Interview with J Brown

World Of Five (12 Oct 2006)

1. What have you been doing with yourself the past 5 years?
For the past 5 years I've been reading a lot of what I suppose people would call philosophies, mostly Eastern philosophies. That literally, even though it sounds like quite a mental thing, has taken up most of my time since I came out of Five. And then I've done a little bit of traveling. I went to India for a couple of months by myself and then met up with some friends there. I've been touring around Europe a little bit. We went back to Sweden to see some friends there a few times, that I met when we were in the band. Um.. the south of France, then in the Alps. I've been around quite a bit of France actually, snowboarding with Rich. And over to southern Spain because some of my family live over there so I've spent quite a bit of time. It's always like a haven in the wintertime when it's freezing cold in England. You go over and it's kind of like a spring day. And that's what most of the five years have been really. Quiet.

I've done a bit of writing for a few people. I went down to a studio with Biff Stannard, who we did some of the stuff with Five, and we did some writing and producing there. But that was literally only a little bit. Basically my time has been taken up reading these philosophies that I've been into. A little bit of Yoga, a little bit of meditation. Just balancing my life up after the absolute madness that was being in Five.

2. How have you changed as a person since Five split?
Oh gosh. I guess everybody changes over a period of five years. The biggest change that's happened within myself is that I calmed down a lot, as in not being stupid, but I can still regress to being about 16 when I'm back around the guys. But I've chilled out a lot within myself. It was obvious to other people that I had a few anger issues deep down somewhere. And I really didn't see it that much myself. But I'm a lot more of a mellow person, not saying that I'm never gonna freak out and scream at someone or grab somebody if somebody does something to me. But I'm definitely not walking around kind of screaming with anger anymore.. and I used to be very over-opinionated as well. And I'm kind of glad that side disappeared to quite a large degree.

So I'm just overall a more mellow person, I suppose. And I take life a lot easier as well. I don't take it all as serious as I used to, which is very good for the head. I'm a lot more easy-going. And I don't see it all as seriously as I saw it before. I used to think that I had to succeed and if I didn't succeed, that I wouldn't get to where I wanted to be. But now I just kinda float through it and sort of.. well, I obviously want an outcome of some kind but I'm not totally attached to the outcome nowadays. It isn't the be-all and end-all. If something succeeds or not, like with the relaunch of the band. This time I'm quite certain it is going to work and I want it to work, but if it doesn't, it won't devastate my world like it would have before.

3. Has your musical taste/style altered in the past 5 years and how will it affect Five's new music?
Yeah, I would say my musical taste has changed a lot. I was always into loads of different kinds of music, but my core stuff obviously was hip-hop and 80's soul, and that influenced a lot of what I used to try and put into the band. Because I was just solely rapping and that was the biggest thing that I was into. I was always into other things like some heavy metal, pop music but it was mainly hip-hop. And then literally for this past 5 years, I haven't listened to, it might have been 3 times, any rap or hip-hop. I just don't find it entertaining anymore. To be very blunt, they're all just talking absolute bullshit and I just can't be bothered listening to it. People chatting on about buying big cars and how many diamonds they're wearing and drinking champagne and Hennesey. I just find it really really boring and played out. I'm just not fully into that scene anymore, but every now and again I do hear some hip-hop that I think is really brilliant but it's very few and far between nowadays. I'm a massive fan of good rap but there isn't much of it around at the minute. It all sounds the same.

So I suppose I got more into really good dance music, intelligent dance music. And chill-out stuff. That's the type I'm into now. Buddha beats. Some compilations where it's sort of eastern-y. Really nice mellow beats. But I also like good guitar music as well. So, my tastes have changed a lot since Five so that's gonna bring something different to the band. I'm gonna have to be careful since I'm into a more mellow sound these days. The music that I was writing on my own little studio was more mellow type stuff and not really suited to what Five are doing. So I can't really bring that side to it.

But I do love doing rap and putting rhymes together, but I'm just not impressed by the other music I hear. I'm not by any means saying that I think I'm as good as other people. I won't rate myself in that sense. I don't think that I'm brilliant. I just think I can put some good rhymes together sometimes. So I'll be doing it. I just can't be arsed to listen to some of the crap that's out there that's called rap and hip-hop nowadays. You have to be into the scene deeply and dig away to find the good stuff.

4. How do you want to see Five represent themselves to the press and their fans this time around?
Well the way we are doing it is that we're just being completely natural. It's really weird with the media. It's like the media have a go at people for putting on a bit of a front and putting on the whole celebrity/famous thing. Then if people act the opposite, act themselves, then the press will have a go at them for certain remarks they might make. You actually can't win. That's one thing we've all learned from the Five years before. You can't win with the press so you might as well be natural and act yourself. And if you do say some slightly controversial things, if the press jump them, well, that's what they do anyways. So we're all going to be completely natural with it and if it doesn't work, then since we'll all be that way, it doesn't work. It's not a case of "we're gonna fabricate things and be false" just to make it work.

Although we were very honest last time, we still had to be guarded on a lot of stuff we said. Myself and Rich spoke out about the fact that every now and again we smoked a joint, because someone asked us the honest question. And it was actually for a magazine that was doing something on the cannabis debate, so we were on it. The next thing, it's blasted all over the tabloids saying, "Should you be letting your kids buy records from these two men who are drug addicts" and all this crap. You can drag yourself down with constantly trying to filter what you say. It ends up being too stressful. This time around, we'll be ourselves and hopefully people will accept that. It just becomes too much of a head-fuck when you try to monitor every single thing you're saying to people. Trying to see it through the filter of a parent or something. Because we're not gearing our music strictly towards kids this time, we can just be natural with what we're saying.

We're hoping the fans, the public and media like that and accept it. If not, we'll just have to bow out graceful and disappear. I'm like a 30 year old man now. I really can't be bothered if somebody asks me a question, coming out with all these childish answers, thinking, "Oh I can't say that 'cause the newspapers might latch onto it." The press constantly monitor for anything they can blow out of proportion. I'm just gonna be myself and see what everyone makes of it. I'm not a nasty person. I'm not gonna have anything to "say". Even my political views, I'm not right out there with anything so I don't feel anything I could say would be majorly out of order. Unless somebody wants to try and twist it. That's up to them.

Everytime we went to a different country, whether it was South America or in Europe, the press would be like 200% better than the English press. They would always say to us that our press was world renowned for being really nasty bastards. I think it's a really strange phenomenon with the British press. They just want to bring people down when all those people are doing is trying to make something of their lives. It's very strange.

5. What do you see your role in the band now? What do you contribute to the mix that is Five?
It's gonna be different than before because I'm 100% more passive than I used to be. When the band started up, I was like 20 something years old and some of the guys were 15, 17 years old. It was natural for me to take a slightly more dominant role within the band. And that was actually brought on by the fact that they chose someone my age. They wanted someone to be a little older. Not that that was always a good thing. I don't want anything like that now. I won't have that role anyway because everyone is in their mid 20's, some have kids now. It's not for me to be.. it's overpowering anyway. I'm just sort of going to float around within the band. I don't see as I've got a certain role to play. I think other people might want to take a lead in organizing, in how things go. And I'm just gonna sit in there and give my opinion and do my little thing. It will be a little bit different than last time for me.

6. Ideally, what do you hope Five can accomplish with this comeback?
I would really really love for us to achieve the thing we always felt we could achieve with Five in the first place. We sold millions of records but everybody, ourselves included, knew that it should've been a bigger thing than it was. I suppose that's quite important this time. But overall, I'd prefer if everyone would be able to have more of a creative outlet this time. The ultimate thing I'd like us to achieve is happiness for everybody. Obviously this would include a bit of success, a bit of money and just peace of mind. People doing something that they want to be doing and just enjoying it.

7. Five years is a long time out of the spotlight, are you ready for all this again?
I'm absolutely ready for this. I've personally had 5 years of being in a really quiet place and a quiet state. I'm actually one of the people who wanted to get it all going again. Experience a bit of madness again, a bit of excitement. It's all in how you handle it obviously. Like anything in life. I'm personally in a much better place this time, to be able to accept the madness and not take it so seriously. And not take people's comments so seriously. Five years is a massive time away and up until less than a year ago, I didn't want to do this again. And then I just thought, fuck it, why not? I wanna have a go at something absolutely mad again before I'm too old to do it. So yes, I'm fully fully fully ready to roar and go. I can't wait for it.

The first time around, we were portrayed as these sort of heart-throbs for 12-13 year old girls. I know there's gonna be younger people into it still but if you're going into the slightly older audience, the 20-something year olds, it's not the same as being in a pub and having 3 20 year olds ask you for an autograph as having a group of 13 year old girls spot you in public and start screaming. It's a different sort of thing to deal with. No offense to young fans or anything because they are what put us in the position we're in. But it is a different thing to deal with. I'm ready for and it and I think it will be absolutely fine. I've had 5 years of the complete opposite so with everything in life, you do things with a bit of balance. 5 years of quiet, a few years of madness.

8. Is there anything that you'd like to say about yourself or your beliefs to make people understand you better?
I suppose people will see that I'm still as mad as before as when we all get together and seem to regress into a state of being about 14 years old. I think people will see that I'm a lot more passive now, which comes from my belief that I see life in a different way now. I just see everything is happening how its happening. Literally, what will be, will be. I'm not as volitional as I was in a sense that I was trying to steer my life, drive my life. People will see that. My beliefs in that you don't have to struggle to make things happen. If they're gonna go that way, they will go that way. That's what's gonna come across to fans. I'll still be a bit of a nutcase, just more placid, I suppose. Because I'm not trying to fight and struggle anymore.