It's clichéd but true – music saved Richard Jobson. Now in his early 60s, and back once more in the fold of The Skids, the Scottish punk band he co-founded as a 16-year-old, he says that his music tastes, maverick sensibilities and a confident sense of optimism were influenced by his older brother, Francis. Up until his mid-teens, Jobson had a distinct inclination for, shall we say, getting himself into a spot of bother. His tearaway teens, however, were interrupted by the advent of punk and the music his brother, a recent convert to Hare Krishna, was listening to.
“When you think about the community our family came from – pretty much a macho mining community, hardened drinkers into football and the like – someone into the music of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, MC5, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Bowie, and so on, was quite unusual. It was from Francis that I learned about dissonant music, and because of that I was slightly different from my mates.
'I got that bravery from my brother, who had the balls to walk down the street in Hare Krishna robes – the abuse he got! – so it was an easy task to dress the way I did'
“When punk happened it just made perfect sense to me, because the reference points for the people who were in the first wave – Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Buzzcocks – were the same as what I was listening to. There were immediate allies, you felt. Where I came from, everyone wanted to look like Rory Gallagher – long hair, jeans, check shirt – but I was wearing winklepickers, skin-tight trousers, a leather jacket, and, at the time, I had black and white hair. I got that bravery from my brother, who had the balls to walk down the street in Hare Krishna robes – the abuse he got! – so it was an easy task to dress the way I did.”
Jobson has been negotiating quite the individualistic path for decades. Google him and lead singer of The Skids isn’t the first, second or third career choice description that pops up. Instead, it’s filmmaker, television presenter, and writer. Everything, he says, is part of his life story.
“It isn’t a big story, just a little story,” he reasons, “yet I ventured out, I tried different things. Some of it has been phenomenally exciting and successful, some of it hasn’t been successful at all, and some of it has been crap. But isn’t that all part of the journey?” If you think back to the late 1970s, he continues, “you were allowed to grow a little bit slower into yourself. I joined The Skids when I was 16, straight from school, so my rite of passage was as a member of a punk band, which isn’t really a recommendation for growing up, I have to say.”
He recalls, with some humour, The Skids' support slot on a tour with The Stranglers. Because he was under 18 years of age, he was informed he would have to take a teacher on tour with him. "As you can imagine, that's not very punk rock, but luckily for me Hugh Cornwell, The Stranglers' lead singer, had a teaching qualification and so he told the authorities he would teach me history, geography and English each night after the gigs.
“After the show every night, I had to go to Hugh for my tutoring, and I can assure you he never once taught me any of that stuff. He taught me other things that helped me pass exams in the University of Life, I might add, but nothing of English grammar.”
From then to now, Jobson has resolutely soldiered on, moving from one passion project to another, be that film directing (the award-winning 16 Years of Alcohol, 2003), television presenting, acting, modelling, poetry, and writing (his memoir, Into the Valley, and a sci-fi/pop-culture novel, Speed of Life, both 2018). There is a thread of fearless determination running through his life as well as a sense of not really caring what people think about such endeavours.
'Whether we like it or not, we are part of the heritage industry'
Some of the work, he readily admits, “were things a person didn’t do if they wanted to be either critically or commercially successful. With those things, you raise your head above the parapet to be absolutely slaughtered, which I have been on occasion.”
Keep calm and carry on, is Jobson’s resilient attitude. Why else, he posits, would The Skids be releasing new music (2018’s well-received album, Burning Cities) and playing the occasional punk nostalgia festival?
“Whether we like it or not, we are part of the heritage industry, but in the context of those punk nostalgia line-ups, I think The Skids have tried to reframe the culture of the band, who we are and what the songs mean. You don’t stop observing things, do you?”
The Skids play Button Factory, Dublin, on May 27th and Limelight, Belfast, on May 28th.
Jobson on U2 and Green Day
“Out of the blue, I got a phone call from the Edge, who asked if it would be okay if they changed one line in The Saints Are Coming, which they were recording for the Hurricane Katrina charity. They were recording it in Abbey Road Studios, London, with Green Day, and said if I was interested would I like to come down and witness it.
“I was in a state of shock that two of the world’s biggest rock bands were covering a song I had written when I was 15. They were very kind to me, and it was quite something to behold, what with Rick Rubin producing and Anton Corbijn making a film about it. They were all intrigued by my own story, and U2 were very generous in acknowledging the influence of The Skids on them in the early days.
“When the record came out it was a massive success. It was great to think that in a small way I was part of it, and I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t quite emotional. It’s quite amusing now because a lot of younger people come to our shows and talk to me after and ask me why we cover that U2 song? I say to them, well, it’s actually my song!”