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JOHNNY BORRELL, MAN IN THE VAN

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Interviewed by Michele Kirsch

What have you been working on here? Getting ready for a tour or preparing for a release or both?

“Both. We’re doing Jealous Nostril, which is a three piece, I guess it’s a heavy art rock three piece, and we’ve been up in Studio 6. We’re releasing singles every six or eight weeks, that’s the plan, and touring as much as we can. Ready to go on the road, man.”

How did you come to work with Jack ex of The Mystery Jets and Ellis? Did you like each other’s work or had you worked together before in other incarnations?

“I saw Ells playing in a pub in Camden about 5 years ago, when he was in a band called Strange Cages and I watched them and I thought I would love to play with this drummer and if I’m ever putting together a rock band I’m going to give him a call. So I kept his number for about 5 years and then gave him a shout. It turned out that Strange Cages had just broken up, so it was really good timing. And Jack… how did I start working with Jack? I can’t remember…. He’s right here. Jack! How did we start working together?”

Jack: “We met in a snooker hall. And you followed me into the bathroom.” Johnny: “I followed you into the bathroom?”
Jack: “With some chalk.”
Johnny: “With some chalk…and we wrote some songs. Actually, hang on I’ve got it, basically it was just in all the down time from Razorlight. I had this gig coming up so I called up Jack and said I’ve got this song, let’s try and do a band’. I had so much down time, so we’d just be writing every day, for hours. And the whole thing came together.”

Did you have a productive lockdown?

“I made some oak windows… which I thought was going to take me about a week. And three months later I’m still hand planing this ancient oak which I’d recovered, and I’m thinking, this looks really good. But carpentry takes a lot longer than you think. Also I got a lot of plastering done. I made my own renders out of quicklime, just slaking my own lime and making my own renders.”

Slaking?

“Slaking is when you dose the quicklime with water and it goes ksssshhh, there’s this violent chemical reaction and its highly toxic for your health. And then it gets to a semi-hydrated state, and then you wait a few days and from there you mix it with water and you turn it into your mix…What we call ’the mix’, in the trade and then you can slap it on. So I built a few walls out of rubble, did some plastering and wrote a bit. Wrote a bunch of songs with Andy (Burrows) which haven’t ended up being used for Razorlight yet.”

Are you feeling positive or negative about the music business and its future in general and specifically for you?

“Sometimes I think the existence of Coldplay and Taylor Swift is proof of some kind of conspiracy that’s been sent to destroy music. Not so much the existence, but the popularity of those two acts. It’s like proof of some kind of external, worldwide force that’s attempting to suck everything good out of music. It’s not really the question, but I think that what they could do to improve the music industry is to have a scale where the more records you’ve sold, or the more streams you’ve had, on your previous release, then the more of a risk you are legally obliged to take on your next release. There should be an independent panel of judges who would say ‘OK you did 10 billion streams, so now for the next thing, you have to absolutely gamble, you have to take a massive risk. Because that’s the real cancer of music, that as soon as anyone gets any success, they just stop taking any risks. It’s like corporate consolidation, and that’s the problem with so much music that I hear. I know, it’s impossible, but if only there was a way. Coldplay, Taylor Swift. Corporate consolidation. Drives me mad.”