Jay-Jay Johanson redefines the art of urban blues with « Cockroach ». This 9th album overflows with feverish rhythms, powerful drums and peculiar percussions. Jay-Jay multiplies resorts to instruments, to drums, to rhythmics and even synthesizers are back, used in an experimental fashion within a vintage atmosphere.

Jay-Jay is not really a newcomer and he can claim to have led a very rich career, highlighted by undeniable successes. He has notably composed 2 movie soundtracks (« La Confusion des Genres » in 2001 and « La Troisième Partie du Monde » in 2009), and has collaborated with the band C2C on their album « Tetra ».

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Thanks to Jay-Jay Johanson
Merci à Lara / IVOX
Photo

Laura Delicata

Interview

Thierry Jaussaud / Valencia Ehrhart

Hello Jay-Jay, how have you been? Where are you answering our questions from?
Sitting in my kitchen, drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea., just came back from China, and three concerts on my Cockroach tour, it was my third Chinese tour, and it’s getting better every time…

To begin with our interview. Why have you chosen « Cockroach » as a title of an album?
Well, I guess it was the same kind of reasons as when I baptised my albums Whiskey, Tattoo, Poison, you know, I come t a point in the process of making the album when it suddenly just becomes clear that – yes, this is the Cockroach album we are making – it is kind of abstract, but, ok sure there are some more direct reasons. for example, the fact that they say that the cockroach is the animal that will survive us all when the world comes to an end – i begin to feel that I have survived this music thing much longer than I had ever imagined – I almost begin to feel like a Neil Young or something, after 18 years in making albums, 9 albums – I guess I feel like I’m transforming into a Cockroach – and that brings us to Kafkas Methamorphosis – and then when we took these photos for the record cover and I was inspired by some old portraits of Toulouse Lautrec and I wanted that type of big hat, and that hat on the picture becomes like a shell on me that makes me think of a bug in some way, or a cockroach… and then also the reason that the cockroach is such a hated animal, everywhere in the world people are just smacking it to death as soon as they see it, and I felt kind of sad for the little creature, and I wanted to try to make something beautiful and call it cockroach, maybe to bring a bit of positive karma to the bug, imagine if there would be some people who would start to say that they like Cockroach. that has probably never happened before.

Do you get the feeling you’re disclosing too much about yourself in your titles? Love betrayal has been referred to on your last album.
That’s the only way I can write, and the only way that makes it important for me do what I am doing, I could not do it if it wasn’t personal and for real.

Has the way you’re composing always been marked with this melancholia?
Yes, I think so, since childhood actually.

From It Hurts Me So to your current work, how do you look back on your career … Is there anything you would have done differently? Do you see « Antenna » as an outstanding work in your musical career?
Well, the 3 last songs we did on Antenna and the first 5 we did on Rush just after, are songs that maybe should have been released under a pseudonym, cause these are the only track I did not produce myself, they are maybe more of remixes actually. but at the same time I guess I had come to a point where I needed to do something different in a different way. but there are some songs on Antenna that I am very very proud of, like Tomorrow, Cookie and Kate – imagine if the record label would have put all the money and focus on these songs instead…

This album had received a warm welcome by Americain audience. Strangely enough, nothing else has been released since then, do you know why?
They did follow up the Antenna album with a compilation called Prologue, made for the American market, to show that I had made stuff before Antenna. and I was working alot in the states between 2002 and 2005, but after these years away from Europe I started to feel that I was abandoning the fans I already had and that I was losing grip of the areas where I had already worked up a steady base of listeners, so I decided to come back to Europe again and skip USA, at least for a while.

From each of your albums, which song(s) you wish you had released as singles but that never got the chance to?
You know, I usually am the one who choose, not on Antenna, no, and Keep it a Secret was a choice made in dialogue together with the record label at the time. If there would have been a third single from Poison it would have been Far Away, Jay-Jay Johanson could have been a third single from Tattoo,

You have worked on 2 movie soundtracks. For which existing movie you wish you had made the soundtrack?
Let’s chose a film that has no music – like Hitchcocks Rear Window, or Birds, both are without soundtrack, but they are fantastic films, even without.

About ten years ago, I had seen you in the show MTV Style in Sweden. How have you become a designer?
I don’t know what you are talking about, : )

Are you the one deciding on the art work of your albums?
Yes, always did, even though Antenna artwork was something of a remixed version of the original idea.

Moreover on your last video, you’re driving a Renault 19. Did you come up with the idea? Any acknowledgement for your fans?
The story about that car is an accident actually, I was supposed to drive my video directors Volvo, but it didn’t start that cold winter morning, so I called my drummer and asked if I could borrow his car. and the idea of the whole film is about paranoia and jealousy, and I wanted to shoot the film in a very small room, or why not in the small space inside a car. on my way to try to figure out if my wife is cheating on me or not.

What can we find in your pocket/bag right now?
My visa card, my drivers licence.

To finish, a song that may be on your mind right now.
The Sound of Someone You Love Who’s Going Away And It Doesn’t Matter, by Penguin Cafe Orchestra


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