- - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In the 1980s nothing could stop British synth pop singer/keyboard wiz Howard Jones. Armed with a shiny keytar (the bastard son of the guitar and keyboard) and a spiky blond haircut, he rocked through a slew of the decade’s most memorable hits, including “What Is Love?” “New Song,” “Everlasting Love,” “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One Is to Blame.” He has toured and created challenging, smart pop music throughout the three decades that followed.

Mr. Jones‘ latest CD, “Engage,” is the perfect blend of synth pop and modern EDM with classical tinges. He spoke with The Washington Times during a tour break on the nationwide trip with Barenaked Ladies and OMD about his U.S. club tour, which brings him to the District’s The Hamilton Saturday.

Question: How was the summer tour with Barenaked Ladies?

Answer: It was really great on lots of levels. For starters, it was a very ambitious pairing — or whatever the word is when you put three groups together. [laughs] Obviously with me and OMD, there was a relatability there. But with Barenaked Ladies, everyone was thinking, “Well, how’s that gonna work?” It actually worked really well. Me and OMD got to play to our old audience, and also to a new audience.

Barenaked Ladies fans are a generation younger than our fans. I ended up doing one of my songs with Barenaked Ladies. I was opening up, which I’m not used to doing. I had to really dig deep and work hard to get people’s attention. I feel it made me a better performer.

Q: You have a vast catalog, so how did you decide what to play in that short time?

A: It was all hits basically. And I still had to leave some out. Which is a great problem to have. Obviously I wanna play stuff from the whole career. And I wanna play some new things. But there just wasn’t time to do that.

Q: Any sense of competition when you play on a shared bill?

A: I personally don’t feel that. I just feel secure in my own worth as an artist. [laughs]

When I go out there, I’m competing with myself. To be really on point and full of energy. I’m not competing with anyone else.

Q: Do you believe that starting your career in your late twenties has been the secret to your longevity?

A: Yeah. If I had been 19 or 21 and I hadn’t really lived much of life, I think I would have been more carried away by the adulation that comes from that position. I was 28 when I got signed, and I was very happily married. My personal life was very settled, so I could just concentrate on the music. I was very fortunate.

That gave me quite a lot of stability in my life, and all the people that had helped me get to that point were still with me. All the people there when we started up playing pubs in my hometown were there when we played Madison Square Garden. That was a wonderful stability as well, to have people who knew where you came from with you the whole time.

Q: Have technological advancements made being a recording artist easier for you?

A: It is very possible now to have a quite quality setup in your own home without costing millions of dollars. In fact, I was writing a piece for a new film that I’m writing a song for while I was on the road. And the director wanted to hear what I had done. I actually recorded the vocal in my hotel room in Rock Springs. I don’t even know what state that is in. Somewhere in the middle of America I had a mic plugged into my laptop and was able to do all the vocals and the backing vocals.

You never would have been able to do that in the past. With any kind of quality. Now technology allows you to have everything in your laptop.

Q: Nostalgia plays a big part in what you do. How do you find the balance between nostalgia and creating new music?

A: Obviously you have to respect that the point at which you made your name, which for me was the decade of the ‘80s. You have to respect the fact that people grew up with that music. And it’s part of their DNA. That’s really important to acknowledge and respect. And gladly play those songs.

At the same time, I want to develop all the time as an artist. I continue to make new work and continue to write and continue to try and develop myself as a singer and a player. The two things must carry on in tandem. You have to make a balance. I think it is important to do that if you want to have any kind of longevity.

Q: What can people expect when they see you in D.C.?

A: This will be my electronic band show. We’ll play stuff from the whole career. I’ll play the hits in their current form. A cornucopia of my work, really.

Q: Any concerns about the upcoming “80’s Cruise” like seasickness or being trapped on a boat with rabid 80’s fans?

A: [laughs] The reason I really wanted to do this is that I love being on boats. When I was a child of 9, and then again at 14, I traveled across the Atlantic on ocean liners. I absolutely loved it. I didn’t get seasick. I used to stand at the bow of the ship.

I’ve got a bit of a thing about boats. And there are some places we are going on that cruise that I’ve never been and really wanted to see them. I’m not entirely motivate by music, really. [laughs]

Howard Jones plays The Hamilton Saturday. Tickets are $24.75 to $32.75 by going to Ticketfly.com


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