Glad To Be J
[Attitude Magazine - May 2000]
In a world full of acne-faced, Bambi-eyelashed girlie boybands, J stands head and shoulders above as a man. Sylvia Patterson talks to the no-nonsense bit of rough from Five about Mel C, the feud with Westlife and, er, erections. J from Five, 23-year old pop uber-hunk du jour, is having his day's press schedule relayed to him by his tour manager. This interview, that interview, photos, TV... and so it goes, onto infinity. Looking directly at Attitude from his nearby seat in a hotel executive suite he replies in his deep, blunt and very broad 'Oop North' timbre, "I'll just go 'n 'ave a wank about that, then, will I? Go in my hotel room and fookin' hang meself."
From the mouth of a tot's pop favourite, it's a stunner. Much more than front, however, you get the impression it's a knee-jerk reaction against a stranger thinking he's great, that he's anything special, that he's some megalomaniac Pop Star revelling in the splendor of himself.
And now he's being asked to wear a sleeveless, woven leather top and velvety "You Can Keep Your Hat On" headwear. "And now for my latest disco look!" he blares, striding across the floor, plucking at the bottom of expensive, military-styled trews which "I don't know what to do with, I haven't worn a shirt and trousers since I was at fookin' school." Meanwhile, on the radio, Mel C's "Never Be The Same Again" is wafting out for the third time this afternoon to nil comment whatsoever, from anyone. He's a funny lad, J. You think he's joking and he isn't and when you think he isn't he is. Certainly, he isn't behaving like a Pop Star-in-public at all, he's behaving like a normal person; with sarcasm, cursing, a "joke" about suicide and sheen-free, non-professional weirdy moods. It's the nature of J and of Five themselves. And it's why we love them.
Three years in pop, 9 top ten hits, one Number One [with Keep On Movin'], soon to be two with We Will Rock You [featuring Queen, as aired, magnificently, at the Brits] and Five are on their first-ever, full-scale arena tour of the world. Tonight they play Birmingham NEC and time, as ever in the soaraway pop caper, is supernaturally askew, so we speak to J in a flurry of chaos, briefly in a hotel room, 3 minutes in a hotel foyer, 2 in a taxi and on the phone, three times 'cos mobile phones as we know are bloody useless. "I know," avers J, "they do my fookin' nut in." The "Bonny Builder of Pop", he's younger-looking, slighter and a great deal prettier in real life than in photographs; great big sparkly blue eyes, fine features, a sun-bed toasted tan and possessed of an up-turned girl's nose, exactly the same nose as Damon out of BLUR, as it happens.
"Slighter?" he balks, mildly offended, "d'you reckon?"
You're a bit, you know, girlier really.
"Meheheh!" he chortles, a big open guffaw, "I wouldn't say I was anywhere near girly to tell you the truth. Well, what you see is what you get."
It turn out he's "nervous", new to "grown-up" magazines after years of pop triflings but he's looking forward to talking about "anything" other than his favourite colour. Unfortunately, all anyone wants to know about now are details of Five's Pop War with Westlife and his burgeoning relationship with Mel C. Perched on the suite sofa, now in his own togs, a powdery-blue over-sized fleecy number and enormo-jeans, he's diverting all attention away from the pop spat that's fueled the idiotic pop columns for weeks.
"It's all a load of crap, to tell you the truth," he's frothing, "someone's totally fabricated it and it's either our record company 'cos we're on the same label, or someone like that, 'cos there's absolutely no truth to it whatsoever."
According to their PR, the "news"papers made the whole thing up. Not one of the quotes, states J, are real, not the ones about Westlife being "superwimps" who wear "frilly blouses", not the one about J himself being "really arrogant", he thinks he's really cool". Curses. What a disappointment.
"I don't even know any of the guys," he's saying, staring into the floor, "I've spoken to them about twice and I don't like 'em, don't dislike 'em, they're just there. It's a bit embarrassing 'cos it's really fookin' childish, d'youknowwhatImean?"
They are the dullest pop group in the history of the universe, it must be said.
"I could think of a few more."
"Plenty of people. But I'm not on for slating people anymore. If people don't personally offend me in real life, I'm not bothered what anyone does."
Maybe you owe them a favour, in a way...
[becoming annoyed], "In no way, shape or form."
...it's a direct proportion thing; the duller they become, the greater you lot seem!
[definitely offended] "I think we seem quite good 'cos we are quite good full-stop! Nothing to do with anybody else!"
So we talk about Mel instead. And now J's turning deeply red, a hue which begins in his chest and flushes all the way up past his neck, jaw and cheekbone, following the "hip-hop" hairline framing his beautiful face.
"Em. I met her at the Brit Awards," he's saying, enveloped in a waft of heavily-chewed Airwaves gum., "em, she came over to me and said she wanted a word cos I'd said something about her."
You said she was "ugly", is that true?
"I've never, ever said that!" he shouts, appalled. "I'm supposed to have said something about eight months ago, about her music, and she said, 'I want a word with you later', just in a jokey way, and I started speaking to her at one of the parties after the Brits, both drinking quite a bit, got a bit worse for wear, then... it just went from there. And that was that."
And there was a "heated" something or other, wasn't there?
"Well, something heated happened anyway, yeah!" he grins, finally, "and apparently we were seen getting up to all sorts but obviously I must've stepped out of me body for a few moments of time. Spoken to her a few times since and she's a really really nice girl, get on really well with her, one of those things where you can speak to someone straight away, just a really normal, down-to-earth girl, it's nice to be able to speak to somebody like that. A lot of people in groups are usually away with the friggin' fairies. So that's that."
Did you feel "vibes" toward her over the years anyway?
"Em. I'd never really thought about it at all. I don't really see people and think 'oh, aye', stuff just happens."
So you had a big snog up straight away?
"Well, we sat in the corner with loads of other people and the next thing I wake up and it's in all the papers, we've done this and done that, everyone writing everything apart from 'we're getting married', kids were expected, and all I'd done is have a couple of bevvies with her."
And a snog up?
[turning a deeper red] "Eh...I might have kissed her good-night! No big deal, nothing major happened, like I say. And it's been in the papers every single day."
You do know what you're getting into, don't you?
"I know, but if you get on with somebody, you can't not speak to them 'cos there's gonna be stories. If I got offended, I'm in the wrong business, really, aren't I?"
So. Dykey Spice no more, eh?
"Hmn! eheheh! Well, it's just 'cos she's not been in the papers with 20 guys every week!"
She's been well fussy then. But you're the man who's cracked the toughest nut to crack.
[positively purple] "Er, well, like I say, we'll see what happens! It's always nice to make a new friend! We've just spoken a few times, see how things go."
My mate Will, in a spectacular display of wish-fulfillment and general envy, says, "I bet he's going out with Mel 'cos she's the nearest thing there is to a man."
[roars with laughter] "hahahah! Fooookin' 'ell! That isn't true! [rather sweetly] That's not nice. That's not nice. That's a bit mean, that."
Sorry about that. Who's fitter; you or her?
"Haven't got a clue. I'll take her for a jog around t'block next time I see 'er. See how many BPMs she's runnin' at."
D'you like the Spice's music?
"Never been a great fan, no. (begins chortling) Not really!"
All the little fans are going to be gutted.
"Neheheh. Well, I dunno, they're cool, our fans. Not saying she'd be safe going into the middle of one of our concerts, though."
Pundits believe Billie (who's been going out with "ladyboy" Rich Five for 18 months) will never sell another record in this country.
"God, I remember that at Smash Hits [Poll Winner's Party] when she first started seeing Rich and they booed her off stage, which I thought was a bit out of order. But I seem to attract all the mothers and the aunties and the grandmothers anyway, so I'm sure they won't be too bothered! If anything comes of it..."
We're pulled out of the room. It's over, the worse bit. Of the two subjects, he liked talking about Westlife a great deal less. He couldn't, you see, give a toss about them.
Five are the first ever Boyband Lads. They call themselves "a rock 'n' roll boyband", hurtling from obscurity three years ago into a limb-flailing public puff-ball of swearing tattoos, piercings, booze, knock-about fights and celebrity snogs...five fizzling pop tarts in the dandy hip-hop uniform, purveyors of vim-fuelled celebration pop for dancefloor detonation - Slam Dunk (Da Funk), Everybody Get Up (with it's Joan Jett-pilfered bass line brilliance), Don't Wanna Let You Go, If Ya Gettin' Down - a manufactured pop combo who, nonetheless, specified from the outset they'd live under zero legendary Boyband Rules and be, instead, the Wu Tang Clan of Pure Pop, leering, superbly, "wiggy, wiggy, let's get jiggy!" Their management team, Chris and (the late) Bob Herbert, the Spice Girls 'architects', retain, to this day, "no control whatsoever" over Five's personal lives, a small, but highly significant boy-pop revolution in itself; it was time for The Truth.
"It's just how we are as people," says J, fiddling with the ties on his top, "we always said we didn't wanna have a gimmick, and we didn't, and everybody's turned that fact that we're so normal, we are loud, into our gimmick. People said at first, 'you've got to follow the formula that we know works' and we were 'no, we're not doing it, we can't be arsed'. It's too much. We just enjoy ourselves. And you always get a truthful answer."
D'you get erections on stage?
[rolls around seat] "Meheheh! Well, to tell you the truth, there's that many dance steps I'm too busy thinking about that to notice! I think the brain's on over-load trying to remember everthing so all the blood rushes somewhere else. Meheheh!"
Prince once said "I never waste an erection"; how about you?
So they all serve a purpose?
"Aye, they do!"
J is very big on The Truth. He pathologically loathes lies, pretension, and especially, "false people". He has values, principles, a mind, a will and a soul. He's very very Northern. Jason Paul Brown was born in Aldershot Military Hospital on June 13th, 1976. He's lived in Germany, Canada and all over the North of England, moving with his father's post as a Forces man. "I'm one of those," he chortles, gamely. It gave him 'confidence', he can "make new friends really easily." Growing up, there was "nothing clinical, no regimentation" but he's become very good at ironing.
"And I do really hate mess, yeah!" he grins, "so subliminally maybe it went in. I've just realised I've got me dad to thank for all that, actually. I shall send him a nice message on the phone. Aye!"
His dad was such a "highly intelligent man", J called him a "planet brain", a man who has "degrees", who's worked on electrical systems on aeroplanes. The young J became great at maths, physics, English and chemistry, "so maybe it was passed down a little bit" while the family home pulsed with music; Bat Out of Hell, Hendrix and Uriah Heep from dad, Barry Manilow from his roll-up smoking mum, 80's soul from his big sister Donna, who's five years older. At 9 he was given his first keyboard and by the time gangsta-rap and NWA had consumed him, he was writing songs in the image of his LA "homie" heroes.
"All the lyrics were on about killing people," he hoots, "and how hard you are, how you're gonna pull a gun out and shoot someone, yeah nice one, J, you were 12 years old and lived in Warrington, mate! But you have to start somewhere."
He became Class Clown, "I always used to get the 'he could be exceptional, but he prefers to make his friends laugh', but I knew what I needed, so I just had a giggle." At 13, he could already grow a beard, claims he was never the school hunk, "kept meself to meself, really... maybe that was part of the allure, aye!" and failed to indulge in any teenage homosexual fumblings, "I didn't actually, nothing there". At 15, he immersed himself in music with a mixer, keyboard and drum machine bought by his folks; "I was always so confident I was gonna do something". He left school and used his one college year as a front for his demo-making group, Prophets of Da Funk. A few years previously, his nephew Kyle was born and at 18 J's parents moved to London. He stayed in Warrington and moved in with his sister.
"I sort of practically raised him with her," he's saying, "I always think of him as this little lad and he's a nine year old lad now, almost as tall as I am. But back then me sister got a part time job so I stayed at home with Kyle. I was there all the time. It's one of the only down sides to doing this, I don't get to see him as much."
That's a very responsible, grown-up thing to do. You're supposed to be out, out of your mind on Ecstasy at 18, 19, aren't you?
"Meheh! Well, I took the option of raising me nephew! Maybe it saved me from going down a few dodgy paths, aye!"
Prophets of Da Funk failed, his demos were returned, told they were good, but it wasn't "the right time". For nine months: "It was looking like nothing was gonna work out," he says, "I was really badly depressed, just sat there in a house in Warrington with no money and people sending me back what I thought I did best. It was 'I'm not gonna do it, what am I gonna do with me life?' and I didn't wanna do anything else whatsoever."
All his life, J was told by his family "you should get into one of those boyband things, make some money and then do what you wanna do' and I was always like 'I'm never gonna do that, never'. I used to watch East 17 and Take That with me mates on the telly and we'd all say 'I wouldn't do that for a million quid'." Then he saw the first ad he'd ever seen for a boyband in The Stage newspaper, "and thought 'sod it." Three years on and several Superman-speed whizzings round the world and he's been profoundly shocked only by "some of the people you meet in radio, TV, wherever, they're just fookin' atrocious, I never thought such two-faced people could exist on the planet". He attributes rumors of their allegedly pulling out of playing G.A.Y in their first year, after they realised it was a gay club, to a journalist from a gay mag "who completely fabricated stuff and twisted it round". This sort of thing makes him, in actual fact, sick.
"It's just absolute bullshit, completely," he says, aggrieved, "we were really pissed off about it. There's no need for it, write what people say, whether it's good or bad, d'youknowhwatImean? Otherwise what's the fookin' point? Myself and the four guys, they're the least homophobic guys I've met, there's nothing there with any of us whatsoever."
They've played G.A.Y three times now, hung out with transvestites in Stockholm "don't really know if they were the best-lookin' people I've ever seen but they were certainly the tallest, fookin' massive!" and the night before careered into a Mariah Carey party and, slaughtered on Jack Daniels, when Mariah stood up to sing, Sean Five shouted "sit down, love, and shurrup!"
You're number one in the gay pop charts, a bonafide gay icon. Why d'you think that is, J?
"I've absolutely no idea," he grins, "but y'know...lovely jubbly! It's cool. I didn't ever think I'd become any kind of icon to anybody. But I like it, both males and females finding you good-looking and think you're a nice person, that's good, innit? But I don't understand why anybody is into me in any way, shape or form, so I don't know how to answer that."
Oh honestly, J, you're such a dreamboat!
"Well I know I don't look like the arse end of a donkey or anything! But there's nothing overly special. I'm like anyone, good and bad days. I'm normal! I'm an average Joe! I am!"
You must've been chatted up by millions of blokes.
"When I go out, yeah, in a club, people come over, I have a chin-wag, tell 'em thanks very much, I'm flattered, but no-one takes it any further with me 'cos they know straight away I'm straight. So we have a drink and a chin-wag. And then I'll go'n shake my thang on the dance floor heheheheh!"
You temptress. You Jezebel.
"Meheheh! Oh, aye."
J's right. He's very much a normal bloke. He's 5'10", 12.5 stone, likes a drink, a lark and a shack-up. He loves his PlayStation, his CD Walkman, his dream car's a Ferrari and he drinks in All Bar One. He used to drive a fork-lift truck. At 14, he had a crush on a teacher, and she told him once, "I had a nice dream about you Jason. I'll tell you what it meant when you're older." He went through a phase of buying "every single aftershave there is to own". He's a "soap and water" man, but likes "an expensive moisturizer". In hotels, he can't be doing with maids rummaging in his personal stuff, always puts the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door, makes the bed himself and locks up his valuables. The love of his life is "music" and he thinks Steps are the "naffest band in pop". Of all the Five boys, he can lift the heaviest weights down the gym. He has a temper, been known to spill a drink on his clothes, blame the cup and smash it to the floor. If he was a chocolate bar he'd be a "Fuse - ready to blow at any second". He has a "big pile of nudey mags". He's a boxer shorts boy. He's had long-term relationships since he was 14 and, once, filled an entire room with flowers for his special lay-dee. He believes, profoundly, in love; "if I was seriously in love, I'd give up anything for her, nothing is more important than love. I'd die for love." If he's really interested in someone, he doesn't have sex on the first night. He's always been into "older women. I'd probably go up to mid-to-late forties." When their manager Bob was killed in a car crash in '98, J found himself "less quick to judge people, life's too short." Nonetheless, his personal mottos remain, "Everthing happens for a reason."
D'you like being a Sexual Fantasy Man for millions?
"Eh...well, there's a lot fookin' worse things, it's flattering, really, innit?!"
D'you mind being a masturbation tool?
"Meheheh! Well, if that's how people wanna view it! It's completely up to them!"
How much of your personal success d'you think is down to your extraordinary good-lookingness?
[mortified] "Fookin' 'ell! For a start I wouldn't say there was any extraordinary good-lookingness there, meself! But obviously we were chosen for a boyband so quite a lot of it boils down to that, but I know I'm sort of talented, vocally or musically, so it's just flattering, really."
You actually do have immense sexual charisma. It's really obvious. It positively "pings" out of you.
"Er...well, thank you very much."
You must know when you've got that "ping" factor.
"Pffff...no, not at all! I'm just me! If you took 100 people about fookin' 88 of 'em'd probably say 'well, he's alright...'"
People always say you're "A Man Among Boys". D'you feel that's true?
"Fair enough! Well, I've got the crow's feet to show for it, if that makes me a man."
They also think you're a Merchant of Filth, sex-wise.
"I'm whaaat? Meheh. Well, I don't know about that. It's all news to my ears!"
"Well at least I know these things now for future reference!"
Is it a fair enough assumption?
"Er...well, it depends what they're meaning exactly! I don't go around doing anything filthy with pigs or hens or anything!"
Well, you don't have to, do you?
Do all those mums who fancy you make a complete fool of themselves around you?
"I tell you what's weird, when a girl there's going 'my mum really fancies you' and the mum's in her mid-forties stood right beside her. I just get really embarrassed by it. And sometimes the mums are the same as the girls, [squeals] 'can I have a picture with you?!' and sometimes I'm like 'whoa', y'knowwhatImean, they've got a husband at home, saying all this in front of their daughter. Sometimes it goes down to 'ooh, I'd like to do this with you' some of 'em get right down to it, 'I wanna get you in a room and do this and that and this and that' and I'm like 'I'll get me coat!' 14 year old daughter stood there! So that's a bit mad."
What blow-jobs and everything?
We'll take that as a yes. Do you trim your chest hair?
"I do actually sometimes. It gets a bit dark and a bit thick and curly and it gets trimmed down now and again. With a little set of clippers that I shave me beard with. Put a bit of a number three guard on, trim it down a little bit, shows a bit more definition on the old chest."
You should trim it into a Mel C shape.
"Heheh! I don't think any of that'll be goin' on! It's an idea, aye! You never know, one night after a few too many bevvies!"
Does it ever cross your mind; "My bird's worth 24 million quid?"
"Not at all. Doesn't even register. Some people might think 'yeah, bollocks' but it really doesn't. End of the day it isn't everything, is it? It brings you stuff but it's not everything."
Can you easily see past her celebrity?
"Tell you the truth, I don't see it whatsoever, 'cos she's a completely normal girl, there's no front there to see past."
When are you speaking again?
"Might have a chin-wag on the phone later on this evening! Quick chin-wag, see how she's doing, see if she's been t'gym! Meheheh!"
Jason Brown, 24 in June, is having the time of his life. For now, he has everything he could possibly need. He's living the dream and he can't see it's end for years, though Five are sticking to their original plan to "jump off at our biggest, and not degrade ourselves by playing smaller places and being a bit naff, but I think we can maintain it for quite a while." A studio boffin, post-Five he hopes to become a producer. He's not so rich he could give it up tomorrow "pff, I don't think so", can afford to buy "nice clothes and a nice watch, but we're not lighting cigars with fifty quid notes yet."
Imagine, like the Spices, being personally worth 24 million quid, eh?
"Yeah", he muses, contemplating a not-so-ludicrous future scenario, Five have sold 12 million albums and they're pretty big in the States, you know, "personally I don't think I'd wanna get that much, it might start losing it's value. That's what's important. It needs to have value. D'youknowwhatImean?"