by John Zonn
John Zonn writes the lyrics and composes music to songs that explore the boundaries between music, poetry and art.
Listen to the single while reading the text.
Zonn creates sound montages from found sounds, delivers poetic lyrics, plays instruments. He creates songs that are based on his everyday experiences and has a history of performing them in public. Near the end of 2018 he released a double-A-side single called ‘Mystery Of The Universe / Back In The 80’s’. He wrote a few words to explain the long-winded process that led him to finally exhibit the two pieces:
“In recent years, a neurological condition has limited my guitar playing and, not wanting to give up and fall by the wayside (plus still being extremely lyrically and musically-driven) I had an idea to adopt a similar approach to my musical recuperation as Rick Allen, the drummer from rock band Def Leppard, who lost his arm in a car crash and yet persevered, with help from a bespoke specially-designed electronic drum kit, to regain his ability to play drums.”
“Around the same time as I started the process I heard on the radio that Cliff Richard was due to release an album that included a couple of songs in which he duet-ed with Elvis using old vocal recordings of The King, in a seamless blend of audio electronic wizardry.”
“Thus, I found myself one day listening to recordings of myself that I’d made back in the Eighties. I was specifically searching for songs where I played guitar on its own, without the interference of other instruments, so that I could digitise them and sample the guitar parts to be layered within a multi-track recording – like the aforementioned Cliff Richard / Elvis scenario.”
“During my research I discovered a few hidden gems, such as an old 4-track recording of me at home performing the guitar part to ‘Master Of The Universe’ by Hawkwind, and also a recording where I played bass with Dave Acres while he performed his keyboard and synth tune (that I have since named Back In The 80’s), back in 1986. Although there are more songs in the archive, I thought these two would be a good start to my aim of using old to create new.”
“I penned different lyrics for the Hawkwind track, to make it ‘Mystery Of The Universe’ (MOTU), in order to update it for the ‘2000 & tennies’. The original had 7 lines to each of the 2 verses, and no choruses. My new song has 8 lines per each of the 3 verses, with choruses. I also wrote lyrics to accompany Dave Acres’ tune – reminiscing on those ‘days of yore’, back in the 1980s (BITE), when I and the folks I used to hang around with then were still heady teenagers!”
“So, at this point I had the lyrics and some of the music. Using the copy/cut and paste functions on my laptop, I was able to adjust and edit the arrangements of the tunes, plus add a few extra bits. I also gave both songs drum rhythm tracks. Every part of the recordings uses sampled instruments, rather than ‘straight’ performances. Suffice to say that all-in-all MOTU took about a year to record/produce and BITE took probably over 6 months. This was all part-time.”