From upscale tours to music education, an aspiring musician tells all
Jacob Jones-Lewis, now 18, hadn’t always dreamed of being a musician. Growing up in South Wales, his first aspiration was to be a helicopter pilot in the army, stating that “pretty much everyone” in his family had taken a job in the army, and that he “wanted to do it as well”. After being turned down, he turned his focus to something new: music.
Having grown up listening to the rock music of the sixties to the eighties, Jones-Lewis developed a passion for music and performance, taking a large influence from the trash metal bands of the eighties and his biggest influence, Jeff Hanneman, who was the lead guitarist and founding member of Slayer before passing away in 2013. This led to him learning to play the guitar at age eleven. By thirteen, he was performing in front of a live audience, before taking up the guitar seriously at 14.
His music career kicked off in 2013 when, while playing a show with his band at the time – Sanctuary – he ran into his next project: Toxic H. “Toxic H were playing, and they liked me so much that they picked me. They offered me a place, and that’s how it started.”
Playing with a seemingly professional band at the age of 14 sounds like every young musician’s dream, but it was equal parts hard work and it was fun. Playing a total of sixteen shows as part of a tour, there were ups and downs, and some moments were better than others. One of the better moments came in a guitar store in Brighton, in the form of a free instrument as payment. Choosing a Kramer Nite V, Lewis states the instrument was “very well worn, it was basically falling apart,” but it was a kind gesture.
However, shows didn’t always have a happy ending. Whilst playing a show with Toxic H, Lewis witnessed the bands new drummer’s attempt at his own stunt, scaling the lighting rig to impress the audience. His act was cut short when he “slipped, landing on his drums from what must have been nearly twelve foot.” The drummer got up, but failed to notice the tip of one of his cymbals which had gone in one side of his leg and out the other. “That cut that show early,” Lewis says, trying to hide his amusement. “That was the second song.”
Lewis stayed with Toxic H for a year, recorded two EPs and was then replaced. Leaving the band left Lewis to focus on his education, leading to his start at Bridgend College in 2015 as part of a music performance course. Although performing professionally before his time in musical education, Lewis claimed that he learnt more about performing in college than he ever did touring, saying, “I learnt more from my peers. I learnt more technical things about guitar.” Starting college with little to no theoretic music knowledge, Lewis built himself from the ground up, obtaining grade seven in guitar at the end of college after starting from grade two. “I was just working at it every day, non-stop.”
As for the future, Lewis plans to attend the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and hopefully focus on the practical side of being a musician, taking part in session work and more performing. Lewis also intends to obtain a postgraduate certificate, so he can use being a music teacher as a back-up option in the future.
Words by Caragh Chivers