THE JACK STAFFORD FOUNDATION
Jack Stafford grew up in Bury St Edmunds, a small town that has sporned cult bands such as Miss Black America and The Dawn Parade, before moving to the cultural playfield that is Amsterdam. The album "Exes" takes a Jarvis Cocker romp through broken hearts and past conquests and the lead single "Toyboy" was made into a porn video with a hotline to Jack Stafford long before Razorlights Johnny Borrell dreamt up the Vice line. Now with a steady girlfriend, Jasmine, he writes songs for her to sing...and when he's not writing or singing he designs suits for the Fun Lovin Criminals and runs one of Amsterdam's most successful indie clubs
Q: Bury St Edmunds. Small town, great bands such as
Miss Black America and The Dawn Parade. Where did Jack Stafford fit into
the music scene before you left for Amsterdam and what bands did you play
A: Smalltown syndrome - there's not much else to do but be in bands. I was in a band called Menagerie. We played the scene there with bands like Chaser, the predecessor to Miss Black America. It was before Dawn Parade started. That was really in the beginning before the Bury Sound events, which did a lot to help grow the scene. I had 'band trouble' and got pretty disillustioned with it all, so I left England and music just as it was kicking off.
Q: What is it that prompted you to move to Amsterdam...apart
from the obvious?
A: I'd just left University and needed money. I applied for loads of jobs that I didn't get. I saw an advert for a job as a trainee English copywriter in Holland. I'd done lyrics and lots of writing so I thought I can do that. Fortunately the guy interviewing thought the same thing and I got the job. Unfortunately it was in Eindhoven which is hardly a cultural centre. It's famous for light bulbs and little else. Still, it was a step up from Bury.
I lasted two years doing the 9 to 5 before chucking it in and moving to Amsterdam. I've been here for four years and it's a great place to live. I hustled for freelance writing work. It went well - so much so that I started pimping out other people to do the work and made money from that.
Q: Exes - a Jarvis Cocker-esque romp through your past
conquest and broken hearts. Tell us about the album and why you decided
to base it on your many women?
A: Well I had so many stories, break-ups, heartbreaks, fights. They were crying out to be put to music. My brother bought me a guitar as a birthday present and I started writing nasty songs about the girls, which really helped. Cathartic. I started doing gigs again as a singer-songwriter under the name of the Jack Stafford Foundation. More musicians joined along the way but the name stuck.
We recorded the album in the bass player's home. With the money, marketing savy and business experience I'd picked up I decided to print it and promote it myself. An distributor for indie labels put it in the shops. I hired an independent plugger. Two friends made videos for free. The first one - The Hard Way (www.jackstafford.co.uk/thehardway.mov) - was on MTV every day for two months and got high in the independent charts. The second was video and single of the week on Radio 3 (Dutch Radio 1).
Q: Isn't one of the videos a porno?
A: The video to Toyboy the second single is based on the late-night TV adverts for sex chat lines, except it's me and the band instead of girls. The things I'll do for art. The phone number worked (0906-Toyboy) and I had an extra mobile in my pocket for a couple of months, but nobody called except radio stations - I don't think people thought it was a real number. www.jackstafford.co.uk/toyboy Sex sells.
Q: Jack Stafford, would you say he's a doomed romantic,
a Don Juan?
There were a lot of girls but only because I couldn't find the right one. Now I'm in love. We had the launch party for the album in Casa Rosso Sex theatre in Amsterdam's red light district six months ago. And a blind date show afterwards. I picked one girl but changed my mind when they pulled back the curtain. We're still together
Q: What's the music scene like in Holland, is it the
A: No. There are a few good bands but it's a real struggle. The scene for guitar bands is a fraction of the whole. DJs and hip-hop dominate. I also helped start the Independent Night in Amsterdam, for unsigned bands. It's growing, helping to support the talent that's already here. We've had a few British bands over as well. www.theindependentnight.com We're touring Holland in the Popronde, which is a good initiative for taking music out there www.popronde.nl
Q: Tell us about the rest of your band - seasoned pro's
from what I believe?
A: I've had 12 different musicians in the past year alone. It's a nightmare. One drummer had a stroke and is paralysed now. One guitarist moved to Morocco. Another joined the marines. I have a good line-up now - some of the best musicians in Holland.
Q: As well as the band you design all the bands posters
and clothes? What's your fashion stylings?
A: I design posters for every gig. The website. The album artwork. It's nice to do everything. It's my foundation. I made clothes for myself and then for the band. Zip-up post-mod suits mostly. Then fans started asking for them as well. Now I'm speaking to manufacturers and trying to get them in shops. It's the same principals as the music. More hustling. The Fun Loving Criminals liked them and wore them for a photoshoot www.jackstaffordcollection.com
Q: What are your plans for the UK in terms of gigs?
Nothing at the moment. We have a gig planned in Holland with the Brakes and the Rakes. And another one with BRMC. But bringing the band over to England for gigs is expensive, especially when nobody knows us and support gigs pay peanuts. XFM played the Hard Way. BBC Manchester's "Michelle Around Midnight" wanted an interview. The Toyboy video got to No. 5 in the UK online charts of www.video-c.co.uk above Fat Boy Slim. Primary Talent in London were interested in booking Europe if I could get it distributed and promoted outside Holland. I sent it to record companies but no bites. Nobodies interested in a band from Holland. Which Dutch have you ever heard of?
We've got better reviews from America. Popculture magazine's cd sampler. National Public Radio played it as well. The Hard Way video clip is in the Independent Music Video Festival www.imvf.com - touring North America without me - and a few video cable channels are playing it. My brother lives in Austin and we'll be going over there for SXSW.
Q: And the future for Jack Stafford - will the next
album be about different exes or will it be another concept?
A: My girlfriend - Jasmine - is the new lead singer. She's got a beautiful voice. Now I write songs about her. We're going to do the next one with just the two of us and a bit of backing. That way we can do gigs with just the two of us. Easier to record. Less expensive. We can jump on easyjet with our two guitars and shows anywhere. It's all about the songs and harmonies, and I prefer the less produced sound. Many of the songs are already rough demos on the forum www.jackstafford.co.uk/forum We're working on a small EP to send out. But I'm tired of all the hustling and I'm broke. So I'm looking for help before I take on another album - both to make the album better and more widely available. Any offers are welcome.
For downloads and more info on The Jack Stafford Foundation
Click here to leave your Jack Stafford comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)