RUSSELL Hastings grew up listening to The Jam.

The band released their first material in the same year that the then 12-year-old picked up a guitar and the punk explosion reached its peak.

Russell started learning chords by listening to This Is The Modern World and was such a fan that he used to write to Paul Weller – and the Modfather once wrote back.

So he admitted it sometimes still feels surreal that he is now bandmates with The Jam’s Bruce Foxton and has worked with all members of group in the past decade and a half.

Russell currently tours with Bruce in From The Jam – a band that celebrates that iconic material from the punk and mod era but also features new material from Bruce’s two solo records.

But it all came about thanks to another collaboration with a former Jam member – drummer Rick Buckler. Russell first met Rick by chance at a radio station in 2001 when he had come to present a prize-winner with some signed Jam memorabilia.

Little did they know that the seeds of a new musical partnership had been planted.

Russell said: “We just got chatting really and became friends. A couple of years later I was at Rick’s house and he said to me: ‘How do you fancy coming into the studio and working me back in on playing the drums?’

“He hadn’t played for 12 and a half years at that point so I said: ‘Let’s do it’. I didn’t want to appear to be too keen – I may have taken a nanosecond to answer! It was a definite yes but nobody had any preconceived ideas about what would happen.”

That led to Rick and Russell forming a band called The Gift in 2005 and fortune has favoured Russell’s music career on more than one occasion because Bruce came his way just two years later.

At the time Bruce was touring with a band called Casbah Club and they just so happened to be on the same bill as The Gift in Guildford.

So Bruce and Rick decided to reunite after 25 years for old times’ sake to play Smithers-Jones and Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.

Russell added: “It got leaked to the press and so when it happened it was all filmed and the place was rammed.

“It went down a storm and I think that was the first time Rick and Bruce had been on stage together since they walked off the stage at the Brighton Centre on December 11, 1982.

Crewe Guardian:

“Funnily enough I found the photographs of that night a few days ago. I’m doing some moving around in my house at the moment and so I came across them and it did bring a lot of memories back.”

Bruce and Rick enjoyed it so much that a one-off show became a new band. From The Jam was formed and guitarist and vocalist Russell came a key part of a group led by his music heroes.

He said: “That led to a meeting the next day. So we all met together and the short story is that after that we put together a tour of America. I don’t think it could get any more surreal to be honest.

“I had one eye on what I was doing and the other eye on the fantasy if that makes any sense.

“It was pretty crazy at the time and I think it was for everybody to be honest.

“I think it was as much a surprise to Rick and Bruce as it was to me because they didn’t think they would be playing those songs together ever again.

“I had to get used to it pretty quickly because all of a sudden I was out in front of 2,500 or 3,000 people a night.

“I also found that we all had a lot in common so the illusion of who Rick and Bruce were was soon smashed.

“I realised they were just human beings that joked and laughed just in the same way anyone else does.

“Travelling around the world, sitting in planes to Australia or the United States, you get to know each other pretty quickly.”

Rick left From The Jam in 2009 but Russell even got to work with Paul Weller as both of Bruce’s albums – which Russell co-wrote – were recorded at Paul’s Black Barn studios.

Russell added: “I sat on the piano stool with him and I just showed him what the chords were to some of the songs. He would work out his part and come out and say: ‘Do you think that’s good?’ He injects a lot of great ideas.

“The songs were already written but it was just little pieces he was putting in. He put piano on a song called Number Six which was about my old house at 6 Rife Way, near Bognor Regis. He played a bit of guitar on some other things.

“He’s easy to work with and he had a great studio as well.”

The Jam did not split on the best of terms in 1982. The bitter decision was said to be Paul’s alone and led to Paul and Bruce not speaking for more than 20 years.

So what was it like seeing them back together in a studio?

Russell said: “It genuinely was nice. I remember sitting in the control room and watching them laugh together.

“I was a fly on the wall and I thought that’s great. One good thing that is coming out of all this is that so-called rift that was in the media has now healed.

“They were talking as if they’d never been apart.”

From The Jam bring the All Mod Cons 40th anniversary tour to Parr Hall on Friday, April 26. For tickets visit pyramidparrhall.com or call 442345.