Jeff Drake

The Joneses

By Christopher Duda
(SugarBuzz Toronto)

SugarBuzz Magazine

From the depths of sleaze, drugs, sex, flashing girlie florescent signs and empty bottles; The Joneses prevailed to play from the underbelly of Los Angeles trash rock and roll. Armed with instruments, attitude and honest rock and roll, the world should have embraced them. Instead, it was a lot easier for the public to cuddle up with their Axl Rose posters. The Joneses had no preconceived agenda. They existed. They played hard. They should be appreciated now. I had the opportunity to chat with Jeff Drake from the Joneses about history and the upcoming cd release on Full Breach Kicks.

How influential were the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers not only on The Joneses sound but the image and more importantly the attitude?

The Dolls were an influence way more than the Heartbreakers, but I love the Heartbreakers, too. However, the Dolls came out when I was about 12 so they were very much an influence. Musically more than anything else. Really though, I think I would have ended up playing the same kind of music even if there was no New York Dolls.

How did The Joneses survive with all the posturing and posing by pseudo metal bands and testosterone fuelled hardcore of the day?

Well, we were definitely different. I didn’t like metal or hardcore punk. Still don’t. Nevertheless, we had to play a lot of shows with both kinds of bands. Really, with a few notable exceptions, that’s all there was.

Are The Joneses legendary exploits probably what contributed to their early demise?

I don’t think The Joneses had an early demise, really. I actually tried to kill off The Joneses a couple of times before rigor mortis set in. Legendary exploits? What are we, the Knights of the Round Table?

Are you willing to share a story or two to illustrate The Joneses as living the rock and roll life?

Well, I’m not sure if any specific story would do us justice. But we played music for a living, had as much fun as we could, and still found time to make a couple of records. I can’t remember much else.

Who did The Joneses share the stage with?

Wow, lots of people more famous than us. The Blasters, Missing Persons, Dickies, Guns n’ Roses, Poison, all those Sunset Strip Bands, Spinal Tap opened for us once at the Music Machine. Lords of the New Church, Johnny Thunders, lots of people.

Any memorable gigs or any that should be forgotten?

Lots that should be forgotten and thankfully they are. Probably the most memorable was opening for The Blasters at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City in 1982.

Why are The Joneses often referred to as “the band that should of made it”?

I guess cause I’m not rich.

Who would play you in the “Jeff Drake” story?

I think I would have to play myself. However, probably some good looking young actor for the “young” JD.

At what point and why did you decide to take a break from music and pursue a life as a doctor?

When I quit The Vice Principals in 2001, I decided to go back to school. I hope that I will get a Ph.D., but I won’t be able to write prescriptions. Sorry.

Listening to The Joneses material, is their anything that you would never care to hear again?

I wouldn’t mind if I never had to hear the “Jonestown” single again. In addition, if I ever hear “Bad Attitude” again, it’ll be too soon. “Cut That Trash” is not one of my favourites.

On the flip side, are you content with the overall output?

Overall, yeah, I think I did pretty well for somebody that was faking it and unconscious most of the time.

Would you entertain the thought of recording new material if the reunion gigs go over well?

Are these re-union gigs? I just thought they were Joneses shows after a long break. I wanna do an album of all covers. You know duets with, like, girl singers, country songs, and some song in the same spirit as “Crocodile Rock.” I’ve always loved doing covers.

Will you live up to people’s expectations of The Joneses or do you really care what people will think?

I have no idea what people’s expectations are, to tell you the truth. If they’ve seen the band before they know not to expect too much. Good jokes, though. I hope people like us. That’s what I’ve always wanted. You know, people to like me.

How did The Joneses initially form as a band?

Steve Olson and I were in a couple of rockabilly bands together and I kept getting kicked out. So we started a band so I wouldn’t get kicked out.

The Joneses are known for having revolving members. Who are some of the past band members?

Let’s see, how much ink is in this word processor? Ron Emory, Mitch Dean, Steve Olson, Steve Houston, John James, Rhys Williams, Nicky Beat, Scott Franklin, Paul Mars, Johnny Sage, Greg Kuehn, Johnny Nation, Mike Sessa, Mike Occhiato, Byron Reynolds, Jeff Moses, Roger Flores. Bill Bateman and Rock Vodka each played drums for a bit. Some I forget. Some of the guys I just mentioned are still in it actually don’t know which ones though.

Who will be playing in the band coinciding with the re-release of “Keeping Up With The Joneses” on Full Breach Kicks?

Some of the guys I just mentioned. Greg, the two Mikes, Moi, and Elvis.

Essentially Jeff Drake or The Joneses didn’t’t sell out. Was there ever pressure or disagreements in the band to go for the brass ring at any cost?

Oh yes. Lots of pressure. Very nasty pressure. Danny Sugarman, may God rest his soul, wanted us to wear leather AND chains. I think he was drunk. At one point right after we recorded “Keeping Up with the Joneses,” the rest of the band wanted to fire me. That didn’t work either.

Would you be interested in a label piecing together all recorded material in one package?

Actually, there’s not much that isn’t gonna be on the Full Breach Kicks version of “Criminal History” coming up soon.

Out of all the bands that copped your style and got it wrong but “made it,” who surprises you the most that the ever-loving public ate it up?

Hands down, Guns n’ Roses. Woulda been nice if they’d kicked down a little, ya know? Think they coulda afforded it.

What labels pursued The Joneses?

At one point, we had Elektra, Geffen, and CBS trying to figure out if they should invest or run away.

Did the band essentially flip every label the middle finger, or did The Joneses have the labels running scared from what they probably perceived as the living incarnation of sin itself?

We were never anything but polite to the gentlemen from the big record labels. When push came to shove, I think our drug habits at the time were kind of hard for those guys to get enthusiastic about. Especially when they were considering spending a lot of money on us and our arms. We weren’t very good at hiding that kind of stuff. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as people think though, but I can’t remember.

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