JIM JONES REVUE’S RUPERT ORTON
March 2011. By Greg Phillips
“You talk like you play,” I say to Rupert Orton, guitarist with high energy UK rock outfit The Jim Jones Revue. It was meant to be a thought bubble, but it somehow burst and verbalised. “I’ll take that as a compliment,” he says putting me at ease. We’d just completed an interview prior to the band’s Big Day Out Australian tour and he’d kindly enquired as to whether I had enough material. But it’s true! Orton speaks with energy, excitement, positivity and purpose, exactly the way his band plays. To witness the Jim Jones Revue live is akin to riding a mechanical bull … saddle up and hang on for dear life. It’s that energy and a no bullshit approach to rock and roll that has the world’s music press abuzz. Rupert extracts a massive sound from his guitar and amp on stage and I was keen to unlock a few of his sonic secrets. Thankfully, he was keen to tell.
Do you remember your first real guitar?
Well the first guitar I ever bought was rubbish, a Les Paul copy. It was funny. There was this country musician in Norfolk where I lived at the time. He goes, “Yeah, I bought my house with this guitar. I’ll pass it on so you can do the same thing”. Well I played with a punk band and I think it got snapped in the second or third song. So that was my first guitar, but the first proper guitar I bought was a Les Paul Standard which I had always worshipped from afar. I think I just needed to get it out of my system, you know … a Les Paul through a Marshall. It’s an evolutionary stage you have to go through as a guitarist. Shortly after that though … a friend of mine owns a guitar shop in London called Angel Music. At the time he had one in Islington. I walked into his shop drunk. I was so drunk I couldn’t see properly because I thought what he had was a double cutaway Les Paul Junior, bit like Johnny Thunders used to play. When I got home and woke up the next morning … because I hadn’t played it at all … it was a double cutaway but is was a Les Paul Special and it had two pickups. I thought, this didn’t look like that when I bought it! But, even though it was about fifteen years ago, I still play it to this day. It’s my back-up guitar. A fantastic guitar. It’s got P90s in it and just rocks. I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy a guitar blind drunk, but on this occasion, it did work for me.
What about your main guitar now?
My main guitar is a Gretsch Rock Jet. When I started Jim Jones Revue with Jim and we went and rehearsed together, it kind of clicked from the first rehearsal. But up until then, I had always been the loudest player in any band. That was until Jim walked in and he had a Twin under one arm and his Gibson under the other. When he hits his distortion pedal … he has this thing called a Hotcake … I just thought we were all going to die. So I thought, I am going to have to do something about this. I can’t have him as the loudest in the band, I need to be heard. So I went to see this guy named Andy Hackett, the guy from Angel Music and I said, I need the loudest sound you have and he had this Gretsch Rock Jet, which I had never seen before. It looked a bit like a Les Paul but different from a Duo Jet, which I didn’t really like. It’s got these pickups on it called Supertrons and there is nothing as loud. So I bought that, a 72 model I think, got a Fender Twin and we were head to head then.
And do you still play through a Twin?
Jim and I both started playing through Silverface Twins, but I go through gear really quickly. It got really expensive trying to replace it. Now I have two amps. I go through my main rhythm amp which is a 4 x10 Hot Rod Deville, and I AB that with a Blackface Twin. So I can drive them as hard as I need and when I need the uplift, I come up through the Twin. If I have any problems, Fender sorts it out for me, it’s a good relationship.
And what about pedals?
The AB box is a Lehle, which is a German box which guys at Regent Sound recommended to me. It’s got true bypass on it and there’s no differentiation between the sounds on it, and it’s also really robust. I realised how robust it was when we did a festival in France. It was beautiful with the rolling hills of France and we had a chateau to stay in. It was perfect. We sound checked and everything was great. Then Jim and I went to do a TV interview. We came out and the place was decimated. It had been hit by a flash flood. It completely destroyed the stage. It was so strong that the Ampegs at the back of the stage had blown off. My pedal board got absolutely saturated. We had a series of shows to do over the next couple of days. Anyway I phoned up about the Lehle. They said you just need to dry it out, re-program, reset it and it will be fine. I did that and it has worked ever since. Absolutely cast-iron German technology there. But the other pedals, I have an MXR Micro Amp to boost my solos and also a GTOD for when I need something a bit dirtier. Also, I have gone through about five different pedals trying to get a good analogue slap back sound and could never get it until I got this Belcat B3 analogue delay and they are dirt cheap. It’s gives that one stop delay with a little bit of clip on the end of it and it’s perfect for our sound. I run my pedals really hard and basically replace them every three months because they just get smashed.
Johnny Ramone once said in an interview that he didn’t break a string in five years. How do you do?
Pretty badly. I change my strings every gig. On the Les Paul Special I have graphite saddles. My playing style has got a little less clumsy and I break less strings. We did this show case at The Viper Room and I only had one guitar and no tech and I broke three strings in one set. That was cool though and I could change strings between sets. But yeah I break ’em all the time. The Ramones was the second band I ever saw and when I saw Johnny play down stroke bar chords, I thought maybe that is something I could get my head around. Total inspiration.
Some of the bands you guys state as influences such as the Cramps, MC5, Birthday Party, Ramones … people who have seen these bands speak of legendary shows. Is that what you guys aspire to?
Undoubtedly. Going back to Johnny Ramone again, in that film ‘End of the Century’ he is talking about his influences, he said ‘I saw the great bands. I saw T Rex in the 60s. I saw Hendrix’. Obviously, we are too young to have seen those, but I did see The Ramones and I was lucky to see Johnny Thunders do a good gig. Things like that had a profound effect on me. I saw The Birthday Party and The Gun Club. You know, I went in one person and came out another.