Interview by Lisa Derrick
I had lots of questions at the ready for Patrick Jones, described on his website as a poet, playwright, human rights activist and filmmaker. With such an assembly of titles my curiosity was not only roused, it was racing, but I must admit to a touch of trepidation. Known for confronting controversial issues in his work, I read that Patrick tenaciously tackled topics such as religious fundamentalism, violence against men, and the war in Iraq, and was forthright in doing so. Would this staunch campaigner be militant or mild in responses to my questions? I needn’t have worried; he was a friendly, open and more than helpful interviewee, putting any apprehension to rest early on. It seemed he kept his confrontational side for the stage and the page. As he later admitted: “I’m quite normal day to day but rebellious in my writing!”
So why was I interviewing a poet for PLUGGED IN the music magazine you might ask? Well, Patrick’s latest project is a collection of his poetry set to music, an album entitled Tongues For A Stammering Time (reviewed in Issue 7). Some of the musicians featured include Billy Bragg, Nicky Wire, James Dean Bradfield, Martyn Joseph, Steve Balsamo, Lethargy and Henry Priestman. Despite the notable names involved in this project, its beginnings were humble, in the home studio based in his friend’s gran’s house no less. Les Davies of Valleys band Squeezebox recorded several tracks, composing music to accompany Patrick’s poetry readings. The resulting CD was sent to Rhys Mwyn of Anhrefin Records, his response was positive, and the rest, as they say, is history! Musicians were approached, and the track listing grew as they happily agreed to become involved. Patrick describes the CD as having a “collective feel”; the musicians involved “interpreted the words of the poetry with their own music.” The correlation was such that Billy Bragg’s piece actually inspired Patrick to alter the reading of his poem to better fit, describing the music as “beautiful”.
I wanted to know what inspired this performer, not only to create his latest collaboration, but also the poetry collections, previous CD, and plays to his name. “Poetry,” he said, “was the beginning, a way to express myself.” A quiet youngster, Patrick was bullied at school, and whilst he didn’t fight back at the time, he experienced a “rage in his head,” writing poetry was “revenge”. Influenced by Alan Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Albert Camus and John Paul Sartre, to name a few, poetry was his way to reach out, convey his experiences and feelings. Plays were his next platform, enjoyed by Patrick for their freedom, the possibility of re-invention. Films, more recently, as the technology has become more easily accessible.
I asked about ideas, where do they originate from to allow Patrick to be so prolific? He described how they start as “seeds” sown from certain issues which germinate and develop over time. “I might start with five ideas, then distil to one or two which are most powerful…I really want to connect and not write anything half baked.” The desire to move his readers and audience is obviously key to Patrick Jones, which seems why then, he writes about things which truly move him personally, to convey that passion.
What would Patrick’s advice be to potential writers or performers? Maintaining what seems central in his thinking, he advocates trusting your sense of self, keeping your own voice, which, he says, “will ultimately win through.” He admits this can be difficult when faced with conventionality and elitism but ultimately remains his message.
Upon discovering so much about Patrick’s work, I wanted to find out where I could hear and read more, for both my own benefit and that of PLUGGED IN readers. Luckily for me he would shortly be playing at the Glamorgan Gates Open Mic Night in Merthyr Tydfil, where the fusion of live music and a robust reading just several paces away from my seat proved captivating. Keep an eye on his website (www.patrick-jones.net) and go along to one of his gigs for a memorable and moving experience — plans include a new CD next year, a play and various poetry readings.
It seems no coincidence to me that Patrick Jones was born and raised in the same Valley town as Aneurin Bevan, socialist and orator who is regarded as the architect of the NHS. Something in the Tredegar water perhaps? This is a link which I’m sure has been raised numerously; if so Patrick was too polite to say so, but then he does also quote Bevan in his poetry so it’s perhaps inevitable. He declared his admiration for the politician, for “getting things done,” and “having a powerful vision of society,” citing his main hero and inspiration however as Gwynall Williams, “a historian for the people, who made history come alive.” Inspired by others he may be, but Patrick is clearly on a solo undertaking in his diverse work, describing it as a “vocation”; the advice, “force on in your own journey.”
To download the complete magazine visit www.pluggedinmagazine.co.uk