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27 f The Boden Catalogue

That tall bloke from, what was their name now? Anyway, he’s gone solo. Well, as solo as you can with an eleven piece band. Colin Irwin asks Jon Boden the trick questions: Judith Burrows snaps.


nd so, Jon Boden, your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to negotiate this interview with- out mentioning the name of your previous band. He looks very serious, but he nods. He likes a chal- lenge, does Jon Boden. “I can do that,” he says gravely, but not entirely convincingly. “Yep, I can do that. I accept the mission.”

We are sitting, Jon Boden and I, on a couple of haystacks in a teepee… yep, a teepee… backstage at the splendid Folk East festival, somewhere in Suffolk. It is, he con- fides conspiratorially in the full confidence that I won’t repeat this information for fear of upsetting all the other festivals, probably his favourite folk festival in all the world.

He’s in good form. He played a head- line solo set here a couple of nights ago and was entirely wonderful and amid the chit- chat and reverie later regales me with entertaining stories of his secret past. That gig he did for the Oxford University Danger- ous Sports Society, playing the accompany- ing music as an avalanche of students were flung into the ether from an elaborate con- traption in a bizarre practice known as human trebuchets.

And we won’t even mention his days wearing pink Elton John glasses playing lounge piano and singing I Just Called To Say I Love You as a background to naked skiing sessions in Milton Keynes. It wasn’t until one of the skiers submitted a request for him to sing Prickle-Eye Bush that he realised this wasn’t, perhaps, the most appropriate platform for his talents.

So here we are, way out in the idyllic

wilds of Suffolk, tickling a straw of hay, talk- ing about his career post-Bello… his great leap forward following the disbanding of the band who must not be named. The B- band. (I nearly mentioned it there, but I think I got away with it.)

What he’s been doing is working with an expansive eleven-piece band (no, a dif- ferent one) and recording a grand, terrify- ingly ambitious album of his own songs and tunes to create a concept that’s been bub- bling around his head for quite some time. It is called Afterglow.

So tell me all about Afterglow, Jon Boden…

“Well,” he says, settling into anecdote mode…”The idea came a couple of years ago in a eureka moment, but I didn’t start writing it until after the last Bellowhead gig…”

I look at him aghast. “What?” The B-word…

“Oh no! I failed at the first hurdle.”

“It wasn’t until after that last momen- tous thing I had the space to do it and then it came very quickly…” Too late now, Jon, you’ve blown it. Interview over.

Oh well, since we’re here, we might as well stay keep chatting for a while. And we do. Quite a while as it happens.

About Songs From The Floodplain for a start, the solo album he released in 2009. And it really was a solo album, on which he played everything himself, from double bass to melodeon, concertina, percussion and harmonium. A remarkable album, too, in many ways – wilfully minimalist with a series of beautiful, sad, thoughtful, provocative, unnerving songs which, linked together, thematically depict a post-apocalyptic soci- ety after the oil has run out, enclosing local communities and forcing them to fend for themselves.

He did some shows, too, with a small band – the original Remnant Kings – featur- ing one Sam Sweeney having the time of his life playing drums, an unexpected role sug- gested by Boden, following the example of heroes like Tom Waits and Nick Cave, who get top musicians to play unfamiliar instru- ments. Sweeney, who we know plays every- thing brilliantly, now repeats his drumming with considerable distinction on Afterglow.

For all its many merits, however, Flood-

plain was somewhat overshadowed by that other band whose name escapes me, who were on something of an unstoppable roll at the time and, as much as people were intrigued, Floodplain appeared to everyone to be little more than a rather fine side pro- ject. Everyone that is, except Jon Boden (“when you’re a musician nothing is a side project – you focus completely on it and put all your energies into it”).

He has fond memories of writing Songs From The Floodplain and was instantly intent on doing more.

“I loved writing it and as soon as I’d fin- ished, I knew it wasn’t the end and I wanted to keep writing in that vein and that there would be a follow-up at some point. I went through a lot of different ideas, but I didn’t want to be writing some generic post- apocalypse thing, I needed a specific route map. And then I got the idea and when I finally sat down to write it, it came very

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