A band that should need no introduction or rather in an ideal world a band that is a household name we all know and love – The Joneses! Bandleader, Vocalist and Guitarist Jeff Drake has written an autobiography. It’s not just any old run of the mill autobiography about a Rock Star who hit hard times then fought his way back up like a bazillion other this one is the work of a man who doesn’t mince his words and titled the reads ‘Guilty: My life as a member of the Joneses, A heroine addict, A bankrobber and a federal inmate’. Intrigued? You bloodywell should be. The Joneses paved the way for many of the band who hit the big time on Sunset Strip had it all, lost it all and a whole heap of shit besides. Fans of the site should be failiar with his sibling Scott ‘Deluxe’ Drake who now fronts Geurilla Teens and was also Jeffs bandmate on the Vice Principles album as wellas being one of The Humpers and a lovesore but this is Jeffs Story so RPM wanted to wet ones apetite for some proper destruction. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Jeff Drake...

Firstly I’d like to know what made you pick up a guitar?and way back as a kid was there a lot of music at home that inspired you?

I determined to be a guitar player after I saw Jimmy Page in the Song Remains The Same. I saw it in the theater several times when it first came out. There was a lot of music at home. Good stuff, too. My dad was a teenager in the 50s and we had his Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddely and Coasters records. My mom liked the Beatles and CCR. Those are the records I listened to as a kid.

That’s cool having such greats filling the air at home. So can you remember your first guitar? and did you teach yourself to play?

Yes. My first electric guitar was a black Les Paul copy. All my friends were impressed cyz they thought it was a real Les Paul. But it was a cheap copy. The input jack kept falling out so I had to keep taping it up. It sounded good though. I pretty much taught myself to play. I would come home from school and play for hours. When my parents punished me they would take the guitar away.

How old were you when you first decided you needed to be in a band? and play guitar. What about vocals was that something you wanted to do as well rather than be just a guitarist in a band?

I was about 16 when I started learning to play guitar. I wanted to be in a band right away even though I couldn’t play. That was about 1977 so punk was breaking so that was okay. I never wanted to be a singer. I was only supposed to be the singer of the Joneses until we found a real one. I was the singer cuz I was writing the songs and I knew the words. I just wanted to play guitar, sing back up and write songs.

Were the Joneses the first band you were in writing original material?

No, in fact I started writing “songs” before I knew how to play guitar. ‘Pillbox’ & ‘Criminals’, two early Joneses songs, I wrote when I was 16.

I just wanted to get a bit of background before jumping in with the book for those who know nothing about the Joneses. As for record releases, (all the Joneses songs have been remastertered by a US label (Projectile Platters) and released on vinyl in three volumes) I didn’t know that was happening haha. New music?

No, nothing new, but this label, Projectile Platters, is releasing everything the Joneses ever recorded on three 12″ LPs. It’s called Jonesin’ the Discography Volumes 1,2 ,& 3. They just came out and are available now.

It’s always been a bit shit over here in the uk pre internet especially. Hearing about bands like The Joneses was so difficult. when we did get to hear we were well behind the curve. Then when we see you get mentioned as an influence on someone like Guns n Roses people like myself needed to know. Imports were expensive so when a record popped up that was as good as ‘Tits and Champagne’ or ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’ I had to find out more until I had everything hahah

I understand. I didn’t even know people were crazy about the song ‘Pillbox’ until the internet happened and everyone loved ‘Pillbox’.

The song has aged fantastically, one of those timeless classics if you don’t mind me saying. Even seeing pictures of you guys live and since the internet, reading peoples recollections are fantastic, If tinged with a bit of regret that it happened so far away.

Thank you kindly. I hear that a lot. I think it’s kinda funny because I don’t really like that song, the Joneses stopped playing it for years and I wrote that song when I was 16. Was it all downhill from there? Long ago and far away…..

How did the new releases come about?

I was just sitting at home, had just made a deal with HoZac to publish my book and Nat from PNV contacted me through a friend about the idea he had to release the definitive Joneses releases. It was really fortuitous timing with me just finishing the book.

Are they remastered or did you have to search for the tapes?

They are all remastered and sound great. Nat did a great job with all that. They each have a bunch of photos and liner notes written by me. They sound and look great.

How long had it been since you listened to the tapes of the Joneses? Did they sound better than you remember?

Oh brother, I don’t really listen to the Joneses if I don’t have to. Probably since FBK put out that stuff. So, 13 years maybe?

Actually, yeah, they always sound better than I remember. Part of that I think is just getting used to hearing my voice again.

Man you do yourself an injustice. Those records were and still are fantastic and when I read quotes that get thrown up about your band being the “Originals”, “should have been huge” “LA’s most influential bands”, “Best kept secret in Rock n Roll” how does that make you feel? because I would agree. looking at the timeline of what came out of LA it is a mystery how you didn’t blow up (or is it).

Cool, thanks. Well, hearing that stuff is gratifying, but it’s also a bummer cuz it seems like we did start something and then got passed by. People have asked me what it’s like to be a cult figure, and I say it’s kinda like a consolation prize. Like, sorry there’s no fame and fortune, but people write about you! It is nice to hear people that appreciate the Joneses and how we were sort of influential. I’ve had people who are now Rockstars who told me that seeing me play when they were young made them wanna get up there and play rock n roll. Kinda like with me and Jimmy Page!

I get you, were you offered decent deals? foreign tours? Why do you think you got overlooked as you put it? Do you look back on the mid-eighties with regret? Of the LA bands who made it “Big” I can’t think of many who had a ‘Pillbox’, ‘Ms 714’, ‘Criminals’, ‘Tits & Champagne’, I could go on. I guess the landscape was pretty different when you started compared to when the band called it a day?

Well, the band never really did call it a day, just faded away. In 1984 we were on the brink of a major deal with Elektra Records. We were the biggest band in L.A., drawing big crowds, we had a celebrity manager, Danny Sugarman, and it didn’t happen. Part of it was Danny was a junkie like us and couldn’t really manage anything. He had an in at Elektra cuz he was managing the Doors’ affairs and the A&R guy there, Tom Zutaut loved us. But over Xmas holiday 1984 all the A&R people at the record companies played musical chairs. Zutaut went to Geffen and a guy named Peter Philbin took over at Ekektra. Philbin had been at CBS and didn’t like us. So Elektra was out. That was Danny’s ace in the hole and that was all he had. Zutaut went to Geffen and they had Elton John and Neil Diamond and didn’t want the Joneses. Zutaut was new so didn’t have enough juice there to sign us. Also, we were considered too dangerous cuz of the drugs and our general reputation. Which is crazy cuz Zutaut ended up signing GnR to Geffen a few years later. Then everybody, Poison, GnR, L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat, other bands I can’t remember, all the “Joneses clones” started getting signed and we were left behind. We never could tour overseas cuz of our drugs and legal issues. I still can’t get a passport. I only look back at the mid-80s with regret cuz we didn’t get a big deal. Otherwise, those were great times. We were the biggest band in one of the musical capitals of the world. The Joneses started Xmas Eve 1981, so yes, things changed considerably over that time.

Were European tours ever an option before you weren’t able to travel? Here in the UK at the time we had like Hanoi Rocks, Lords Of The New Church and punk crossed over like the Damned and UK Subs. Had you guys played the Marquee over here it would have been the thing of legend.

Not really. We did a couple of tours of the States in 82 & 83, played with the Lords of the New Church, in fact, but 84 was spent in L.A. trying to get a deal and by 85 I was too strung out to go anywhere. That would’ve been really cool to go over there.

Looking at America from this side of the pond the coasts of America look different musically and had somebody played me your music without me knowing anything about where you came from I’d have said 100% East coast, how did you go down when you played the East coast? was there a buzz on the other side of the country considering you were at the top of the pile on the West coast.

It’s funny because on our tours we were more popular back East than we were at home. That’s why we did them. We had recorded two songs on THE BYO comp “Someone Got Their Head Kicked In” and people knew of us from that. “Pillbox” was on there. We were way more popular in New York than L.A. We were surprised anybody back there knew about us at all. By our second tour, they were treating us like Rockstars in NY. We didn’t start getting popular in L.A. until we got back from our second tour.

I just received a promo from a company and a band called the Cheats have covered ‘Pillbox’ as the second track on their new album haha

Wow, cool. Seems everyone loves that song.

I literally just got the email 10 minutes ago and when I opened it that got my attention

freaky (Jeff had to duck out for a while and I opened some emails I received whilst interviewing)

Why did you decide to write a book now, and was it something you have had on your mind for a while or was the seed sewn by someone else?

Someone else. I have a friend named Jeff Davis who has been bugging me to write a book for about 30 years. About 18 months ago my wife left me and Jeff said do it now. You’ve got time on your hands and you’re not getting any younger.

Was it something you found easy? Did your mind play tricks with you regarding dates places etc?

There was a little of that mind-playing tricks business, but not too much. I’ve got a really good memory. It wasn’t easy to get started. That’s why I didn’t do it for so long. I didn’t think I was disciplined enough. All I had ever written were songs and those take 20 minutes. I knew the book would take longer. When I started I would only write about an hour a week. I knew at that rate it would take forever. So I made myself write every day. After a while, I got into it and it went really fast after that.

Was there a ghostwriter involved at all?

No ghostwriter. All me.

Did you find it hard to revisit areas of the past? Judging by the title alone there must be some content from your past that most of us won’t begin to comprehend

I didn’t really find it hard that way at all. In fact, once I got going, I really enjoyed it.

I won’t dig into the bank Robbery and the federal inmate time I’ll save that for when I read the book. Saying that what goes through your mind when you got caught?

Well, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I thought I would either make off with a bunch of money and have a big party or I would go down in a hail of bullets in a blaze of glory. I wasn’t too particular which. Getting caught and going to prison wasn’t in my plans.

How did you manage to kick H?

After many years and many different attempts, I think I was finally just sick of it. You have to really want to stop. Life is so much simpler without it. I think heroin definitely contributed to a lot of really bad decisions, cost me fortunes, limited my ability to do many things, led to a tainted reputation, played a major role in not being more successful musically. Sometimes writing about stuff like that it almost seemed like I was writing about a different person because some of it was so long ago.

Do you have many cuttings or did you keep diaries to reflect on?

I’ve never kept diaries. Luckily, I usually gave clippings, etc to whoever was my girlfriend at the time and they sort of archived them. They really didn’t help with the writing of the book, but they came in handy for illustrations, etc.

The book will contain many pictures, articles, ads, listing, all sorts of ephemera.

Do you still see or speak to the other Joneses?

There have been so many Joneses over the years. I keep in touch with a few. Some are dead. One, who I won’t name, was fired from the band about 40 years ago and still threatens me on Facebook.

Oh wow, holding onto a grudge for 40 years? man, pfew. I guess some live shows are out of the question then? As a result of writing the book is there any unfinished business?

Live shows aren’t necessarily out of the question. The main problem is geography. I’m about 300 miles north of L.A., so it’s hard to put anything together. The guy holding the grudge is angry because I “get all the money & credit” and without him I’d be nothing. Crazy, right? I don’t understand the unfinished business?

Just with regards to putting anything to rights after writing your life story. Like recording more music or playing the songs live. that was what I meant. Are there unfinished songs you think need to be completed that sort of thing. and if there was anyone you’d love to have recorded or worked with?

I don’t really have any plans for anything like that. I’m just kinda taking things as they come. I’m not a young man any more.

I do have a handful of songs I’ve written and never recorded. I would need to write some more. I’ve been talking to my good friend Pleasant Gehman about doing a record of duets. I’d like to do that.

cool I think there would be a market of fans who’d love to hear it.

I hope so. I think it would be really good.

Finally, I appreciate your time and taking up a chunk of it this evening but I want to ask about The Vice Principles album. How come there was only the one record? I think that album has some of the best work both of you have done and it still sounds fantastic. Was it only ever meant to be the one album? (The Vice Principles was a band Jeff put together with his Brother Scott.)

Well yes and no. Originally that record was gonna be a solo album for me. Then my brother and I decided to make it a band. We laid the plans up to and including recording the album and everything worked like clockwork. Then my brother and I disagreed about what to do next and it kinda fell apart. I’m proud of that record and it’s a miracle we were able to do it. We’re both used to being the creative force in our respective bands and there was just too much genius for one band. Ha! I’m also really proud of the record I did with Amanda Jones. I think that’s some of the best writing and playing I’ve ever done.

Awesome I’ve just had an email about who is pushing the records in Europe so I’ll try there for shipping to the UK, fingers crossed. Fingers crossed The book should be fine getting hold of in the UK. HoZac is a name I know. I can’t wait to get stuck into it and find out the you full story and I hope many others dig in as well.

Yeah, so make sure you tell everyone about the records and the book. This has been a real pleasure.

I’ve been a fan of your music since the 80s and with the internet, the world has become a smaller place and it’s always a pleasure, never a chore to meet (even virtually) people I admire and whose music has soundtracked even a small part of my life. Thank you.

Like I said, it was my pleasure. Thanks for appreciating what I do and taking the time to talk to me. Good luck with all you do and maybe our paths will cross again.

HoZac Books – ‘Guilty: My Life As A Member Of The Joneses, A Heroin Addict, A Bank Robber and a Federal Inmate’ by Jeff Drake

Projectile Platters – Volume 1,2 and 3