Interview: Despina Monoyiou
Shortly before the release of his new album titled “Opium”, we talked with the Swedish singer and songwriter Jay Jay Johanson. The melancholic artist with the humble figure and the unique voice, responded to our call immediately, impressing us with his professionalism as an artist.
When did it all start?
Oh, long ago – I guess already when I bought my first platform boots at 8. But the most important change was seeing Chet Baker live in 1984 -after that nothing was the same again. I realized I wanted to do the same as Chet, that I could do what he was doing. My style of song writing changed into a more jazzier structure. So yes, somewhere there in the snow, when I was 15, it all started.
The pace of your album releases, reveals a very productive artist.
Is there so much inspiration out there?
Yes, and even more inspiration in here (pointing at the head, and tapping on the chest, close to the heart).
Your music has been characterized as melancholic. Is there an aim for a personal catharsis involved?
I don’t know – I can’t write in another way – these are the stories I need to write – stuff I need to get off my chest – things stuck in my throat I need to spit up.
What parts of your music you might characterize as Swedish?
Oh, I have no idea. I guess that’s easier for someone looking at me from the outside to tell. I’m too involved in my own shit to say what it resembles.
Your music involves hidden messages, deep thoughts and poetic allegories, expressed through simple images and notions. Would you consider your work as symbolic?
Well, hmm… I guess so. Stories are not always written in the most direct form. We all need metaphors sometimes to express what we’re actually trying to say.
Feelings of nostalgia, love betrayal etc are expressed through your work. Do you sense any differences in the way your work applies to people from different countries? Is the vibe different?
You know, I have a feeling that, my audience, from the youngest to the oldest, girls and boys, Africans, Japanese, Eskimoes, or transvestites on Manhattan etc, they all relate to my songs in the same way. And they even feel that they have something in common. It’s absolutely fantastic to see how many strangers become friends on my shows… and they write to me afterwards and tell me about it.
Your new album is about to be released. Why Opium?
Oh, I don’t know. Since the first album, I don’t really name my albums. They kind of become the title sooner or later. And this time, some of the references and influences went back to the old days of Paris, like 100 years ago, when the painters and the writers all drank absinthe and smoke opium in the exotic rooms.