Jan Johnston, BT & Paul Oakenfold: A Fairy Tale Comes True (interview)
Monday, 16 April 2001Nurturing and sustaining your dreams remains an essential prerequisite for success, certainly judging by the example of trance starlet Jan Johnston, soon to release her hotly tipped debut Perfecto release Flesh. The Manchester born singer met Mezz's Benedetta Ferraro last week in London and began by explaining the key role Brian 'BT' Transeau has had in transforming her 10 year singing career.
Mezz: Is it true that everything started when BT happened to find one of your old records in a record shop's bargain bin-
Jan Johnston: "That's the absolute truth, BT was shopping in a trendy record shop in Manchester, picked up my single from the bargain bins, because he liked my photo on it, turned it over and saw that I wrote the track apart from just singing it and bought it. A few months later, when he was back in Washington, he put the record on and apparently fell on the floor for how much he liked my voice, and then tried to track me down. My manager unfortunately wasn't very helpful and didn't give him my number. So there I was, starving and yet unaware of what was going on behind the scenes. It took a while longer before he happened to work with someone who knew me, and when he finally managed to call me, I couldn't believe it. He had a track ready and wanted me to write and sing on it, and within half an hour I was there."
Mezz: What's BT like as person-
Jan Jansen: "Brian has a good spirit. He has empathy, he's generous and has a very good heart. He's been with the same girl for years, despite the amount of attention he receives when he's out, which means to me that he's also grounded. We're also very close friends, when I go to LA I stay at his house, he's an amazing guy with tremendous energy, he's a Libra like myself and we know what we're about."
Mezz: You said you were 'starving' before that infamous telephone call. What was really going on in your career at the time-
Jan Johnston: "It was the end of '95, beginning of '96, and I was a singer songwriter in the style of Susan Vega mixed with The Cardigans. My songs had a '90's feel but there was also depth to them. I wrote an album on A&M, which received quite a spurt of good reviews in the national press. Then my Managing Director was suddenly moved, I found out later that he had tried to take me with him, but the label wouldn't let me go, and in the end they left me to rot. I continued writing whatever the circumstances, and went back and forwards to Spain where I started singing in piano bars and restaurants."
Mezz: Were you depressed about this sudden turn-
Jan Johnston: "I was heartbroken about my album being shelved but I was also quite happy doing what I was doing, singing for my supper and waking up to the sunshine every morning. During that 18 months I continued to write but I didn't try to get another deal because I knew that no other record company would have touched me. However, this didn't put Oakenfold off. Once he saw me performing live, he decided to have me on his label. My fortune had finally turned around. I have a record out, lots of touring under my belt and I'm waiting to see what will happen next."
Mezz: Your new album will be out imminently, what can we expect-
Jan Johnston: "The record is very singer-songwriter based with true melodies and proper stories. However the music lends itself to the dance floor really well when it's re-mixed. It's for people who want to listen to music even when they're having friends around. To my dance fans it will probably come as a bit of a shock at first, but I hope I'll be able to transcend that. My hope is that this record is going to put my name into people's minds"
Mezz: How does Oakenfold feel about you straying from dance music-
Jan Johnston: "I think he has a great vision for my career. Had he wanted me to stay within dance rules, he wouldn't have allowed me to make the record I was making. When he asked< Tags