INTERVIEW: Faithful Johannes | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Supping a real ale in a Durham boozer nestled under the iconic viaduct, Faithful Johannes is in an infectiously uplifting mood as he tells me about his debut solo album, Thrills & Bills. “I’d bought a new laptop and started off this record just using free plug in instruments and drum machines. I found a couple of soft synths I really liked but it’s the first time I’ve handed over production to someone else so it’s been a bit odd.” Sam Grant at Blank Studios in Newcastle mixed and mastered, and the result is ten tracks of sentimental spoken word poetry and barely-rap over homemade lo-fi 80s-inflected disco beats, which sounds like Jarvis Cocker if he’d spent the last twelve years in an old Durham pit village. It also serves to demonstrate why Faithful Johannes has quietly established a reputation as a unique lyricist and memorable live performer.

Highlights Ghosts In My Attic and Skip Martyrdom reflect on the passage of time and, ultimately, death but paint a picture of where the singer is in his life. “I’d just moved house and Ghosts In My Attic mentions the letters from my sister’s French penfriend which I’ve got. I still get wistful! Skip Martyrdom, I just put a field recorder in my back yard but the song is about my grandparents’ generation dying really, so that one is pretty personal. Big Break is fictional but it’s also borne out of being in bands in your twenties. I did a degree and then went on New Deal for Musicians [a classically New Labour benefit introduced in 1999 for young out of work musicians]. So it’s not autobiographical at all but you do see people getting ripped off chasing a dream of music.”

Thrills & Bills is an oddly matter-of-fact record about the crushing realities of life and moments of joy that make it all worthwhile

Thrills & Bills is an oddly matter-of-fact record about the crushing realities of life and moments of joy that make it all worthwhile, from the cynical word play of the album title to closer Captain Of The Stars’ self-deprecating love story. It’s full of lyrical non-raps like a Grand Don’t Come For Free but on a wistfully working class level, where the holidays and kebab queues are replaced by bus rides and post office counters. I asked if he considers himself a rapper. “No, I don’t think so. There’s loads of much better rappers than what I do. I feel like I started doing barely rap because if someone was putting on a rap show [the other rappers] turning up with USB sticks would [see me] and wonder what the fuck is this?!”

The album will be released on the Faithful’s own Win Big label and I hoped this was a statement of intent going forward. “I wanna put bands on. I’ve got a little PA that would probably do a medium-sized venue but in the meantime I’m just going to use the basement at the Holy GrAle, but I can’t book any tall acts there!” Holy GrAle is another of Durham’s new micro pubs and will play host to the album launch on Thursday 10th October. “I do love performing live, I go in the crowd a bit and try and give out a hand written message to everyone. It can be bit twattish though!”

Faithful Johannes launches his debut album at Holy GrAle, Durham on Thursday 10th October

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