4ad

Music features John Grant - MOJO 2010 Album of the Year - web

Published on June 23rd, 2014 | by Martin Aston

0

John Grant – MOJO Album of 2010

John Grant’s debut solo album Queen Of Denmark deservedly won MOJO Magazine’s album of 2010. I interviewed him about the MOJO victory and summarised the album’s astonshing achievements. Having been a huge Czars fan, and first interviewing John in 2004 when the band’s final album Goodbye was released to only a small groundswell of appreciation, there was a feeling of relief and vindication that John was finally being recognised.

Review:

John Grant: Queen Of Denmark (Bella Union) No matter how satisfying the simmering country-noir mirages of his former band The Czars, its frontman John Grant felt hopeless, compromised, suicidal even, until Midlake’s intervention. The Texans supplied confidence and vintage ‘70s empathy, allowing Grant to bypass the inhibitions that traditionally airbrushed soft rock and channel a life’s worth of vitriol, self-flagellation, hunger and fireworks, leavened by dollops of self-deflating bile-black humour. Grant asked why love is hell and Jesus hates faggots in a last-ditch attempt at self-improvement and atonement after a decade of alcohol and cocaine dependency, and the fact he was channeling Patsy Cline, Karen Carpenter and David Gates makes it even more bittersweet. Like a couple of similarly intense MOJO classics before it – Antony’s I Am A Bird Now and Bon Iver’s For Emma… – Queen Of Denmark sounded like a record its creator has been waiting his whole life to make.

Q&A:

How does it feel to hear Queen Of Denmark is MOJO’s album of 2010? I really can’t believe it. I’m speechless. It’s a very, very, very big deal for me. I tell myself it’s a mistake, or that the staff feels sorry for me [laughs]. It makes me feel … young and fresh. It feels like an amazing achievement. My first thought, being who I am, is that there’d be this horrible backlash, ‘he doesn’t deserve this, who the fuck is that guy, never heard of him’. But I won’t start questioning your taste. I feel really proud of the record. I’m just glad it’s my turn right now.

What’s been the best thing about the album’s reception? I thought people would have a problem with my candour. That seems to be the opposite case. Why? Because of the way it’s presented, the raw emotion, with a huge dose of black humour and reality. Everything on that record is something that I personally have experienced. It’s also timing and luck as to whether your songs reach people. But when you’re being truly honest, and not trying to put up barriers, people appreciate and identify with it.

Which track sums up the whole experience of exposing your soul in this manner?

The title track. That’s my personality in a nutshell. It’s about having a love-hate relationship with yourself, like ‘Yeah, sometimes I really do suck but so do you, so fuck off if you don’t like it’. I’m partly addressing myself but also the people that would say to me, ‘you don’t deserve to have the same rights as others, to be treated as a human being’. It’s as I sing in Jesus Hates Faggots. You know there have been all these teen suicides in the States. I’ve definitely been there. I’m writing a song right now when I list all my faults in the verses and in the chorus I sing, “I’m the greatest motherfucker that you’re ever going to meet.’ That might spoil the next record for some people. But that’s how I feel.

What hopes did you have for the album? That it would be possible to have a career in music and not have to go back to waiting tables. I hoped it would lead to meeting people I could learn from, and to buy all the equipment so I make the sounds I want to make.

How important were Midlake? It can’t be overstated. At a time in my life when I was filled with self-loathing and self- doubt, especially with regards to the music industry, they said ‘you’re amazing. People need to hear your voice and what you have to say because you have a great way of saying it. And we want to make sure that happens.

How would it have sounded if you’d crafted it alone? The album still wouldn’t have been made. I wouldn’t have been able to gather up enough courage and strength.

How have the live shows been? They’ve been the best experiences I’ve ever had playing live, the first time I’ve ever felt that type of connection with an audience. Before, I’ve never felt sure what I was talking about, or what I was doing there. But I’ve got to the point where it’s OK to be me, no matter how flawed I am, which helps. It’s also been nerve-wracking, because I’m someone who likes to have all the bells and whistles, and I’ve had to do a lot of touring with just me and Casey (Chandler, keyboards]. Though that’s a great way to see that the songs can stand up to scrutiny.

Has there been one highlight above all others? Besides getting album of the year in MOJO? Being on Jools Holland and all the things that happened on that day, meeting Nick Cave, Jools, hitting it off with Jake from Scissor Sisters and Brandon Flowers, discovering the amazing voice of Rumer. It was my holy grail to be on that show, being part of the club so to speak.

Any downside to this incredible year? [long pause] The only thing that’s been difficult at times is singing about some of the stuff I’ve written about. When it hits too close to home and I’m experience some of the after-effects of having gone through all that. It feels like poking a finger in a bullet wound.”

What’s next? I’m touring with Casey all through December in the US. Then I go to Sweden to record an album with [producer] Kleerup, who had a big hit [With Every Heartbeat] with Robyn a while ago, which will be mostly electronic. And then I’m going to do the proper follow up to Queen Of Denmark with Midlake again, sometime next year. And I’m moving to Berlin. I’ve been based here recently and I’ve wanted to live here for 20 years. It’s got a lot of material for inspiration, the feel and look of the city, and it fits as far as the electronic tracks I want to do. And I like hearing about how incredible my German is all the time!”

There were two electronic tracks on the Queen Of Denmark special edition but most people don’t know of your passion for electronica.

It’s definitely a huge part of my personality and my influences, though I don’t think many people see that fitting in to the John Grant image, whatever that is. I haven’t found my voice with it yet, and my influences are pretty tough acts to follow, but I have a bunch of songs ready.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Back to Top ↑
  • Latest News

    JANUARY 2017
    DAVID BOWIE IN TEN RECORDS - 'Stardust Memories'...
    To commemorate what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday, and the first anniversary of his death, I've written a guide to Bowie via ten records through his 50-year career, oin The Vinyl Factory website.

    ------------------------
    NOVEMB ER 2016
    LEONARD COHEN - an apprection of the Canadian poet, novelist and enigmatic songwriter, who just died, for The Vinyl Factory

    ----------------------
    OCTOBER 13th, 2016
    BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE: HOW MUSIC CAME OUT has come out too, on Constable/Little Brown for the UK and other territories (except the US, which will be June 2017, via Backbeat/Hal Leonard. At 540 pages, it's a comprehensive, and hopefully definitive, history of the queer pioneers of popular music, from the closet to the charts, to borrow Jon Savage's line.

    --------------------
    AUGUST 2016
    TANYA DONELLY: My 4AD 'Foreword' feature on Tanya Donnelly, titled Rhode Island Odyssey, clocks her Throwing Muses/Breeders/Belly/solo incarnations, to celebrate the reformation of her band Belly

    --------------
    MAY 2016
    RADIOHEAD: The new album A Moon Shaped Pool is to be released in a bells-and-whistles box set this September: here are nine other Radiohead vinyl collectables, for The Vinyl Factory site.

    --------------
    MAY 2016
    MIRACLE LEGION: My lachrymose memories of the New Haven., Connecticut band, inspired by the band's forthcoming tour - their first shows in 20 years- for The Guardian (Cult Heroes section)

    ------------------
    MARCH 2016
    JEFF BUCKLEY - "How Grace sparked the legend of Jeff Buckley and a problematic release legacy." My opinion piece on yet another posthumous record by the great Jeff Buckley can be found at The Vinyl Factory website.

    -------------------
    JANUARY 2016
    DAVID BOWIE: THE MAN WHO CHANGED MY WORLD
    Not a great way to file the first post of 2016.. On the morning the news of David Bowie’s death broke, I was asked to write a piece on the artist I consider to have had the most impact, for the longest time, on my life. I’ve never had to write something whilst blubbing, and shocked to the core, but this is what came out – my tribute to the Man Who Changed My World.

    ----------------------
    SEPTEMBER 2015
    PATTI SMITH - MOJO COVER FEATURE
    With the 40th anniversary tour of Horses in full swing, I have interviewed Patti Smith, John Cale about producing Horses, and written a guide to all Smtih's albums for for MOJO's October 2015 issue. Unrelated to Horses, a 'How to Buy' guide to Cocteau Twins and interviews with rising Northern Irish singer-songwriter SOAK and Alice Cooper about his Hollywood Vampires project also have my name on it this month

    -------------
    JUNE 2015
    FINALLY, LIFE AFTER 4AD...
    On June 1st, Little Brown imprint Constable emailed a press release to the UK book trade:

    Andreas Campomar, publishing director at Constable (Little, Brown), has signed up Martin Aston for his book on the queer pioneers of popular music and how they helped change the world. Campomar bought World Rights from Matthew Hamilton at Aitken Alexander Associates. "HOW MUSIC CAME OUT" will be published in autumn 2016. See the News page for full details.

    -------------
    JUNE 2015
    VINYL FACTORY FEATURES - MAY/JUNE
    I have written a label profile on, yes, 4AD, based on my book, but also an 'Essential Guide' to Kate Bush for the website - www.thevinylfactory.com. Next up is a Flying Nun label profile.

    --------------
    MAY 2015
    RED HOUSE PAINTERS FEATURE
    Timed with the release of Red House Painters' box set (beautiful design, Chris), I have written an extended feature about the band's 4AD eraand about how they ended up there (via a demo that I happened to give the label...). The piece is up on 4AD's website now, under 'Sleevenotes'

    -------------
    SEPT 2015
    KATE BUSH TOP 50 SONGS - MOJO MAGAZINE
    In the October (no. 251) issue of MOJO, I've covered four Kate Bush songs for the Greatest 50 Songs feature, and interviewed singer-songwriter Adam Cohen on the Greek island of Hydra where his dad Leonard bought a house in 1960.

    -------------
    SEPT 2014
    END OF THE ROAD 2014
    I reviewed the End Of The Road festival for MOJO, where improv-leaning Brit-folk genius David Thomas Broughton (ably backed by the Juice Vocal Ensemble) is the shock Saturday night highlight that few people see as they're mostly winding down from The Flaming Lips' main-stage spectacular...

    --------------
    JUNE 2014
    JIMMY SOMERVILLE - ATTITUDE MAGAZINE
    I interviewed Jimmy Somerville for Attitude's July 2014 issue, on the 30th anniversary of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy," one of the most striking, important and moving singles in all of British pop.

    ------------------
    JULY 2014 FACING THE OTHER WAY - IN PAPERBACK
    The paperback edition of Facing The Other Way: The Story Of 4AD is published by HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project on July 17th in the UK (£12.99) and August 19th in the US ($19.99). Vaughan Oliver (v23) has revamped the artwork from the hardcover edition for this version.

    --------------
    APRIL 2014
    JEFF BUCKLEY - Q MAGAZINE
    My 3000-word 'oral history' of Jeff Buckley is part of a 17-page special in Q Magazine's June issue on the late singer, 20 years after his landmark album debut Grace.

  • Recent Posts