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Glen Johnson (PIANO MAGIC)

To date, Piano Magic has harboured over 60 sonic orphans with nothing better to do, recorded 10 proper albums, a double CD retrospective and many, many singles. They've outlived several of the labels they've recorded for and show no signs of stopping. At this point in time, Piano Magic is Glen Johnson, Franck Alba, Jerome Tcherneyan, Alasdair Steer and Angèle David-Guillou. (from official web site.)

Where are you now and what are you doing?

I'm in my home in London and I'm preparing to go into the Soho to have some DVDs copied. I tried to copy them at home but it's not working so I have to go to a professional. It's an exciting life.

Since you're not new band, but I'm afraid not so many people know about you in Croatia. Tell us something about Piano Magic?

Piano Magic has been around since 1996. We've recorded 10 official full length albums and something like 15 singles/EPs for many different, mostly independent record labels. 3 of the band are French, the other two are English. We all live in London and we tour whenever we can but it's never enough. Our music has been called darkwave, coldwave, post-rock, Gothic, etc but we prefer Ghostrock. We would play in Croatia if we were invited.

Do members of Piano Magic play in other bands? Were they in other bands before Piano Magic?

Yes. Glen Johnson has released a solo album, 'Details Not Recorded' (Make Mine Music, 2009) and a 5 track cassette, 'Institutionalized EP' (Secret Furry Hole, 2009). His solo electronica project, Textile Ranch, has released 3 singles and an album, "Bird Heart In Wool" (Very Friendly, 2004). Johnson and Cedric Pin have an electropop project called Future Conditional and released their debut album, 'We Don't Just Disappear' in 2007. Jerome Tcherneyan and Franck Alba are both working on solo material.

Back in 1996. Your first single "Wrong French" was "Single of the week" in Melody Maker. How did you feel then?

Amazed. It was the first time someone "official" had given their stamp of approval to my music. I'd been making music since I was 11 years old so this was a real breakthrough and entirely unexpected. But I felt even more humbled when John Peel played our record, around the same time. Peel was the ambassador of good taste at that time.

You had great success with soundtrack for Bigas Luna movie "Son de Mar". What was your process of writing music for the film? Is it different from your usual writing?

Yes. It's boring. You have to watch the same part of the film over and over again and play along to it. There was a lot of sex in this film so it wasn't so bad but by the time the film came out we didn't ever want to watch it again. Actually, it's the same with making an album. I've not played Ovations, our new record, since we finished it. I couldn't stand to.
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If I've never heard Piano Magic, which record should I start with?

That would depend on what kind of music you like. Piano Magic are a restless bunch and tend to leap, stylistically, from record to record. Arguably, the band's most instantly accessible records are their most recent : 'Ovations,' 'Part Monster' and 'Disaffected.' Though if you like electronic music, you should probably try the "Opencast Heart EP" or their debut album, "Popular Mechanics." If you prefer more melancholy guitar-based music, you should try the albums, "The Troubled Sleep Of Piano Magic" or "Artists' Rifles." The band's more "experimental" fare can be found on the albums, "Low Birth Weight" and "Writers Without Homes."

Many members and collaborators went through the band. Do you know the exact number of them?

Not the exact number, no. I lost count. Certainly more than The Fall.

You have very extensive and precise website, with timeline and concerts and lineups form 1996 till almost now. Who is in charge for that?

I'm in charge of it but I've become very lazy with it recently. When the band is quiet I'll update it. Essentially, I'm trying to build an archive that will be there when we split up. A monument to this once great band. Ha!

Are there any song that you would like to cover and any artist that you would like to play with?

No cover songs spring to mind because if you're going to cover a song you have to do the original justice. The thought of spoiling someone's wonderful song really repels me. We've done a few covers but I don't think they were very good. Except 'Beat It' by Michael Jackson. That was a good one.

Any artists we would like to play with? Musically or sexually? Several, sexually but I can't think of any, musically....

On your latest release "Ovations" you have Brendan Perry and Peter Ulrich from Dead can Dance. Tell us something about that?

I've been a DCD fan since 1984. I used to follow them all over the country to see them play live and even now, I play their records as regular as clockwork. They have a timeless spirit. 99% of modern music is disposable but DCD is not. It connects with my soul. So it was a dream to work with Brendan and Peter. I honestly had them on a pedestal, up there with the gods. And now, the gods are playing on my record. It's too much to even think about. So I don't think about it too much.

I guess you've been to DCD reunion concerts in 2005. My wife and I are fans, but she was pregnant so we couldn't go on that trip. If you must decide when they were better, in their early years or now, what will you chose?

It's an impossible question to answer. When I saw them in 2005, they'd lost none of their magic but seeing them in the 80's is forever entwined with my youth so I'm very nostalgic about those times. The first time I saw them, around 1987, there were 12 or so people onstage! And everyone seemed very relaxed. As Brendan will tell you, that wasn't the case in 2005. ;)
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Which do you prefer, cd, vinyl or mp3?


What's the rarest Piano Magic record?

That would be a limited edition 12" acetate of the 'Dark Horses' which was auctioned on Ebay in October 2008. Only one copy was ever made and it was sold for £470.

What do you think about my space, facebook, twitter and other, as services to promote yourself?

They all have their purposes but I think it's inevitable that there are going to be new websites for bands that become the definitive central platform for self-promotion. Everything is far too randomly (and thinly) distributed right now. Things need to be centralised. I've looked at Facebook once. It reminded me of a refridgerator. I write reviews of biscuits on Twitter because it's made for such as that : inconsequential garbage. Myspace has helped us a lot in terms of promotion and meeting like-minded individuals but it has a personality problem - it doesn't know if it wants to be a social networking site for teenagers or a serious platform for artists. It should choose. Someone is going to make a lot of money sometime soon when they realise : "Hey! I could give artists a definitive place to promote, sell, connect, collaborate, etc!!!" Myspace doesn't let you sell your music. That's a huge flaw.

On your myspace is a statement "FREE DOWNLOADS ARE FINE..BUT PLEASE BUY *SOMETHING*". When we (Croatians) will be able to buy something on
your concerts?

I wish it were soon but we are in the hands of concert promoters. Someone in Croatia has to step forward and say, "I will bring Piano Magic to Croatia for a show!" or else it's not going to happen. But you never know.....

What do you listen when you're at home, on tour, right now…?

I've been listening to these things a lot recently : We Fell To Earth, The XX, Bippp (French Synthwave 1979 - 1985), Fever Ray, Dollboy, Ghostwriter, Klima.

Tell me something I would never guess about you?

Ha! I go running 3 times a week? I'm pretty good at table tennis? I like watching terrible action films? I have a penchant for Britney Spears?

pedja // 17/11/2009


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