Interview:
JJ72

Mark Three

JJ72 return in the New Year with their much anticipated third album, complete with new member Sarah Fox, and lead singer Mark Greaney took the opportunity to give Atomicduster the lowdown on that “difficult” album, the aforementioned guitarist and life in JJ72 on the whole.

AD: You’ve been away from the public eye for quite a long time now. What have you been up to in the interim?

MG: Well, as you know, Hilary left the band in 2003 and what with us only being a three piece, that was quite a big deal really. When we were looking for someone to replace her, Fergal and I were adamant that we weren’t going to get another really good looking girl on the band…

AD: Yeah RIGHT…

MG: It’s true! We auditioned LOADS of people and although they were all really nice guys, the spark just wasn’t there. It took ages before we found the right one but eventually we stumbled across Sarah at a gig where she was just playing a bunch of her own songs. We approached her afterwards and convinced her to join.

AD: There wasn’t a great deal of fuss made about Hilary leaving. Was it all very amicable then? I read somewhere that she was leaving to further her acting career…

MG: No, she was never really an actress as such – she did ballet though. After we started to become successful you could see her heart wasn’t really in it anymore and Fergal and I just KNEW she was going to leave – it was just a question of when. We were still gutted when she told us, and there probably WAS a bit of animosity there at first because she was a very big part of our lives and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to carry on or not. We’re still good friends though. She has a little kid now – it would have been difficult to carry on with a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle with a child in tow.

AD: Fair point. Now, when you released “I To Sky”, we gave it a glowing review and a ten out of ten rating, yet a lot of the other reviews I read were very mixed. What was your reaction to that?

MG: I think they were mostly positive actually, but you’re right, there WERE some negative ones, and I won’t claim that I don’t read them or that it doesn’t affect me. One thing though is that you can always tell the difference between journalists who actually sit and LISTEN to the whole record and those who don’t…you obviously did!

Maybe some people had a problem with the fact that this was my big spiritual album. The fans really clicked with it, which was fantastic, but what’s most important for me is that the music hits a deep personal note. I think we achieved that.

I suppose I’ve got a few concerns as to how the new album will be received because, with this being our third album, the musical landscape has changed. You know, the world is dominated by The Vines and The White Stripes and their ilk and we’re not really sure where we fit in. That’s not to criticise those bands – I actually like them – but it’s a world apart from where we are. Our fans are some of the best around though and we reckon they’ll really go for it.

AD: Have you had any feedback at your gigs regarding the new stuff yet?

MG: Yes we have! It’s been extremely good. There’s already a few songs that the hardcore fans love and talk about in the same breath as “Oxygen” – no pun intended! Those fans have given us a great deal of confidence and encouragement for the forthcoming album. The funny thing is, outside of the fan circle, everybody always looks to where your stuff goes to in the charts, and that’s such a poor yardstick for success. Some people even view “I To Sky” as something of a flop because it “only reached number 20 in the charts”, but it sold a tremendous amount and we regarded it as a huge success.

AD: So what would you consider your BIGGEST success?

MG: Probably those gigs we did with U2, but that’s not just because of the concerts themselves - I had a conversation with Bono and shared a bottle of wine with him, and the connections there were pretty special. I was amazed to find out he grew up in exactly the same area as I did and used to go to exactly the same places as me. He even used to gout with a girl whose parents my mother knew! Moments like that stay with you forever.

AD: That’s pretty special, like you say. What special qualities do you think Sarah brings to the band, as opposed to Hilary?

MG: Well, I don’t mean this to sound disrespectful to Hilary, but Sarah is a better, more accomplished musician. She has different roots and ideas and it takes the pressure off me a bit. It was no struggle at all for her to fit into the band and making the new album was really, really enjoyable. It’s got Sarah’s personality stamped all over it and I feel like, whereas we were more limited before, we’re now capable of doing even greater things with the music.

AD: The lyrics to your songs have an emotional quality that makes them seem very personal. Is that so, and which songs mean the most to you?

MG: They ARE very personal but I try to veil them as much as I can. I don’t feel comfortable putting one hundred per cent of myself out there for all to see. I think I try to strongly hint at something most of the time without giving away exactly what it is that I’m singing about. I put a LOT of thought into the lyrics on “I To Sky” but this time I wanted the music to be the driving force behind the album; I never really had to go to paper this time – it was all very spontaneous. As for the song that means the most to me, I’d probably have to say “Sinking”, purely because it’s so intense and a lot of people could communicate with it. I don’t know if I could ever write a song like that again.

AD: Ok, so what’s your ultimate fantasy JJ72?

MG: I have one aim that is made up of few parts, and it’s not for my ego or our bank balances! Simply, my ultimate fantasy would be for us to play to 20,000 people who all felt exactly the same way as we do at one particular moment in a song. One mass musical orgasm!


So, I think we’d better leave Mark alone with his Bill and Ted style “world peace” ambitions, but keep an eye out for the band’s album in 2006. There’s every chance it’ll be a real winner.


Interview: Tone E

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