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John Grant: On My Culture Radar

Singer on rediscovering The Catcher in the Rye, the appeal of industrial landscapes and Ennio Morricone’s ‘horror jazz’

Singer John Grant: ‘Calling something grim isn’t an insult as far as I’m concerned, it’s a compliment.’

Current favourite book?

I’ve never read The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, so I’m reading that now. Well, it was taught at school, but it’s about a teenage boy who’s facing problems in life and I resented that we were concentrating on him and when I had my own problems at the time. It was difficult to see someone struggle when I was struggling myself. Now I’m past all that, and it’s an incredible book, as everyone’s told me throughout my life.

Restaurant

I was just at Thieving Harry’s again in Hull, England. That’s one of my favourite places to eat in the world. I like to have the mashed avocado on toast with poached eggs, and they do great coffee too. You can sit upstairs and look out over the harbour and watch the afternoon winter sun going down. And the interior is cool without making you nauseous with its hipster-ness. It’s warm and inviting, almost to Australian levels. 

Comedians

Alex Edelman. He talks about being Jewish and going to white supremacy meetings to let them know he’s Jewish and ask them what they’re trying to accomplish! I made friends with him before I was aware of his comedy, so I know him as a person as well. I find it inspiring to see young people quite together, at an age when I was quite pathetic.

Artist/designer

Jim Hodges. He works in all sorts of mediums: fabric, glass, sculptures, paintings. He previously asked me to come and play as part of his exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. I wasn’t familiar with his work, but I was shocked by its beauty. There’s a piece which looks like a terrarium with plants inside a glass dome, and everything you see inside is made of glass but you can’t guess that. We’re thinking about a collaboration.

Album

One is called the Art of the Synthesizer by Sam Spence, from 1972. It’s vignettes of synth music that sound like they could be used in television and films. I guess you could call it library music. I listen to it when I’m putting my make-up on and taking it off on this tour. Then there’s also Ennio Morricone’s score, Gli Occhi Freddi Della Paura. I haven’t seen the movie but I listen to it constantly and play it before my show. It’s very eerie, like horror jazz. 

City

A triptych just came into my mind of Manchester, Glasgow and Hull because I’m a huge fan of the grim, industrial landscape. Calling something grim isn’t an insult as far as I’m concerned, it’s a compliment, because it makes me feel excited and want to take photographs. Manchester is an extremely photogenic city. People keep saying it’s so sad that Hull is run down and I’m sure my outside perspective is skewed and romanticised, but some of those old factories are incredible. 

Actor

Olivia Colman. I saw The Favourite, and it’s my favourite. 

TV show

I love a show called Future Man, on Hulu in the States. It’s about a kid in suburbia (Josh Hutcherson) who gets to the final level of a video game when the video game comes to life and because he’s mastered the game, he’s seen as their saviour. The first season is so funny, though the new season is more challenging. Rick and Morty is another one I really love.  

John Grant plays University Concert Hall, Limerick (March 27th); Opera House, Cork (28th); Leisureland, Galway (30th); and the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin (31st).

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