Rejoice! For today I welcome long-standing friend of mine and a boy I once met in the cold wilderness of London, Anthony Johns. Then battering the skins for British band Rubicks, Anthony now finds himself in Czech Republic lending his talented musical hand to many local projects. We sit down with him to see just how travel has helped shape his musical influences and learn about what is in store for him next.
Hey Anthony! Thanks for joining us. For those who don’t know about you, can you introduce yourself?
I’ve been living in Prague for a year. I lived here from 2001-2 before moving to various other places and then moved back here again. I played in a band in London for 4 years and now I’ve come back to Prague to enjoy the more casual approach of playing with whoever’s around. I usually play drums but also bass, guitar, keys and I do vocals too.
Would you say that travelling has an influence on your music and/or lyrics?
Yes it does, hugely. I think if I get too much into a monotonous working routine, I can’t write or play music as well. But living abroad provides an ever-unfamiliar situation in which you have to make sense of what’s going on and I guess music helps that, and vice versa. There’s a wider variety of people to play with who don’t seem as moulded as people back home. Or maybe the way of meeting them is different – there isn’t as much pigeon-holing and it’s not such a strictly-defined scene as it is back in London. And it seems much more about just enjoying the music here.
Has living as an expat in Prague changed your perspective on music in any way?
Yes. There’s a wider variety of people to play with because it’s much easier to access a smaller community. Or maybe the way of meeting them is different – there isn’t as much pigeon-holing and it’s not such a strictly-defined, image-conscious scene as it is back in London. And it seems much more about just enjoying the music here.
Describe what the realities of travel are like for touring musicians like yourself?
Well, going on tour can be fun – you never know who you’re going to meet. I once played in Dublin and the sound engineer and his girlfriend just let us get drunk and stay at their place. I was wearing this pin-striped suit with really open trouser pockets so my phone fell out – and they sent it back to me in London a week later – really nice people. But then sometimes you hire a van and drive all the way from London to Birmingham and find that the promoter hasn’t really promoted the night and that there’s only five people in the audience, that can get a bit unnerving.
What’s one thing can’t you travel without?
What’s on your playlist for travelling?
At the moment, Aphex Twin- Druqks, White Buzz, OM, Joanna Newsom – The Milk Eyed Mender, The Yardbirds, The Silver Apples and a Hip Hop mix I downloaded from soundcloud.
Can you name the best and worst moments in travelling the world for you?
The best moment was when I was in Ohio and a friend of mine who had managed to procure a large assortment of pharmaceutical pills from his workplace drove a few of us on a trip (in every sense of the word) to a Hare Krishna temple in West Virginia. It was beautiful, sunny day, with a splendiferous blend of European and Far-Eastern architecture everywhere. I’d brought with me a small djembe hand drum and I was playing it next to a bush filled with caterpillars in the breeding season. When I played the drum, the caterpillars started to dance. I’m still convinced that this actually happened, as I’ve only had aural and never visual hallucinations, but I’ll never know.
The worst moment was when I invited an (unbeknownst to me) female smack addict to my flat in Prague. When I woke up the next day, she’d walked off with my flatmate’s portfolio of paintings that he was going to use for a university interview the next day! I was heavily berated by my temperamental Greek flatmates and got drunk and got on a tram on the way home and she was there! I managed to get the portfolio off her and jumped off the tram. Phew!
What musical festivals or events around the world should more people know about?
Slovtek in Slovakia, any Psy-Trance festivals in Czech Republic, the Marijuana March here in Zizkov , Prague, Ozora Festival in Hungary and some of the smaller expat or medieval music festivals here. It’s pretty much a good time wherever you go here because people are pretty relaxed and it’s fairly cheap.
What’s your all time favourite place that you’ve travelled to as a musician and why?
Probably Toronto, Canada because it was great to play with the Rubicks there and I got to see my family who I hadn’t seen in about ten years. It was great to see them at the show and hang out with them afterwards.
What’s your next gig destination?
My next gig is at the Playing for Change charity music festival on September 22, here in Prague. I’m playing drum kit with Keiko Yamamoto who’s a super-talented Blues guitarist and singer. She’s got the swing, got the funk, whatever it is that makes the music great. I haven’t gelled with a musician like this for years. It’s going to be mind-blowing.
Massive thanks to musics’ second best Johns (after Daniel of Silverchair of course) for the great interview! You can drop Anthony a line here.