Interview with John Grant
After the break up of the band he lead for a long time, The Czars’, musician John Grant has spent the past few years gathering himself together by moving to New York City, learning a fifth language and composing a stunning album of grand, classic, Harry Nilsson-esque novellas. We caught up with him on the eve of his Airwaves performance to find out why he’s so excited to play here.
Hey John, how are you?
Not bad. We went to Dartmore National Park today which is down here in the south of England and it’s basically a giant moor. It’s absolutely breathtaking. But!—I bet it’s not as breathtaking as Iceland!
You sound excited to come here!
I am so excited to go there. I have been dying to come there since about 1988. I just want to go take a walk out in the middle of nowhere and feel the wind and look at the countryside. I want to go for some long walks and see some moody, melancholy landscapes. I think Iceland is probably going to be really dramatic for me. I’ve wanted to get there for nearly 25 years.
It’s interesting that you mention the melancholy of the Icelandic countryside, because there is a lot of melancholy in your album too.
Absolutely. I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, a lot of stuff from the ‘70s, a lot of ABBA and there’s definitely a lot of beautiful minor melodies. At the same time I was playing a lot of Chopin and Rachmaninoff when I was growing up, and some of the slower ragtimes from Joseph Lamb and Scott Joplin. I think Iceland is going to fit in really nicely with who I am.
Where did your interest in Iceland begin?
In ’88 I was in my late teens and I was listening to the Sugarcubes. I loved ‘Life’s Too Good.’ I went to live in Germany and one of my fellow students showed us a slideshow about Iceland and then it was a done deal. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. Then I fell in love with GusGus and I still love everything those guys do.
One thing I wanted to say, and this is probably really strange, but I thought that Iceland definitely doesn’t need me because you have GusGus, Sigur Rós and Björk. You’ve got it covered! Why would you need anything else? I think I’ve never really formulated that thought or said it out loud but I think I’ve always sort of felt that way. The standard there is so high.
Nonetheless, the music scene here is actually pretty massive. People are constantly forming new bands and starting new projects and they love bringing foreign acts in.
People want lots of choices. Nobody would be interested in listening to just Björk for the rest of their lives, because you would miss out on so many other flavours. Although I will say that if I were stranded on a desert island, GusGus would be one of my top picks. If I had all of their albums on a desert island with me, I’d be in pretty good spirits.
You could have a pretty great dance party, anyway!
Absolutely! But all this to say, it’s ridiculous to think that way. I was surprised when I started getting messages on Facebook from people in Iceland, because I didn’t know that people were listening to my music there and it was really exciting for me. When I found out I was playing this festival, I almost crapped my diaper.
By Rebecca Louder