January 22, 2009 / 6:04 PM / 10 years ago

Future still unwritten for Punk legends

LONDON (Reuters) - Punk legends Mick Jones and Tony James are not looking back at their glorious past with nostalgia, but enthusiastically embarking on a new rock ‘n roll adventure with their latest band Carbon/Silicon.

Mick Jones, former guitarist and vocalist of punk rock band The Clash, performs with his new band Carbon/Silicon at the 2008 NME Awards USA at El Rey theatre in Los Angeles April 23, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Jones, 53, founding member and guitarist of seminal punk act The Clash, and James, 50, co-founder of the Billy Idol-fronted Generation X, have been friends for over 30 years.

In 2002, the pair got together and started making music in a home studio, giving it away on the Internet as free downloads.

This built a following and as their popularity grew, their new band Carbon/Silicon — a reference to human intelligence enhanced by computers — became a full fledged band.

Drummer Dominic Greensmith and bassist Leo “Easykill” Williams feature alongside Jones and James, who play guitar. Last year’s “The Last Post” was their first commercially available album and they are recording a follow-up: “The Carbon Bubble.”

Jones and James spoke to Reuters about their plans and what it’s like to be rocking at 50 plus.

Q: Did you think a lot about whether you should start a band at your age?

A (James): If we thought of the realities of forming a band of 50 year-old guys, people would have said: ‘hey guys don’t do this’ because it’s going to be horrible, this could hurt you and do we want to face pain and hurt and rejection at our age ? Luckily, Dylan and the Stones and all those people keep moving the goal posts and we are 10 years behind.

Q: But you must have thought about it a little bit?

A (James): Mick and I used to be climbing a mountain with The Clash and Generation X and you reach the top and it’s a very scary place and it’s a horrible journey down. And we did it again with Big Audio Dynamite and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. The second time, it’s even scarier because you know how scary it is. Now on this third journey, we just look to the next safe place, we never look up, and we move slowly up the mountain.

Q: So is there no long-term plan?

A (James): You don’t go, let’s form a group and let’s tour the world. You go, let’s make some music and give it away and see how it works. Maybe we can play live? Maybe we can do a record? Who knows what we are going to do next.

A (Jones): We grew like an Internet community, a worldwide community, sharing stuff, not charging people, working in an immediate media, getting immediate feedback from people.

Q: Unlike some of your peers who are reforming, you do not trade on your old fame. You even refuse to play your old songs.

A (Jones): It’s more interesting. You still feel you’ve got your soul. We are trying to do something with a meaning. We could be undignified about it really, and maybe we should!

Q: So you have no nostalgia fort the good old days ?

A (Jones): People who liked what we did before may like what we do now as well. We are as good, even better in lots of ways.

You must not rest on your laurels. We are still working on trying to make some sort of connection to people.

Q: What is more difficult now ?

A (James): As you get older, it’s harder to write lyrics. I still wake up every day and think we could write something great today. As grown up adults we got more to say than when we were teenagers because we have more experience. It’s a balance between that experience of worldliness and still trying to find that spark of enthusiasm you had as a young man. Can you find that enthusiasm and vitality and get that on the record?

Q: Your songs still address social and political themes but in an upbeat manner. Is that a consequence of growing older ?

A (James): Maybe we are not as angry as we were. Our music is just joyous to play. You know when I was in Sisters Of Mercy, it was really depressing music. I want to write positive things. I love my wife, I am healthy. I am lucky.

Q: Do you think it is now an exciting time for music ?

A (James): We are in the middle of such a revolution. People are not buying CDs. People are giving music away. How are we going to get paid? Nobody knows but creativity will flourish. It’s a very exciting time but it’s also chaos. It’s like a war.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, editing by Paul Casciato

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