After the name The Jasmine Minks there are more than three unforgettable decades of British indie guitar pop history, formed in Aberdeen in 1983 as a four-piece made of Jim Shepherd (guitar/vocals), Adam Sanderson (vocals/guitar), Martin Keena (bass guitar) and Tom Reid (drums/vocals), they were one of the first band to sign for the embrionic Creation just founded by a certain Mr. Alan McGee, with whom they remained true, sharing the same vision and attitude, all along their career till the Poptones label days at the start of the new millenium.
Starting with a fresh and urgent mix of Velvet Underground dissonances, Postcard Records pop magic, 60’s melodic influences and Buzzcocks punky sound , the band was able against all odds to keep going in their spontaneous way, despite a ‘difficult’ debut album and the departure of their charismatic co-writer and lead vocalist Adam Sanderson, crafting a beautiful timeless jangle pop sound, gradually open to mod and soul elements, that would find its true expression in their proper second full-length album, and probably their masterpiece, ‘Another Age’ in 1988, a record that soon it’ll make 30 years old!.
The fact that The Jasmine Minks featured in the expanded reissue edition of the seminal ‘NME C86’ tape compilation and their big part in the recent label milestone of the ‘Creation Artefact’ box set, testifies the huge relevance of one of the finest and most underrated British guitar pop bands.
In the meantime they have continued writing demos and ,from time to time, realizing some singles for little indie labels, but the great news is that, after a 5 year hiatus and almost on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the ‘Another Age’ release, the band will share the stage with their old friends of The Jazz Butcher Quartet at Preston’s The Continental on April the 8th, hopefully the first gig of many to come… as they say‘old habits die hard’.
Let’s start from those exciting early 80’s days, where punk also meant that all was up for grabs, was the idea to make your life as musician purely incidental? Did you already dream of it in your teens and what were your first inspirations and influences? How did the band come up together and why the name Jasmine Minks?
My life was music, basically. I loved music from when I was very young. My mother and my sister used to sing to me and I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was 12 years old. glam rock (T Rex, Bowie etc.) was my main influence. I never had any musical training and just learned from books, so I had no inspirations to be a professional musician. But when punk came along it was easy to fit in the DIY ethos. By the early 80’s and the Jasmine Minks were forming, we were a mix of Joy Division kinda tunes and guitar pop. The name comes from two sources: the word Mink in Scotland means a dirty, poor traveller and that suited us well, Jasmine came from Adam hearing Peter Sellers say it in a film. But it means a lot to me because I lived in Jasmine Terrace in Aberdeen when I was young and have a lot of memories from there.
My first Creation’s record I bought was incidentally your debut ‘One Two Three Four Five Six Seven, All Good Preachers Go To Heaven’, I always wondered, why that title? I read that it inspired the Manic Street Preachers’ name too. Talking about the 60’s influenced bands like yours, Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine said ‘they played really loud and very aggressive version of it. Not noisy, but hard. Not angry, but a fuck-you attitude. That was kind of cool’. Was he right?
Richie Edwards wrote to me and Kevin Pearce (and probably many others) saying that their name came from our album, but the official history of the band denies that! We definitely played our instruments hard but not loud. That was our thing, physical, emotional, not just turning up to eleven!
A huge influence was Kevin Rowland & Dexy’s Midnight Runners, not only for introducing you to the ‘‘Mod’’ sound of Northern Soul and reggae, but also for his lyrics.
Aye, Dexys were great. I was certainly influenced by them. I remember dancing to ‘Geno‘ when punk was just fading out and thinking that it was full of emotion, lots of energy but saying something original. That really appealed to me.
Let’s talk about the great John Peel, one of his biggest merits is teaching listeners to be free from any music genre boundaries. The Jasmine Minks recorded their one and only Peel session on 4 February 1986. Why just once and in a later stage? Do you have fond memories about it and about the Man as well?
I honestly had forgotten about Peel a bit by the time we did a session for him. It was a milestone to record at the BBC Maida Vale studios but our target was early evening radio by then. I was a big Peel fan in the late 70’s and his sheer longevity had made him an icon. He had a varied taste and never liked to meet bands who recorded for him, so we never met.
Looking back now at all your songs and albums, are you generally satisfied with them? What are your most and less favourite ones? Any regrets that some records could have been made better?
They are all different which I am proud of. Think sound great now, funky with a tune. The best produced album was probably ‘Popartglory’, made in 2001 with lots of electronics and guitars but our best song records were probably ‘Another Age’ and ‘Scratch The Surface’. We are playing ‘Another Age’ album this year and next to celebrate 30 years since we recorded it and it is probably the most consistent sound (12-string guitar pop!).
The band, as you said, never followed a real plan, but even in times of difficulty and when everything seemed uncertain, always the right person came to your rescue. Could you talk about these crucial moments and the too often underestimated contributions?
Who really plans anything? We try and have dreams etc. but the best moves come fortuitously when people appear in your life. Kevin Pearce came along and gave us a kick up the bum by really going into our songs and bringing them to a wider audience with his marvelous writings and then managing us. Wattie joined and gave us energy which we badly needed at the time. Derek turned up at tmy door with his trumpet and ended up playing on loads of gigs and adding fantastic melodies to Peel session and our first full album. Big Mick I met on the building site I worked on played me loads of 60’s garage and introduced me to Nancy Sinatra and, to this day, sends me great playlists of music old and new, he was a great influence on our sound. Nick Jones came along from APB to help us to drive around to gigs, Paul Cooper with his ska-influences popped up one day to my house and joined us for two albums and many gigs. Many people, friends new and old, have come out to help us and influence us and that is the beauty of music. it joins people!
2015 was the year of the release of the wonderful Cherry Red’s ‘Creation Artefact’ box set to celebrate the legacy of the ‘age of innocence’ (1983-85) of the label, in which the Minks have obviously been a big part. Do you think that it can be considered in the same way as seminal 60’s garage & psych compilations like The Nuggets and Pebbles? Which are your favourite bands and songs of it?
It was nice for us to get some previously unreleased songs on there, in particular for ‘Everybody Has To Grow Up Sometime’, which was going to be the title track of our first album. My favourite song on there is probably ‘Revolving Paint Dream’s In The Afternoon’.
I saw an old picture of a certain “Dynamo Minks”, was it a tournament between bands? Are you all football fans of the ‘best team of Scotland’? Did you ever write a song with footy references? What’s your opinion about the modern billionaire football?
We would have a kick around whenever we could and we played other bands occasionally. Football was a distraction we enjoyed, and still do. I’m not a big fan myself and only follow Tottenham‘s results. I wrote a song called ‘On A Saturday’ which has some football results being read on it.
Please, can you give us any previews about the Minks’ documentary in the making?
We have lots of footage and it is an ongoing project. It has lots of memories of the characters involved in the 80’s and some live footage. Still early days with that!
What keeps you going on to writing songs? Is it like an itch you’ve got to keep scratching? Is a new album on the way too?
I love to play music, including lots of cover versions and helping out with school shows etc. as well as playing with The Jasmine Minks I still write a lot of tunes and have dozens of unreleased songs. It’s a nice feeling to be creative and get some of those emotions out. I don’t suppose I’ll ever stop!
Jim has been a judge at the last ‘Everything Indie Over 40 Alternative Mercury Prize’, surely he’s got a deep knowledge of new indie scene, I don’t know the others, but which are your favourite bands/records of the last period? Jim, for whom did you vote at the end?
Meilyr Jones‘ album is fantastic, but I loved them all. I don’t hear much new music, except in passing, so it was great to be recommended a load of albums to listen to.
After almost a 5 years hiatus, you’re going to play on Saturday 8th April at The Continental in Preston with The Jazz Butcher Quartet, hopefully the first of many gigs to come. What should the new and old fans expect from it? Did you share any old fond memories with Pat Fish and Co.?
We played lots of times supporting The Jazz Butcher in the 80’s and I went up to play his club in Northampton about 10 years ago. I loved the last Jazz Butcher album. The songs are wonderful and it has a lovely warm sound too. The Jasmine Minks will be playing ‘Another Age’ album plus Creation singles and a few other songs. We are really enjoying re-living these songs and it has an eye-opener to see what good songs they really are!
Many thanks for being our welcome guest, I will not ask for the usual question about your future plans, because I know that you’re living the ‘now’. But the next April 8th, the same day of your Preston gig, will be also released a new 7” single on Oatcake Records, could you give us further details about it?
Thank you Fabrizio – I will send details of the new single. It is a very personal and emotional single raising money for a cause close to our hearts.
Photo credits: www.underexposed.org.uk (1st one)