John Grant: Coke, Porn, Mountain-Climbing And Me

The self-flagellating ex-Czar exposes his inner optimist in MOJO’s experiential Q&A.

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John Grant
Hide your Coke and porn, it’s John Grant!

I see myself as… The Millennium Force rollercoaster at Cedar Point, Ohio [see above pic], the greatest American amusement park. Extreme highs and extreme lows. That’s going to be my self-portrait.

I would describe myself as… immature. Passionate. Given to flights of fancy [laughs]. Melancholic. Struggles with depression. Very funny. Turns pain into comedy. Confused. Curious.

Music changed me… by giving me an identity, and something to look forward to, of whatever my favourite group would do next. It expressed the things that I wasn’t able to put into words, about my life at any given time.

When I’m not making music… I’m usually rock climbing in Austria [laughs]. Taking photos of things, which is a little hobby of mine. On Facebook, Skype or emailing. Working on one of my languages. I’m currently in Iceland so I’ve been studying Icelandic.

My biggest vice is… oh, boy. Coke Zero or pornography. Sometimes at the same time.

The last time I cried was… I can’t remember. Maybe with [ex-boyfriend] Charlie. Even then, I’d only sob for a few seconds, and only when I was talking. My anti-depressants have made it impossible for me to cry, it gets stuck in my throat constantly. I think that if it broke free, it would go on forever. I love that phrase that parents say to their children when they cry: ‘I’ll give you something to cry about.’

The last time I was embarrassed was… when I was taking a shower between two Icelandic gods at the gym, with my unfit form between them. They were two members of Gus Gus, actually. That’s more shame than embarrassment, isn’t it? I don’t really experience much embarrassment.

“I have a certificate as a trained Russian medical interpreter.”

LP, CD or mp3? LP. Because of the artwork. Devo’s New Traditionalists, one of my favourite albums, only sounds good on vinyl.

My most treasured possession is…  my Kraftwerk box set. And this incredible dictionary of Russian idioms and colloquialisms by Sophia Lubensky. I actually contacted her because I wanted to thank her. I’ve pored over it for hours.

The best book I’ve read is… Immortality by Milan Kundera. Every sentence made me gasp because of the truth involved. It’s a tie between that and She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, for its incredible expression of pain mixed with humour, and Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim, for feeling understood.

My formal qualifications are…  I spent six years at a German university [in Heidelberg] studying German and Russian. I can speak both languages but I didn’t finish my degree because I was crippled by anxiety, to the point I couldn’t sit in the classroom without horrible panic. I have a certificate as a trained Russian medical interpreter.

Milan Kundera Immortality
Immortality by Milan Kundera. Every sentence made John Grant gasp.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Hmmm. I’d say half empty because I want to keep the optimists on their toes because they piss me off so much. Even if I am myself an optimist [laughs].

My biggest regret is… being scared all through my youth, too terrified to live.

When we die…  after everything I’ve seen in this world, I believe there is something after. I believe humans have a soul that continues to exist after they die, but I don’t know what form that will take. I was taught to believe in heaven and hell, so it’s hard for me to imagine something different. Maybe I just comfort myself in the belief. But the fact the universe doesn’t ever end makes me think there are a lot of things I can’t understand. Anything’s possible.

I would like to be remembered as… intelligent and funny. I would just like to be remembered! I think I have a great voice but it’s not special enough to be remembered. But what’s special about me is much more than just my voice. So, as someone who enriched the lives of those who knew me.

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