About 100 hours before Piano Magic appear on stage in Athens, Glen Johnson, the man, the poet, the musician, the expected monster, maybe the unexpected angel, and a lot more we’ll never get to know, appears now on your computer screens by kindly accepting to answer our very piano-magic-al questionnaire.
— If You Really Had To Choose Only One Between “Piano” And “Magic” Which One Would It Be?
Well, they both have their pluses and minuses, don’t they? The sound of a piano can be life-affirming or soul-destroying. It’s a very powerful instrument in the right hands. As for magic, there’s magic as in wonder and miracles but then there’s magic as in David Blaine. So, to be on the safe side, I’ll choose the piano.
— Please Warn Us! Tell Me A Book I Should Not Read And Why.
Don’t read The Andy Warhol Diaries. It consists solely of “Went to restaurant with (famous person), saw (famous person). She looked fabulous/awful. Dinner $75. Cab $5.” 807 pages. Have I read it? Yes, of course.
— Part Monster, Part Angel?
I’m definitely part monster. We all are. But part angel? Debatable. In my youth, I had a perplexing obsession with angels – pictures all over my room of these disembodied messages of God; wrote endless songs equating beautiful girls with these divinities but in retrospect, I was deluding myself. No-one’s that pure. Most of us have terrible, ugly sides though.
— An Angel Can Be Found Only Amongst The Books? How Can A Human Being Realize That S/He Has Met An Angel?
You know that film by Wim Wenders? ‘Wings Of Desire?’ In it, angels watch over us mortals, though we can’t see them. Even so, somehow, Colombo (Peter Falk) can feel their presence. Later in the film, one of the angels falls in love with a mortal woman and gives up his wings so he can be with her. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are playing in the bar as he finally hooks up with the woman – ‘From Her To Eternity.’ I guess she would know more than anyone what it’s like to meet an angel. I’ve met an Angèle but not an angel. There’s a subtle difference.
— Is It Possible To Let Us Know The Ingredients Of An Angel Pie?
Angels. Garlic. Peppers. Chilli. 45 minutes at 220 degrees (less for a fan-assisted oven).
— Who Is A Really Bad Patient? The One Having A Toothache, A Lover Spurned Or A Homesick Man?
Toothache is far worse than heartbreak. That’s going to be the title of the next Piano Magic record. I once had 3 days to wait before I could see a dentist and I had chronic toothache. It was literally driving me crazy. I got through the week with a large packet of Nurofen painkillers and bottles of Plum wine (disgusting). I remember going out in the rain and though it was really beating down on me, I could see it but I couldn’t feel it. The painkillers and the wine had completely anaesthetized me. It was a good day.
— Which One Hurts More: The Biggest Lie Or The Bitter Truth?
The bitter truth, for sure. Most of us would rather live in a lie than face the truth, wouldn’t they? You know these people who say, “I don’t want to know”? They’re the ones who want to know the most, of course. But they’re deluding themselves – lying to themselves. Lying to yourself is probably the worst thing. If you lie to yourself, you’re not going to be much good to anyone else.
— IS THERE ANY OTHER CERTAINTY IN LIFE (Except For The Fact That We’re All Going To Die)?
It’s going to be a battle? I’ve yet to meet anyone who is happy all the time. We can’t sustain it. There are too many obstacles to the perfect life. I think life is, in fact, some perverted game-show for the gods. They’re all watching me now : “Ha! Look at Glen Johnson struggling with that question! What an asshole!”
— Please Name Some Cities & Factories. Why Did You Pick These?
Bulwell Precision Engineers is the place my dad has worked for over 40 years. He retired once but they asked him back to do eye tests on the other engineers. He likes still having somewhere to go three days a week. I’ve been writing songs about him and engineers since I started Piano Magic in 1996. He used to come home from work at the same time every day, smelling of this wonderful grease and oil that took industrial soap to get off. I loved all these smells. Cities? I was born in the shadow of a cigarette factory in Nottingham. There were still cobbled streets in England at that time. My grandfather ate tripe and drank sterilised milk. Nottingham’s all drug-related killings and bistropubs now. Robin Hood wouldn’t last very long in 2008. He’d be a fat alcoholic or a dead smack dealer.
— Would You Fly On Comets – If It Was Possible – Or Would You Prefer A More Established Way?
Comets sounds like a budget airline. Perhaps Belgian? So, yes, at some point, I’d have to fly with them, I’m sure.
— Are There Any Dark Secrets You Would Reveal To Us Now?
I’m not the man you think I am. And pretty girls make graves.
— If You Could Delete Some Parts Of Your Memories, Would There Be A Lot Of Deleted Scenes ?
Oh God, yes! You know this bad Robin Williams film where you have a microchip implanted in your head when you’re born that records your whole life? And at the end of your life Robin Williams takes it out and uses the best footage for your funeral? It’s a great, great concept in a bad, bad film but imagine all the embarrassing, awful stuff he would have to scroll through to get to 2 minutes of decency and happiness! I think about this a lot in fact. If Heaven was where God plays you all your best moments, like they do at the end of Big Brother, what would they be? Perhaps we should all devote more time to making them rather than sitting at home watching Big Brother?
— Is There Any Hope To Move On After The End Of A Dark, Tired Year?
I always see a new year as a blank page. Yes, it’s stupid because it’s just another day but it gives me hope to look at it as uncharted territory. “This year things will be different. This year, I will go back to America.” I say that at the start of every year – “This year, I will go back to America.” I think Bush was subconsciously keeping me away. Now I have no excuses.
— Halfway Through A Long Tunnel, Your Headlights Break Down. Your First Thought Is:
— If I Really Needed One To Help Me Warm This Frozen Heart, What Kind Of A Person Do You Think S/He Should Be?
Your mother. It’s really important to keep on good terms with your family because when all your relationships break down, they’ll be there for you. They are the most important thing in life. When you’re young, you laugh at this suggestion but the older you get, the more you realise how much you need them and what they’ve done for you. Unless they were bastards to you, of course.
— I Must Leave London. And Go Where?
Luxembourg. If only for a weekend. Beautiful architecture, lots of trees, friendly people, nice bars, decent food, great modern art gallery, chocolate. Should I go on?
— If You Point The Index At One Direction Or At A Specific Place, What Would It Show Right Now?
The index finger? It would point at my computer screen of course. I spend far too long on computers, though it’s probably because I don’t go out much. Specifically, I don’t go out much because I like people less and less as time goes by. Give me a little house in Luxembourg and a couple of millions pounds and you won’t ever have to worry about me again. Not that you do now…
— LOVE & MUSIC ARE TWO THINGS THAT… (Please Continue The Sentence)
…are misunderstood unless you’re completely absorbed in them. If you’re on the outside looking in, you only get part of the picture and even that’s distorted. Love is far, far more important than music. I would go as far as to say that music isn’t important at all. If there was no music in the world, you’d get by. But without love?
— What Makes You So Sure That (Music Won’t Save You From Anything But) Silence ?
I don’t have any examples of anyone that’s been “saved” by music. Do you? Did anyone ever stand on a clifftop, ready to jump when suddenly they heard “La Bamba” from a passing car and decided, “Ah, fuck it! Life’s too good to give up!!” An extreme example perhaps but you can see what I’m getting at. All this “Music is important” stuff bores me. All these lists, “The Best 100 Albums Ever Made!” So tiresome. Most of it is light entertainment at best. Except ours, of course.
— Choose One Person With Whom You Can Share A Bank Password. Why Him/Her?
— Is The Unwritten Law Usually Stronger Or Weaker Than The Written?
It’s stronger. People will do what they want in the end anyway. I’ve spent years telling record labels, “But in this contract it says you have to pay me!” Do they pay me? No. And then they wonder why all their artists hate them. The music industry is so corrupt. From the labels to the promoters to the DJs to the man who hangs up your coat at the club. He’s going through your pockets.
— WHEN YOU CAN HEAR THE ROOM IT USUALLY SAYS… (Please Continue The Sentence)
— Your Ghost Is A Real Person, Right?
In that song, yes. Usually when I refer to ghosts, it’s living people – just people I don’t know anymore for one reason or another. They’re “dead” to me. My mother once said, “No-one’s ever died on you! You don’t understand pain!” I hung up the phone on her. When someone leaves you, it can be like a death. Especially when you’ve put so much of your own spirit into them.
— Describe An Incident You Would Characterize As Totally Not Fair.
A few years ago, I was working for a record label. I loved my job. Then, one day, I fell downstairs, breaking my shoulder in 3 places. I was forced to take 2 months off work. Whilst I was away, a couple of witches at the label convinced my boss that they he should sack me. Luckily, I saw this coming and quit before he could do it. That wasn’t fair. But I don’t lose any sleep over it. The witches don’t work there anymore either but they’re still witches and have to live with that for the rest of their vile, ugly lives. And the label has turned to shit. I could write fairytales, don’t you think?
— The Canadian Brought Us Snow! Can We Order Some For Greece As Well?
I will give you his number. You may have to exchange for haloumi.
Aliki: Thank you! 🙂
Glen: And you.