John Jeff Touch Interview June 2014
TOUCH, JOHN JEFF - 2008 INTERVIEW
TOUCH, PAUSE, ENGAGE..
Interview with: John Jeff Touch
Written by: gdazegod
Date: 4 August 2008
A few weeks ago, we presented the debut solo album by Greek vocalist/musician John Jeff Touch. Entitled 'First Touch', JJT explored a variety of styles and sounds, incorporating different angles within the melodic rock genre. Certainly you could not accuse JJT of being one-dimensional. Coming to public notice in 2003 through the Finnish label Lion Music, John has explored many avenues that have been presented to him over the last five years. Much of his work is of a cosmopolitan nature, as many different musicians from different countries have been involved in his projects, or vice versa, where John himself has been involved in different projects. Surely this is representative of how the new European Union is supposed to work? lol! GLORY-DAZE was intrigued enough to dig a bit deeper, and to dwelve into the world of John Jeff Touch.
Hi there John, welcome in to GLORY-DAZE. Thanks for your time in giving us some answers to our questions.
Hi there George. First of all I d like to thank you for the invitation. It's my pleasure to give you this interview. It's an opportunity for me to unfold my past to you and your readers.
Firstly.. Can you tell us about your earlier work, both in Greece and elsewhere throughout Europe.
Actually I've played with many bands and musicians in the past, but my career officially started in 2003 when I signed with Lion Music. I collaborated with the Finish guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson and his band 'Vision'. I sung for their album called 'Vision - On The Edge'. It's a progressive/hard rock album with many high notes and rich backing vocals. After that I made a band with Lakis Ragazas called Phenomenon. We mostly played in Greece, supporting bands such as U.F.O. etc. The same time I started working with the German band S.I.N. In 2007 I met guitarist Angel Mourvatis and we made the pop-rock band Cosmicray. Our album 'Love Is' was released in 2008 by Plus Rec/Universal. I also auditioned for many bands such as Daniele Liverani's Twinspirits, Royal Hunt, Domain, Saga etc. and won many European and international vocal contests.
You mentioned German rockers S.I.N.. ultimately things didn't work out with thsm I understand. Was it a case of different styles, different direction etc?
They were looking for a new singer for their next album and picked me up out of many singers from all over the world. In the beginning everything seemed to be fine. We had many things in common. I liked their material and we've started working on their new songs. By the time I've started the recordings the rest of the band had problems with each other. The whole project stuck. So, after 3 months we've started gradually losing contact and in the end I decided to quit. That's the only reason we didn't do anything more.
We reviewed the Killer Sixgun album that you sang on for Lakis Ragazas, albeit only two tracks. Seeing as you are both Thessaloniki residents, any chance of a further collaboration in future? That would whet the appetite for sure, because it surely got a lot of people interested..
The period we had the band Phenomenon, Lakis was making his own instrumental album. He proposed me to sing two songs of his. Meanwhile I was recording songs with the guitarist Sotiris Gogos for 'First Touch' album. After those two songs we've started working with Lakis on further material. There was an idea of making a new album together. We recorded two more songs where I wrote the lyrics the melodic lines and all vocals. The result was awesome. We really liked it, but some months later that idea faded. I'm a very open minded person, but if two people have different directions, it is actually really hard to achieve anything. We are our choices. We are the only one who can make true all the things, our destiny reveals to us. If we refuse to see them or we pass them by it's another story. If you know what I'mean...
You have an array of vocal reference points in your sound. Who have you gravitated to most when making comparisons to other vocalists?
The previous years I worked very hard to achieve making my own sound. For me it's the most vital thing. I'm also a vocal coach and that's the most important thing I try to teach to my students. I try to focus on their own voice to find their own unique sound. There are many singers around the world who have wide vocal range, big variety of sound colors or sound like other singers, but there are few who sound unique. Singers like Freddie Mercury, Kip Winger, and Lou Gramm are some examples of unique sound. For me it's an inner journey. When you re about to find who you are and where you wanna go, you re closer to your sound. It's very interesting when I release an album and read the reviews. Each one comparing me to different singers. The truth is that I'm influenced by singers I liked all these years, but I have my own sound. I've worked in different styles in the past and that makes my voice flexible. I like rock, jazz, ethnic, classical, film music, electronic etc .I'm a mixture of all that. That's my point of view. When I compose music I don't think like to write a rock or jazz or ethnic song. I just dive into my soul, discover pieces of me and turn them into music. That's my way.
How long has 'First Touch' been in the making?
I was composing the 'First Touch 'album the last 3 and a half years, maybe more. Except for composing and choosing the right songs, it took much time for the album to be recorded, mixed and mastered. That's because, most of the musicians are living in other countries. UK, Italy, Bulgaria, L.A. The mastering took place in Fear studios (Italy). I and another sound engineer made the production of the album and that was really hard and took much time. As you noticed the most of the arrangements of the 'First Touch' album has many instruments, electronic sounds and that's not easy in the mixing session. The final issue was the artwork, which made by Kostantinos Sapanas. It took some time till we concluded how we wanted it to be.
Do the songs on the album have their origins in very early material, or are they relatively new songs?
Actually composition for me is a matter of self-awareness. Through the art of music I realize who I really am. That's why I said that the album took me so long to be prepared. Some songs like 'Sometimes' and 'Each Day' are much earlier than 'Lovin' You' and 'Message' for instance. The songs all have very short titles, and their names would indicate a theme perhaps. 'Spirit', 'Crystals', 'We Feel', 'Moments', 'Between 2 Worlds' suggests a spiritual or metaphysical message.. Any thoughts on that one?Yes indeed! I haven't noticed that! That probably came out unconsciously. It's because every song is expressing a specific state or a certain moment of my life. For instance, the song 'Spirit' gives the message of freedom and deliverance.The song 'Crystals' speaks about what we have inside, the Soul. Its like induces people to make an inner search and find their connection with their own Soul. The song 'We Feel' is a song I wrote for my girl Maria the times we were separated.The song 'Between Two Worlds' is a connection between eastern and western music. Don't you think? The song 'Moments' is dedicated to my father, who passed away four years ago. Actually the whole album is dedicated to him. It was a really hard period for me. Anyway, that's how the names of the album came out. You mentioned your earlier association with Finnish label Lion Music for a wider release. For this album, it still seemed an unusual fit considering Lion's leaning toward prog metal and instrumental stuff?It was easier for me to work with a label I've already knew. They re very interested in my album. They liked the atmosphere and the unique sound of the album and they supported it. Lion Music is a label that's interested not only in instrumental and hard rock and metal stuff, but also in experimental music like mine. The album features a wide cast of players on different instruments. Would it be fair to say that 'First Touch' is an ambitious project - even for a debut?Definitely 'First Touch' has many instruments. Except for the basic ones it contains saxophones, flutes, violins, melodicas, ethnic percussion and all these are real. That's the result I wanted to achieve, the live sound. The basic line up is the guitarist Sotiris Gogos, Dario Ciccioni a brilliant drummer I met when I auditioned for Daniele Liverani's Twinspirits project. Alex Deligiannidis from London, one of the most talented and groovy bassists. The pianist Milcho Leviev from L.A, two times Grammy nominated. Yiotis Kiourtsoglou, the best Greek bassist and the drummer Teodor Yankov from Bulgaria. I just tried to find the best for my album. When I compose a song or make a whole album I focus on achieving exactly the sound I have in my head. I don't think how far it would go or how difficult it would be. I just concentrate to my soul, my music. I believe that when you write music you have to transform exactly what you have in your soul into the language of music. The clearer you do that the most understandable you will be by the audience.John Jeff Touch - Message
Sotiris Gogos is a musical collaborator of yours. You rate him quite highly as a guitarist I understand?
Sotiris Gogos is definitely one of the best guitarists in Europe. He's one of the most talented musicians I've ever known and worked with. The most exiting thing is that when we're recording the album he wasn't preparing any of the solos. He was listening to the songs two - three times, and then he was playing the most suitable notes. His solos and riffs are astonishing. So melodic and at the same time groovy and tasteful. He has the ability to play above every kind of music. He's a very flexible guitarist. He is a torrent of feeling and improvisation. He is my guitar hero! The most important thing is that we have the perfect chemistry when we play together. He loves jamming as much as I do. We could jam for hours in my studio and the result is awesome!You've had a handful of reviews so far - what's the feedback been to date?So far the response of magazines, e-zines and radios is very positive! I'm so glad that they support my music. That gives me courage to continue my dream. It's very early to say anything further. I just wait for more reviews. I have a very good feeling. Have you taken your solo material out into the live arena as yet?Yes, I've already started having live shows. I've also started presenting the album live in TV and radio shows. I was very curious to see 'First Touch' live. The result's great! The songs sound full of power and energy! I tried to make very careful arrangements, because some songs of the album have a specific studio sound and that's very hard to transfer it into a live condition. I've also worked a lot on the backing vocals to sound just like the album. It wasn't easy for me to find versatile musicians who could play two instruments or play and sing at the same time. Very soon I'm gonna upload videos from that shows on my web pages (www.youtube.com/johnjefftouch55, www.johnjefftouch.com). During autumn I'm planning a tour in Europe and I will probably shoot my next video clip with the art director George Tsalamanis.No doubt you will have further songwriting ideas in the pipeline for solo album number 2?At the moment I'm having a break! The previous year was exhausting. It's time for vacation! But, I've already started composing my second album. I want it to be quite different. I'm a person who likes to evolve, experiment and making new things, I don't want to be static. I have some progressive ideas. I don't want to reveal it right now. Just trust me! Prepare your self for something really fresh and different!
You mentioned earlier your involvement with a more recent band called Comsicray, with Angel Mourvatis. Is there anything further planned for that band?
At the moment we are planning live shows to promote our new album 'Love Is'. Is a pop-rock album with catchy melodies appropriate for live. We're also working on new material for the next step. In addition we're about to shoot our next video clip.
Who would you consider to be your heroes and inspiration in life, as well as music?
That's a really good question! The persons who firstly inspired me were Freddie Mercury (Queen), Kip Winger, Michael Cretu (Enigma), Philip Glass etc. Ten years ago I'met Vicky Almazidu, Valeri Kostov and Milcho Leviev and my life changed. They played the most vital role in my music life. They saturated my music attitude with the sounds of jazz and initiated me in the world of improvisation. They taught me how to think and how to perform when I sing. They taught me how to arrange and compose music. They are my three mentors!
As for Thessaloniki and the rest of Greece, it's still seen by many to be a hard rockin' nation with devoted fans. Things haven't changed in that regard?
Even though the times have changed there are many people here who like good music. There are many Greeks that love all genres of rock music, but the music industry in Greece doesn't help the musicians at all. They like to promote mostly Greek music styles and the most of the songs have Greek lyrics. That's the reason I'm basically collaborating with musicians and labels from abroad.
Do you have any opinion on the state of music, and the state of the industry overall? (file sharing, diminishing markets, i-pods, the decline of melodic hard rock etc)
The truth is that we live in very difficult times, but we always have to look at the positive side of things. If we don't, it's better to quit. So, the cost of the CD production is much cheaper than the LP. Everyone who has a computer, some music programs and some money can make an album and release it by himself. It's not like the past decades where there we're specific labels and producers who could produce an album and promote an artist. I think that's more democratic, but there's a lot of junk and so many albums released every month that listeners can't easily find the good stuff. There's too much information! Music industry is ready to collapse. The music stores are closing one by one. Free downloading and file sharing broke the chain. So, the listener is not depending on the stores or labels anymore. As a result the labels, stores are loosing power and money. Musicians too but they can easily promote themselves through the Internet without the help of others ( Myspace, Youtube etc). I believe that the following years the industry will develop a system to lock the free downloading. In my opinion, music as in all arts will develop through the years. That's in every human soul. If we not progressing we die. Nothing is declining or fading. We just need to open up our eyes and move on. Now days all artists mixing styles more and more. I'm sure that very soon new styles will appear and it's already happening. If you read the history of music is full of that kind of examples. So, I'm not disappointed, I believe that musicians will find their way. We just need our time.
Ok John, I think that's it. Do you have any last message for our readers out there in Internet Land?
Keep your eyes and ears open..
Thanks very much for your time John. Look forward to keeping in touch with you and your career! Cheers!
Thanks again George. I really enjoyed our conversation. That's only the beginning. More are coming.. We'll be in touch.