Hi and welcome to #MusicMonday! Originally hosted on The Tattooed Book Geek where every Monday Drew shares a song he loves, I hope he doesn’t mind me messing up his format ? But it’s Monday and it’s #Orentober and it had to be done… Kinda? Well no not really, I just felt like doing this 😁
Without further ado, meet Doug Johnstone, author of Fault Lines and Breakers and musician:
Hi Doug, welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove! I’m delighted to have you here! How are you today?
I’m very well, thanks for asking!
Happy to hear it! Now, Doug, I invited you to Music Monday because you’re not only a writer, you are also a musician! So I’m guessing music is very important to you?
Music is super-important to me and it always has been. I was a musician before I was a writer, in fact I was a musician before I could read, because I started playing drums when I was really young. I then went on teach myself guitar, and that was still many years before I was a published writer. Music has always been a massive part of my life, and it’s impossible to think of a future without it.
Do you remember the song / band that made you fall in love with music?
I had two first musical crushes when I was a kid in the 70s. The first was ABBA, my older sister loved them and I used to sneak into her room when she was out and listen to their albums. Then I totally fell in love with Adam and the Ants – I just thought they were an amazing pop band full of nonsense fun. I still think they’re a massively underrated pop band.
What is your favourite band? Are they your favourite genre too, or are they the exception to the rule?
My favourite band changes all the time, but at the moment it’s probably LCD Soundsystem. It’s hard to define what genre they are, to be honest, they’re kind of a dance act, but also punky, new wave, New York indie, all sorts. And I do listen to music across loads of different genres, I’m a pop kid, a metalhead, a folky dude, country rocker, indie kid, dance nut, electronica fan, it changes all the time.
I’ve read on your site that you sing, play drums, guitar, keyboards, drum machines, … which do you love most?
Well playing the drums is my wheelhouse, it’s where I feel most comfortable, because I learned how to do that first. I used to be really good, when I was a teenager and in my twenties, these days I practise less, but I still do OK. And I love to play acoustic guitar to relax around the house, there’s something about the physical act of strumming chords that makes me chill out straight away.
You also write, perform and record your own songs. What is your favourite song, the one you’re most proud of? What do you hope to convey or accomplish with your music?
There’s a song on my first solo EP called ‘Bjork is Calling Out From The Wreckage’ which I really like, although the recorded version isn’t as good as when I play it live. It’s a weird love song about car crashes, but structurally and emotionally it does what I hoped it would do. You always just hope to connect with listeners emotionally with anything creative you do, and that includes songwriting.
No worries, I found us a recording of a live performance ? You’re a drummer with the FunLovinCrimeWriters, which is a band composed of crime writers, there’s Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste. Can you tell me a little bit about that? How and when did you guys decide to do this? Do you perform often? What kind of music do you play?
Since we’re all crime writers, we play songs that are to do with murder, death, crime and stuff like that. It turns out there are hundreds such songs! We first had the idea at a writing convention in New Orleans, where Mark, Stuart and I took the stage at an open mic night and busked through a few things. The seed of the idea was planted then, and when we came home we enlisted the other guys and it’s grown from there. These days we’re pretty damn tight. It’s without doubt one of the best and most fun things I’ve ever been a part of.
Yeah you guys look like you’re having a ball! What song have you played on repeat the most? What is it about this song that speaks to you?
Probably ‘All My Friends’ by LCD Soundsystem, which is a beautiful song about having a kind of breakdown. It’s also a seven-minute dancefloor banger, weirdly. Apart from that, I listen to Sparklehorse’s first album over and over, it’s a perfect wee slice of alternative Americana which always gets me in the heart. In a similar vein, Wilco’s album ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ is a perennial favourite.
I have to say, I’m learning a lot here! Would you rather keep listening to the music you know and never listen to anything new, or would you prefer only new music and never listening to what you already know? And why?
New music, every time. I love discovering new stuff, there’s always something interesting round the corner. This probably stems from my time as a music journalist many years ago.
How important is music in your writing process? Do you listen to music while you’re writing?
I listen to ambient music when writing, electronica or movie soundtrack albums. Recently I’ve loved listening to the soundtrack stuff of Johann Johannsson, sadly no longer with us. There’s a sense of foreboding and tension in his soundscapes that fits very well with crime writing, I’ve found.
I chose the Flight of the City video because it got to me. Do you have a playlist per book? Songs that set the mood for certain scenes?
Not exactly, but I do sometimes put together a playlist after the novel’s finished. I did that for my novel The Dead Beat, which had a lot of grunge stuff in it, so it was all Soundgarden, Afghan Whigs, Nirvana etc. And I’ve put a playlist together for my next novel, A Dark Matter, which is about a funeral directors. So all the songs are cheery tunes about death!
If you had to pick a title song for your book(s), what song(s) would you choose?
Well, my latest novel is Breakers, about a family of burglars, but it’s hard to think of any songs about housebreaking, so I’ll have to pass on that. One songs that fits in with my next novel (A Dark Matter, that I mentioned above) is ‘It’s A Motherfucker’ by Eels. In fact, that would work as a title song for most of my books!
I love that song! I’ll admit, I don’t know half the bands you’ve spoken of but what band might I not have heard of, but do I need to check out asap?
Boards of Canada. They’re Scottish brothers who make amazing electronica that feels like it’s from the future but beamed through a filter of 1970s educational documentaries. They are geniuses.
I have check them out, and I’ve chosen Dayvan Cowboy, because it’s apparently their first official video, made using reassembled documentary footage, and the images match the music perfectly. Also, I really like this song! Well, Doug, Boards of Canada brings us to the end of this Q&A. Anything to add?
Just to mention that my second novel, The Ossians, was all about an unsigned indie band falling apart on a tour of the Scottish Highlands. I wrote real songs for the fictional band, then recorded them with my real band at the time, and we got better reviews than our real records!
Thanks for joining Doug and me today. Find out more about Doug on his website here or find him on Twitter here.
Doug’s music can be found through his website, including the records of the fictional band The Ossians. Do check it out, there’s some great stuff there!
Great post and I LOVE the name of the band 😀
Thanks Jules ?
Fantastic interview and a fab twist on Music Monday!
Thanks Nicki ? I love doing these ?