Q&A with John Ian, June 1st 2018
Q: You recently decided to come out as trans as an artist. What made you take this step?
A: I had been thinking about it for a while. Probably for the passed two or three years but I guess the time wasn’t right until now. It’s something that can’t really be explained rationally. After enjoying more than 10 years of “stealthy” peace and quiet as a passable male, unrecognized as someone who wasn’t born as a boy, it started feeling like something was missing. An important piece of the puzzle. So, yeah, coming out as trans felt like the right thing to do at this point in my life and it’s been liberating.
Q: And you weren’t worried about negative reactions?
A: Well, to be honest a certain amount of worry always remains because all of us have had our fair share of negativity, aggression or even hate to deal with at some point of our journey. But in general I still believe that the more positive you are, the more positive people’s reactions will be. The thing is, men and women come in all different sorts of shapes. Some of us don’t fall into any of the existing categories and don’t want to, either. But we’re all on this crazy ride together and it’s important that all of us have a voice and can add our own unique perspective to the big picture. It’s exciting to have that big mix of different perspectives in art, music, literature — views, colors, shapes, sounds, bodies, voices. Telling the human race’s story mostly from one perspective, let’s say a predominantly white Anglo-Saxon heterosexual male perspective, doesn’t paint a very interesting or realistic picture.
Q: So, John, when did you start writing songs? Was that after you transitioned?
A: No, I started as a teenager but it was something I didn’t even tell people for a long time. I felt very insecure about it and it was a very personal thing, too. I always wanted to have a band and perform live but never felt comfortable doing that as a “girl” … it is very hard to put yourself out there when you feel so incredibly miserable inside your own body. So it took years until I finally started presenting my music to the public and it remained a difficult thing for ages.
Q: What made it so difficult for you?
A: Mostly low self-esteem, doubts but also physical limitations and health issues. After starting hormone therapy it took quite a while for my voice to recover and for me to find my own way of using that technically limited voice that felt like it was broken beyond repair.
Q: Just the other day I heard someone comment on your voice and say it’s beautiful. So…
A: Thanks. Due to my special situation it definitely means a lot to me when people say that. And actually, most musicians I really like a lot were not born with the perfect voice, either.
Q: Speaking of musicians you like … Bruce Springsteen was a huge influence, right?
A: Yes. He was basically the reason I started writing songs on the guitar. He showed me that it is possible to create some very powerful and beautiful music with pretty simple means, not a lot of complicated chords. That has always appealed to me. And then of course some of his songs have helped me through the darkest times of my life. And his incredible energy and passion on stage have been a constant source of inspiration and … I don’t know, rejuvenation or something. It is hard to describe. Very powerful stuff. And forever linked to my life, my journey and my own music.
Q: I just saw one of your Instagram pictures with the caption “A Merlot that used to be a Chardonnay”. What’s that about?
A: It’s a reference to the TV series “Schitt’s Creek” that I like a lot. There’s a scene where two of the characters have a conversation and one of them explains his being pansexual, saying that he likes red wine and white wine and the occasional rosé and that he’s also tried a Merlot that used to be a Chardonnay. In other words: he likes the wine, not the label. I really liked that scene a lot and in general the show deals with gender roles and being queer in a very refreshing way. And it is super funny!
Q: Do you have any plans for the near future?
A: I have a lot of catching up to do and sometimes I don’t know where to start. I’m working on new songs, another collection of Short Songs and some other stuff, too. I have two live performances coming up this month and will hopefully start performing live on a more regular basis in the near future. I have a couple of ideas for different projects, so definitely something’s gonna happen. In the meantime I guess I can use all the support I can get and would like to thank people for their interest in my music.
To be continued…