Songlines Across New Zealand
  Greg Johnson Interview 10.06.2011
 

SANZ: First up I just recently read in a nz music book called ready to fly that you had originally studied architecture how did you end up getting into the music scene
GREG: Where did you read that
SANZ: It was in a book called Ready To Fly
GREG: Oh I’ve never heard of it. Ready To Fly.
SANZ: Yea I can’t remember who the author is but it stated you were studying to be an architect at one stage.
GREG: Ha sure I did two years of it
SANZ: What made you decide to go into music
GREG: I don’t know. I think I just hated architecture. No I didn’t hate it music just took precedent
SANZ: Do you ever look back and think what and where you would be if you had gone through with architecture
GREG: No
SANZ: Now you have released not one but 2 great best of’s how hard was it to compile those 2 best ofs
GREG: They kind of choose themselves the best ofs
SANZ: Now over the years you have been signed to both major and independent record labels which do you prefer out of the 2
GREG: Oh um well it’s a different world now you know I think that indies a much better way of doing stuff.
SANZ: Can you tell me the upsides to being on a major label vs. independent
GREG: Major labels have better Friday night drinks
SANZ: Can you tell me the downsides to being on a major label vs. independent
GREG: You know these days they’re not really that major anymore and that’s the problem they’re being eviscerated by the economy and by the nature of the business to the extent where what may have been a major label ten years ago is now not actually much bigger then an indie used to be but you still have to deal with the major.
SANZ: This is probably an easy question Can you tell me the upsides to being on an independent vs. major label
GREG: Well the control mostly and owning your own stuff which is what I do now it’s just much better.
SANZ: Can you tell me the downsides to being on an independent vs. major label
GREG: You got to pay for your own Friday night drinks haha
PHOTOGRAPHER: And how many of those have you had tonight
GREG: This is the first one
SANZ: Now in the news lately there has been talk of the maori king having his title changed to possibly the king of Huntly any chance the guy could get a second song about him if this happened
GREG: You know I think it’s going to be very hard to sing waiting for, waiting for the king of Huntly. It’s not going to ring as much is it.
SANZ: No. That was a good song I liked that one.
GREG: I might have to write another one The King Of Huntly it sounds somewhat significantly less doesn’t it the king of Huntly
SANZ: Now last time I interviewed you I asked your thoughts on you tube im coming back to the topic of you tube and even face book. You have a phenomenal fan base and a lot of positive comments on these sites regarding your songs what goes through your mind when you read these comments
GREG: Well I don’t usually go on there and check out the comments but every now and then I do. It’s always good. You can’t take that stuff too seriously cos some people write negative stuff aswell, but it’s nice when people like your stuff. You know now you tube that’s been good I’ve got a lot of videos.
SANZ: Still on the topic of these two sites when I asked on your page regarding about the cut to the chase video being uploaded to your you tube channel what went through your mind when I mentioned I had a copy of this video on vhs/dvd
GREG: Well I was immediately John send me one good on you that’s great. I swear I cannot even remember the video for this
SANZ: You’re sitting in front of a blue screen or green screen and you’re in a gym hall.
GREG: Oh right I remember this clip now and there’s this bright light. I can’t wait to see that clip haven’t seen it in years.
SANZ: I was on trademe and these video hits NZ On Air released and someone was selling it and it had cut to the chase on it and I thought I’d grab it at a three dollar reserve
GREG: That’s fantastic thanks so much for that.
SANZ: Now you have a song that appeared on last chance Harvey how did that come about
GREG: Two songs I Got Opinions and Looking Out On Monday are in that film. A music supervisor obviously just picked them for the spots. That’s how it worked out then I did a lot of showcases for music supervisors and others so I guess one of them landed
SANZ: What are your thoughts on your songs being used in tv ads (for example back in 2001 or so cut to the chase was used in the pams ads)
GREG: It’s great because it’s income and you got to do everything you can to make those songs work for you, you know
SANZ: Now you don’t really do any covers of other peoples songs but over the years a few bands have actually covered your songs for example Grada covering Isabelle and straw peoples cover of scared of flying what are your thoughts on these two covers
GREG: You know I loved both versions of them actually. Grada I think was just a beautiful version
SANZ: Now with the album Seabreeze how did that album get its title (did you write and record it there )
GREG: Well actually right next to there was the late Ian Morris’s place we recorded there and right next door to his place was the Seabreeze Motel. We drove past it everyday on the way to the studio and thought that’s a cool name.
SANZ: That’s one of my favourite albums.
GREG: Mine too
SANZ: Now the idea for secret weapon was for the fans to pay for it before it was even ready how did this idea come about
GREG: Well my new manager Steve came up with that idea. It worked out brilliantly. He’s got a company called bandbutler.com and they do that kind of thing for bands so any bands that are interested should contact him at bandbutler
SANZ: In your opinion what makes a song memorable
GREG: Being able to remember it haha. Well you know I love pop songs I mean who knows structure,lyric and melody all that stuff you know.
SANZ: Has there been any songs you have forgotten
GREG: Lots haha
SANZ: what’s is the best place you've travelled to and played a gig
GREG:
Well there’s just too many
SANZ: Tauranga
GREG: Tauranga
SANZ: Now over the years you have played on a various selection of instruments like piano guitar and trumpet Which instrument do you prefer to write songs with
GREG: Piano and guitar sometimes but usually it’s piano
SANZ: What advice would you give to singer/songwriters starting out
GREG: Get a law degree
SANZ: That’s a good one
GREG: I don’t know hmm be prepared for a long long hard road
SANZ: I’ve noticed that with some bands who have uploaded their videos to you tube and the record companies pull their audio for some reason.
GREG: Well you know it’s increasingly difficult to make a living out of it I’m lucky I’ve had years of establishing a fan base but it’s different, it’s not impossible though
SANZ: Are there any songs from the early albums from over the years you would never play again
GREG: Oh probably a lot
SANZ: Can you name any and why
GREG: I probably wouldn’t play anything off watertable these days
SANZ: What about Isabelle
GREG: Yeah I mean some you have to move on. The early ones aren’t really that good you know
SANZ: What has been the most difficult song you have written in terms of chords, how long it took to write, and how many times you rewrote it /retweaked it
GREG: I don’t know. But certainly Admit you’ve changed although I loved the song it was quite easy to write was an extraordinarily difficult song to play for some reason. It’s really complex chord changes in it, it doesn’t sound like it but it does
SANZ: I Like that song
GREG: Me too
SANZ: Are there any songs you wrote over the years that you look back on now and go god what was I thinking when I wrote that
GREG:
Yeah some um you know some of them are very located in the time and a place a lot of them that was relevant to me they still may be relevant to others
SANZ: How do you know when it’s the right time to record a song that you have written
GREG: Well you know it’s probably a bit more practical then that. Just when you get round to recording another album that’s the right time.
SANZ: Now over the years you have recorded B sides and other off side projects for example the song for Christchurch and the Helen young session any chance we will see these appear on itunes in the future as Im sure the fans would love to see these (its only me the isabelle Bside)
GREG: You know I’d like to do a B sides compilation at some point so yeah sure.
SANZ: Some of my favourites are that aint frozen water
GREG: They may well show up at some point. I’m waiting for my publishing to expire with sony.
SANZ: How long till that happens
GREG: 2014
SANZ: That’s a long time to wait. So we’ll see a B sides album then
GREG: I’d say so yeah
SANZ: Now id like to ask if possible the story behind some of your songs/ song lyrics Ball gowns and small towns
GREG: Country cousins moving to the city that’s the basis on that. Kids leaving smalltowns and going to the city
SANZ: It had that really odd lyric in it she Dreams about killing sheep she’s no bo peep which is kind of random
GREG: It is random it’s just a country girl who’s sick of the country
SANZ: In two feet off the ground you had a guy on the telephone was that a random number you called and recorded
GREG: Yeah actually that was. We were obviously bored or stoned or both and we were ringing random numbers in Germany to see what people would say and this guy was in Bremen (with german accent hello hello)
PHOTOGRAPHER: Do you speak any German
GREG: Fluently
SANZ: That aint frozen water (that’s just ice)
GREG: Yes oh boy you’re really testing my memory John trust you to come up with the hard questions I don’t know I can’t remember but I still like that line it’s quite good.
SANZ: cos you said years ago I ask the questions everybody else is afraid to ask
GREG: I like that
SANZ: I’m still pulling it off
GREG: Good on you, you do, it’s good
SANZ: Story behind your biggest hit isabelle
GREG: Balkan war the siege of Sarajevo was the inspiration for that.
SANZ: just thought I would ask this since this is the title of your latest album) Do you have a secret weapon musically
GREG: Oh I do. If I told you what it was it wouldn’t be secret
SANZ: With the next album do you plan on getting the fans to prepay
GREG: I don’t know, maybe, it really worked well I think most of the people would hopefully do it again hopefully people thought it was worth while
SANZ: What are your plans for the rest of 2011 and 2012
GREG: I’ve got some studio projects coming up, we’re going back to L.A and do and put a bit more work into the studio I’ve just moved up there so we’re sort of setting up again and then a little bit of touring but mostly studio the rest of the year. I might come back down here later in the year but im not sure. But January I’ll be back for some more stuff

 
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