well, it's the drugs.

Mr. TONY JAMES (Former Member, Generation X): Thank you. I'm not, yeah, the monkey gland injections must be working.

BURBANK: No, I mean, the suits. You guys look really (unintelligible). What was going on? Did you just...

Mr. JAMES: I see.

Mr. JONES: Well, we've been to a funeral. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, exactly. The death of our ideals.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: You're just going to that funeral now?

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, the death of our ideals and entrance into compromise.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible) I had such a such a wakeup call this morning.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: It was for 9 o' clock.

BURBANK: I have to say, like, the fact that you guys got here. Okay, you were a little bit late, but 20 minutes late.

Mr. JONES: Do you know why? It's nothing to do with us.

BURBANK: It's not bad.

Mr. JONES: It's the traffic out there. It's unbelievable. And it started to snow.

Mr. JONES: Yeah, you guys need to get congestion charge like what we got in London.

BURBANK: They try to do that?

Mr. JONES: That's an amazing thing because outside the congestion charge - it's totally double congested now.

Mr. JAMES: (Unintelligible)

Mr. JONES: And inside the congestion charge is that congested as always.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

BURBANK: They try to do that in New York, you just got shot down with the most…

Mr. JONES: It's really interesting because our mayor has been doing deals with Chavez. You know, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, seriously, they have given them oil and they have given them some kind of - I think they're giving them some take that CD(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: In exchange for this. It's really a great deal.

BURBANK: Are you going to write an - are you going to write a Hugo Chavez song at some point?

Mr. JONES: It's really incredible, you know? I mean, if you look at the history of the involvement of South America and the Central America and America's involvement with them - later tried to help them over the years and the current relations of the - it's all about life. Oi, what's this oil stuff?

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

BURBANK: Mick, I have to say that I had a job - when I was 17, I worked to this place called Gene Johnson Plumbing and it was the worse job you could probably ever have. My job was there was these holes you had to climb into under restaurants and houses to try to lay this different kind of pipe. And I was skinny because I was 17. So my job was to climb into the holes that the plumbers were too fat to get in to.

Mr. JONES: …like a chimney sweep.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah - to (unintelligible).

BURBANK: Not unlike that - it was - yes.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

BURBANK: I was like Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins."

Mr. JAMES: Right.

BURBANK: No. It was the worse summer job you could ever have and "Combat Rock" was the only thing I had to look forward to every day. I would listen to it back to back, six times and I would measure the day.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible) 2000 Flushes, you know, that thing.

BURBANK: Yeah. 2000 Flushes blue.

Mr. JONES: Well, we had - in our original, we had that - they're adverts right? On the in the (unintelligible) in the long ad section at the end.

BURBANK: Uh-huh.

Mr. JONES: And then, one day the head of 2000 Flushes was sitting around at home when his daughter was playing this.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: And he heard it and he went, that not sound right. And he made us take it off the record.

Mr. JAMES: You think we would have been happy to have it that on?

Mr. JONES: And so the ones that - to have the 2000 Flushes - if you go back and listen to that record - the ones at the 2000 Flushes is like the Penny Black…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAMES: …for "Combat Rock."

Mr. JONES: …(unintelligible)…

BURBANK: That's a special, special limited edition.

Mr. JAMES: (Unintelligible) Mr. JONES: …(unintelligible) let's cut it out.


Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible) and do an edit, otherwise we we're going to get sued by 2000 Flushes. But I think the company is no longer existing.

BURBANK: I was going to say you still play a music - and 2000 Flushes blue.

Mr. JAMES: (Unintelligible) That's - because they blew it.

Mr. JONES: Yeah.

BURBANK: Oh, it's terrible.

Mr. JAMES: So that's a nice symmetry in your story there.

Mr. JONES: It is actually. It's (unintelligible). Plumbers are always very violent football players.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah. So we're doing that (unintelligible) already, right? We started. We already did.

Mr. JONES: We started (unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: Yeah. You're going to edit, right? It's okay.

BURBANK: I don't know we're going to edit it. I think this is good.

Mr. JAMES: They are (unintelligible) - this guy is grinning insanely.

Mr. JONES: Just (unintelligible) because I'll probably wear straitjacket for the (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: When you guys started doing Carbon/Silicon stuff, I understand that you were really encouraging people to make bootlegs of the music and pass it around and…

Mr. JAMES: Yes. (Unintelligible). Yeah.

BURBANK: …just do whatever they want. Why does it say in the CD case that this is copyrighted and thank you for buying…

Mr. JONES: That has nothing to do with us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JAMES: That's why we've got the suits on for - because the death of our ideals. That's where we came in, right?

Mr. JONES: So that's absolutely nothing to do with us. We're not - he's good in (unintelligible) and it has to do with us.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah. The reality is, you know, for the last five years, we've given our music away on our Internet site and we still continue to do that.

Mr. JONES: But somebody said, do you fancy this four-wheel drive.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible) is our authorization. (Unintelligible) so that's how they (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: So you are still giving the music away but the label - they are just charging for that.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: But, you know, it's interesting…

Mr. JONES: But you know that it can be (unintelligible) for peaceful co-existence. (Unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, I think at this time in a current state of the revolution - of digital revolution, people still want to go to a store and buy a CD or, you know, download from iTunes. So, now the time - people has still interest in having a tangible product in their hand.

Mr. JONES: Also, if you're into something, you'll get a download but you'll get the real record, anyway.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: And then , I mean, if you're (unintelligible), you want everything.

Mr. JAMES: Right.

Mr. JONES: I want to just be able to read the libretto.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, so there's a co-existence of freedom in commercialism…

Mr. JONES: …in a mad.

Mr. JAMES: Exactly - in a mad world we're living.

Mr. JONES: We (unintelligible) chasing fast.

Mr. JAMES: Yes - that we live in.

BURBANK: You guys started out playing in London S.S., which is maybe the most influential rock band in (unintelligible) exist.

Mr. JAMES: We never did a (unintelligible) record.

Mr. JAMES: We never actually made a record.

Mr. JONES: Moment, legendary.

Mr. JAMES: Worst moment. The legend is much faker than the reality.

Mr. JONES: It's a little rubbish. We just did a (unintelligible) numbers.

Mr. JAMES: (Unintelligible).

Mr. JONES: We had a terrible name…

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: …so we - obviously was going (unintelligible). We have met some interesting people, though.

BURBANK: Yeah, the people who tried out for the band and didn't get in, reads like a…

Mr. JAMES: …went out to do a lot of other things.

Mr. JONES: We're going for a couple of days (unintelligible) but we've - me and Tony used to be watching the telly while we were auditioning (unintelligible) which was (unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: That's the legend. These are common.

Mr. JONES: These guys are really rude.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: But the thing was that it's really interesting because they didn't have their name before, like Rat Scabies was only Chris Miller when he came into the studio.

Mr. JAMES: And we christened him, Rat Scabies.

Mr. JONES: …just so happened to have scabies in a mouse right across the room.

Mr. JAMES: Yes.

Mr. JONES: And before Tony bricked it…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: …to death.

Mr. JAMES: I know.

Mr. JONES: And so…

Mr. JAMES: That was…

Mr. JONES: And that was how Rat Scabies was born. So there are a lot of things happened regardless of the fact that we didn't - it wasn't meant to be at that time anyway because we had a bad name for a start.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: And also, we weren't ready.

Mr. JAMES: That's right.

BURBANK: You don't - do you feel bad about the S.S. (unintelligible)?

Mr. JAMES: What was terrible about it - the terrible, embarrassed (unintelligible).

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible). You know, but when you're 18, you think here is a name that your parents are going to freak out at - and it sounds attractive. And also (unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: Now, you're giving the game away.

Mr. JAMES: So, you know, it was (unintelligible) like it's (unintelligible) like New York Dolls, London S.S. You know, I mean, it had that sort of like…

Mr. JONES: It was a little bit like that.

Mr. JAMES: We always think that…

Mr. JONES: It's not kind of thing but…

Mr. JAMES: Karma prevents that band from being a success.

Mr. JONES: That's right. And also we weren't…

Mr. JAMES: So, you know, if it had been success and we've (unintelligible) with that name, that would have had such a negative comment, let's face it.

Mr. JONES: We were not serious about it anyway (unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: And you just trying things, you know…

Mr. JONES: …(unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

BURBANK: Well now the stars aligned three decades later.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

BURBANK: The Carbon/Silicon. Do you ever look across the stage and think, who's that gray-haired guy?

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, that's me in the mirror.

Mr. JONES: It's funny it's like that we don't know you're (unintelligible) here and like for or like something and you're looking (unintelligible) in the next kid along and you see another shadow of that and you're looking at your shadow. It's like that. They're like that. Except for, we were also hallucinating Red Indians, Native American Indians at the same time. Like in "The Doors." I look around, I feel these red Indians going hiya(ph), hiya, hiya . So it's…

BURBANK: So you're having all kinds of hallucination?

Mr. JONES: …from the medication.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: With a balance, with an act.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

BURBANK: Is it more fun or less fun to be jumping around on stage now than when you were these gawky 21-year-old kids and you didn't know (unintelligible)?

Mr. JAMES: Well we're having fun now.

Mr. JONES: The (unintelligible) to this, they're - we're not jumping around anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: That gets (unintelligible). And then we become aware (unintelligible) some slippers.

Mr. JAMES: Now, wait, you know, we're having fun doing it. And then we're really lucky we can still go out there and make music and do something fresh, you know? And…

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible) back in our oxygen tent…

Mr. JAMES: …I hope the fact that we're having fun doing that kind of comes across, you know, that we're not trying to do some professional serious thing. Here's guys making music that they really love, you know, and hopefully other people are going to take that as well.

BURBANK: You guys have such a huge role in creating this whole sort of style of music that's gone on now after your bands. You've been in a lot of different, you know, combinations of folks. You look, now, at what sort of punk music has wrought? And how do you feel about punk music in 2007? And how do you feel about whatever it was that you started? Is it doing what you hoped it would do?

Mr. JAMES: Well, you know, it was interesting. When we were in L.A., there were like 18-year-old Latino punks who came to the studio when we've done Steve Jones' show.

Mr. JONES: They love Morrisey.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah. And they, you know…

Mr. JONES: How strange is that?

Mr. JAMES: Digging the stuff that we're doing. So there's a whole legacy in new kids. But, you know, I hope they got their own take on everything, you know? Because what it was about was to say, to express yourself and, you know, be yourself.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible) they've got a good strong hairnet, so they can keep their hair for a long time.

BURBANK: And, well, I don't know how this interview has gone on your end; I've really enjoyed it.

Mr. JONES: We did. It wasn't much in Morse code.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah. (Unintelligible). I just realized I've got a Jerry Garcia pick here.

BURBANK: Before you leave, would it be possible to put that Jerry Garcia pick to use? Would you guys…

Mr. JAMES: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: Oh, come on, let's do a number.

Mr. JAMES: It's not funny we know how…

Mr. JONES: Well, (unintelligible) supposed to do.

Mr. JAMES: It's not something we normally do.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible)

Mr. JAMES: Yes.

BURBANK: If you could.

Mr. JAMES: It's not something we normally do, play acoustic. So we are looking forward to this because we aren't rehearsed at all. And, so you ain't going to get a professional thing here. But…

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: Yeah.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: That's right. That's the funerals.

Mr. JONES: You play that one and I'll play this…

Mr. JAMES: Oh, the same side.

Mr. JONES: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: I'll be Bob Dylan and you be Johnny Cash.

Mr. JAMES: Okay.

Mr. JONES: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible)

Mr. JAMES: (Unintelligible).

Mr. JAMES: Can we play "Why Do Men Fight?"

Mr. JONES: Yeah.

Mr. JAMES: Let's try it. You start. Now he's starting. We're talking C to F .

Jerry Garcia pick.

(Soundbite of "Why Do Men Fight?")

Mr. JONES: (Singing) Now when I talked to God, I knew he'd understand. He said, stick by me, I'll be your guiding hand.

Mr. JONES and Mr. JAMES: (Singing) I'd like to ask if I may presume. Live and direct from my living room. As we bend down to pray and ask, is there a better way? If you made the world, made the day and night. Are we all going crazy, why do men fight? If you made the mountains and the sea, now can you show a better way to be?

Religion, race, color, creed, whatever. Law, job, race, drugs, whatever.

Mr. JAMES: We say whatever in English.

(Soundbite of music "Why Do Men Fight?")

Mr. JONES and Mr. JAMES: (Singing) I can hear what they say, there must be a better way.

Mr. JONES: (Unintelligible). Why Do Men Fight?

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of clapping)

Mr. JONES: That's the loose version there.

BURBANK: Carbon/Silicon. Mick Jones and Tony James. You guys - thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BURBANK: That was Mick Jones and Tony James. Their band is Carbon/Silicon.

Alison, in case it was hard to tell who was who, Mick Jones was the one who sounded much more drunk.

STEWART: Sounds like he has maybe enjoyed one.

BURBANK: I don't think either of them were on anything, but…

STEWART: Either that or his teeth were getting in the way. He sounded like he had some interesting dental arrangements.

BURBANK: He had some arrangements. He had summer teeth. Some were here, some were there. But they were great and we love them for coming on.

STEWART: That does it for THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. I'm Alison Stewart.

BURBANK: I'm Luke Burbank.

Thanks for tuning in. Check us out at

(Soundbite of music)

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