Thursday, May 19th, 2022
My Firsts: Jonathan Higgs of Everything Everything
Totally Crushing It
May 19, 2022
By Mark Redfern
My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Jonathan Higgs, frontman of British art-rockers Everything Everything.
Everything Everything are releasing a new album, Raw Data Feel, tomorrow via Infinity Industries/AWAL. On the same day they are also releasing a limited-edition lyric book, CAPS LOCK ON: Lyrics + Debris 2007-2022, via Faber Music. The album is the follow-up to Re-Animator, which made it on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list. For Raw Data Feel the band used an AI (artificial intelligence) of their own making to help create the album’s lyrics, song titles, and cover art, via selected information they fed the AI.
The band formed in Manchester in 2007 and quickly gained momentum, making the BBC Sound of 2010 list in December 2009 and releasing their debut album, Man Alive, the following August, which found the band nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize (a feat they repeated with their fourth album, 2017’s A Fever Dream). Everything Everything have established themselves as one of the most unique bands of the modern era, aided by quirky lyrics and the band’s memorable music videos, which are usually highly creative and often self-directed by Higgs. The band also features Jeremy Pritchard (bass, keyboards), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (lead guitar, keyboards).
Read on as Higgs talks about an early accident, the TV show that inspired a lyric, the war that made him cynical, the first album he bought, his first band, and surviving a festival riot.
First time you had to go to the hospital?
When I was about five I was on holiday in rural Ireland, somewhere on the coast, and I managed to drop a huge rock onto my finger—crushing it. We were miles from the nearest town so I remember a frantic journey that seemed to last forever in the back of the car, before I guess I passed out. I wore a brown sort of bandage thing over my middle finger for (what felt like) about a year after, and when I finally took it off I wouldn’t look at it for ages. It would come off for baths but I always held my hand behind my back.
First TV show you were obsessed with?
Probably Bottom. We didn’t have a TV until I was about 16, but I would watch Bottom on VHS tapes at my friend’s house down the road. We still quote it very regularly and there are references and quotes from Bottom in several EE songs. For example “you gotta come back as something organic” in “Photoshop Handsome” comes from a scene in which Eddie wants to be reincarnated as a bra.
First record your parents played for you?
The records my parents played that I remember best would be The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse by The Bonzo Dog Band, Simon and Garfunkel, Sgt. Pepper’s, On the Threshold of a Dream by The Moody Blues, and New Boots and Panties by [Ian Dury and] the Blockheads.
First album you bought?
I think it was Bat Out of Hell 2 on tape. I probably thought the artwork was cool. The first CD album I bought was Beautiful Freak by Eels, which I got the day after hearing Novocaine for the Soul. I think the first album I asked for was Sgt Pepper, for something like my 8th birthday.
First concert you went to?
Ocean Colour Scene in Newcastle. It was great. Shortly after it would’ve been Idlewild or Mogwai.
First music festival you went to?
There were several folk festivals in my childhood like Pontadawe in Wales that I really liked. My first one with my mates was Leeds Festival. We went a good few times, and always enjoyed the riot that would inevitably happen on the Sunday night every year. The absolute chaos of mounted police charging the crowd among burning tents and chemical toilets spewing shit on fire—better than any gig could ever be for a 16 year old boy.
First time you got drunk?
Around 13 or 14, my parents were away and my auntie was looking after us (four kids). She decided to have a massive party and loads of my elder brother and sister’s friends came. I drank shot after shot of cheap crappy whiskey and brandy, sat in a rocking chair saying “wah wah” apparently, then I went all the way up to the top of the house and was sick, and it dripped all the way down the stairs.
The first computer that was really mine was some kind of late ’90s PC. It was the family computer but when we got an upgrade I got the old one, as I used it far more than anyone else. I used to make music on really ancient software, a demo in fact, that didn’t allow you to save! So every time I made a track I had to tape it onto tape before I closed the program. I can recall downloading single images over the space of SEVERAL DAYS in the early era of the internet.
First major disappointment?
By no means my first but I can remember a large part of my faith in politics and people got fried to a crisp when Tony Blair invaded Iraq—I’d marched and I’d chanted and it was the biggest protest we’d ever had as a country and I really thought it would make a difference. It absolutely didn’t and I didn’t ever feel the same after that. One and done.
The trumpet. I played trumpet from very early up to about 13, doing my grades and playing in various orchestras and a local silver band with a load of old geezers. I put down the trumpet and picked up a guitar pretty much as soon as I heard Nirvana. My friend’s and I started a band and I dropped out of the orchestras and wind bands etc. I was in.
First band you were in?
We were called Kloaca. For those that don’t know, a cloaca is a dinosaur’s butthole. We just spelled it with a K. We were a three-piece with me singing and on bass. It was quite ambitious really, we actually recorded an album when I was maybe 15. I do still have it yes.
First recording device?
Tape player. We would record our first band with a cassette player, just straight into the built-in mic. Sounded terrible.
First time you performed in public?
Kloaca played at some kind of weird talent show/folk night thing, we did three songs. I still have the flyer and it said “Kloaca rock band,” right next to “Fell M’ Doon Band,” which was a bunch of old men with accordions.
Check out the fourth episode of our Under the Radar podcast, where we speak to Jonathan Higgs.