From Jon Matthews
Jon’s vanity first took a turn towards music in the late 80’s emulating 1950’s rock and roll bands.
With no formal training he decided it best to apply himself to what he thought would be the easiest instrument to play: the upright bass. Filching a disused double bass from school all there was then left to do was get his hair quiffed, press-gang a couple of school mates (one to play piano, the other to drum) and force an electric guitar on his younger brother to form his first band - The Domestic Cats.
This skiffle-type tribute to their heroes The Stray Cats impressed their peers, but worried their parents. Performing at various village halls and whatever pubs would accommodate their raw style (and over-exposure to ginger hair), the boys enjoyed a little bit of exposure.
Sadly, before musical world domination occurred, Jon’s younger brother left the band to go to University. Before leaving, Jon begged him to teach him some guitar rudiments. After a few lessons and a sad farewell, Jon’s chance came when he stumbled upon a motley crew rehearsing Ska together. Jon elbowed his way into ‘Last Orders’, becoming their guitarist.
Shedding his allegiance from one genre to another was easy with the enthusiasm that the local population afforded Last Orders. This time Jon recruited an even younger brother; affectionately dubbed ‘Chesney Hawkes’ because of his longish blond hair. ‘Chesney’, at the tender age of 14, was only too happy to learn bass-guitar in order that he could slip into pubs, have a pint and a smoke, all unnoticed by the land-lord because he was ‘with the band’.
Playing this hypnotic pumping rhythmic style of music they couldn’t put a foot wrong. ‘The Ska’s the limit’, was the head-line in a review in the local paper. Playing packed-out, alcohol fuelled venues, the band enjoyed local legendary status, peaking at the 1995 town carnival; there, being cheered on and danced to by almost the entire town’s youth; only a few bloody-minded grungy types refused to join in with the fun.
Then disaster hit: just before their second carnival appearance, and just before a planned gig in Edinburgh, Jon became a Christian. This was catastrophic for the band’s immediate future as he now thought he had some higher calling. He forced on the band self-penned love songs and spirituals, and even forbade swearing at rehearsals. The band would not have it, they agreed to do the Edinburgh Ska festival but that was it - if it didn’t work out, they would quit. After a death-defying 300 mile journey in an over loaded, barely road legal 12 seater van and a disappointing soporific performance, it was last orders for Last Orders, and they split up.
To the rescue came Ginge: a man with sympathetic hair colouration and a grasp of Jon’s vision. He assigned himself ‘band manager’ and went about arranging gigs (sometimes three a weekend) and ultimately getting the boys into a studio to record an album which included Jon’s untried original tunes. Well… the recording was rushed, but acceptable, and the songs sat alongside each other in a not altogether objectionable manner. The CD was distributed world-wide, interest kindled, and even a gig in Belgium secured. But by this time Jon’s gifted baby brother was given an ultimatum by their mum and dad: University and our support or a life with the band and no support. Chesney opted for the former and the core was ripped out of the band.
Struggling with new band members, momentum was lost and although enjoying the gig in Belgium, they failed to capture that seamless, pulsating Jamaican sound with equal vigour, and eventually this group went the way of his last.
Now bandless, Jon, with his new-found Christian faith and the wonders of home-studio recording, persevered. Learning a bit of keyboard and bass and procuring a good microphone, Jon is able to realise his songwriting potential without the need to perform with bands in seedy venues. Now he hand-picks brothers and sisters (in Christ) to help him make the music that he has always aspired to create.
You can hear the Rockabilly, Ska and Christian influences in his new album: my attic room.