If you were alive and listening to the radio in the 80's you know who The Jets are. Songs like "Crush On You," "You Got It All," "Cross My Broken Heart," "Make It Real" and "Rocket 2 U" were all over the airwaves. The Jets came back in the late '90s to tour and have been back in the studio recording. Their latest release, Versatlity, is being released digitally on UMe and recently I spoke with Rudy Wolfgramm about their comeback, the album and being a family band.
You're going digital with this release. Why?
As you know things are starting to move in that direction. There was a big MediaPlay store here that just went out of business because I think the next generation is no longer gonna get their music from CD's but downloads.
As an artist who's created albums do you lament the loss of the complete album?
Well you know it's interesting because part of me says yes, I kind of lament the fact that it isn't like before when you had a record label pretty much get a deal for you. Now with technology it's kind of a weird situation because a part of me misses the past and another part of me is kinda glad because you get to do a lot on your own and get it released and there's just more exposure for bands these days, I think, outside of just a record company.
For a band in your position, an established group that's reestablishing yourselves, why did you choose digital? What went into the decision?
I think it's because where we're at as a band, we're pretty much together but with the downloads we have a lot of material that was never actually out there or able to be signed and put onto an actual album so we decided this is good for us because we can do something at Universal and they can take some of our material that a lot of fans know about but never heard on the actual albums and get it to them.
Do you feel this is better for bands in your position or newer groups?
I think it has ups and downs. For established artists it's actually really good because you already have a following and you have a lot of websites where you can go and say hey look at our stuff. It's easier for the fans to come and go through and hear what we have. The problem for unsigned artists is basically there are so many bands and it's just like a sea. How do you find a particular band when there are so many?
With that in mind, having your fan base obviously helps you a lot, but what else are you doing to make sure your songs do get downloaded?
We actually are using a lot of our websites, sites that are about The Jets like crushonyou.com, The Jets at MySpace, and there are a lot of other outlets to go to and just kinda let them know The Jets are back with a new album. We do a lot of making sure that all of our resources on the net are informed.
Are you touring right now?
We're doing a small little tour, we're doing tours all over the country here and there, it's not a really organized tour.
The newer work that you've been performing, how much of it has changed from back in the late 80's to adjust to being 2006?
It went from pop in the 80's where it was really pretty much that period of pop, now we have members of the band, as you know The Jets were a family of 17 brothers and sisters and the younger ones who weren't in the original group who were still doing a lot of the shows with The Jets have a collective of different kinds of music. On this new download album that we have we have music that's emo rock, we have folk, we have all kinds, not just pop, not just the pop of the past, you know we really can't do that anymore. We're just trying to show our fans The Jets have moved on, we're not just a pop group, we do rock music, we do folk music, we do all kinds of music now.
Is this why you named the album Versatility?
Yes because of the younger members who aren't really into the pop of music and have moved on. We have a group under The Jets called Against The Season and it's really neat because when you hear the new Jets album we're showcasing what we're all about as a family and all our different tastes in music.
I think in order to be pure pop now you have to be a 17 year old girl who shows her midriff.
Yeah and as you know that's starting to disappear now these days with young people more keen about music, about what bands are for real and what bands are made up.
As someone who's been through and seen the pop scene for the past 20 years from the inside, is it really a cycle, a big circle, and if so what's next?
It's interesting because there is a new way of doing music. Pop music will always be around but it's starting to change into other kinds of genres of music, things used to be alternative now are pop and what was once pop is now becoming adult-contemporary, or country, but I've been in the industry for a while and I realize what has changed drastically, what changed everything, is the internet, and it's giving bands and audiences a way to connect without having a middle man as much. We still need the middle man, meaning the big record label, but young people, we have noticed, want to have music that's kind of out there, that no one really has yet, that hasn't become totally mainstream. I think that's what's really good about now in the music industry, the labels already know they have to change for the times and it's easier for the audience to connect and get music without having to go strictly through a major record label.
One thing I've always wondered and finally I have someone who can answer this for me, I know a lot of your songs, especially Rocket 2 You, have ended up on those compilation albums, The Best of the 80's type of things, do those give you any kind of good money or is it just kind of exposure at that point?
It's now exposure at this point, the ones that still make money off them are the writers, publishers. We still get something from the record label, Universal's been very good to us so it's really nice doing something with them on a different level and it gives us more freedom that we're able to express our music. If this was a normal record then you'd have a lot of people kinda directing the kind of music you have, this new Jets album we're able to do all kinds of sounds on a download album that we wouldn't do on a normal particular album.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the album, or about yourself, or about downloading?
We're just excited about the album, we want our fans to know we've grown. The 80's was such a long time ago. We're living in a new millennia and we want to create some new fans. We know that the older fans are gonna listen to the stuff and I think they know that times have changed and you can't have the same kind of music from the 80's so I think a lot of our fans appreciate that was have been able to move forward and change and we're hearing from them and they're letting us know they do like this new direction. When we tour around there are 17 brothers and sister and when The Jets started these kids were barely being born and now they're teenagers. People come and see and they think they're seeing some of my sisters that haven't my aged but they're realizing they're the younger brothers and sisters. The older ones are kind of directing them and kind of behind the scenes now, but we still work as a family and do some shows all together. I look back and I really feel fortunate that we lived in the best period. The 80's were so great because you still had some of the 70's sound, but the 80's had all kinds of great sound and all of a sudden we got lost in all that creative from New Wave to the third British invasion of music. But it's been lost now and I sometimes can't relate to some of the music that's on the radio stations because now it's just a loop, it's just a beat and it doesn't really have the typical song that I'm used to which you had in the 80's.