John Robb: My Night Out with Mick Jones and the Rotten Hill Gang on their New TV SeriesSo what is this Rotten Hill TV? Where does ex Clash legend Mick Jones fit into the story? And why am I in the middle of an ad hoc gathering of lunatics, droogs and smarlty dressed men in tweed suits with bonkers eyes and attractive women who are all mashing to a DJ’d up soundtrack of ska / techno and trance madness in a West London lock up?

Rotten Hill TV is the creation of Gary McPherson, it was his idea and then each show is created by him and Mick. Meanwhile I’m chatting to series producer Becky Hemmings in the middle of a mental party at Brother Michael Jones – the six string razor from the Clash and BAD and currently on creative fire’s lock up and studio. There a loose and ragged party going on and the vibes- which ooze from Mick and into the room- are of course, perfect.

Becky is talking the new series she is working on named after the band she manages, The Rotten Hill Gang. They are mates of Micks, play these wonderful madcap shows and are now going to make a TV series and Mick is somehow involved and it looks, loose, ragged and crazy like a TV version of how the Clash were all those years ago. It’s unlike any much TV you normally see and that’s why it’s winning already. Like anyone who knows music Mick and the crew understand that out of chaos comes genius.

Becky smiles and tells me that ‘At the moment, the title is Rotten Hill TV. The basis of the show, is we invite guests in to do a cover version of a song that has influenced their career – but not in a style they would usually be associated with. Rotten Hill are the house band for all guests. Except Dreadzone who appeared as an entire band.

We’ve had Beth Orton, Jim Jones Revue, Paul Cook, Paul Simonon, The Computers, Richard Archer from Hard Fi, Steve Norman from Spandau Ballet, Viv Albertine, Elizabeth Westwood. The guests are introduced by Don Letts. We’ve done 5 x 30 minute shows’.

As Becky explains the series and books my band Goldblade for an upcoming show I check out the studio with its well worn creative hum and solar system poster on the wall and classic rock n roll pics and Clash stuff dotted around.

Sat on  stool in the corner and grinning like a Cheshire cat whilst greeting each guest is Mr. Michael Jones the former Clash gunslinger and currently multi project creative er, gunslinger.

This is Mick’s studio and all kinds of madness and great music comes out of here, it’s like the Clash and Mick and all that multi cultural, interested in everything and celebrating all that great pop and rock n roll culture rolled into one epicentre. There is, of course, Mick’s museum of clippings and Clash stuff piled up in the attic and the next door lock up- it’s like a palace of history. There is the sense that is the room where stuff, somehow, gets done amidst the never ending party and good vibes.

I’m here for more than some kind of visit. I’ve been asked to come down and conduct a couple of combustible interviews for Rotten Hill TV and being a TV series of madness, surrealism and great music whatever plan there was seems to have gone out the window.

This is not a bad thing, the series is made with the anarchistic spirit that matched the creativity of the bands and is so often lacking from staid normal TV where music is treated like some kind of embarrassing child that needs to be told to behave itself or gets confused with being studious and sensible like some sort of cardigan.

That’s not what this is about and Rotten Hill TV have been piling up the series with zero budget but a great address book.

Of course, its chaos, I wouldn’t want it any other way, I turn up with the idea that I’m meant to be interviewing Arthur Baker, Mick and Paul Oakenfeld, well Arthur isn’t there- which is a shame as he is a stand up guy and always a pleasure to hang out with an in depth musical knowledge and complete lack of bullshit about him, Mick seems happier sitting in the corner of the enveloping party in the studio playing the part of convivial host oozing those good vibes that you get when he is on stage playing his rock n roll and he won’t be doing an interview. T

The series of DJs are playing some great tunes from classic ska like Desmond Dekker’s genius, Israelites to trance to acid house classic – it’s really bopping in there and packed full of half familiar faces from the endless years of front lining it on rock roll.

There is a really vague plan to do the other interview with DJ legend and Happy Mondays and U2 and Stone Roses mixer and producer Paul Oakenfold talking about why he DJs and his early days in Ibiza and mixing for the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays- about an hour later than expected the cameras are whirring the mics are on and we are away with Paul talking, Mick shouting funny asides and Paul more than happy to share his credits with Trevor Fung who is DJing with him and is widely recognised as the man who kicked off the whole Ibiza thing- In dance circles this pretty much the holy trinity and they seem as happy playing tunes here in Mick’s place to a handful of lunatic revellers as on big DJ slots around the world.

Mick met Paul Oakenfold on the road when BAD supported U2 who Paul was DJing for at the time when the Irish band dropped the po faced thing and became sort of like an E’d up version of themselves and went all wonky and Manc dance for Achtung Baby.

The party is laid back and lasts into the deep night, in the corner stand Davo- the number one road crew guru who somehow crams Primal Scream, Stone Roses and Mick into his dairy and still finds time to pay great guitar himself like last year on the Justice tour. It’s always great to see Davo and swiftly we are hatching plans for another tour- this time to celebrate the NHS- it’s been talked about for months but full of fire and brimstone tonight we get it together- hopefully we can finally make it happen.

Mick bails at about two and a couple of hours later the hardcore slope off- it’s a legendary night in a legendary space and it will be great to see the TV series when it finally clipped together…rock n roll needs the maverick spirit making the media and to celebrate all the diverse musics we all love .

Viva Rotten Hill TV. It’s like some sort of hi tech wild west scene- the old gang rides again, this time armed with cameras.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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