In conversation with Chief-Moth Pete Jones
Pete Jones (Tiger Moth Tales) in an interview with André Fedorow (Sound of Prog)

We recently published our review of the new Tiger Moth Tales album The Turning Of the World” which you can read HERE. And it is available in German and English. We didn’t miss the chance to talk to the maestro himself. It was fun and you can find the shortened form of the interview in the following content.

Interview with Pete Jones, October 2023

What is the backstory to Tiger Moth Tales? How did this project come to life?

“For years I had been trying for a career in pop, which achieved very little success. As the years went on and I hit my 30s, I realised that what I thought as pop music, was not any more. I read in a book somewhere that if you haven’t made it in music by the time you’re 25, you probably never will. That’s a statement one can argue with, but what was undeniable was that I was getting older and the pop stars were getting younger. Haha.
I also became disillusioned with the pop industry, and the shifting goal posts of trends and the markets being dictated. The result of this was that I had two years of writers block where I just couldn’t come up with anything.
Around that time, I started getting in to modern prog, such as Big Big Train and Frost. I had been in to prog since I was a young lad, specifically Genesis. I’ve been a huge Genesis fan since I was 10 or 11. Discovering all these new bands I’d never heard of, and realising that there was stil a vibrant prog community, inspired me to write a prog album. Initially it was something I did just for fun, but the album (Cocoon) grew in to something bigger, and kickstarted my career in a way I could never have thought possible. It’s funny how life works sometimes.”

What is the meaning of the band name? Why a Tiger Moth ?

“Well, with the first album being called Cocoon, I originally thought of just calling the band Cocoon. When I say band, it was more of a project name. But i thought against it in the end. I came up with a bunch of names, all cocoon or moth related.I must have had a hundred names. In the end, I think I was probably listening to Steve Hackett’s song Tigermoth, and then it just occurred to me. I can’t really remember why I put Tales at the end. I just thought it sounded good, and quite proggy. Anyway, it stuck. Haha.”

The new album is different. Quieter, more serious – why?

“There’s never any real plan. I’ll come up with a song or two, and the album will just start to take shape. I guess it just felt like the right time to make an album like this.
The first song I wrote during this project was the track We’ll Remember, which is a heartfelt tribute to the late great David Longdon. I wrote the song about two weeks after his very sad death. When I heard the news, I was at a gig performing with Magenta. We had all performed in the past with David, when we played Spectral Mornings together. It hit us all very hard, and the song was written when the emotions were fresh in my mind. I guess that set the tone for an album which was a bit more serious, more direct in the song meanings and the approach to the writing. There are plenty of positive songs on the album too, and in a way the song for David is positive in it’s own way. I’ve said before that I write a lot of songs about people who have died. But it’s a great way to remember those people, which is important.”

How would you describe the music of Tiger Moth Tales?

“I think a lot of Tiger Moth Tales music is about escapism, or building different worlds to get away to. Music is of course a great way to unwind and take yourself to a different place, away from whatever it is that is stressing you out. Albums like the Story Teller series, and the seasons albums, have a lot of this in them. Even Cocoon which was quite a personal album, was about escaping in to a more childlike world of innocence.
But then there are albums like The Whispering Of The World and The Turning Of The World, which are more personal and involved with my own life experience. They are more like my own attempts at figuring out the world and the problems we all have to deal with. But overall, I hope that my music is more positive than negative.”

Is it possible that you are currently working with fewer musicians as possible in Tiger Moth Tales? We know you can play all instruments, but the dynamic of external musicians can bring you forward … or even not! You don’t want to take that risk and keep 100% control of your art?

“Haha. Well, old habbits die hard, as they say. I’ve been making music in my bedroom in one way or another, since I was very young. It’s something I’m very used to. I think that playing a few different instruments helps. When recording, I’m inclined to think that if I can do it myself, it’s quicker than trying to explain to someone else what I want them to do and waiting for them to do it. Haha. It’s just the way I have worked for a very long time.
That said, part of the reason I gave myself a band name, rather than just calling myself Pete Jones, was so that I could involve others if I wanted to. I have had several guest musicians over the years, including my good friends Emma Friend and Mark Wardle. Also, fantastic appearances from Luke Machin and Andy Latimer. Plus I have worked with other writers on the seasonal albums. With my friend Jamie Ambler on Depths Of Winter, and my friends John and Elizabeth Holden on A Song Of Spring.
Bringing in guests can certainly enhanse and add great things to an album. Plus I work with other people in different projects. Possibly I@m a bit of a control freek in the studio and like to do things the way I want them. But I’m sure there will be more guests on albums to come. It all depends on the album and the circumstances at the time.”

Regarding songwriting. You are active in a few other bands. Do you keep your best ideas to yourself when it comes to Tiger Moth Tales, or do you write specifically for one project at a time?

“Mostly I only write for Tiger Moth Tales and Red Bazar. Although I have written songs with Andy Latimer and for a couple of other bands like Barock Project and The Bardic Depths. I do keep certain ideas for certain projects, but I would find it hard to say which songs are the best. For instance, I’m very proud of the songs we’ve done together as Red Bazar.
But the fact is that I never have a glut of songs left over to dip in to. Compared to some writers, I don’t write that much. SO I tend to use everything I’ve got, and if I come up with an idea that I think will work for a particular band, I’ll use it.”

You play relatively rarely in Germany. Why aren’t there more Tiger Moth Tales concerts all over Germany?

“I assure you, it’s nothing personal. 🙂 We don’t do that many shows anywhere, compared to some bands at least, and we haven’t played abroad that many times. I have a regular job performing covers in pubs and clubs every weekend, and the lads in the band all have full time jobs. I have great respect for prog bands of a similar standing to ourselves for putting tours on and going around the world. But at the moment it’s something we would struggle to do. Nevertheless, I’ve very much enjoyed all the gigs I’ve done in Germany, either on my own or with Camel or Cyan. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m sure we’ll play in Germany again at some point.”

What are your plans for the future regarding Tiger Moth Tales?

“I have very rough sketches in my mind for the next two or three albums. There’s one really big project I’ve had in mind for a long time now, but other albums keep coming along. But I@ll get round to it one of these days. There’s also the other two seasons (summer and autumn) which I would like to do in the future. I don’t know if the world is wanting another Story Teller album, but I might do that one of these days. There’s a lot more I want to do and a lot more prog to write. SO I’ll be on to the next project soon.”

You play many instruments yourself, did you study them or did you learn everything autodidactically?

“I started off learning piano at the age of 3 or 4. I learnt a lot by ear. But later I had tuition to get me to a higher standard and through exams ETC. Same with the recorder. But the instruments I learnt later like Sax, guitar, drums ETC, I taught myself pretty much. I’m always grateful for the gift I have of picking up stuff quite quickly. There are other instruments I’ve tried like the flute and the trumpet, but these don’t come naturally to me, so I haven’t persued them much. The guitar was a struggle for a few years, and even now, I don’t consider myself to be a particularly good guitarist. But it’s amazing what you can do in the studio! Haha.”

How did you actually get into the band Camel?

“In 2015, Andy Latimer had heard my album Cocoon. He was searching for a keyboard player at that time. Guy LeBlanc had sadly died earlier that year. Ton Scherpenzeel was another great player who Camel had performed with in the past, but he was unable to do the Japan tour that year. SO Andy got in touch with me. We all got together at the beginning of 2016 for a rehearsal, and we went through the whole set. We seemed to hit it off well, so Andy asked me to do the four dates in Japan. We did the gigs, and it all worked out really well.”

And is it still fun to play there?

“Over the first tour and the longer one in 2018 which finished at the Royal Albert Hall, we really grew together as a band. Andy, Colin and Denis are all fab guys and we have a lot of fun together, and I think we make a pretty good sound too. We had the first lot of rehearsals at the beginning of January for the tour which was supposed to happen this year. And yes, I still very much enjoy playing with Camel. We were all looking forward hugely to the tour before it had to be canceled because of Andy’s serious health condition. But we all hope that we can do it again some day.”

You are still active in other bands and can be heard here and there as a guest musician. Which ones are they and what do you do there exactly?

“How long have you got? Haha. I write lyrics, vocal melodies and play keyboards for Red Bazar. I sing and play saxophone for Rob Reed’s Cyan. I do the same for The Bardic Depths. And until recently, I played keyboards and did backing vocals for Francis Dunnery’s It Bites. And of course, keyboards, vocals and sax for Camel.
My work with other projects includes appearances with Magenta on sax. I’ve done vocals for several people including John Holden, Colin Tench, Lee Abraham, Gordo Bennett (GorMusik), Seven Steps To The Green Door, Luke Machin, Texle, … those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There’s been others, and some more to come. I mostly get asked to contribute vocals, but sometimes saxaphone.
It’s been a great pleasure to be involved in all these things, and I’ve met some great people as a result. The downside is that sometimes it all piles up and gets a bit too much, so I’ve had to learn to say no occasionally.”

One can also experience you as a radio presenter. How did that come about?

“I discovered Progzilla when I was getting in to modern prog, back when it was Cliff Pearson doing it as a one man effort. I initially got in touch with them to try and promote Cocoon. Then in 2015, Progzilla became a fully fledged station and they were looking for presenters. I, like many people, used to pretend to do radio shows when I was a lad. Also, I’ve had a bit of broadcasting experience along the way. I asked Cliff if he’d consider letting me do a show, and he was up for it. So I started Tales From The Tiger Moth with Progzilla back in 2015, and it’s still going. Later this year, I’ll record my 200th show. I think soon I might start getting the hang of it. haha.”

What kind of music do you listen to privately, and what are your musical influences?

“I still listen to Genesis, The Beatels and Queen. They are my favourite bands. My other influences range from George Michael, Phil Colins, Paul Mccartney, The Carpenters, all sorts of pop. But I like a bit of all sorts. Jazz, metal, Classical, Indian classical, Country. It all goes in to the mix at some point.
There’s all the prog stuff of course, which takes up a llot of my listening time. Big Big Train, Frost, Haken, Devin Townsend, Kaipa, the list goes on.
At the moment, I’m listening to a lot of That Joe Payne and also Built For The Future. And I recently discovered an old Italian prog album from Buon Vecchio Charlie which I’m enjoying too. There’s so much great stuff out there. Oh, I forgot to say that I played sax on Christina Booth’s album, which is a really great album too. I always remember that I’m a lucky lad, because there’s a lot of great music out there, and I get to be involved with some of it.”

You can also listen to the full interview on our Mixcloud channel. Click HERE!