SEATTLE – It is September 1979. I am in high school in Horsforth, a suburb of Leeds, England. My friend Pete had the kind of drum kit every young rocker dreams about – a black Premier Elite with a full battery of single headed concert toms (very Phil Collins).
He was already playing gigs at parties around town with his band and at one of them, I got horribly drunk, staggered home and threw up everywhere. My dad promptly called up Pete to chastise him for my behavior; something we still laugh about now. I guess my parents clocked him as a bad influence, and they were right in a way.
At the time we were both listening to a lot of Rush, Black Sabbath, Led Zep, Thin Lizzy and other hard/prog rock groups.
With money saved from a paper round I bought a battered chrome Tama Swing Star kit. I liked it because Stewart Copeland played Swing Stars. Once it was installed in my bedroom, I decided it was time to join a band. Sometime in 1982 I answered an ad placed on the notice board at Jumbo Records.
I met the singer, Jon, shortly afterwards. He described himself as an anarchist and was studying politics at Liverpool University. I had never met an anarchist before, and I was intrigued. Jon instructed me to stop listening to Rush because of their admiration of Ayn Rand, who was a fascist. Jon then made me a cassette sampler of Joy Division, The Cure, The Monochrome Set and Echo and The Bunnymen. This cassette became my template for the musical journey I was about to go on with Jon.
I was now in the sixth form studying A levels and we had just read a short story about a dying man called "Flowers For Algernon." I adapted the title to name the band Flowers For Agatha. I was starting to sneak out to the clubs and something else was happening in the city: Goth.
My first ever gig was in a pub called The Packhorse on the edge of a park where the Yorkshire Ripper would take his victims. I was nervous as hell, (not because of the Ripper) but because my parents showed up to cheer me on.
A lovely show of support in retrospect, but at the time I was horrified that my mum turned up in a fox fur jacket.
The show was a blur of nerves, sweat and Tetleys Bitter, lots of dropped sticks, hairspray and unnecessary fills. I was hooked.
No one in the band could play at all. Paul the bassist and Mick the guitarist were real one-string wonders, and my mother would often describe Jon's voice as like a cow in some sort of labor pain. I would practice and rehearse Flowers for Agatha in my bedroom at the bottom of Horsforth School Drive. So it wasn't long before everyone at school knew I was in a band. This was met with ridicule and curiosity in equal measure.
When Mick left, we found a replacement in Rab, a Scot living in Bramley: A more competent guitarist with some interesting ideas about stage craft. My mother still complains about how he dragged dog shit all the way up to my bedroom from his giant sized high tops one afternoon.
We recorded demos at Lion Studios in '82 and '83: Not exactly Monserrat, but it had a reverb unit made out of a slinky and a drain pipe that made everything sound kind of pro. I think i had just bought a pair of Rototoms before the first session. You can hear me trying to put them in at every opportunity on our first offerings.
Thankfully the drumming and overall fidelity improved a bit by the second stint. By then we were playing around Leeds and had become a bit of a fixture on the alternative scene.
I think the high water mark for me was playing the fabled goth club Le Phonographique: a dingy spot underneath the Merrion shopping center. It was the ground zero of gloom, frequented by all the local movers and shakers of the scene.
Somewhere along the line I started to see the limitations of the group and lost interest. I was superseded by a bunch of kids I went to school with coincidentally enough and another lad from the posh school who wound up writing the popular TV comedy "The League Of Gentlemen." They signed to Cherry Red and opened for The Cult, but I had had my moment playing on the lager and black soaked carpet on the floor at Le Phonographique.
I went to University in London with a fire in my belly for playing music, thanks to Flowers For Agatha.
Jonny Cragg was born in Hythe England on July 18th 1966. Raised and educated in Yorkshire he chose Leeds as his spiritual home. Whilst at school he learned to play the drums, playing in local bands until opting to study Psychology at the University of East London in 1985.
Almost by accident his first job after graduation was back behind the drums for Leeds band The Hollowmen. They recorded four studio albums, signed to Arista Records, and toured extensively throughout Europe. A press trip to New York served to strengthen his resolve to move to the States, and that finally happened in the Spring of 1993. By the following year, Cragg had formed Spacehog with a group of Leeds expatriates in The Lower East Side: The group went onto sell millions of records, and tour the world to great success. He remains active in the group having made four studio albums to date.
Jonny is also a session musician, producer, writer, DJ and educator. His credits include: The Pierces, Supergrass, Edie Brickell, The Utah Saints, David Johansen and Richard Butler and Marty Wilson Piper, HBO, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.
He has two daughters, Laila and Domino, and lives with his partner in Seattle.