Jan Johnston, one of the most famous singers in the scene, takes time to talk to us to answer a lot of questions. Read on ...
Hi Jan, first off all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. We know you are currently very busy in the US.
Let’s get started :)
Could you first tell us a bit more about yourself? Hobbies, passions, pet peeves, any pets, and everything you find relevant…
Jan: Well I`m one of six children...from Irish parents so if you didn’t sing you shook something...music was a huge thing when I was growing up...I had a piano I insisted my father paint white for me...
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Jan: Affectionate...solitary....intense....a good friend...happy...had to add the last one sorry....
When did you start to sing?
Jan: As a small child because my father sang and he was my hero totally cool dude. He used to take me to choir practice on the back of his bike. So I found out early in school I had a voice. Possibly age 6. Then I was totally in tune....
Were there any outside influences that had a big impact on you, so you just went on singing? Parents, a teacher maybe?
Jan: No, only that music was a huge part of our house so I naturally gravitated towards performance...
You were discovered by BT (Brian Transeau) when he was looking for some new records, and he found you 18 months later. Do you ever stop to think, if that did not happen, then you wouldn’t be here where you probably.
Jan: Well I might not be recording. But I would have been singing and performing somewhere on the planet.
Your first collaboration with BT resulted in “Remember”, which was featured on Hackers 2. Did you expect that it would become so popular?
Jan: No when you write something you never know how it will be received but if it grooves me and I’m happy with it that’s all that counts. Later it’s a huge bonus when what you imagined and recorded makes others have a good night. It never ceases to amaze me. But music is everything to me. And I know from emails its sometimes the hugest release for fans.
You were signed to one of the biggest, and most influential labels in the business, Perfecto, led by no one else then Paul Oakenfold. Weren’t you afraid that you couldn’t decide what to do, what to sing, cause mostly the labels decide what to do.
Jan: With Paul Oakenfold and Perfecto, he is the coolest. He allows me to totally have a free hand. He understands the creative process as he’s in the studio himself so he knows the story. That’s why I signed to him. He’s about to release my album on Perfecto and I held things up while I re-wrote more dance tracks and he was so fine about it.
You have worked with numerous big artists, BT, Paul Oakenfold, DJ Tiësto, and many others. What collaboration was a perfect match?
Jan: Everytime I receive a piece of music to work on I only follow through if I can really get off myself on it. So every collaboration is successful to me. As I’m careful with the music sent to me. Regardless of how well known the artist may be. I’m lucky I work with the greats in the business so its always cool stuff in the post.
All your lyrics that you use, are full of emotion, power, and I think you put your own feelings into it. But how do you start to write the lyrics? From an experience?
Jan: Yes, it always comes from my own thoughts, life experience or imagination. The track dictates usually the mood but the lyrics and melodies are always mine I don’t ever have a title. I choose my own thing for each track. I like working that way, I have no confines then!!
How long does it take you to write lyrics for a song, comes it in a spur, when you just write it down in a matter of minutes, or do you work hard on them?
Jan: It’s usually very quick. If it’s hard work, and you really have to think about it then its not really flowing. When I’m in the studio with B.T. for instance I hear the music and vibe on it, get my ideas, catch the mood. Then take it to bed with me work on it. Then the next morning its ready to record, that’s how I like to work.
You are one of the most famous singers in the trance scene, together with Sarah McLachlan, Kirsty Hawkshaw. What is your opinion about that?
Jan: God, famous sounds almost crazy as I’m totally in my own bubble. But I’m so honoured to be held in the same sentence as Sarah. And I know Kirsty’s work from B.T. also so thanks for that. Big time.
Are there any plans for more collaborations?
Jan: At the moment I’m getting ready to work with Paul Van Dyk. Also Johan (Gielen) from Airscape. Bill Hamel has also asked me to collaborate. Continued, I’m also working with D.J. Manolo and his partner Gene Therepy. Just finished a track for Cosmic Gate from Germany. And Tiesto, and we have something going out, soon a track called “YOU” plus we are going to do something together for my own album. So I’m busy busy. Paul Oakenfold and me are working on a track for a film he’s scoring. So fingers crossed.
Who would you like to work with? (doesn’t have to be a trance producer)
Jan: Enigma, that’s a dream though.
What song that you worked on, is your best work up to date in your opinion?
Jan: Hard one to choose, but I love ‘Lullaby For Ghia’, it’s on BT’s album. It was a lullaby for myself, blissful bubbles let me sleep rock me gently, don’t let me think too deep. Something like that. And I love bed when I can get in and sleep long hours.
Now something else: I say a word, and you have to say the first thing that comes in your mind.
Singing……………………..ME, I hope I’m not vain.
Love………………………..The man I’ve yet to meet. My friends and family
Dogs & cats………………..I love my friends pets but no time, always on the move to love a little creature the way it should be loved.
Paul Oakenfold………….…My mentor buys me amazing sushi.
Music…………………….….I live for it. I’ll tap until they put me in my box! And possibly on the other side too!!!!
Hate…….……………….….No time, only beauty escapes.
When DJ Tiësto spinned at the Dutch Dimension for 9 hours, you showed up and sang live to 3 different songs: Freefall feat. Jan Johnston - Skydive (Original mix), Planet Perfecto feat. Jan Johnston - Flesh (Dj Tiesto remix), Dj Tiesto feat. Jan Johnston - Close To You. How did the crowd react, and what were you thinking at that moment?
Jan: Well, if I ever felt a little famous it was at that gig The crowd, 6.000 of them at least sang along to all the tracks they went crazy. Iloved every minute I was on stage for 25 mins it was over far too quickly.
What did you feel when you saw ‘American Pie’ (if you saw it), and heard Libra presents Taylor – Calling Your Name?
Jan: I was very proud. I wish my name had of appeared on the film as it was an original B-side of mine from the past. But it opened doors. So I was so happy. And I loved the film, it suited the scene so well.
What direction do you want to go in the future?
Jan: Think to stay with what I’m doing, but write more for film I’m having more opportunities to do that so I hope I have my songs and voice in film stuff, it’s such a rush when you are sitting in the theatre, waiting for the credits. So far I think only the sweeper upper!!! Would see my name, but well!!!! I waited when the Swordfish film went thro` the huge list of names.
Who is in your opinion the best singer, not only in the dance scene, but also pop, r&b…?
Jan: George Michael: amazing voice and writer. Sarah McLachlan has a beautiful pure voice for the dance world. So I always love listening to her remixes. Craig David hits the right note always.
If you weren’t a singer/songwriter now, what would you be doing then?
Jan: I think I would be involved in holistic medicine. I’m an avid reader of all things natural and love passing on things I’ve learned.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Jan: Possibly sitting in Spain still writing and recording totally involved in music. But taking time out to chill. Maybe paint. Learn to cook. I live on sandwiches. And I make a good one by all accounts. So the guys in the studio say…
Has anything funny happened to you when you were on stage, singing?
Jan: Yeah, I was electrocuted once. And at a BT gig my dress was so transparent with the lights everyone thought I was totally naked underneath. I had a sheer gauze body on.
Hey, but I looked naked. Too late, I was on and I didn’t know!!
When is your next solo album coming? Any collaborations, apart from Bill Hamel, on it?
Jan: The album for Perfecto is coming soon. I’m collaborating with Tiësto for one track for it and also doing a BT JAN J track for my album. With Bill Hamel that’s a totally different project we’re doing as partners. Hey, but we’ll probably do something for the album too. I`m collaborating right now with Johan Gielen for Airscape and also a collaboration with Paul Van Dyk for his album.
So I’ll always be writing with the guys its my fave thing. In the meantime I’m working with two amazing producers from Boston, D.J. Manolo and Gene Therepy for my album. So I’m lucky I meet really talented muso’s.
Are you married?
Jan: No, I’m not married. No time, the love of my life right now is music. Old cliché but it’s true. But hey, I meet guys so I’m no nun. I enjoy, just no time to give 100%.
How is the collaboration with Bill Hamell going?
Jan: We’re going into the studio in June but we’re all prepared so it will be amazing.
Do you have anything else to add to this interview, for our readers?
Jan: I want to thank everyone for taking the time out to want to hear about ME its the weirdest thing. But I know from my fan letters that people really want to have a little insight into what makes an artist tick. So I’m ticking along working with great people loving every minute. It’s a charmed life to be able to do what you love and earn a living. I’ve done the 9 till 5 thing so I know how hard it is.
So big thanks to all those who care about the music I’m involved in.
I want to thank Jan for taking time out to answer all these questions, have fun in the studio Jan, and I’m sure that all your work will be as good as before.
Her new album ‘Emerging’ will be released soon, get it at the shops, cause it will have a lot of collaborations.