A man well versed in the trials and tribulations of being in a band in Leeds, is Jon Nash. A veteran of the Leeds music scene, Nash has been involved in numerous musical ventures, but currently resides as the drummer for Leeds legends Hookworms and Cowtown, as well as fronting his own solo project under the title of Game_Program, all of which have exciting things on the horizon.
The music never stops for Nash, even after we finished the interview he raced off to meet up with Hookworms to begin writing some new material for their next album. Contrary to the very recent release of their entrancing third album, Microshift, released earlier this year, the band are constantly ploughing ahead; “It’s hard to say what’s going to happen until we start doing it. I think there’s always a conscious effort to not do the same thing we did before, but which way it goes, we will have to wait and see.” With some big shows still left to play at the end of the year, new music on the way and talks of drastically expanding their live AV setup to create larger, mesmerizing visual performances, you’d have thought this would be more than enough to have on your plate as a musician. But not for Jon Nash.
Cowtown too have been writing, premiering some of their new material for Marc Riley on BBC Radio 6, including songs about Donald Trump and “confused aggressive men”. The band have plans to finish writing and get back in the studio to have an album ready for next summer.
Nash’s newest venture is his solo project, Game_Program, of which he has just finished his first EP. Two tracks spanning around 30 minutes each, the EP is due at any time. For any ‘gear heads’ out there, Nash described his live Game_Program setup; “I’ve just switched to using the Elektron Digitakt. I used to use an MPC 2000, the old Dilla style box, which was great, but it runs on a zip drive which was causing me loads of problems. So I switched over and have been messing around with that. It sounds really good so gonna build all my future sets out of that. So there’s that, a [Roland] SH-101, a Moog Mother-32, an old [Novation] K-Station for pads, and I’m hoping to introduce something else when someone comes through from life. But that’s it for me being confident and comfortable doing my own thing”.
Starting to push his solo music, Nash says it’s like “a musicians retirement”. Being 39, Jon is looking for something a little bit more “old man,” which involves being predominantly sat down. “Shit, I’m getting old. It’s just how much longer I can be arsed lugging gear around and playing in the basement. I want to be sitting down and not sweaty.”
With a hard drive full of unfinished music, Nash’s reasons for abandoning songs are hilarious. “I just get offended by the silliest things, like the slight tone of a synth and i’m just like ‘forget it, forget the whole thing! There is a philosophical problem with it, because the birth of an idea is always exciting, so no matter what happens at that point, your always like ‘oooh, all the little things have come together’ and you get all excited. But then as you develop the ideas it’s like ‘well, what am i really contributing to the world of music here?’ and if i’m in that kind of mood, i’ll just be like ‘no, this is just an Aphex rip off’.” Regardless of these humorous drawbacks, the EP is finished and there’s good reason to be excited.
Jon and I talked for over an hour on every possible subject around modern music scenes, especially Leeds. Nash moved to Leeds in 1997 and has been a part of the DIY scenes ever since. This, Nash mentions, was a time when the internet had become ‘a thing’ and music was a lot more accessible than it was before. You didn’t have record labels choosing what music you should be listening to, “it seemed to open up culture for a few years”. But now, after the industry getting a better grasp of the internet, we are back to a world of curated music choices through services like Spotify Radio.
The industry has also changed for bigger bands since this time; “The funny thing is, I’ve avoided the mainstream music industry all my life. I don’t know why, a stubborn child and all that. I hated things like the Kaiser Chiefs; I still hate the Kaiser Chiefs. But that’s the best thing about us doing Hookworms. We run in more professional circles and know everyone's super straight. Labels are less willing to deal with unpredictable people. Unless they’re Kanye West.”
These are interesting directions of movement for music, but back down on a local band level, we discussed how has the music changed. “Personal politics is something that is super high on the agenda nowadays, which is something that’s a big change from where we were. But ultimately, it’s not about the big macro ideas, like concerns about the environment, or consumerism, or veganism. They’re maybe not as important as pure personal ideas such as identity. That’s where the most interesting things are happening at the moment. Things like Crywank, the whole project is about them - what they feel - which is again totally relevant, but a totally different approach to the past”.
A lot has changed over Jon Nash’s career, but one thing is still the same; he is still creating new and exciting music, all the while supporting the Leeds music scene and hoping to move more into production to help new musicians start their careers. Essentially, another all round nice person.
By Tom Nixon