Meet: John J Presley interview

Sometime guitarist for Duke Garwood John J Presley is very much an artist in his own right, as previous singles Honeybee and Left amply demonstrated, and now he’s back with a new EP, White Ink, which drops on July 24th. It’s a mix of blues, with a dose of psych, indie and Mogwai (a stated influence) style noises post rock. Ahead of the release, we spoke to Presley about the EP, his influences, thoughts and future plans.

You’re new EP is out in a couple of weeks. Can you talk us through the tracks?
Come to Me- I wrote this after our European tour with Jim Jones Revue. The scenery was amazing and the drives were long, but it’s also a theme of longing to get back to loved ones.

Come Calling – I wrote this just before the recording of the EP, it’s about needing things and not getting them. Or getting them and moving onto the next thing I need. The never ending cycle.

Sweet Superstition – In the last 12 months a lot of people I know have died, it’s really a tribute to them. I became very aware of my own mortality and the mortality of everyone around me. The fragility of it all and how we have very little control in the grand scheme of things. It’s quite hard to play that live. It gets me every time.

Rise to my Confession – This is quite an old song, it’s about my constant frustration with social media and bad journalism. I try to avoid it as much as possible. Not good for my creativity. It turns the artist into a (Used Car) sales man. I don’t sell cars for a living.

Ill at ease. – A tale of anxiety and a terrible state of mind. We close the set with this most nights. It seemed fitting to close the EP with it.

I read somewhere you recorded it in one long marathon session, and mostly live – can you tell us about that?

The EP was recorded in an 8 hour session, including lunch breaks an all. Everything was done live to tape, the only overdub was the noisy guitar solo at the end of ‘Come Calling’.

Toerag is a very special place, many of my favourite artists have recorded there. Its a time warp, acoustically brilliant and Liam is a gent.

We think its spectacular stuff – what was influencing you at the time – were there things musically that you were listening to?

Well, firstly, thank you. I was trying to strip everything back, make the truest sound I could. What you hear is really what happened in the room. No plug ins. No tricks, very pure! People could not like it for that… Everything you hear now is so produced which makes it sound better through a compressor on the wireless. I’m not an autotune kind of man.

I was listening to a lot of Charles Mingus, Theloneous Monk, Miles Davis, Anna Calvi, Tom Waits and Mogwai.

The guitar playing on the EP is pretty spectacular – who do you base your style on? Is it a mixture of people?

Very much a mixture, I’ve always tried to find my own way. Hendrix is a constant influence, I’m loving Anna Calvi’s work at the moment. Duke Garwood plays so beautifully and there is no one like him. I’m always trying to make a dirty loud guitar sound beautiful, not too aggressive or so loud it hurts peoples ears. But I do love fuzz pedals. The conflict is constant.

How do you write? From the guitar? Or do words come first for you?

I usually write numerous guitar riffs, sometimes the words just come naturally as I’m writing the riff. I have a book of lyrics. I’m constantly writing interesting phrases down from films, books and poems, then just expand from there.

Are you out and about doing dates? You like touring in particular?

I’ve just done a UK tour, now it’s onto the festivals. I do like touring as a whole, I like being out there doing it. But it can be tough sometimes. Very little sleep and the rest of it, the pressure to deliver every night. But its why I do it.

What’s next for you? An album maybe?

I’m currently writing the album, songs are coming thick and fast. It’s about all I’m thinking about right now. The focus is good.

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