Uncle John and Whitelock - A Post-mortem by Jacob Yates

In celebration of the acknowledgment shown to their debut LP by our readership, Mark Shukla talks to Jacob Yates (formerly Jacob Lovatt) about his time as frontman of one of Scotland's most loved cult bands.

Feature by Mark Shukla | 25 Nov 2009
  • Uncle John & Whitelock

Uncle John and Whitelock had a unique aura - it was irresistible to project a fantastic imagined back-story onto this strange, imposing gang. Part of the group's myth was created by the fans, and it seemed much was cultivated by the band. How much of the band was an 'art project' and what effect did it have on you when it ended?

The band certainly began life as a concept but quickly took on a life of its own. Myself and Raydale (Whitelock) had a close eye on how the band was presented but even that was organic. You never know what may come out of the ether.

Uncle John slayed everytime they played live. What made the band's chemistry work so well?

The chemistry the band had was that we are all friends and believed in what we were doing and we never took ourselves too seriously. Live, we delivered a show and did what a live band should do, that is give the audience something to watch and react to. Plus I think that our stomach for massive amounts of booze helped.

We have a memory of you at the final Edinburgh gig introducing a song with words along the lines of "this song is about pure thought. Pure thought is what killed this band." Can you expand on what was meant by this or explain your reasons for bringing the band to an end?

If I said that then I was drunk - what I say on-stage is a mystery to me sometimes. Pure thought had something to do with it, in that I had to be ruthless with my ego to cut something so great out of my life. When the end arrived I found myself in a place that I wasn't happy in, it was all taking too much effort and that wasn't what the band was about. In a nutshell, I was going a bit mad. I suppose I just felt sad; I was having less fun. It was a relief to put a stop to it but pretty soon my mind was back writing songs and thinking about a new project.

When was the last time you listened to There is Nothing Else... and what is your opinion of the way it turned out?

The last time I listened to the album right the way through? I can't remember. It stirs up a lot of emotion, I have great memories of writing all of those songs and recording them but ultimately it hurts because I miss it. I miss playing music with Raydale, Matty, Dave and Hobson. It was a rare honour and if you're reading this I love you. I think the album turned out as a testament to a truly original band, I will always wonder whether me and Raydale were too crazy to insist on it being a double album but that was the concept and we stayed true. I think - the way things turned out - it was good to get it all down. I stand by it as a masterpiece.

What is your fondest memory of your time in the band?

Fondest memory... there are too many. All of us riding shopping bikes through a Slovenian wood was good fun. The look on the faces of the good people of Ljubljana as we played on a sunny afternoon in the
city centre. The last gig ever at King Tut's was a really moving experience. Rare times every trip, every gig.

What's the latest word on Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers? Any releases or gigs planned?

Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, I think, have the same integrity and drive as Uncle John and Whitelock. I still write the same way and we put on a show live and that's where it's at. No one presents music like we do. We've just finished the soundtrack for a film called I'll Be Right Here which was a new thing for me. The film is amazing. On the live front we will play some shows around theĀ  festive period and hopefully release a 45 in the new year.

What are the chances of an Uncle John and Whitelock reunion?

Uncle John and Whitelock have reformed twice since their demise: once on the occasion of my stag night and again by chance at a speakeasy in Glasgow, rare and somewhat disturbing. I always said that it
would cost a million pounds for each member to stop - that never happened by the way. It would cost a lot, perhaps too much to reform. Accidents do happen.

Music by Tut Vu Vu, a band featuring three former members of Uncle John and Whitelock can be found here.