Jona Weinhofen is a name you can’t miss in today’s heavy music scene. After starting I Killed The Prom Queen back in 2000, and subsequently playing in not one, but two massive international bands (Bleeding Through and Bring Me The Horizon), Jona is bringing it all back to square one by reviving Adelaide’s favourite sons I Killed The Prom Queen. The band are playing the Destroy Music tour in May with The Amity Affliction. Jona took a break after another hectic show with Bring Me The Horizon, to talk about new Prom Queen vocalist Jamie Hope, living in three countries at once and why you should never get agree to a game of soccer with Winston from Parkway.
After the Say Goodbye tour did you have plans to reform the band or is it something that only came up recently?
I wouldn’t say there were plans. But that tour was a moment of realization for everyone in the band, in terms of how good we had it and how good those shows were. It was an awesome tour that we thought ‘fuck, should we think about doing something in the future’. The Say Goodbye tour was the spawning of the idea of a reformation. That’s when we began talking about options and different ideas and timeframes and all that sort of stuff. Somehow it’s taken a period of three years to get everything set out straight and to a point where we are all happy moving forward.
Will you guys work on new material when rehearsing for the Destroy Music tour?
We’re going to have a hard enough time keeping things tight as a band. We haven’t played together in years. I don’t know whether at the rehearsal studio it’ll be like riding a bike again, or whether it’ll be like shaking off the cobwebs and trying not to suck *laughs*. But who knows, we have something like two weeks to rehearse before the tour starts, and some ideas might come about. But I don’t think we’re set out to focus on writing new material just yet. We’ve definitely set aside some time at the end of this year and the start of next year, when I have a break from Bring Me The Horizon’s tour schedule and JJ has a break from Deez Nuts, that’s when we’re looking at really getting together and collaborating on some new gear.
I can imagine (new vocalist) Jamie’s voice being more suited to the Music For The Recently Deceased era material. Do you see the Destroy Music set focusing on MFTRD material or having quite a bit of earlier songs like the Say Goodbye tour?
There will definitely be a bit of variation. However, I think the Say Goodbye tour was in a way closing that chapter of Prom Queen. We did the tour with Crafter and we played some older stuff that he was featured on. But we’re moving forward. This is now three years on from that tour, and I’m not even sure how many of our fans that come out to see The Amity Affliction and Prom Queen are gonna know the older material. We’ll definitely bust out a few oldies for anyone there who cares or wants to hear them. But for us, it’s probably more important for us to play Music For The Recently Deceased, especially because we’re re-issuing that CD in time for the tour.
What has Sean been up to musically while Prom Queen has been on a break, apart from playing bass in Deez Nuts?
He’s dabbled in a few projects. But when Prom Queen decided to call it quits or go on hiatus, whatever you want to call it, back in 2007, he was happy to take a break and chill out a bit. He had a steady girlfriend at the time, and he just wanted to lay low for a bit. He did a few bands in Perth with some guys over there. He wrote some acoustic material that he never really did anything with. That was his time to chill out I guess, while everyone else wanted to start something new or join other bands and keep rocking.
How do you find living in England? Have you been picking up English habits like drinking endless cups of tea and keeping tabs on the royals?
I definitely do drink more tea than I ever had before, it’s kinda weird *laughs*. But, technically I don’t live here, which is also very strange. I never actually moved here, I don’t have a place that I live when I’m over here. The only time I’ve ever really spent here was when we were writing the new album for Bring Me The Horizon, and that was only a period for about three months, and for a lot of that time we rented a manor and went up there to write. Outside of that, I’ve been staying with my girlfriend who lives in Norway, which is another obscure place. However it’s pretty central for me, in terms of being close to England and being close to the band, it’s only a two-hour flight, so I can easily get there and do any press or anything that I need to do. I’ve basically been living between Norway and Adelaide. And I don’t get to come back to Australia too often, so I wouldn’t even say I live in Adelaide. I’m more of a couch surfer these days.
I saw Oslo on your Myspace and wondered what the deal was.
Yeah *laughs*. That’s probably where I’ve spent the most time off-tour in the last two years.
At the Bristol gig Bring Me The Horizon played some acoustic songs. How did that go down, how does Bring Me The Horizon sound acoustic? Which songs did you do?
It definitely wasn’t glamorous *laughs*. We had a power cut and the whole venue was evacuated and the venue basically decided to cancel the show. There was an angry mob of 1600 punters outside of our bus, and we’re like ‘shit, are they going to riot, or are they going to be cool, or are they just going to home and disperse’. There were a few kids yelling. Some police decided to show up and we’re like ‘holy shit, what’s going to go on here’. We just came up with this funny idea to jump on this cargo container that was out in the parking lot next to the venue and play some acoustic songs. A lot of Bring Me The Horizon is pretty heavy but there are a few melodic songs that can translate into acoustic music. We got up there and we thought it was something kinda funny that we could do for fans that missed out on the gig. It turned out we’ve rescheduled the gig for this Tuesday anyway, so they still get to see us. It was just one of those weird, one-off ideas that we decided to go with at the time.
Jamie Hope’s vocal style in The Red Shore is obviously very death-metal influenced, how do you see it fitting in with Prom Queen? Do you think we’ll see a different side to his vocals, as he’s working in a more melodic band?
It’s been so long since we’ve written stuff that no-one really knows what anything new is going to sound like. Jamie’s fairly versatile as a vocalist. We’ve had one rehearsal with him a few weeks ago, when I was back in the country for Soundwave with Bring Me The Horizon. It sounded cool and we asked him to do a few different things, a few different sounds and styles. Like you said, his voice his voice is going to work really well with the material from Music For The Recently Deceased, but he’s versatile enough that he can change it around if we decide to write stuff which sounds crazily different, which I can’t really see happening.
Did you consider asking Ben Coyte to do vocals for Prom Queen?
Yeah that was definitely an idea that came about, around two years ago. And he again has a really unique style of voice, and we weren’t sure that his voice would work so much with the style of music that we were playing more recently. He’s a good mate of ours and it was an idea that got talked about. He’s a bit older again, and he’s had his fair share of touring and doing bands and we weren’t sure that he’d even want to do a band like that
How is Matt’s hand? How is the Bring Me The Horizon set going with Dan (Architects) on the kit?
*laughs* Yeah it’s not bad. It was a bit rough the first day. Dan only had about 45 minutes to learn our entire set. Matt’s been told he’s still got a couple of weeks before he can get his cast off, and it’ll be six week before he regains full mobility and can play the drums again. So he’s out, but luckily we have a whole month off after this tour. He might be out for the first few European festivals we have coming up after the break. Like you said, Dan’s filling in for us on drums, and he’s done a really awesome job. We played Brixton Academy last night to 5000 people, and there wasn’t too many stuff-ups, which was wicked *laughs*.
Did you consider asking Ben from Parkway to play drums?
Yeah, well our first thought was to ask all three drummers on the tour to learn a few songs each. But, we’ve done so much touring with Architects that Dan was fairly confident that he could play the whole set, and he’s a bit of a fan of the band as well, so he knew the songs fairly well already. Like I said, he had 45 minutes to learn the set and he pretty much pulled it off on that first night, so that’s why we decided to stick with the one guy.
What comics have you been reading lately?
I’m reading one called Crossed and it is fucking gnarly. It’s sort of a zombie theme, but it doesn’t even name it as a virus. It’s about a bunch of people who spread this condition through any kind of bodily fluids, so if they spit into your face, you immediately turn into one of them. They are referred to as The Crossed, and they have this weird infection on their face in the shape of a cross. Basically, it turns you insane and they go around pillaging and raping anyone that’s anywhere is near them. It’s about a small group of survivors that are trying to travel from southern America all the way up to Alaska to escape these crazy people. It’s one of the most violent comics I’ve read.
Will Amity be playing last on all the Destroy Music dates?
We’ve agreed to let them close the tour for a number of reasons. The tour already existed before Prom Queen were ever added. It was basically Amity’s headline tour, and they offered for I Killed The Prom Queen to do the tour, and we had a talk about who should be closing the tour. We agreed that it was fine for them to close the tour. We’ve decided to do co-billing, which basically means the name’s the same size on the poster and we get the same amount of beers every night. We were fine with that, we didn’t mind playing second to last every night. If anything, hopefully we put on a wicked show and they’re the ones who have to go out and top that.
Have you had much time to hang out with the Parkway guys on your UK tour?
I float between our dressing room and theirs every day. Their tour manager Webber, not sure if you know him, he’s from Adelaide. I’ve been good mates with him for about 11 years. I hang out with him a lot. And there was the infamous match where Matt broke his hand, that was between Bring Me The Horizon and Parkway Drive. They were just playing soccer out in the field by the venue. Winston from Parkway kicked the ball and clipped Matt Nicolls’ hand with his foot.
A# is a somewhat unusual tuning to be playing in. Why do you choose to play in A# in Bring Me The Horizon?
I don’t even know *laughs*. Horizon has always had pretty low tunings, and I guess when they wrote Suicide Season they experimented a bit more. There is a few different tunings we use for various songs. The way we decide how it’s going to be tuned is just the vibe of the song as we are writing it. We tried writing a few riffs in a certain tuning and it sounded strange, so we just tried it in a different tuning and it sounded better and felt better. The new material is in three different tunings: C standard, drop A# and drop G, which is ultra low, we only have a few songs in G. It’s cool to change things up, it keeps things fresh. It’s weird, you can play a guitar in the same tuning, and when you are writing stuff you seem to get the same ideas over and over, and as soon as you change one little thing, such as tuning your guitar down a step, or experimenting with different open chord tunings, it opens you up to a whole new world of writing different kinds of music. I guess that’s one of the reasons the band experiment with different tunings, it sheds a bit of new light on the writing process.
What was the tuning you used in Prom Queen material?
Everything prior to Music For The Recently Deceased was drop C, and Music For The Recently Deceased was recorded in drop B.
Were you disappointed to hear of Carpathian’s hiatus?
Being a friend to a lot of those guys and knowing them fairly well, it was something that I saw as a long time coming. Even just watching from afar and looking at with their touring schedule over the last few years, and seeing it slowly taper off until the point where they almost weren’t touring at all. So when they announced it, I just thought ‘alright, yeah, that’s not really that much of a surprise.’ They will probably start new bands or do exactly what the guys from Prom Queen did, take a break and go off and enjoy other bands and start other ventures.
Eating good food isn’t easy on the road, is it a challenge to find decent vegan meals in a different city every night?
I’ve got that sweet iPhone app that tells you where all the restaurants are nearby and health food stores and stuff like that. With Bring Me The Horizon where at a point where we can request certain things on our catering rider and most of the time we get what we ask for. There is never a shortage of vegan sliced meat and cheeses. I manage to eat fairly healthy on tour, we’ve got plenty of salad, fruit, veg and stuff to make sandwiches with. I picked up some vegemite from a store over here the other day, and I had some of that on crumpets yesterday, so I’m doing alright!
Do you get all your tattoo work done with Derek Noble in Seattle now?
More or less. I’ve been tattooed by a few different people since, but that’s been little bits and pieces. All my pieces have been done by him since 2008, when I first got my sleeve and my left hand done by him. I’ve admired his work for years and when I finally realised I was going to be near him long enough to start getting big tattoos done by him I kinda fell in love with his style even more. I haven’t really found anyone else who I really care about tattooed enough by. Plus I’m old now and I hate getting tattooed. Getting tattooed once a year by Derek Noble when I’m on tour in the states is fine by me.
Several Destroy Music shows have already sold-out, leading to more dates being added. Where you expecting such a response to the revived Prom Queen so many years after you were last active?
Honestly, I try not to have any expectations. Especially with Prom Queen, because it’s been so long since we’ve been active or played any shows or anything. For us to come into this tour to expect everything to be sold out and for us to be massive, would be dumb, especially if it didn’t happen and it’d just lead to disappointment. It’s really cool that the shows are selling out. I didn’t doubt whether it would go well because of how well Amity Affliction are doing. Especially after seeing them perform on Soundwave fest when I was there with Horizon. Seeing them kill it every night, I was like ‘oh well, this tour in May, even without Prom Queen it would go fine with these guys cause they are killing it at the moment’.