Jon S Williams is an internationally unknown primitive music singer songwriter guitarist troubadour performer from Melbourne.
Williams started playing guitar, writing songs and performing at the age of 16 in Canberra. His 1st guitar teacher was John Copley, a finger style guitarist from the 1970s Adelaide folk scene. Copley introduced Williams to Leo Kottke, Doc Watson and the Sex Pistols. Soon after, Williams began playing with Andrew Rowell - tin whistle/bass (Barry Drive) and seeing bands like Midnight Oil, Redgum, Hunters and Collectors, Dead Kennedys, Elvis Costello and the Atrractions. They have played Maldon folk festival as The Angry Pawns.
Williams was an exchange student in Dallas, Texas in 1982/3. It was here at the Lake Highlands High Senior Concert that Williams first tasted the ever lasting longing for live performance, when he received a standing ovation from the 1500 strong student assembly, when he sang 'Poor Ned'. That feeling is what he will chase for the rest of his living days.
Williams then moved to Melbourne in 1984. His next guitar teacher was Rick E Vengeance, a legend on the Australian folk scene and a masterful player of the blues and all things psychedelic folk. Vengeance taught Williams how to play The Needle n the Damage done. Williams started performing in Melbourne coffee shops in 1984, trying out his original songs and interpretations of his favourite bluegrass and folk songs.
Williams played acoustic guitar in the Kensington Bush Band. This sort of music is a great Australian tradition of the past 100 years. Taking a lot from Irish music. He also played solo acoustic in summertime coastal coffee shops, performing his original songs and songs of the radio to people of all ages.
Williams played loud amplified acoustic guitar and sang in King Biscuit Time, a rag tag blues band of University friends and Blues enthusiasts, including Ken Farmer on drums, Chris Farmer on bass, Tex on lead vocals, Jappers on harmonica and Badger sometimes on drums. All through this time Williams continued to play solo, particularly at the Perseverance Hotel on Brunswick street in Fitzroy.
Williams moved to Texas (based in Nacogdoches and Dallas) playing guitar, mandolin, percussion and singing 2nd string in By Way Of, a prog rock group that Williams had formed friendships with when he was a high school exchange student in Dallas in 1982/1983. Andrew Stallings - Vocals/Bass, Bob Kimmerle- drums, Tom Cook - guitar.
Upon returning to Melbourne in 1988 Williams formed and fronted The 3 Sisters with Jeremy Gronow - guitar (Idiot Son, J Gronow), Andrew Papadopolous - bass (Deb Conway, Ron S Peno and the Superstitions) and Nick Green - drums. The 3 Sisters played weekly, a hired PA in tow and packed many smaller rooms and received airplay on PBSfm. [After Williams left the band, they remained as a 3 piece, changed their name to Helvelln, won the National campus battle of the bands, had their 1st (and only) album released by Mushroom and toured nationally for Triple J.]
In 1989/90 Williams sang for Colour Jungle, with Richard Robinson - guitar (live sound engineer for The Avalanches, Rockwiz), Ray Luhrmann - guitar (The Dirt Band), John E Lee - drums (The Dingoes) and Sean Dwyer - bass. Colour Jungle received airplay on RRR, played weekly and launched a cassingle at The Tote.
Williams formed a duo with Andrew Shakespeare - guitar (Hurdy Gurdy). They played weekly around Melbourne and recorded in Richmond.
From 1991-1992 Williams fronted Haunted Stage, a folk punk band, with Ashley Hazelwood - bass/vocals (Wild Pumpkins at Midnight), Kim Thomas - drums and Kari Morseth - flute/vocals. Haunted Stage was included on the 1st La Trobe University compilation CD. Haunted Stage played their final show at The Tote.
Williams then continued to play with Thomas in Inside Out, a folk rock band, from 1992-95, with Ro Packer on Violin. Inside Out were included on the 3rd La Trobe University compilation CD and performed at Port Fairy Folk Festival. Williams and Thomas continued to jam and write throughout this whole period.
Williams assembled a band to record at La Trobe University studios and play one show at the Empress Hotel. Richard Robinson and Andrew Shakespeare on guitars, Andrew Papadopolous on bass and Andy Wilmott on drums. This CD was favourably reviewed in The Form Guide, the monthly zine put out by the infamous Punter's Club and Richard Moffat.
Williams formed his 2nd band with Andrew Shakespeare called The New Leaves, a melodic rock band. Peter Whitehead - bass (Barb Waters and the Rough Diamonds) and David Craven - drums (Florid State, Quixotic). The New Leaves recorded with Richard Robinson at Bakehouse studios and the CD was mastered by Ross Cockle (Midnight Oil) at Sing Sing studios and performed at the Darebin Festival twice, as well as playing regular pub gigs.
Williams recorded his first solo album 'Sensitive
to my Surroundings' with Richard Robison - production at Bakehouse studios. He
released this at the Cygnet Folk Festival. He also played a headline spot at the Earthfest festival.
Williams recorded his 2nd album with Shane O'Mara (Paul Kelly, Chris Wilson, Tim Rogers) and released this at the Maldon Folk Festival.
After seeing a show by Girls Versus Boys whilst living in Barcelona for 2 months in 2008, Williams was inspired to start playing the electric guitar in a more punk/hard core style. When he returned to Melbourne he formed his 2nd band with David Craven on drums, called City of Cool. They recorded an EP in March 2009 with Idge E Crack at Soundpark studios (where Williams had been recording solo acoustic for 5 years), and played a few shows. They then had a 3 year hiatus while Craven lived in London.
Williams recorded a solo CD entitled ‘energy back will bite’ at Soundpark recording studio in 2010. It featured Nick Larkins - bass/organ/farfisa/harmoncia (Wild Pumpkins at Midnight, Dan Rumour Band, The Deans, Monique Brumby), Jeremy Gronow - space guitar and Idge E Crack - Production/Drums. David Briggs (Little River Band) mastered the CD. Williams played a most successful CD launch at Wesley Anne, in High street Northcote.
City of Cool recorded live @ The Espy and played monthly shows around Melbourne as well as road trips to regional Victoria. They received airplay on PBS and 3CR as well as in The USA, Croatia and Greece. Williams began 2014 by playing live at The Bitter End in New York City. He played this show with his new Martin Custom M-36, bought and designed by Mat Umanov in Greenwich Village and with a Fishman pickup installed by TR Crandall, the man who sets up guitars for the likes of David Byrne and Lee Ranaldo.
Williams then traveled to Auckland twice, to record City of Cool's debut full length album with drummer David Craven. Olly Harmer engineered and mixed at The Lab recording studios, Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 November, 2014.
Williams returned to the Melbourne live music scene with City of Cool and played a couple of solo shows, and continued writing, always writing. It is always time for further musical and lyrical exploration and the live setting has always been an important element of this discovery process. Williams also bought a Fender Custom shop Jazzmaster from the Chicago Music Exchange, which like all his guitars (including the Nash telecaster he bought in 2012), is modded and set up by Sammy Crawford.
The following article was posted on April 7, 2015 by Mary Boukouvalas in Q&A Scene http://whatsmyscene.com/qa-scene-jon-s-williams-of-city-of-cool/
What’s My Scene caught up with Jon S Williams of City of Cool, an internationally unknown primitive rock band based in Melbourne. Who is in your band? City of Cool is Jon S Williams: Vocals/Guitar and David Craven: Drums Tell us about your new album? In March 2008, whilst living in Barcelona, Jon saw NYC Hardcore band ‘Girls Against Boys’ in a small club. The idea for City of Cool was born. When Jon returned to Melbourne he called David and City of Cool began September 2008. Delays were experienced while David lived in London 2011/12 and Auckland 2014. This debut album is a result of all the writing and playing that went on in these years. A particularly coherent and focused body of work has resulted. How would you describe your sound in food form and why? City of Cool is a home cooked meal or a slow cooked meal at a local restaurant where City of Cool walked or rode a bike. All ingredients are sourced from local markets and/or grown in the backyard garden. “The globalisation of agricultural systems over recent decades is likely to have been one of the most important causes of overall increases in greenhouse gas emissions” (Steven Shrybman) City of Cool inherently rejects the dominant paradigm of globalised mass consumerism and fast food. Which song resonates most strongly and why? All songs on this debut album relate to one another, that is why it is an album. However, the lead track ‘CCTV’ is 20 seconds long and resulted from a rehearsal jam just after David returned from London, so that song has a particular resonance. Any on the road anecdotes? Jon joined David twice in Auckland in 2014. One solid weekend spent in pre-production/rehearsal and then another weekend spent rehearsing/recording/mixing. However, during 2014 another evening was spent in Sydney rehearsing @ Zen studios. Anyone who has been there will know it is right next to the airport. City of Cool did not know that. When Jon and David were walking to the studio from the train station they thought their world had come to an end when a plane flew overhead so low you could read the writing on its underbelly. A massive and sonic earthquake rehearsal resulted. Where do you draw inspiration from? Currently on the City of Cool turntable are the following albums: Shellac (Dude Incredible), Bob Mould (Beauty and Ruin), Swans (To be kind), Fugazi (Repeater), OFF! (Wasted Years), Girls Against Boys (You can’t fight what you can’t see), The Dacios (Monkey’s Blood), Thurston Moore (The Best Day). Recent gigs attended: Jon – Golden Plains, The Meanies @ Northcote Social Club, Midnight Woolf @ Bar Open, Riff Fist @ Brunswick Hotel. David: 10 local punk bands @ Whammy Bar (Auckland). Recent movies watched: Whiplash, The Big Lebowski, Inherent Vice, Eraserhead, Only lovers left alive. Books read: Jon and David – How Music Works by David Byrne. What’s your scene? Local bands at sticky carpet venues. Vinyl. Social networking. Keeping healthy in order to play full throttle live sets. Loud rehearsals. Good people with creative ideas. PRIMITIVE ROCK.
Pre-production for HEAVY MEDITATION begins @ SoundPark. Jon records a number of tunes acoustically. They become his latest release PLAYING THE ACOUSTIC GUITAR IS LIKE RIDING A BIKE. Jon plays a show with Southern FM. “Jon S Williams is a seasoned and versatile musician. Several months after fronting up to the Live Sunday Sessions with his two-piece hard rock duo “City Of Cool”, JSW was back to show his softer, more sensitive side with an accoustic set that surprised and delighted both those in the studio and the listeners as feedback told us. During the course of the afternoon the odd rant, interspersed with some beautiful melodic tracks, a dazzling Violent Femmes medley and a Redgum cover we got to the source of a man comfortable with his place in the world of music. Take a listen here to a wonderful live acoustic set from Jon and let us know what you think.”
Jon also plays 2 shows to release the CD. Sunday 13 December 530pm @ Thornbury Local and Sunday 20 December 1030pm @ Brunswick Hotel with The Church of Hysteria and Nick Larkins and the Bones. BOOM! 2 demo sessions are recorded. This is the 1st time Jon has used the studio as a song crafting tool. He has worked with Idge before on many occasions - the nature of Idge's drumming changes the nuance of some of the songs, plus a couple of new songs are written between demo sessions and arrangements are rearranged. PLUS. A new band is recruited. Mark McCartney (guitar) approaches Jon! A real game changer and inspires Jon to recruit Jeremy Gronow (guitar) and Andy Papadopolous (bass) - this is now as close to a 3 Sisters reunion as you are ever going to get. The 1st rehearsal is at SoundPark Monday 7 December 2015. 2 more rehearsals in the week leading up to the recording/mixing sessions at SoundPark Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 January.
December 20, 2015
City of Cool play
the brunswick hotel with nick larkins and the bones and the church of hysteria.
Saturday 2 January 2016 gig @ Thornbury local
Heavy Meditation is released: “Welcome to my latest recording: Heavy Meditation. D.I.Y. Self-financed. Independent. My name is Jon S Williams and I am a Primitive Rock Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist/Performer from Melbourne, Australia. Heavy Meditation is a culmination of reconnections and consolidations. Recorded live at SoundPark with the full band on Wednesday 20 January 2016. Idge (Engineer/Drums) and I then added further instrumentation and vocals the next day, followed by 2 mixing sessions. Mastered with Finn Keane at HeadGap. This was the 1st time I have recorded with both Jeremy Gronow (Guitar) and Andy Papadopoulos (Bass) since we played in a band together in 1988; a real delight. I’ve been recording with Idge for 10 years, and this was yet another chance to co-produce and spend creative time in the studio together. It was wonderful to get the driving energy of Mark McCartney (Guitar) on-board, as well as David Storen (Guitar) to further explode the sound. Idge’s brother John worked the tape machine and Daniel Cachia filmed. Raja Gupta provided the artwork. I wrote all the songs except for Poor Ned (Trevor Lucas). www.jonswilliams.org”
Williams starts playing Monday nights onstage 730-800 @ Cherry Bar ACDC Lane Melbourne CBD in the depths of winter - July.
“An absolutely amazing experience getting to play on a weekly basis. Always wanted to do it, and now at the age of 51 I do! Thanks to Red, who runs the night, for giving me the opportunity. I put my beautiful jazzmaster in it soft carry case, put it on my back and either catch the tram or drive the car. This is the reality of live independent original music - the audience is fleeting if not un-existent. So why do I do it? The moments of catharsis, of transcendence, where space and time is eradicated and the moment is eternal and non - a paradoxical dichotomy. A beautiful thing indeed.”
Tuesday 27 Sept - City of cool records a live to air @ 3CR with Mike Smith - Let you freak flag fly
Heavy Meditation is getting some airplay on RRR, PBS, 3CR, Southern FM, Bendigo FM, The Little Lighthouse (Cleveland USA)
Heavy Meditation is launched with Williams playing solo electric @ Tago Mago (High street, Thornbury) Saturday 22 October – onstage 9:00-9:45pm – supporting Ten Gallon Head and Sons of Lee Marvin
2016 ends in a fine fashion with Williams being awarded the best Monday night Act at the Cherry Bar Awards. Thanks to Red for his support and all the gigs, as well as Sunday night gigs.
Recorded 11 songs with Idge recording and mixing at Sound Park Studios and Dan Cachia filming. All songs can be found on You Tube.
Sunday 4 June: I've always wanted to establish some sort of profile in Melbourne, so I can get to play regularly. With the following (very kind) blurb from Cherry Bar, I really feel like I have finally done that. Thanks to Redro Redriguez for supporting my music and giving me gigs. I love playing music and I love playing music at Cherry Bar.
"Jon S Williams doesn't need permission to be an artist. His creative, and energetic Art Brut attack has been a constant highlight of The Cherry Jam open mic for a year. We celebrate this local hero on Sunday 25th of June. Jon will be supported by the most exciting, fascinating, and entertaining new acts gathered from the Monday sessions. Prepare to find yourself a new favourite band at this gig!" by Cherry Bar
Monday 2 October - after 15 months (about 60 gigs) this was the last Monday Night Gig @ Cherry Bar (the evening is cancelled)
November and December sees Williams play every Tuesday night @ Tago Mago. City of Cool play the Bendigo Hotel - Friday 22 December, with La Bronco, Yeah Yea Whatever and Redro Redriguez and His Inner Demons.
Williams buys a new Maton EM110J. The scene is set for a return to the acoustic singer songwriter troubadour approach. New songs written in January - March, ready for a new band recording.
Saturday 5 May - rehearsal with old buddies Andy Papadopoulos (bass) and Jeremy Gronow (electric guitar) and playing with Phil Campbell (drums) for the 1st time. Everyone learning the songs and singing the choruses! Demos on bandcamp.
Recording of the new album 'The Violence is Slipping away' at Sound Park (where else!) with Idge (who else!) Saturday 2 June.
2 gigs are played (Old Bar and The Grace Darling) with Luke You and City of Cool. A CD is recorded live at Soundpark rehearsal and released as a CD/YOU zine.
November - Album launch at Wesley Anne. Jon S Williams and the Recalcitrants is born.
Demos are recorded for both City of Cool and Jon S Williams and the Recalcitrants...