Lights, camera, action!
Sitting on a platform in a makeshift living room, the rest of the room pitched black, feels as if peeking into the abyss. About to experience what could be termed a huge milestone in any music career, achieving something that many musicians work a lifetime for: public recognition.
It’s nothing new to my bandmates. They’ve been there before. They’re the former rhythm section of Adam and the Ants, which was a popular new wave band that took Europe by storm. This would become (to my dismay) our calling card. It’s one of those double-edged sword moments where the proximity helps open doors, but it has a way of falsely defining us.
Introducing Friends of Jack.
It’s 1988; I’m on the couch at MTV Europe being interviewed by Ray Cokes, a popular veejay I watched almost every day on television in London. I remember spending the early days of MTV’s launch hanging with my best bud from college, smoking weed, checking out music videos of the top music acts of the time.
I never imagined finding myself on the same couch as some of the music icons of the 80s.
This is my moment!
I made it!
So, I thought.
However, deep down, I knew it was the end of something that on the surface appeared to be headed in a positive direction.
I had already resigned myself to walk away, so only a part of me showed up for the interview.
If you read body language, you can tell, I was over it!
Sometimes the pursuit of a dream can deliver you to its doorstep. Once inside, you realize it’s not the dream but the pursuit that mattered. This is the case. What I thought I wanted, what I thought I knew, took years to figure out just how clueless I really was, and what I still needed to learn to make it in this industry.
By the time we were being interviewed on MTV, I had decided to leave the band. There were too many issues that began to arise within the band, as well as challenges to my status living in London.
There were clear indicators that manipulation was being used to keep me ‘in line.’
I was trapped in a triumvirate that was no more than a faux-democracy that made it appear that I’m an equal member of the group. Instead, they formed a voting block that, as long as they were in agreeance, I was kept in check. I had to go along with whatever they wanted. My governance over the situation was in appearance only.
Now I knew what it felt like to be an actor in a film trying to have a natural conversation in a very unnatural setting. The interplay of the fourth wall where the host seamlessly moves in and out in the same way he feigns interest in you, only to go lifeless and cold once the cameras stop rolling, only to brighten up and act like your best friend when the lights are back on. It’s somewhat of a mindfuck.
Sitting there, mind racing, trying to take it all in, it was happening so fast.
Ray Cokes, no doubt, could turn it on and off in unison with the cameraman. The funniest part is the awkward silence that occurs in between segments…lights out…camera stops rolling…drops eye contact. I guess it’s naïve to think the host would even have the remotest interest in who we are.
Cokes artfully engaged the other members. There’s a shared history. They talked about their participation in the historic Live Aid concert, prior band affiliations, and people they had in common. Of course, the topic of Adam Ant could not be avoided. I was struck how much of our precious airtime was being dedicated to someone already well-known. It seemed anathema to why we were there.
After some banter, Cokes sets his sight on me. There was no warning or preparation; I literally walked off the street into an office. Then into a film studio. He went into some spiel about the band discovering me in NYC; however, much to their horror, I corrected him.
We met in London.
Then he made the supposition that my musical abilities came out of the black, Baptist church, choir singing trope, to which I replied, “No, I’m Catholic.”
If you ever have the opportunity to look at the video of the interview, you can literally see my bandmates squirm. Then I recall rambling on incoherently in response to the question of how we met.
Our music video played while we sit there in silence until the lights went back on. In the second part of the segment, we talked about the origins of the band’s name. I don’t remember the rest. Since it’s pre-digital, I’ve only been able to get a hold of the first part of the segment from an old VHS tape.
That was a clear indication of how things within the band worked. They made choices, and we all went along with them. I played along as much as I could, but when I realized I was being kept in isolation, things started to fray at the edges.
In the beginning, I was happy to acquiesce control of my existence to them because, for years, I had to singlehandedly champion my cause in the modeling game throughout Europe.
It was exhausting.
There was nothing to fall back on.
So, the idea of being presented with itineraries telling me where and when to show up, being someone else’s responsibility, came almost as a welcomed relief.
But when I noticed I was never privy to conversations with record execs and business people that I was purposely kept in the dark, is when things began to unravel.
They took on management who only liked my performance if I was wasted drunk doing tricks. I never had a direct conversation with this man. I’d see him at gigs; I was told he managed a really well-known popular band. I really didn’t get it. After a while, I told them, “If you want a circus dog, call fucking Barnum and Bailey!”
That might explain my hair twirling while they spoke during the interview at MTV.
Not too long after, I closed the chapter on Friends of Jack. It was a hard decision to make; it felt like I was giving away my golden ticket.
Something deep down inside told me it was time to move on and return to NYC.
End of scene…lights out.