We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.
So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into? What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?
We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.
In this edition – Jim Shepherd
After reading a review in Sounds magazine of a Jasmine Minks demo, Alan McGee invited them to play at his Living Room club night. He was suitably impressed with their performance and told them to shorten their “best” song “Think!” so he could release it as their debut single. They went on to release 4 albums and a number of singles in 5 years for Creation between 1984 and 1989 and rekindled their relationship with McGee in 2001 with an album on his Poptones label. At the heart of The Jasmine Minks is guitarist and vocalist Jim Shepherd who founded the band in his home town of Aberdeen in 1983 with Adam Sanderson, Martin Keena and Tom Reid.
30 years after that encounter with McGee, Jim wandered into our living room for the first time virtually via Twitter when Matthew Wilce tagged us and Jim into a photo he took of Jim at a Doing For The Kids gig in 1988. From that point on Jim has never been far away from our world, actively taking part on many of our interactive features over the years . He’s even been on staff duty. First doing the live draw for the Last 16 of the Indie Over 40 Cup and then as a panelist on our own version of the Mercury Prize, a job to which Jim brought a huge amount of enthusiasm and made the feature way more rewarding for us as a result
Looking back at our engagements with Jim over the years it is clear he is one of the good guys. Engaging, respectful, humorous, approachable, knowledgeable and passionate about music. And of course we mustn’t forget a talented musician and songwriter. We had the pleasure of finally meeting Jim in person at a Jasmine Minks gig at the 100 Club in March 2019 and we are delighted to confirm that those traits were not just virtual.
Enough gushing, over to Jim….
Q1 – Where did you grow up?
A -I was born in 1962 and grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland. I lived near the city centre for my first 6 or 7 years. These were tough times financially then (and throughout my childhood) but there was a lot of love in my family which made up for it. I actually remember having to leave our flat to go to the toilet, shared with our next door neighbours. This was before the oil boom of the 1970’s which created lots of jobs in the city.
Q2 – What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
A – I was a huge Bowie fan and also a huge Bruce Lee fan, so the majority of posters in my room from my early teens until punk rock came along were of those two. Then I did the unthinkable (as far as my parents were concerned) and spray-painted the Tom Robinson Band logo from the Power In The darkness LP, using the stencil that came free with it.
Q3 – What was the first record you bought?
A –The first pop record I bought was Slade’s Mama We’re All Crazee now although I had bought a few records from the Co-op before that, a Max Bygraves’ children’s ep Wiggly Waggly Tooth and a cheap Val Doonican LP. But I count Slade as being my first chart record that I bought – when I first became aware of Top of the Pops.
Q4 – What moment made you want to become a singer, artist and musician?
A – I wanted to be like Mick Ronson from when I first started collecting Bowie LPs and reading the teen music mags like Disc. Bowie was Bowie so I never felt I could be like him but I felt like I could be a sideman, be a support to a good rock n roll star, an electric guitarist doing backing vocals. I made up a group when I was 12 called Ronno and invited some of my pals to join but it was only me that rehearsed so it was a bit much to call it a group!
Q5 – How much did you get paid for your first gig?
A – Our first gigs as a punk rock band (me and Tom, Jasmine Minks’ drummer, were in that group) were in youth clubs, unpaid. But we did organise a few of our own, one in particular which was very memorable was at our local primary school assembly hall. We charged 10p to get in and booked a PA and engineer. Loads of small kids from the streets came in as well as a few older teenagers about our own age. I think we made enough to pay the engineer, although it was a waste of time hiring him because our guitars and drums were too loud for the tiny PA anyway!
Q6 – Do you have a particularly memorable gig which you performed at?
A –There are so many I have good feelings about. But the main two that spring to mind are a Creation Records night at the Clarendon Hotel in London and a gig at a social club in Greenock taken over for indie music nights occasionally.
The Clarendon gig was the biggest crowd we’d played to up to then. Quite a decent crowd and, because it was a ‘label’ night, it was people who hadn’t necessarily seen us before, so we felt we had to show how good we could really be. We had Dave Arnold playing for us on guitar on loan from The Claim. He had this huge Pete Townshend sound which knocked everyone dead. Dave was unknown to the rest of the bands on the label, so when we came off Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes rushed up and grabbed me and said, really excitedly, “Who is that guitarist? How the fuck can we follow that?” I was really chuffed – it did feel like we made an impression to the crowd that night and that’s what we hoped we would do. The Legend gave us a really good write-up in his review for the NME or Sounds (I can’t remember which) and that really pleased us too.
The Greenock gig was a strange one. We turned up in the afternoon to set up and thought that this was going to be a tough gig, a social club in a tough town and lots of locals folding their arms to see what we could do. There was even a guy who beat up bands he didn’t think were good enough! We worked hard and did two or three encores and the crowd went absolutely mental. We had never had such an extreme reaction like that before. And the guy who beat up bands loved us – thank God!
Q7 – Who would you most like to perform with onstage?
A –I did a single called Down Tangerine Road with Sleepyard featuring Mike Garson. I put it out as a 7” single on my own Oatcake Records label but it completely flopped. It was marvellous to play with someone who caught my imagination when I was just 11 years-old with his playing on the Aladdin Sane album. His piano playing blew my mind when I was a kid and it blew my mind to be involved writing and singing a song with such an artist when I was in my 40’s. I have performed the song myself at solo concerts but I would love to play it live with Mike Garson on the piano.
Q8 – What’s the best venue you have played at?
A – The Loft in Berlin was an amazing place in the 80’s. I’d never seen anything like it. A place on several levels, where there’d be live bands and a night club, sometimes simultaneously. We played there in 1984 when the Berlin Wall was still up so there was the added tension of the city at that time and having to pass through Checkpoint Charlie was another thing altogether. I had my passport taken because I laughed but I soon stopped laughing, nervously waiting to get it back and get through. We played there with Biff Bang Pow! And The Jesus and Mary Chain as part of a Creation Records package tour and there were so many stories from that tour but maybe that’s for another day?
Q9 – What song would you have liked to written? (Not your own)
A – As a guitarist I like songs with chord structures which sound nice on their own. Songs like Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes fits the bill. A great song, great lyrics. But also really lovely to play on guitar. It’s one of the most played songs on my guitar and one I’ve covered many times at parties and in pubs. It’s not easy to sing though unless you have a big range, something I just don’t have I’m afraid.
Q10 – If you weren’t a singer / artist / musician, what would you have been?
A – I honestly don’t think I’d be around if it wasn’t for music. I work as a teacher now and have managed to make a living and bring up my kids with enough money to get the things they want (something I never had when growing up). But in my teens and through my twenties I constantly had a guitar in my hand, whether sitting at home on the sofa or rehearsing songs, writing them or playing at gigs. Whenever I had to work outside music to make ends meet (I mostly worked on building sites) I was miserable. Somehow the music kept me going. Nowadays I’m more of a music fan than a performer/writer, although I do keep my hand in. Even now music seems to bring a calmness in me that very few other things in life can do. I still see myself first and foremost as a musician, even though it’s not my main income.
Q11 – What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
A – The latest things I’ve heard and loved are J D King’s Moon Gardens (fave track is Crimson Velvet Saddle Boots), Dana Gavanski’s ep Wind Songs (fave song I Talk To The Wind) and the song Respond To Love by The Girlatones.
Q12 – What are you up to at the moment?
A – When lockdown happened The Jasmine Minks were more than halfway through recording our first full album in nearly twenty years. Since then we haven’t managed to meet up to complete it. But I hope we can do within the next few months, although it is difficult because we live in different parts of the country and it looks like meeting up again in a safe way might be further ahead than we ever thought it could be. Fingers crossed…
On the re-issue side of things, both our BBC Radio 1 sessions, one with John Peel and one with Janice Long, are coming out soon on limited double 7″ singles with gatefold sleeves. I think it will be a great memento of those sessions and those times.
Steve Williamson founded Everything Indie Over 40 as a platform for people to engage positively about the music they love and which has grown to a dynamic and innovative community that encompasses interactive features, digital magazine, book publishing, radio shows and podcasts, social events, quizzes and much more