Crystal Palace based two piece JOHN, offer a deadpan approach that has become a recognisable force of their performance, we chatted with John Newton, one half of this formidable duo.
1. Thanks for your time, how are things going for John today ?
All’s going well thanks, I’m currently at my flat in Crystal Palace, South London, getting ready for a week’s tour across France. As a drummer, there are plenty of important things to potentially forget!
2. You’ve got your new album coming out in a few weeks, what can you tell us about it and what can fans expect from it ?
Correct, it’s called ‘Out Here On The Fringes’ and it’s out on the 4th October. It’s an album that aimed to capture the spirit of living on the edges of this ever-inflating city. I tend to write from certain personal events or locations, so the album documents the past couple of years – each moment abstracted through the songwriting process. Previous fans will certainly recognise the album as a sibling to 2017’s ‘God Speed in The National Limit’, but it definitely shows a progression too – this was encouraged by our decision to include a number of guests on the album, so there’s certainly some surprises for those more familiar with the band.
3. What are the pros and cons of writing, recording and performing as a duo ?
We’re best mates, so it’s a joy to have shared some truly unique experiences together in both places near and far. On the flip side, there’s the constant ‘Where’s your bassist’ comment – which is pretty common for duo’s like us. Johnny actually controls a bass octave note with his foot whilst playing the guitar, so the best answer is that our bassist is contained within his foot!
4. Tell us an interesting/funny fact about each other ?
John: Johnny was born in South Africa, his Dad was a touring musician who often played on cruise ships.
Johnny: John designs all the artwork for the band having worked as an artist for the past decade.
5. You’ve toured Europe with Idles, what was that like and do you have an interesting stories from the tour that you can recall for us?
IDLES are long time friends of ours – long before the award nominations – so it was fantastic to be able to travel around Europe alongside them. There really are too many stories to write down, especially with the tour spanning 27 shows across 13 different countries. The crowning moment was walking out to a sold out audience at The Bataclan in Paris on the final night of the tour – something I won’t forget in a hurry
6. As you have mentioned, you’ve made use of a number of guests on the album, how did you go about choosing who you worked with ?
We heard the potential for certain instruments when developing the songs, and it became a particularly exciting idea to relinquish some control to see where other people’s talents could take the songs. It was then a case of finding someone who could play the instrument and whom we felt understood the sensibilities of the music. We were very privileged to have Chloe Herington (of Knifeworld / Chromehoof) guest on saxophone on our lead single ‘Future Thinker’, we actually recently performed the song live with her and it sounded fantastic.
7. If you could work with any musician alive or dead who would you choose and why ?
If I’m answering this personally – as opposed to the band – I’d be quite interested to see what Benjamin John Power of Blanck Mass gets up to. World Eater is one of my favourites records of late so I’d like to pick his brains.
8. If you could have a dinner party with four other John’s who would you choose and why?
John The Baptist’s head is on a platter. John Cage is providing some after dinner silence, John Le Carre’s has probably got some good stories and John McClane from Die-Hard is preventing the veg from burning.
9. Curveball question – Is a Jaffa cake a biscuit or cake?
If I’m going to be as finance-focused as the world currently seems to be, it’s got to classed a cake because of its taxation as a ‘luxury’.
10. Thanks for your time again. Now we’re coming to the latter months of 2019, what are your plans for the rest of the year and how would you sum up 2019 for you so far?
The rest of 2019 sees us tour the album around France, England, Ireland and Scotland, so we’ve got a busy schedule ahead. On the whole, 2019 has been particularly kind with the humbling response to the first two singles we have released. We’ll be looking forward to seeing what people make of the album in the same vein.
JOHN are headlining The Castle Hotel in Manchester on October 4th