Ringing from the U.K., ex-Clash guitarist Mick Jones chats EW up about his late bandmate Joe Strummer, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute to the punk legends opening this weekend, and a soon-to-be released box set of all their U.K. singles
Guitarist and singer Mick Jones has kept busy over the past couple of years producing The Libertines and playing with his own band Carbon/Silicon (check out their website for more details). But this fall the spotlight will fall on a little old band that he used to play with back in the day: The Clash. On Nov. 14, Sony is releasing The Clash The Singles box set which boasts all 19 of the punk legends’ U.K. singles and b-sides. Meanwhile, on Oct. 20, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland will unveil an exhibition about the group. Jones has donated a large number of Clash-related artifacts as has Lucinda Strummer, the widow of frontman Joe Strummer who died in 2002 at age 50. EW rang Mr. Jones at home in London to chat about his late friend, hygenically doubtful Dr. Martens, and the best way to teach someone how to play the bass.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The Clash were a band who operated so much in the moment. Is it weird to have yourself archived in this way with the box set and the exhibition?
MICK JONES: Especially if you’re alive, yeah!
The box set has written tributes from a vast array of people including Shane MacGowan from The Pogues, Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, and Blur-turned-Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn. What was it like reading them?
That was pretty good, wasn’t it? It’s kind of amazing, really, that we made such an impression on people. It does your head in.
Speaking of Damon Albarn, your Clash bandmate Paul Simonon has formed a new band with him called The Good, The Bad & The Queen (whose album is due stateside Jan. 23). Is it true you taught Paul how to play bass in the first place?
Well, for a little bit. It was a pretty frustrating experience. But it wasn’t very long before we decided to take the strings off the bass and paint the notes on the neck. After that, I just had to shout out ”G” and he’d go to it. But he became a very good bass player very soon.
The Clash recorded at least ten albums’ worth of material in five years. Do you look at today’s bands and think, ”You lazy bastards!”
Well, it’s funny. When I first worked with the Libertines I sort of didn’t do anything for at least two weeks. I just sat and gawped. And they must have thought I was the lazy bastard. I was just sitting and watching them because I couldn’t work out how I was going to do it, you know. Then I eventually realized that the only way was to get everybody playing together.
Amongst other artefacts, you’ve donated a pair of Dr. Martens boots. Would these be Clash-era Dockers?
Yeah, they’re ones that I wore, off and on.
Have they been cleaned since?
So do they still have that distinctive smell of youthful rebellion and…feet?
They’re alright, I think.
Did you and Joe have a comfortable working relationship?
Most of the time it was very comfortable?considering we were [practicing while] sitting around on boxes!
Do you have a favorite memory of him?
I have so many. Joe’s lyrics was the music. I used to look at his lyrics and I’d know straight away what the tune was a lot of the time.
When was the last time you saw Joe?
On the Friday before [he died]. We had a nice evening in the Groucho Club [a celeb-friendly London drinking establishment]. It was totally by accident that we were there, both of us. We had a lovely evening just talking over old times. But he actually had a heart defect. He had it all his life, and he never knew. It could have been at any time. So, in the end, we were grateful for the time that we did have.