It should have been a difficult call but it’s easy. I am boarding a plane just to interview John Talabot (his alias, mind you) and luckily, get an insight into how his brain works. He is to play a DJ set at the uber-cool venue Babylon Istanbul, following pal and collaborator Pional and everybody’s favourite local DJ, Mabbas.
I love it when a super friendly and seemingly normal guy produces something so dark, beautiful and a bit unnerving. The contrast is too intriguing. And that is exactly how he comes across: not a trace of a rock star DJ, spending his laughs generously, cracking jokes, swearing with his Spanish English and being extremely nice…He is oozing positive energy. You may not be able to tell he is from Barcelona from his music but you can certainly tell from his genuinely warm persona, which is quite refreshing. He talks non-stop about his hometown, his new flat, his friends, his mom and how he wants to go back and do all the boring stuff people do, like having barbecues or going to the movies…It feels like Pional is the dark horse of the family and he is the responsible older brother. Yet, it only leaves you more eager to scratch the surface. You know, you just know that someone who can ruin your year with Last Land alone must have a control switch somewhere that unleashes some serious demons.
Personally, it wasn’t easy for me to turn off my switch and shift from fan to journalist. It is particularly difficult with really talented producers for whom it’s all about the music, and only the music. So instead of doing a serious interview, I just asked John Talabot to complete my sentences or fill in the blanks, something a lot of artists find surprisingly challenging. He protested a brief “Oh wow that’s too difficult!” with widened eyes but in the end, had fun with it.
Last year was… exhausting and nice, really nice. It started really bad; it finished really well. (I raise my eyebrows so he continues) It started really bad because of a personal problem. So bad that I didn’t want to release the album that I had finished. But somebody convinced me to do it and it was the best decision I took.
I can’t believe… what’s going on with us now. We are playing at huge festivals and we are playing with really nice bands that we admire. We toured, supporting the XX. I didn’t think this would happen when I was making the album. When I finished the album I thought it ended up really dark. I said “Ok, I’m just going to put it out there.”
I think fIN was such a success because… it was never planned to be a commercial success. I just wanted to make an album I could listen to at home, in the car, on the train…I wanted the album to be difficult to make but easy to listen to. That is what fIN is.
When I first heard that Rough Trade put fIN at number 2 on their best albums of 2012 list, I… couldn’t believe it! Rough Trade really has an opinion about music. British stores and the British industry are hard for many bands and I was just pretty astonished to be behind Grimes. When I went there before Christmas, I saw fIN at number 2 and I was like “Oh God!” (Laughs) I was surprised because it’s not a pop album. It’s easy to listen to but it’s not catchy.
I think my next album will be… done next year. Before doing anything, I’d like to think about what I’d like to include in the album and write them down. A reverb I like on a vocal in another track, kinds of effects I’d like to use…So I write the album on paper first. That is how I work. And I need to feel ready to do another album; I won’t do it because I have to. Only then people will be able to relate to it.
I.. read …reviews …sometimes! (Laughs) Can I add that? But I’m not super obsessed about the reviews. It can be a bit dangerous. You receive an alert when somebody makes a comment about you on Twitter or Facebook and I don’t know why I get these alerts from people that don’t know me. Some are good, some are bad and I go like “Shit! I shouldn’t read that!” (Laughs) When the album was first released and we had Google alerts, it was too stressful. I mean people can think whatever they want but it’s best not to be obsessed.
Producing someone else is… something I would consider doing. Actually I would like to. I have never done that before and I still wouldn’t produce someone that I don’t like. It’s good work to produce someone else and I may do it after I am done with my own work.
I had so much fun at… the US tour. I went there with John Talabot Live, which is Pional and I. We were supporting the XX and became good friends. I was with my sister and some friends from Barcelona. We were all in a van travelling from one place to another, eating at diners, sleeping in hotels (laughs). It was tiring to visit 25 cities but I enjoyed it. Rock’n roll tour (laughs)!
I wish I had more time to… write music and take care of my house. I stay there for 3-4 days a month so my mom is taking care of the house. I still don’t have lamps! I need to buy some lamps (laughs)!
People… are sometimes surprised and usually happy when they hear that I’m from Barcelona. Being from Barcelona is a gift. When I say where I am from everybody is like “Barcelona?? Wow! What an amazing city!” I’ve heard maybe two people say “Barcelona? Oh shit!” Some people say “What? Barcelona? I thought your name was John Talabot and you were from England?!” Then I explain the whole story behind it. But yeah, it’s a good way to be introduced.
Istanbul is… pretty! Pretty and huge! I didn’t know it was so big! 16 million people are a lot of people! But I went around today. Some small streets around Hagia Sophia look like San Francisco! And there is a strange contrast between Asian, European and Muslim sides. I have never experienced that before. So pretty…So pretty…My mom came here and she loved it! I thought I wouldn’t because I don’t have much in common with my mom. If she likes a movie, I am not going to the theatre to see that film (laughs)! I wish I could stay more…
I can’t wait to… get home! Yesss! (Laughs) This Monday! Even if it’s just for a day! Just to drop off this huge bag that I have been carrying around with me for weeks! I will take a smaller one next time.
I miss… my friends back at home. Just to go to dinner, have a drink or go to the movies…We speak a lot but I still feel like I am missing out on a lot of things that are happening in Barcelona. Somebody moved to another flat, they had a barbecue, they gave a party…I want to be there but I know it’s impossible. I may take more breaks next year and reconnect with my friends.
My favourite venue to DJ is… Panorama Bar …because… it’s a special place. You can play whatever you like. It’s not easy to get there so people who come really enjoy themselves. I usually like places where I can play whatever I want. Not the hits, not the commercial stuff and people trust my taste. It can be a pub, it can be a club or it can be a house party. This year I was in a house party in Seattle after a festival with Pional and Axel Baumann and it was a great night! We played from 12 to 9 in the morning, from Sunday to Monday. But in a really “healthy” way! Everybody was having fun and dancing. Until we got tired and went to sleep! (Laughs)
Women DJs are… not so many. I don’t know many women DJs actually. Ellen Allien and Panorama bar people and Maya Jane Coles…I don’t know if this is true but I have heard that a man is a good DJ if he has a sensitive, feminine side. So if that’s true, I think women DJs should be more (laughs).
Groupies are… something that I don’t have so I don’t know about their world. I have seen it with other bands and they think you are something that you are not. But there is another kind of groupie who just likes your music. They want to get to know you, speak with you and they ask the strangest questions, but not in a bad way. You go “Wow, this girl has really listened to the album and she is asking me something nobody has ever asked before!” It’s all good and it’s a part of releasing this stuff and playing. I’ve never had any problems with groupies so it’s good (laughs)!