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Questions & Answers

 

John
What is your earliest memory?

Watching my mother burst into tears because she couldn’t get the coal fire lit. That was before I started school, so I must have been about four.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Episodes of emotional illiteracy.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Violence and aggression be it physical, verbal or mental.

What do you think is your best quality?

Sense of humour.

When were you happiest?

I was happy for half an hour earlier today as I listened to the Black Country Communion live album while drinking some strong black coffee, but it’s a fleeting thing happiness, isn’t it? You just get a bit here and there, now and again. I just aim for contentment. It seems more achievable.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Being 17 and my dad shouting ‘ I hope you’re not having sex in there,’ through my bedroom door while I was with a girlfriend. Idiot.

Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

A massive £900 sofa but at least it was discounted from £1500.

What’s the most irresponsible thing you’ve ever done?

Gambling in Las Vegas whilst drunk, day and night, for five weeks solid. Still trying to get back to zero as a result.

What is your most treasured possession?

My brain. You’re knackered without it.

What always embarrasses you?

People being complimentary towards me or my work. I do like to hear it, but I feel more comfortable with criticism, for some reason.

What makes you angry?

Seeing someone’s good nature being exploited or abused, and the bloody government too, of course. These two things are often inter-related.

What are you good at?

Working hard. Listening. Laughing in the face of adversity.

What are you bad at?

Anything to do with DIY may as well be a foreign language to me.

What do you wish you’d learned earlier in life?

What depression is and how to understand and deal with it.

What would you ban?

People who like to use the word ‘banter’ , the actual word ‘banter’ and banter itself.

What worries you most?

A feeling that I was a really good kid and that as an adult I somehow let life take me away from my true self.

What outrages you most?

Misogyny and sexism. Also, tough jobs that pay really low wages. Sometimes, these two things go together.

What makes you feel sad?

Loneliness, as opposed to being alone.

Left or Right?

Left.

Male or female?

Female.

LA or New York?

LA

Pick three things you look for in a friend

Humour, kindness and being really interested in, or educated about something.

Favourite food?

Chicken breast wrapped in smoked bacon and stuffed with goats cheese and thyme.

Favourite drink?

Sencha green tea or strong black coffee.

Favourite capital city?

Edinburgh

Favourite booze?

It used to be white wine or tequila but I’ve stopped drinking – at least for today.

What trivial thing annoys you most?

The minute-to-minute obsession with communication devices. I’ve nothing against iPhones and such but just give it a rest once in a while. Live life, don’t obsess with documenting or commenting on it all the time.

What job would you like to have had?

Teacher. Helping kids become healthy, happy, useful young adults must be so rewarding. Getting punched in the face by irate parents or raging children, less so.

What is your most unappealing habit?

Eating with my mouth open. I’ve been told off about it since I was five and still can’t stop. I worry I’m going to suffocate though. Mad.

What is your favourite smell?

Cinnamon. Also, Calvin Klein’s ‘Escape’. Don’t mix the two up if you’re making muffins.

What is your favourite word?

Whazz. I love a double z in a word.

Name a record you couldn’t live without

Today it’d be Aja by Steely Dan. Tomorrow it might be something different.

What is your favourite book?

Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test is certainly one of them. I also love Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski novels. A good collection of Beat poetry is also up there.

What is your favourite film?

How about one from Annie Hall, This Is Spinal Tap and Thelma & Louise?

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Ray Liotta circa 1990. Or Grayson Perry, obviously.

Who’s your favourite comedian?

I think I was the first reviewer to give Sarah Millican five stars during her debut run at the Edinburgh festival in 2008. That show was hilarious from start to finish. I love Ross Noble and Jerry Seinfeld and Bridget Christie’s ‘A Bic For Her’ was great. There are so many really, past and present.

Is it better to give or to receive?

Giving out anything, be it material or emotional is really the only rewarding thing in life, though finding a box of rare records at a car boot runs it close. Receiving anything is always fraught with embarrassment potential. I’m emotionally scarred by massive birthday underpants from my granny.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?

No. I’ve always really meant it, even when I said it to a guitar.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

No-one because I really don’t like having to eat and talk at the same time. I can’t do it very well. I can eat or I can talk. Having to do both at once spoils each of them.

What is the worst job you’ve done?

We ran a design studio in Newcastle in the late 80s creating upmarket knitwear. I hated it. I was a terrible boss who had too much sympathy for the workers, couldn’t exercise any discipline and was thus walked all over. The stress gave me an ulcer.

What has been your biggest disappointment?

Not having a happy family life.

Any Regrets?

Far too many and I don’t really know how to deal with them. They eat me up.

How do you relax?

Watching Masterchef on TV. Walking. Looking through piles of records.

What philosophy do you believe in?

Whatever you give out comes back to you in the end.

What is the closest you’ve come to death?

Being stoned out of my mind on dope and drink and telling a man in a Los Angeles apartment that guns were for pussies just as he took out his huge gun.

What keeps you awake at night?

That time is passing too fast and that I got here too quickly.

Pick one characteristic you’d like to have which you don’t possess.

Self-belief. Where do you get it from and how?

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Wonky big teeth and lack of chin. And my face. And my legs. And my body. I’m paranoid about the whole bloody thing really. I work out just to try and keep some control on it.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I don’t have pleasures that make me feel guilty. If I felt guilty, that’d stop it being pleasurable.

How would you like to be remembered?

That underneath all the rubbish I was a nice lad who, one way or another, gave people some pleasure.

Tell us a joke.

The joke I always laugh at is the old Woody Allen gag about two people eating in a restaurant ‘The food here is terrible’ says one, ‘Yes and such small portions,’ replies the other.

Name three things you learned from life so far.

That the money keeps the money. Life is unfair. Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.