Question Time

Andrew Johnson




He's a singer, a songwriter, a musician, a teacher and a former disco dancer. He describes himself as a "natural born pessimist" (so life always exceeds his expectations) and has also penned a song named (I'M IN  LOVE WITH) DONNA SUMMER. To make it brief, Andrew Johnson is one very smart guy...


Before we start, have you anything to declare?

Iíd like to declare war on apathy. People that donít have any genuine passion for anything or an opinion either way on important issues really annoy me.

How are you?

Not too bad although Iím quite tired at the moment because my wife and I have just had a baby Ė Donovan (after the 60s folk singer. We have another child called Isaac named after Isaac Hayes so you can see the pattern!). I donít sleep too well at the best of times because I have a very busy mind. Iím usually buzzing about one project or another that Iím involved in. Iíve got a few things on the horizon that Iím really excited about so no sleep for me!

Coffe, tea or...?

At the moment tea, although Iím getting back into coffee again. I used to drink it very strong and very often. Probably didn't help much with my insomnia! As for "or" at the moment it would have to be wine or Jack Daniels.

What are the latest additions on your iPod?

A Stephen Fry Podgram about Language, which is quite interesting; THE SOUND GALLERY VOL. 1 Ė a collection of 60s and 70s easy listening/soundtrack type stuff which I used to listen to all the time years ago but it now reminds me of driving around the Amalfi Coast heading to my Sisterís wedding in Sorrento last year which was fantastic. I only got an iPod at Christmas so Iím revisiting loads of classic albums and CDs I havenít listened to for years. Kraftwerk Ė THE MAN MACHINE, 80's 12" singles, Sly and the Family Stone, Can, Stereolab, The Clash, The SmithsÖ the list goes on. I like plenty of new stuff too Ė Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, Daft Punk. I donít listen to a great deal of dance music when at home to be honest. I love putting it on shuffle. It always plays what I want to hear which is strange!

Something tells me you may be IN LOVE WITH DONNA SUMMER... How did that happen?

I have some fairly vague recollections of being very young and watching a British TV show called Top of the Pops and really loving the disco music that was around in the late 1970s. I used to make up dance routines for it with my sister. In the late 80's and early 90's I got right back into it through old Rose Royce, Chic and Earth Wind and Fire tapes but Donna soon stood out from the pack as the cream of the crop. MACARTHUR PARK was the one that clinched it for me. The extended version is simply amazing. As my song mentions, it was the cover of ONCE UPON A TIME that started it all in terms of ďbeing in loveĒ with her. She looks gorgeous on that. I wasnít that keen on the cover of LOVE TO LOVE YOU BABY because you can see right up her nostrils, but at least she kept them clean!

Tell us about the song.

Itís really just a bit of fluff that popped in my head while I was driving one day. I forget the original inspiration but I think the chorus melody came first and then I wrote a load of verses a few of which made it in to the finished song. I write and record very fast so it didnít take very long for me to get to the finished version. It was purely by chance that I released it as a single. Tunecore (the company that distribute music for me) had an offer on to put out a single at a very reasonable rate so I decided to go for it and Iíve been pleasantly surprised that anyone has taken any notice and really appreciate it. Itís not even like any other songs Iíve done really but if it takes off I might have to pursue that style for a while!

Have you ever thought of writing a song for Donna?

I haveÖ now that you mention it. Iíd love to write some songs for a female vocalist. Iíve used a couple on some other tracks Iíve done and in some ways itís much easier and you can be a better judge of the end product because itís always hard to be objective about your own voice. I donít think mine records very well. I have a much better and stronger live voice.

(IíM IN LOVE WITH) DONNA SUMMER is taken from your brilliant new album, NOW THEN. Pick 5 words to describe it.






So is there some kind of electronic shine to the songs?

There's an electronic element to a lot of the stuff. I'm not sure "shine" is the right word. Lyrically the album it's quite erm... dark, but in a very pop kind of way. I had a few demons to lay to rest but had to code the lyrics or I'd get into legal trouble because they are mostly about one person/event!.

It's better to listen to music or to write music?

I wish I could listen to music how I did before I started playing and writing. There's always a little voice in my head now which is trying to figure out what the arrangement is and how itís produced. I would say that itís better to have music than not and thatís about the best answer I can give really.

Is there a Donna song you wish you'd written?

Ooohh! MACARTHUR PARK I guess. Itís just a bizarre, wonderful and crazy lyric and structure. Jimmy Webb was off on one when he wrote that. I love the Richard Harris version too although I doubt anyone would say he was, technically, as good a singer as Donna! I really like Scott Walker and it has a bit of that feel to it also. Giorgio Moroder is a real musical hero and that is one of his many peaks.

Do you have a favorite movie??

It used to be TAXI DRIVER but, a bit like music, it depends on the mood that Iím in or want to be in now. I like really serious and thought-provoking work like PAN'S LABYRINTH but itís not something I could watch all day. Iím also a sucker for a good rom-com so MAMMA MIA, GROUNDHOG DAY etc. are always watchable. I love DIG, which is a documentary about The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, neither of which Iím particularly into but itís a great piece of film-making. I also love comedies such as THIS IS SPINALTAP or anything with Christopher Guest really. I watched THE BIG LEBOWSKI again the other day and thoroughly enjoyed that. Again.

What is your drug of choice?


Do you ever dance to Donna's music?

I used to dance to it (and other disco) for a living!


If weíre speaking metaphorically then I used to ďStamp my FeetĒ as I was a Disco Dancer (the comedy variety!) but ďIím a FireĒ as a person. Iím emotional and passionate but both tend to come out in my songs and art rather than actual emotional outbursts. The Donna songs hold a certain irony in that I'M A FIRE would make me stamp my feet more in terms of getting up and dancing but STAMP YOUR FEET is a more interesting musical direction for the queen. Probably I'M A FIRE though if I had to choose one, itís more immediately danceable.

What's on your bedside table?

A Louis Theroux book, a copy of Fortean Times magazine, a glass of water, a new lamp and some coffee cup stains.

Donna (and Gershwin) not being available, who you wanna have dinner with?

I did a couple of gigs with Damo Suzuki from Can a few years back and he stayed over at my house after one of them so thatís one of my dreams of meeting a hero fulfilled, and then some, already. If I could dine with anyone nowÖ Raquel Welch when she was about 25 just so people could stare. Iím not sure the conversation would be up to much though so failing that Stephen Hawking. Iíd like to sample his voice too. Be great to get him to do a cover of (I'M IN LOVE WITH) DONNA SUMMER!

That would be fantastic! Andy, is love really the healer?

Yes. That or Antibiotics..

What is it that makes life worth living?

Music, family, fun and friends. Thereís always something new or different to experience and no matter how low you areÖ it can always get worse! Iím a natural born pessimist so I always look on the dark side of situations and think of the worst case scenario. This means that life usually turns out better than I had expected! Bonus!

If not for music...?

I would have better hearing than I do now. I spent so many years blasting my head off, dancing to disco at deafening volume and playing in bands/recording that I think thereís a good percentage of my hearing gone but I wouldnít have it any other way. I like to feel music take over and high volume certainly helps! I remember being at Spike Island Ė a gig that The Stone Roses put on Ė and one of the support bands played a dub song called PRIVATISE THE AIR and the bass just shook the whole island and I could feel my whole body disappear and become the bassline. It was both scary and fantastically exciting at the same time. Music is such an abstract form of art that it can grip you and surprise you in so many ways and its permutations are endless.



Question Time: Andrew Johnson © 2009 + 2015 Sebastiano Lionti
to be reproduced or redistributed in any form.
All rights reserved.










Starring Andrew Johnson
Soundtrack by Andrew Johnson
Directed by Sebastiano Lionti
Guest appearances by Maria Chiara, Frank, Massimo, Guido, Carlo, Cathy, Riccardo, Raffaele, Paul, David, Dana, Sebastiano, Marco.

...Some would call this infatuation
It doesn't change the situation:
We're all in love with Donna Summer




Dance remixes available on iTunes