Sorted Magazine - December 1997
The Mary Janes - on Warchild and copyright laws
They've lost their bass player, are being sued by an American company for copyright on their name, but the Mary Janes are still contented because they're on their way to Bosnia again.
The Mary Janes have found a new focus for their lives, and it involves helping re-unite the West and East sides of Mostar, a city smack bang in the middle of the formerly war-torn but still war-weary Yugoslavia.
Lending their name to the 'Warchild' cause, the Mary Janes will find themselves setting flight on a cheap ticket with Croatian air-lines, and 10,000 pounds worth of kiddies Doc Martens in tow.
SORTED magAZine caught up with Mick Christopher and Mark Stanley before they set off.
"We've had some internal conflict, and we've been left with no bass player", says Mick. "But I don't see that as really being a problem", says Mark.
"As well as that we're being threatened with a major law suit over our name by an American company. We are going to sit down until they decide to fuck us and we will change our name then, maybe to something like the Artists formerly known as the Mary Janes", or AFKATMJ as they would surely be known.
"But then again we might change our name to Sham because that's what the music industry is, a total sham".
They're not totally distraught by the threats and the losses though. "With Warchild, all of a sudden playing a gig in Whelan's doesn't matter anymore," says Mark.
"We've been needing some inspiration and we have found the place to get it. It's a great opportunity for us to have a bit of fun."
"We've already helped pave the way for a lot of bands to do this," says Mick.
"It may seem really egotistical, but we have done more for Warchild in four days with a handicam than Warchild have done with a massive budget, and a team of staff in two or three years. They've even said so. We're just doing our bit to help both sides get together," says Mark.
The plan at present for the Mary Janes is to play a massive gig in a new music centre in Mostar. They're hoping to get a band from both sides of the city to play with them - the only thing the two sides are presently united in, is their mutual hatred of each other.
The project is funded by luminaries like Pavarotti, and Brian Eno, with whom the Mary Janes share a common belief in the power of music to unite.
"The function of the project is music therapy for children that have been through the war. Warchild does classes with the children to teach them a million different things. Our free open air concert will just be part of the effort," says Mick.
"Nobody's interested in Bosnia, not even the U.N. forces that are there. In ten years you couldn't count the number of bullet-holes in the city, buildings don't have windows let alone rooves, but Mostar is still a beautiful city, it's got a great spirit," says Mark.
The two are also hoping to put together some kind of documentary for Irish television on their experiences over there. No Disco have already said they're interested, as well as another Irish programme, the name of which escapes them.
Summing up, singer Mick Christopher puts it: "The whole thing out there changes your whole focus, it's great for us because we're getting away from being just another band. You realise that there's more than just playing music."
Somebody recently asked me "Did Mic Christopher have the greatest childhood ever?" or was it just nostalgia in the way your e.p was written?
A lot of it being happy, I don't know if I told you but I had this near death experience, I ended up breaking me neck and ankle on a motorbike, and that's why. Because before that, for ten years in the Mary Janes I wrote songs that were totally depressing. The happy end of the songs comes from that, it really was like a near death experience, I couldn't walk, couldn't do anything, for about three months I was in traction. I kind of decided one day, I can let this "wreck me head" or I can just be positive about it. So I just tried to take positive things out of everything, even the shittest part of it. Like, I couldn't move me neck, me neck was like this, [stiffens his neck] I got this idea in my head "at least when I come my posture will be really good" or anything just to make it positive! Stuff like Heyday comes from that kind of thing, I didn't have that much "positivity" in me before that! But then the other end of the e.p, the kids thing is different, I've always loved kids for some reason I don't know why that is, I've just always had a big thing for kids. This friend of mine has two little sons, I've been around them since I was born from day one and they just inspire the shit out of me really. Stuff like Kidsong and Looking for Jude? That's another one that came from the little guy, the line in it "it's all better now". It's a little thing he used to say.
This doesn't seem like something you've always done, it does seem fresh to you, kind of innocent?
Because I was in the band for ten years, as well I was in a relationship for about eight years, virtually married for eight years while I was in the band, so there was a lot of stuff I'd go to write, songs or lyrics in general and I'd think "oh I can't write that, my girlfriend at the time would take it the wrong way" So I'd always be putting barriers up against what I could write and as well with the band I'd write a certain type of song and think that's not going to work in the band or the band won't be into that. There were all these limitations I felt. Once the band was gone, we split from all the companies we were with, gave up music for a while, had the crash and started all over again. It was a completely new outlook on everything. Being able to do whatever I wanted to do all of a sudden was so? something like the Kidsong, I never would have written that in the band in a fit! The band was to an extent, a rock band. It just wouldn't have worked. There's a lot of songs now that I would have never written then either. Even the Kidsong, I wrote that and thought "urghh a bit kiddie in a way!" and then people started going to me "that's so good!" It's a song I wasn't even thinking about. I got into it a bit, now it's the one I'm most proud of, of all my songs. Whereas Heyday is the one everyone latches onto, and gets played on the radio.
Really? I prefer Looking for Jude, that thing you do with your voice?
Uh uh oh uh oh! [Sings it] It's nice, it's been like that with the e.p. A lot of different people come back with a different favourite song. Looking for Jude has been picked a lot, Listen girl not as much, With Heyday everyone's just like heydayheyday! And then there's the select few come back talking about the Kidsong. This girl came up to me last night at a gig? there's a line in the song which is like about racism "either red green or blue, I think they colour my room", and it was just something I wrote, and after I written it, I listened to it and thought "how the hell did I write that?!", I was so impressed, but I couldn't get a big head about it because I was just kind of going "I don't write stuff like that, how the hell did I write that!" I'm so fucking proud of that line, and this girl came up to me last night "god I really love that thing!" I was totally chuffed, the first person who said it. Out of all the people screaming heydayheyday at gigs I just wanted one person to agree with me on that line.
You were a busker, so this is basically the same vibe, very "with the people", Proletarian as Hot-Press would describe it!
I remember they did this, because we were all buskers together, me and Glen and Dave and Karl and loads of people. These people made this documentary about us a couple of years ago for TnaG. We all got back together and went filming on the street. Yeah! A friend of mine saw you there, he saw Glen break three strings in one go. We pulled everyone out of the woodwork that day, when it started off it was me, Glen and this guy Mark Dignam, and then we met K?la. David and Karl were in K?la at the time, there were about fifteen of them, there was a lot of them! We joined ranks, people just started coming and coming, eventually there was so many people, some days it was just out of hand, you'd have a crowd of two, three hundred people blocking the whole street. There'd be fifteen, seventeen of us, with every instrument you could imagine, people playing saws, it was insane at the end. I remember doing the interview for that and they were asking me the difference between being in a band and being a busker. I was like "I so miss being a busker", everything about it made you feel brilliant. The camaraderie or something, I don't know. You were doing it for yourself, there was no deadlines, no shit, fun all the way. In effect you've found a way of doing both Hopefully, that's what it's kind of like now. It's great, no arguments, no nothing, just me and my guitar. Simple five-minute sound checks. I don't even play songs at sound checks now, I just go up and strum a bit. Lalalalala, that's it. That's just because I've done it a thousand times.
I had them for about eight years or something like that, at the end I could actually sit on them. Silly!
I got hold of Bored of their Laughing, your voice is incredible on it.
It's probably a bit shouty, it's very full on, this music. [Picking up the cover] This is really special anyway. Talkin' war, that's a great song. This picture? we went to this guy, Steve or something, who did mostly U2 album covers, so we just went to this guy "we need a cover". He just took out all these slides, like about three hundred slides with those little magnifiers and we all just sat there like this [squints his eye] for ages just staring. We'd break the three hundred into two piles of "maybes" and "definitely nots" and we'd go to the maybe pile and break that into two and break that into two. At the very end we'd have two slides. Right it's that one and that one, we picked this one. This guy designs them but the slides are done by all these different photographers, they just submit the slides and if it gets used for something, it gets used and whatever. The photograph was done by this guy called Harry Thullier Jnr. I didn't know the guy. I'd never met him, the album was out in the shops for ages. I got this phone call one-day, this guy called "is that Mic? This is Harry Thullier." I was like "man, I've been dying to meet you!" "Thanks for using me picture" "thanks for letting us!" It was this great little chat on the phone. And he goes "I'm off to?" I forget where, Israel or somewhere, "I'm going off tomorrow, I'll be back in six weeks and I'll call you the day I get back." He went away and died while he was away, I never got to meet him, I never found out who she is either! It's nice that it's there, that it got used and it means a lot. I'd loved to have met him, this day on the phone was brilliant, it was like we'd known each other for years 'cause we'd shared each others art.