A Visit From Mike Edwards of Jesus Jones at KWOD|
by Alex Cosper, March 12, 2017
Alex Cosper with Mike Edwards of Jesus Jones and Giles Hendriksen in 1993
Mike Edwards of Jesus Jones visited KWOD in 1993 while he was on tour at the time of the band's single "Zeroes and Ones." He was interviewed by afternoon jock Giles Hendriksen then played at The Crest Theatre later that night. I remember it being a very interview in which Edwards was very articulate and sounded informed about current affairs. It was during a period in which it wasn't clear yet which direction that modern / alternative rock would take. The band seemed to be making a transition from an electronic rock sound to all electronic production.
The band's second album Doubt had been a huge success in 1991, helping fuel the alternative format with hits such as "Right Here, Right Now," "Real, Real, Real," "Welcome Back Victoria" and the album cut "International Bright Young Thing." The band's first big hit, "Right Here, Right Now," was one of the top songs that helped KWOD attract a new following as it shifted from contemporary hits to a modern rock playlist in the spring and summer of 1991. I liked it for its unique melody and its meaningful lyrics about the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I considered "Right Here, Right Now" to be one of the all time best songs in KWOD's library as an alternative station. The band's other tracks were mostly important to helping building the career to Jesus Jones as an early 90s iconic group. I assumed they'd continue to have success since they seemed pointed in the right direction as far as artistic quality and commercialism that wasn't based on hype. "Welcome Back Victoria" had deep meaning as well. It was a song that hinted at oppression creeping back into western culture. The lyrics had educational value.
But by the summer of 1992 things were already changing with the alternative radio format. The Seattle scene was starting to have an increasing impact with bands such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. The most successful alternative rock of the people leaned toward the guitar sound, although there were still several club-oriented electronic hits in the format that year. But MARS FM in Los Angeles, which emphasized the electronic sound, didn't last long while stations that focused on Seattle bands would go on to do better in the ratings.
One thing that puzzled me about Mike Edwards is why he seemed to be abandoning rock during this period. The band's follow-up album Perverse was an obvious departure from the previous album since it relied more heavily on keyboards. Edwards told Giles in the interview that he was bored with rock music, rock artists and people commenting on rock music. He still played electric guitar that night at the show, but the album and musical direction ended the band's string of hits. Perverse was supposed to be historic since it was the first album recorded on computer, other than the vocals. But that milestone seemed to go unnoticed by consumers, as it didn't even go gold in the U.S., unlike Doubt.
We played the lead-off single "The Devil You Know" starting in December 1992, then the April 1993 follow-up single "The Right Decision" and the third single "Zeroes and Ones" in July 1993. But none of these songs matched the success of "Right Here, Right Now" or "Real, Real, Real," which were top hits in the format. After that album, the band disappeared from the alternative radio format. I first saw the band in San Francisco at The Warfield Theatre 1991 around the time "Real, Real, Real" was a hit. They played with opener Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Both bands had a heavier guitar sound as live acts than their recordings implied at that time.
What happened to Jesus Jones was an example of how rebranding doesn't always work in the music industry. Thanks to radio splintering that occurred in the 1990s, the mainstream audience was divided up into segments. The band initially appealed to pop/rock segment but tried to make a sudden shift toward a more electronic club sound, which represented a different but overlapping market segment. The band's metamorphosis and drift toward obscurity marked a signal that audiences didn't necessarily follow artists in the directions they wanted to pursue artistically.