INTERVIEW: Jan Johnston ahead of Cream Reunion

The second Cream Reunion takes place this coming Bank Holiday Weekend. We caught up with the queen of trance, Jan Johnston, ahead of her live PA at the Cream Reunion on 29th May at the spiritual home of Cream, Nation in Liverpool.

Raised in Salford, now residing in Spain, Jans instantly recognisable and haunting ethereal vocals melt the senses and touch the soul. Accepted the world over as one of the finest in the business Jan turns great records into timeless classics and has worked and collaborated with the likes of Paul Oakenfold, BT, Paul Van Dyk, Chicane & Tiesto.

You’ve been living in Spain now for a while Jan, was that a choice for a more relaxed way of life or did you feel the climate and surroundings would inspire your music writing?

Well I wanted to be closer to Ibiza!! I think the sunshine helps your head which helps the tunes. The rain was very refreshing in manchester! but got too much and with all my travelling as I lived in America at least six months of each year from 1997. I really needed the light. I’m two hours from all my friends but I seem to see them more here as someone always arriving for a break so its fab!

You hit the dance scene after Brian Transeau discovered you, sampling the beautiful, down tempo, ‘The Prayer’ to form ‘Calling Your Name’. Had dance music been a part of your life in the early 90’s or had you set out to be more of a pop singer?

It’s a weird one this. I had the chance of signing to Deconstruction or A&M but made the album of songs instead. Funnily enough it worked to my advantage  as thats where Brian found me. As a writer I felt I needed the full expresion at that time but I was very young and the dance scene didnt have the push it has had since. So I honed my writing abilities until the right man found me being Mr Transeau. I had been writing with some dance guys as well as I loved going down to the Hacienda and travelled to some fab little raves in the middle of fields and old warehouses and even on swings over the mechanic holes in the ground, so I had the love of both in me!

You’ve produced some incredible music alongside legendary producer Brian Transeau (BT). His creative & experimental yet epic and harmonious style compliment your voice perfectly. How did your partnership develop over the years?

When BT found the early stuff of mine and liked it he found my number through a friend, another muso and he called me saying he had one day in the studio, would I come down? I was there within the hour and we gelled immediately! With some, the music talks to you as soon as its played to you and you begin to write without even being aware, its never changed. When I then went out to BTs house to write for the albums as they came along, I would go into a totally black cuboard and as the music flowed through I would sing what came to me as first instinct are always the best! So we became instant friends and our writing together has always been effortless.

What is your favourite track the you worked on together?

It’s a song I wrote for myself called ‘Lullaby For Gaia’ which went on his ESCM album. I needed a blissful bubble at the time to sleep as I think I was going through a relationship thing!!! With good music it always removes the angst, you would never have known I was in a bad place at the time!

By this point you had a string of releases on the likes of Platipus, Stress, Xtravaganza & Perfecto. You must have been proud to have made it to be the most in demand trance vocalist?

Yes its always good to be wanted and I enjoyed getting out and meeting new people, still do!

‘Skydive’ became a club hit across the world in 1998, including a regular airing at Cream thanks to Paul Oakenfold’s residency. How did the track come about, were they lyrics that you had previously written?

No I was sent a piece of music to write to, as was usual at that time. The artist names were ‘FREEFALL’ and so my head did an immediate word association and I began writing ‘Skydive’ Again an immediate lyric and melody was born and I still love this song. I had actually fallen in love at the time so thats how I was feeling and it came out well!

Signing for Perfecto as a solo project must have been a big step for you?

Yes Paul Oakenfold took me aside at one of the BT gigs and said “I want to sign you as an artist to Perfecto”. I’ve worked with Paul now continually and I’m still working with him so Perfecto has really always been my main home in music.

‘Flesh’ became a big Perfecto hit but how disappointing was it to record the album ‘Emerging’ without it getting a proper release?

Yes it was annoying but there were other powers above that wanted only a dance record  not an album. Paul Oakenfold made the songs work in many mediums for me, doing club mixes of many of them and attaching them to other projects he was working including ‘Cleopatra’. Honor Blackman did the naration and he used two songs from the album, so I was pretty happy with the outcome.

You’ve travelled the world, been on tour with BT & Paul Oakenfold as well as performing to over 25,000 people at a Tiesto concert. What gig really stands out for you as your fondest memory?

Yeah the ‘Tiesto in Concert’  has to be up there as it was such a huge production and its great for an artist to play in a huge stadium just incase it ever happens again! The Miami reunion with BT a couple of years back was another special one and I caught up with a lot friends. But all gigs are a party to me I love them all, the party on the floor is the most important part of the show for me anyway.

Which other singer/songwriters have you admired over the years?
I couldn’t live without music I love all music, I couldn’t say any one person.

What current projects have you been working on? Could there be a solo project in the pipeline?

After writing for Paul Van Dyk’s Reflections album, which he showcased 4 songs and I vocalled a fifth, I went off to South America pretty much travelling for three years. Hugging trees, sleeping in a tent, no electricity only the streams for a cold wash! Two years ago I returned ready to write again as i missed electricity, microphones and creating!

I’ve met and worked with some amazing artist coming through who all loved what I’d done previously and wanted me to collaborate with their music.

Walsh & McAuley are special and I’ve just written a song for them on Armada. Ricardo on Blackhole, another fab song soon to be aired. DJ Tarturus just signed a song to Soviet Records with me. I call him the string man, his orchestration is beautiful. The songs called Something’s Missing.

And any possibility of some of your unreleased work finally seeing the light of day?

My solo stuff I have masses of it but so much has been downloaded for free and also stolen by others, that sending out ideas is almost not the thing to do now. I have written non stop for the last two years and I want to release it myself so thats somthing im currently working on.

Which up and coming producers have really taken your eye?

I was introduced to Moshic’s music while on tour in Australia 6 months ago and I loved it. I sent him some vocals and the next morning he had something for me to listen to! Thats the producer i will be working with, thats the one I want and he loved my stuff too so talks are happening right now.

What’s your secret in maintaining such a strong and enchanting voice?

No secret, it’s just the love of what you do, it pours from you, you fizz with it, you bubble with it, its just who you are!

And finally are you looking forward to performing at the Cream Reunion in Liverpool on 29th May?

This is something wonderful to look forward to, returning to Liverpool and being a part of something special. In a sense we helped create the music and feelings that live with us, people may have moved on to families now but we never change inside, the music still defines us!

So they will have a night to remember and I will be proud to perform and make it a wonderful night for us all! Looking forward to catching up with Seb and Oliver too. Can’t wait!



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