(Photo above: (C) Lindsay Melbourne)
If there’s one gig you go to in November in Vienna, then make sure it is IDLES in Flex Cafe on November 14th. One of the UK’s most exciting bands at the moment will take to the stage to perform, and they will be supported by the equally exciting and talented JOHN.
Substance is Meaningless caught up with John Henry Newton, one half of the band to talk about the tour, Brexit and everything else in between.
SIM: If you could describe your band in one sentence, what would it be?
JOHN: ‘Four arms, four legs, two heads, wood, metal and plastic.’
Why should people come to watch your support show for IDLES? What can we expect?
We’ve always enjoyed making musical discoveries through catching supports at the shows we attend, so hopefully, this applies to other people too. In terms of expectations, anticipate the necessary coordination of limbs, and expect a fair bit of noise as a result
The band is called JOHN and consists of two Johns – which John came up with the idea?
I can’t recall the exact details from the hazy mists of time, but I do remember the very pub table at which the decision was made, I can picture it now in its sturdy glory. I also know that Johnny still has an empty ceramic beer bottle as a memento of that fateful night. As for the decisions behind the name, it’s a bit of a mundane manifesto, it reminds us that all of this stays on our own terms because we enjoy what we do.
You’re supporting IDLES on their European tour, how excited are you about that? Have you supported them before?
Having played with IDLES a number times over the last four years, we were really happy to receive and accept their invitation to join them on the European leg of the tour. They are a truly wonderful and hardworking bunch of humans, so it’ll be a treat to share the experience, especially just after the successes of their second album. On a personal level, we’re really looking forward to visiting a bunch of cities we haven’t played yet (including Vienna), and to meet lots of new faces along the way. After all, that’s probably the best thing about making music.
What country/gig are you most looking forward to?
What a question, eh? We’re absolutely spoilt for choice, there are some really phenomenal venues on the run, some of which we’ve visited as punters over the years. I think we’re both just looking forward to the journey as a whole, as we’ll be getting to do what we do day-in/day-out in new contexts. We’re also currently writing and organising new material, so I’m sure the journey will offer us lots of food for thought too.
What can fans expect from gigs if they’ve never seen IDLES before?
Maybe we have a slightly interior view having known the chaps for a while, but there’s a real sense of sincerity when you’re watching them on stage. It just puts a smile on your face. They’ve been through the mill over the years since they first started, so they’re a real testament to the persistence of a creative vision.
5 things you have to have on tour with you…
Other than Johnny and Manuka Honey, here’s a pile of five books that will probably get thrown in my bag:
Margaret Atwood – Surfacing
Jon Fosse – Scenes from a Childhood
Adam Rutherford – A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived
W.G Sebald – The Rings of Saturn
B.S Johnson – Trawl
What song gets you fired up before a gig? Is there a certain ritual you go through before you go out on stage?
We’re usually at the mercy of the sound desk, but I’d happily take ‘Interchangeable Sister’ by our good pals USA Nails, although it’ll have to be played three times on repeat because it’s quite short. I can’t say there’s a usual ritual, other than a lot of water, a hug, and the usual technical spiel. There’s talk of us going for a run around each city before each show on the tour, we’re still yet to confirm the official JOHN/IDLES sportswear though.
Which John is the tour bus DJ? What are the five songs you have to have in a tour playlist?
I’ll probably politely step away from the AUX cable knowing that I’ve annoyed enough people at parties over the last ten years, Johnny is always a dab hand though. These are all relatively new additions that we’re enjoying:
BAMBARA – All the Ugly Things
Viagra Boys – Amphetanarchy
The Men – Ailment
Virginia Wing – Pale Burnt Lake
Daughters – Satan In The Wait
What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever said or done during a gig?
I think any response is still a bit mind-blowing to us, seeing people fill out a room in front of you is just such a special thing. Our (now) good friend Brian got two of our song titles tattooed on his ‘playlist’ arm: a sleeve containing songs that have made a significant imprint on his life. It’s a bit crazy to think they’re going to the grave with him.
And the strangest thing that has ever happened at a gig?
This one’s going to the guy (on a certain substance) at Supernormal Festival in Oxfordshire, who became the perfect heckler throughout our set. He then proceeded to join us on stage to hit my cymbal and give me a book of poetry and a plastic troll – who sat on the bass drum as a lucky charm throughout.
With Brexit looming, how easy will it be for smaller, independent bands to organise these kinds of tours in the future? Is it even something that you and other bands are thinking about? Will anything change at all?
As a country who should pride themselves on their cultural exports, it’s an absolute shame to think that increased border control could affect the possibility and positivity of these activities. Independent bands often work on a shoestring budget, putting everything earnt back into the pot – as opposed to earning a wage. So financially, it looks like these controls could make it a lot less possible to tour, which in turn, is just terrible for all parties. People stop visiting venues/venue shuts / venues no longer employ / young people don’t gain early access to culture etc. It’s just a really depressing precedent. I don’t want to end this on a negative note, so we hope this tour acts as hard evidence of why a sense of collectivism is so important. Get out and support local venues and artists, and whatever you do, stay curious.
JOHN will be supporting IDLES on 14th of November at the Flex Cafe. More details here: www.facebook.com/events/1023853147771468/