A dozen years ago, Felpham’s Russell Hastings was a one-man Paul Weller tribute band playing the pubs around Chichester.
These days, he tours the world with former Jam bassist Bruce Foxton with whom he is currently recording a new album in Paul Weller’s studio.
“Paul is very friendly and very amiable,” says Russell who still can’t quite believe he found himself working with Weller on their last album. “Paul is due to come in and play something on the new album. And I never thought I would ever say that!”
The point is that the feuding which followed Weller’s decision to quit The Jam back in 1982 has been well and truly buried.
“I think everyone has grown up in a lot of ways. Life is short. Paul is a really nice guy. He is fun and amiable and cool. But you have got to keep cool yourself! When you are with him, you have got to make sure it is like a daily occurrence, nothing really special. But the fact is when Paul walks into a room, the room knows Paul has walked into it. It is not just Paul that walks in. There is a whole presence. He really has got charisma.”
Russ and Bruce, who tour as From The Jam (Ropetackle, Shoreham, Friday, May 8, 8pm), began work on their new album in January, at Weller’s studio: “And then we went off and toured Australia, Singapore and the Middle East, which was amazing. Most of the shows were sold out. We came back and went straight into the studio and continued from where we left off. We are hoping to get the album out in October.”
Now, though, they are on the road again, with an acoustic tour, once again offering all the great hits from The Jam back catalogue. Acoustic is a format Russell loves.
“It’s always so much fun to do. We did it last year and the year before. It’s always a really nice thing to do, always up close and personal. It’s a beautiful thing to do, different instruments with the songs, a different sound with the songs, and we also do a Q&A session.
“We strip the songs right back. You can even strip back things like In The City and Down in the Tube Station at Midnight. You can strip back pretty much any song you want. There are no boundaries at all, which is a testament to the songs themselves. Particularly for Bruce, it’s a great way to enjoy those songs, and every evening is different. We have a set list, but it depends how the Q&A goes. Someone might shout out a song, and we just do it. It is such a big repertoire that we can pull on.”
Audiences can expect to hear classics such as Going Underground, Town Called Malice and The Modern World as well as favourites including Strange Town, When You’re Young and Start – songs from an era when The Jam became the sound of British youth and one of the greatest and biggest-selling bands in British history.
“I have worked with Bruce now for ten years, which is longer than Paul worked with him! We are the best of friends, which is an odd thing to say. But it is true. He is my best mate, and we spend such a lot of time together, travelling, on the road, in planes, and we have a great time everywhere.
“It’s difficult to believe. Life has stood on its head for me. It has become the norm, but I still appreciate I am so lucky to be doing what I am doing and making a good living from the music industry.”