An Exclusive Interview with the Reclusive Ella Jo

Diamond Seeds talks with Ella Jo about her groundbreaking trilogy of Album’s

January 31st 2010

It’s not easy putting an album together when you are on your own and  female in a male dominated business. Ella Jo has put together not just one classic album, but three!
We caught up with the reclusive genius Ella Jo and talked about her three albums…

Ella Jo in serious mode

Ella Jo in serious mode as she discusses her music

DS# You’ve just finished your third album, are they related and if so did you intend that to be so?

All of the albums contain my original material. Earlier songs were co written, but every piece is my own interpretation. The first two albums were recorded at the same time in 2008. ‘Limits of Milkweed.’ and ‘Alter Ego’ are from a catalogue of songs written over the previous two decades.

We recorded three tracks at a time. I selected songs from around forty tracks, having the luxury of recording whatever matched my mood at the time. The third album, ‘Attitude Is Everything’ was written in 2009 and comes from the same core material, spanning from 1985 to present day. It was recorded with more confidence, probably gained from the five years of previous recording experience.

So essentially the albums are all related, four tracks on each album were co- written with Terry Bartlett before 1994, and there is one track on each album by Spon using samples of my vocals. Also each album has an a cappella track.

DS# Music scene (mis)conceptions of female singers is myopic in that they are usually younger, hence more exploitable – where do you see your market?

We have a massive youth culture which demands commercial music. I have no problem with this. However, I think the standard of the songwriting tends to be poor. Being a tad cynical, I would say there will always be a thread of insincerity in a music scene which is obsessed with sales figures. I enjoyed the experience of busking. Street entertainment has a place in social history but seems undervalued in modern society.

I think the commercial market is flexible enough to take on board my material. The songs were crafted to satisfy my own taste; I chose the textures, rhythms and moods and I enjoy the poetry of it. I like to celebrate the world, but there are so many other layers, I have no choice but to present the songs as organic outpourings.

But I think because the songs smack of the human experience they appeal to a huge market, and I don’t see age as a barrier. Songs written in my twenties easily appeal to others of that age. The material exists on its own now, it lifts the atmosphere all over the place… especially good for radio. I think I could call myself an Urban Folk Singer! You cannot classify the listening public into neat little boxes. People’s tastes do span the genres. In today’s world, music lovers access music from the distant and recent past, and from other cultures.

DS# All three albums covers have a definite feel. What importance do you place on the artwork, did you design it yourself?

Yes I designed the covers myself. With new technology I had the tools to manifest my visions. The ideas behind the music have always been strong and passionate, and the art work is integral to each album’s identity. Each front cover carries an icon. So the cover of ‘Limits of Milk Weed’ depicts a stone griffin which stood in ancient Delphi. ‘Alter Ego’ shows a little clay Venus figure, sitting in a shell. ‘Attitude Is Everything’ shows a metallic Babylonian cow goddess. Objects from antiquity give an insight into ancient people’s view of the aesthetic. People were inspired to make these objects and they survive today. Music has the same capacity, to survive and inspire through time.

Ella Jo "I think I could call myself an Urban Folk Singer!"

Ella Jo "I think I could call myself an Urban Folk Singer!"

DS# Where would you like to see your music go, once its out in the market place?

Many songs have a sound track quality; they would work well in films. The albums are played at parties and whilst on the move. I remember the thrill of listening to one of my demo’s whilst cruising on the Aegean, it gave me the confidence to continue. The production is appropriate for the ‘I’ player, and mobile phones. My music appeals to an international audience, it is capable of pleasing listeners everywhere.

DS# The differing styles across all three albums – did you plan it that way – what was the process?

For me there are absolutely no rules for songwriting. In 1985 I teamed up with Terry Bartlett, a songwriter who was in a very creative phase at the time, and we tried out a wide variety of musical styles.

By the time I came to record the songs, the material had been thoroughly developed. I learned guitar and busked the songs; they had been stripped down to bare voice and guitar chords. From this foundation Spon was able to envisage a ‘flavour’ to suit a song, and, after experimentation, the style developed. The songs actually went through three stages – the original form – from their first inception (some performed with a band), then secondly into my busking format, and lastly into the recording production phase.

During the recording project I had absolute control of the whole process. I made all musical decisions and some of the engineering and production choices. Hence I have three albums which reflect my musical vision almost to the letter. Spon’s creative influence was welcomed and became integral in developing the songs. So the styles of the songs come from strong original ideas, but with the flexibility to incorporate appropriate influences.

Steve Spontaneous: Partner in production!

Steve Spontaneous: Partner in production!

DS# What are your main influences?

When I was a kid the music in our house ranged from Joan Biaz to early Beatles, along with classical stuff like Tchaikovsky. We had the sound track from South Pacific. My fave song when I was three was ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair’.

In the mid seventies I used to record TOTP on a little tape recorder – I would get the middle third of each song – but this is where I discovered Stevie Wonder and Glam Rock. Later, I saw The Beat perform ‘Tears of A Clown’. I had never heard ska before and I realized what fun you could have with music. The Beat have remained an influence, as did stuff from my hippy phase, including Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd. I liked some Punk and discovered the Pixies, The The, and strong female singers such as Natasha Atlas, Rosa Zarogoza and Bic Runga.

DS# It must have been hard producing your three albums yourself? Who else was involved in the making of your three albums, what was their involvement and why?

I met Spon in 2004, and he helped me instigate my recording project. He had no idea that I had so many songs; I just kept coming back and recording more. It became clear pretty early on that we worked well together. He is a very experienced sound engineer and has been making music all of his life. I had permission from Terry to use the material from our association in the eighties and Spon’s input to these and my own songs really brought them alive.

Spon is able to communicate very intuitively and listens very intensely to the work. It was hard work, but six years on I am pleased with the results and I have learned much from our partnership.

Spon asked a couple of friends to contribute some guitar parts and he also played on some tracks. Felicity Nihil contributed to two tracks on the violin, and Eddie Branch, the bass player for UK Decay played on the third album. Veteran Californian groovster, Dexter Theobald Carakas, also laid down some keyboards on the third album.

Ella Jo: "my taste isn’t that different from most people"

DS# Why should anyone want to buy your album?

I learned my craft from a master songwriter and made my albums with a master sound engineer. The serious commitment I made back in 2000, when I decided to go for it, has exceeded all of my expectations. To begin with I just wanted a CD of myself to listen to, but other people have been very ambitious about the material. If they believe in the value of my work I won’t argue, I put everything into it, and I love it – and my taste isn’t that different from most people.

These songs are my contribution to 21st Century music, and, like all good popular songs, they can find a place in the modern, urban experience. For listening quality and variety these albums are a good investment.

DS# What are your future plans?

I have performed solo with guitar a few times, but I would really love to get together with a band to write new stuff and do some live performances.
I also want to get some more of my Tarot material published. This is a massive project that I need to keep chipping away at.
The future will also hold some traveling. Scandinavia appeals to me and I think I would find Norway and Sweden very exciting.

DS# Why have you published lyric books?

All of my life experiences over the last twenty five years have found an expression somewhere in my songs. They contain comments on life and explore things that caught my attention. They hold observations on my inner landscape as well as the world outside.

Years ago it was important to me to read the lyrics on the back of my LPs. Nowadays CDs are just not big enough. I wanted to put the lyrics into a format that would be enjoyable to read. Each book contains pix and the stories behind the songs. I produced these books for poetry lovers as well as to accompany the albums.

Ella Jo: "Iwanted to put the lyrics into a format that would be enjoyable to read"

Ella Jo: "I wanted to put the lyrics into a format that would be enjoyable to read"

DS# You are working on another – different project – could you please give a background to it, what stage are you at and what is the final result?

Yes I have begun writing books on Tarot. I gathered so much material in my private notes that I decided to compile a manual on how to read Tarot Cards. The series is called ‘Tarot Decoded’. I have just finished the first edition of the first card, the Magician, which helps explain the structure of the Tarot.

DS# Does this reflect in your music?

I was studying Tarot back in the early Eighties before I met Terry, so I guess the Tarot always had an influence on my songwriting, although I was not aware of it. I think it can come through sometimes, as it has affected my view of the world, but it is a subtle influence and I can choose whether I want to magnify that or not.

More information on Ella Jo and her music including streams, can be found at her Myspace site:


Nostramus Earthlights 2010 Re-mastered.

Nostramus Earthlights 2010 Re-mastered.

“Probably the best Drum and Bass album youve never heard!”

Earthlights Re-Mastered 2010 CD Front

"Earthlights Re-Mastered 2010" Available by mail order here..£10.00 by Paypal

Cat. No. DS-NS-001

January 3rd 2010

Nostramus announce the release of a re-tweaked and re-mastered version of the 1997 album ‘Earthlights’.

The original ‘Earthlights’ was first released in the UK in 1997 by ‘Recordings of Substance’ followed by ‘Shadow Records’ who licensed it for the US market in 1998.

The brand new ‘Earthlights Re-mastered’, will be available from the online label, ‘Diamond Seeds Productions’ in early 2010. Nostramus will be joining other artists including Ella Jo on the new label, which will be making full use of new web fulfilment strategies for online mail order and downloading facilities.

Nostramus founding member Steve Spon has returned to the original source master tapes in order to complete this work.

“Although I was reasonably happy with the original mastering of Earthlights, I have since become a lot more fluent with audio mastering techniques. In this edition, I have returned to the source master tapes, taking care with every step of the process in order to retain the original concept and flow. I feel I have now created a much more considered dynamic to the sound-scape, hopefully bringing the whole thing up to today’s audio standards and listen ability.

Aside from the re-mastering, I have re-edited and re-mixed ‘Babel’ the opening track to the album, mixing in some new warped-up Amen from the un-released Jungle version of Babel. There are also one or two other new samples, subtly crafted into some of the other pieces to spice up the mix. Overall, I am much happier now with the sound and flow of the re-mastered album and I hope the listener will enjoy it even more”

Steve Spon January 2010-01-02

Earthlights Re-Mastered 2010 CD here to purchase via mail order

"Earthlights Re-Mastered 2010" Available here for £10.00 (inc shipping) here

‘Earthlights Re-mastered 2010’ comes repackaged in a standard jewel case with new artwork to boot. Retailing at £10.00 including shipping, the album will be available from from early January 2010 on mail order and on download, a little later.

Nostramus’s Steve Spon, is now working on the long awaited follow-up to the first album, which has the working title of ‘Earthlights II’. It is hoped that this will see the light of day in the spring of 2010.

Nostramus can be contacted at.. Nostramus at


Steve Spon talks about the re-mastered Earthlights album and about his work with Nostramus and UK Decay

Where the worlds of drum ‘n’ bass and post-punk and goth collide, stands a man like Spon

Diamond Seeds talks to Steve Spon on matters Nostramus and UK Decay.

We recently caught up with Steve Spon to ask him about his re mastering of ‘Earthlights’ an album that he wrote and produced in 1997 for Nostramus. Steve Spon (aka ‘Spon’) has recently re-joined the re-formed legendary eighties post-punk-goth pioneers, UK Decay.
We were fascinated to gain a glimpse into the thinking behind the re mastering of the classic nineties ‘D ‘n’ B noir’ album.
Which, according to one reviewer is  “probably the best Drum and Bass album you have never heard

Where the worlds of drum ‘n’ bass and post-punk and goth collide, stands a man like Spon

Diamond Seeds interviews Spon

Where the worlds of drum ‘n’ bass and post-punk and goth collide, stands a man like Spon
We were intrigued…….

D.S.# You have returned to your punk roots playing guitar again with UK Decay, in your musical evolution how does that relate to your D ‘n’ B oriented Nostramus?

“Although it can be argued that the music of Nostramus is completely different from the music of UK Decay, I feel there are threads of similarities between the two. Born out of the alternative punk-post-punk-early goth mela of the early eighties and like many ex punk types, I moved with the musical underground into the heady nineties rave scene. I sacrificed my guitar and took the technological path. It was important for me to continue to create music with an alternative message to counter the commerciality of popular music.”

D.S.# Would Nostramus appeal to the average UK Decay fan given ‘drum and bass’ surely had so much bad press?

“I know Nostramus’s mix of Drum ‘n’ Bass, Dub and Electronica may not appeal to every UK Decay listener but I know it will to some. Most of the guys in UK Decay, actually love Dub and Reggae music and have done so since the 70’s so there is nothing new there. The D ‘n’ B scene has received a lot of bad press in the past. Understandably, for many, the tragic murder of Sophie Lancaster by ‘hoodie’ thugs has put some people off the musical tastes of these low-life monsters. But I believe that mutated minorities in any genre, should not be allowed to hold good music to ransom.”

D.S.# Drum and bass was cool back then?

“From my point of view, the early hedonistic nineties D ‘n’ B scene was an invigorating and exciting proposition for many who wished to carry alternative music forward. The development in recording and playback technologies opened up a new universe of musical exploration and possibilities. Earth shaking bass lines, impossibly tight drum structures, emotive complexity in keyboard sound-scapes and sampling, all led to a new excitement in the then stale music scene. I took the plunge into this maelstrom, as it’s part of my make-up to explore new musical adventures.”

D.S.# Surely being an ex-punk had drawbacks on the emerging drum and bass scene

Spon comming at ya!

Spon on the run

“The movers and shakers of this emerging British scene were young DJ’s who had no hack with the old ‘rules’ of creating music. Like many others, evolving from the former 80’s punk scene I moved into the D ‘n’ B at a early stage in its development.

I liked the anarchic approach to creating the music and found for a time comradeship and a sense of purpose and enjoyment in the underground party scene. Back then I found a refreshing openness and tolerance to the music and the people generally in the scene…anything went!”

D.S.# What gave you the idea, or set you on the journey to creating a drum and bass album?

“Drum and Bass as well as other so-called ‘rave-music’ was developing it’s own set of rules that related to the flux’s and flow of the dance-floor. My tastes were still on the darker, deeper and hopefully more thoughtful side. At that time I was a recording studio engineer/producer and that made me open to a wide input of styles. Steve Harle introduced me to the D ‘n’ B scene back in the very early nineties. He encouraged me to embark on the musical journey that would eventually create my first album under the name Nostramus.

I called the new album ‘Earthlights’ and it summed up four crazy years of my experience of the underground party scene at a time when the music was at its most vibrant, purist form.”

D.S.# What was your aim in creating Earthlights your first album, how did you go about determining what it would be?

“The album was written using Atari computers, but I wanted it to have a live feel. I invited guests to contribute spoken and sung performances. The tunes included obscure iconic samples to create light and dark moods to give a sense of meaning. My aim was to create the most organic quality as possible, to create a journey for the listener. I wanted something that was easy to listen to, yet also had a deeper, substantial level. As a ‘non’ DJ, I even broke the dance mix rules, making it virtually impossible for DJ’s to mix the album with other tracks. I wanted to make ‘Earthlights’ stand out in a crowd.”

D.S.# Sum up Earthlights message?

“‘Earthlights’ takes the listener on a journey through themes, ranging from our pagan past, to future space travel. It questions and studies the doubts and optimisms of the human race.”

D.S.# How many did Earthlights sell back in the nineties, how did it fit in with the drum and bass scene?

Earthlights original 1997 released in the UK by Recordings of Substance

Recordings of Substance version of Earthlights originaly released in 1997

“I released this album first in the UK in 1997, on ‘Recordings of Substance’, and then licensed it to ‘Shadow Records’ for the US market in 1998. In total, there were 6000 sales worldwide. It didn’t make the top ten, but it sold steadily over a period of time and some of the feedback from reviews and emails have been fantastically encouraging. A review a couple of years back summed it up quite nicely “Probably the best Drum and Bass album you have never heard!”

D.S.# What led you to re-mastering Earthlights?

The new Earthlights 2010 re-mastered

Earthlights 2010 re-mastered CD front

“Although I was reasonably happy with the original mastering of Earthlights, I’ve since become more fluent with audio mastering techniques. In the new edition of Earthlights, I reworked the source master tapes, taking care with every step of the process in order to retain the original concept and flow. I feel I’ve now created a much more considered dynamic to the sound-scape, hopefully bringing the whole thing up to today’s audio standards and listen ability.”

D.S.# Did you just re-master or is there anything else added or taken away?

“Aside from the re-mastering, I have re-edited and re-mixed ‘Babel’ the opening track to the album, mixing in some new warped-up a-men from the un-released Jungle version of Babel. There are also one or two other new samples, subtly crafted into some of the other pieces to spice up the mix. Overall, I am much happier now with the sound and flow of the re-mastered album and I hope the listener will enjoy it even more”

D.S.# What about the rumours of Earthlights II any chance soon?

“I have had most of the material for this sitting on my shelves now for a good few years. Now with the help of Diamond Seeds work is in progress to see this project through. I shall be editing and remixing some of the material and with the addition some new performances and samples, I will collate into the final cut. I am hoping for around March April 2010.

D.S.# UK Decay are famous for being one of the first eighties post-punk bands, to make the crossover from ‘punk’ to ‘goth’
What are your future plans with UK Decay, are you enjoying their revival?

UK Decay on their Italian Tour spring 2009, Spon on the left

Spon back with UK Decay in Milan, May 2009

“I am really enjoying playing live with Decay again. It’s a real buzz playing guitar in a live situation, I had forgotten about that.

Because of commitments however, Decay can only play a few times a year, which is fine by me. UK Decay are currently working on a new album, which is an exciting challenge. Getting wild sounds out of my guitar is refreshing to me after so many years of programming songs together. The guys in UK Decay between them have a wealth of new ideas and experience to draw upon. At the end of the day UK Decay were adventuress in seeking out new sounds, we were ‘dark’ back in the day and that’s partly my fault, so they tell me! I look forward to mashing it up with them.”

D.S.# Any future Nostramus beyond Earthlights II?

“We shall have to wait and see!”

Click here for Earthlights Re-mastered 2010 £10.00 inc. shipping

Click here for Earthlights Re-mastered 2010 £10.00 inc. shipping. thru Paypal

Nostramus is now signed to Diamond Seeds Productions.

Review of Earthlights