Meet the special musician Manics’ James Dean Bradfield is producing
If you’re the first musician that Manic Street Preachers singer James Dean Bradfield is producing outside of the band for nearly 20 years, you must be a special talent.
Meet Cobain Jones, a firebrand singer-songwriter more electrifying than so many interchangeable troubadour peers of his generation.
Although recorded at the Manics’ studio in Newport with Bradfield, Cobain’s anthemic, widescreen EP Realistic Dreams is wholly the work of the 21-year-old from Stalybridge in Greater Manchester.
“James was very adamant that the song stayed mine and that I took charge of the creative decisions,” says Cobain. “James told me: ‘This is your song, it’s your moment.’ James knows what he wants, but he’s very open to artists’ ideas – so long as you know what you’re talking about. He took me in and he was totally sound. He makes a cracking brew, too.”
‘Realistic Dreams’ was inspired by Cobain’s mistrust of the beauty ideals portrayed by social media and “15 years of Kardashian bullshit,” as he explains: “Kylie Jenner has teams of beauticians and the best cosmetic surgeon in the world. Getting lip fillers from some guy in Ashton-under-Lyne isn’t the same and doesn’t do anyone any favours. People are naturally beautiful.”
Bradfield’s slim external production CV comprises Kylie Minogue’s 1997 album Impossible Princess, Northern Uproar’s self-titled 1996 debut and the peerless cult classic 2004 single You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve by short-lived duo Johnny Boy.
Of his own Manics heritage, Cobain says: “For me, the top two bands of all time are The Beatles and Manic Street Preachers. Playing James’ white Les Paul was like pulling Excalibur out”.
“The day before going to Newport, James called me. I was dead nervous, but we just chatted about how the session was going to go. So on the day of the first session, I wasn’t starstruck. I couldn’t be, because I knew I had to do it and that I was there for a reason.”
Bradfield also produces the EP’s bittersweet relationship saga ‘Endless Chapters’, with Cobain revealing: “I was in love with my first girlfriend when I started writing it, but we’d split up when I was writing the end. It’s the history of a romance, about how you had a lot of fun but it’s best to leave it in the past.”
NEW MUSIC. 6PM THIS FRIDAY. THE COMEBACK. pic.twitter.com/tYgBYjqgMA
— Cobain Jones (@Cobain_Jones) September 27, 2022
The EP is rounded out by a beautifully shivering cover of Bob Marley’s Coming In From The Cold. as Cobain notes: “I initially wanted to do a rock version but, when I got on the piano, that song just worked. But Bob Marley is so amazing, most of his songs will work brilliantly no matter how you tackle them, if you try to be yourself while you’re singing.”
Paul Weller has also fallen under Cobain’s spell, offering him support slots on his November 2021 tour just two weeks after Cobain signed on with a new promoter. “Paul was one of the nicest people I’ve met in my entire life,” smiles Cobain. “He sorted extra backstage passes for my family – his dad managed him for years, and you can see family is still so important to Paul. He’s truly down to earth.”
Other shows have been with The Lathums and Seb Lowe, carrying on a tradition of working with great names since Cobain’s first ever confirmed gig, when Tim Burgess offered Cobain a slot on the Tim Peaks stage at Kendal Calling in 2019.
That ideal start had just one problem: Cobain had only written one song at the time. He recalls: “Tim had liked a few tweets I’d tagged him in, so I was a chancer and asked if he’d play my demo. He said: ‘Sure, I’ll give it a listen today.’ I thought I’d get a ‘Well done, keep it up,” but he said: ‘That sounds great, would you like to play Tim Peaks?’ I ran downstairs screaming to my mum and dad: ‘I’ve got a slot at Kendal Calling!’ They panicked, going: ‘You’ve only got one song and you’ve never done a gig. What are you going to do?’”
The answer was to write five more songs and get some gig practice at venues including Band On The Wall in Manchester in the six months before the festival came around.
“I’m a nosy bastard,” laughs Cobain of his songwriting routine. “I’m not a big drinker, so watching people in the pub gives me great joy and good inspiration for songs. Some songs come off the tongue, perfect. Realistic Dreams only took three days to finish, others can take me three months.”
In case you were wondering, Cobain Jones is the singer’s real name. His parents love Nirvana, but they’re into everything: “Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, The Stone Roses, drum & bass, every genre you can think of.” Initially hating his name because schoolmates would remind him: “You’re named after that junkie who killed himself,” by the time he was 15 the attitude changed to: “Cobain is such a cool name.” His own assessment? “The best thing is that my surname is so simple. It’s a unique name combined with a very common name, so it’s just perfect. And I think it sells T-shirts.
“When I supported The Lathums, their singer Alex was insisting: ‘That can’t be your real name.’ People think I’ve made it up every time, so I carry my ID with me everywhere.”
Cobain got his first guitar at 15 and seeing The Cribs a few months later lit the torch: “I’d seen The Stone Roses at the Etihad, but The Cribs was my shit: beers in the air, everyone going mental. I thought: ‘I want to do this.’ Then I first saw the Manics that same year, 2017.”
Mention of the Roses brings up the thorny question of whether living in Stalybridge qualifies Cobain to be a Manchester musician. A detailed history of Manchester geography and the city’s residential clearances after World War II follows: Stalybridge was one of the suburbs the city’s inhabitants were rehomed in.
So, yes, Cobain Jones is a Manchester musician. But he reasons: “It’s massive to be part of Manchester’s musical heritage, but it can have its disadvantages, because of how competitive the city is. It’s one of the most famous music scenes in the world, but there’s also a thriving underground scene. Manchester has musicians who are my idols and I want to carry that baton.”
Talking further about the realistic dreams for his own music, Cobain adds: ““I want people to understand that I’m here to stay. I know of musicians who’ve got five million followers on social media who can’t sell out a 400-cap venue. People singing my music back to me, that’s what I want.”
Cobain is also studying music production at University of Huddersfield, with plans to become a producer as well as an artist. “I’ve an ear for production,” he says. “I’m versatile with bringing different genres into my own music and I’d love to help bring that to other artists one day.”
Cobain Jones was always a name to remember. He was destined to be a musician. One listen to the fire in his songs and it’s clear that destiny is set for the biggest stage.
‘Realistic Dreams’ is released on Crowswood Records via CD Baby on October 14th.
Find out more about Cobain Jones HERE
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