INTERVIEW: John Waugh

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Alexandra Palace – one of the most prestigious venues in London, housing the likes of The Stone Roses, Foals, The Libertines, Bjork, and even The Brit Awards in the 90’s. This week, the 10,000 capacity venue granted a two night stay to The 1975.

Before the final night of their sold out UK tour, Nelipott had the honour of sitting down with saxophonist John Waugh. Appearing on the bands number 1 debut album and touring the world with The 1975, John has become the honorary fifth member of the band, receiving just as much of a welcome from fans as Matty, Adam, Ross and George do.

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The 1975 // George Daniel, Ross MacDonald, John Waugh, Matty Healy & Adam Hann

When we meet with John, we’re surprised when he reveals this is only the third interview he has ever done, especially after the huge reaction we received on social media when asking fans for their questions. This news just makes us appreciate our time with the musician even more, and we crack on talking about working with The 1975, his favourite movie, what records inspire him, adjusting to tour life, and of course, the dying need to know if he can play ‘Careless Whisper’…

At what age did you first pick up a saxophone or realise you wanted to be a musician?
I started playing the saxophone when I was 10. Before that I was playing piano for a couple of years, but I think as soon as I started playing the saxophone that was when I realised I wanted to be a musician, although I didn’t really think about it realistically obviously because I was only a little boy. So I probably started thinking about it logistically when I was about 15. But, from kinda 10 onwards I was always playing in bands.

How did working with The 1975 come about?
I’ve known Matty for a long time, we didn’t grow up together but we had a lot of mutual friends up in the North-East and near Newcastle. There’s a photographer and videographer that works for the band called James Booth, and we used to live like a stones throw away from each other, so he was kinda like the doorway to me being acquainted with the band and meeting Matty and stuff. I met the rest of the guys through recording on the album, and they just said once they’ve got a budget to cover taking more people out on tour with them they’d give me a call, and they said it’d be roughly a year from then – a year to the day later, I got an email from George asking me to play at the Manchester and Brixton shows earlier this year in January.

What have been some of your stand-out memories or places you have visited on this lengthly tour with The 1975?
The Albert Hall is definitely one that stands out naturally because it’s just an amazing place. That was really, really amazing. But then the Manchester and Brixton ones were really cool because they were the first ones I’d done. I think the US tour though was really amazing.

The fans are crazy out there, aren’t they?
Yeah, I think fundamentally they’re all the same as anywhere, but just generally speaking American people are just a bit more forward, and they’re more open about things. Kind of more friendly as well I think, they’re a bit more accommodating of people. But yeah, it’s hard to pick because Japan was amazing, and Australia was absolutely crazy as well. But I think The Albert Hall – it’ll either be The Albert Hall or Glastonbury that were my favourite shows.

Will you be working with The 1975 on their next album?
Yeah, I think so! There’s a couple of tracks that’ll have saxophone on. I can’t speak on behalf of the guys too much about it, but I know that there’s loose plans in place for me to play on a couple of tunes.

Asides from your work with The 1975, you’re also in the bands Extra Curricular and The New Standard. For those than don’t know, what can you tell us about these projects?
Extra Curricular has kinda changed a lot – when I first started playing for them 3 or 4 years ago, it was like a hip-hop/soul kind of band, and that was formed with musicians based in Huddersfield and Leeds. But it was kind of more of a collective, at one stage there was 10 people in the band, so people would come and go a lot. The people that were fronting it, the vocalists, they would leave and do other things, so naturally that would change the sound of the music and how things were written. At the minute it’s more electronic – we’ve kind of labelled it as ‘future soul’ music. It’s really soulful music but very electronically driven. Because we’ve all been doing different things, we haven’t really played together in a long time. And then The New Standard is a band based in Newcastle, and that’s run by a guy called Stuart Davies – he’s a guitar player and singer and that’s like a really new band. We’ve only just started writing our own music, for the first few gigs we we’re just doing covers of really old soul and funk music. It’s an amazing band. Really, really amazing band. I’d love to this time next year have like a little EP put together, just a self-released completely independent thing. We’ll see how it goes.

How did your recent gig with The New Standard go?
It was amazing, that was in Gateshead. It was really nice to see a handful of The 1975 fans as well. It was really, really cool. It’s nice that the two have kinda crossed over a bit.

As well as touring the word and composing music, you also offer saxophone tuition; what’s that like?
I love doing it, it just depends when i’m at home. At first I tried to advertise it as a thing where I could do it online over Skype, but it just wasn’t working. You can talk to someone, and have a conversation about music, but you can’t really demonstrate things. So I just teach either if I can meet up with someone, or for the most part when i’m at home.

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John with Matty on stage at Reading Festival

TWITTER FAN QUESTIONS

@elektrikshock13 – Could you share with us some records that inspire you or have special meaning to you?
I like a lot of James Taylor – ‘Mud Slide Slim‘ is a nice album. I like a lot of Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Nicks as well. I’m not really a Stevie Nicks fan, but my mum’s a big Stevie Nicks fan and she’s really into James Taylor and those kinda of people, so I like listening to them because of that reason. I kinda grew up listening to them. For me, i’m a big John Mayer fan. I love ‘Continuum‘ by John Mayer. I’ll still be listening to that when i’m like, 80, if I live that long! I really, really love that album.

@lemon_droppa_ – Has it been hard to adjust to tour life?
Um, not really. It’s not like I was ever doing extensive touring, but I was always putting everything into playing music before I was with The 1975. So again, it’s kind of like more of same, just way more intense. The festival season was a lot different to say like, a UK or American tour, because you’re flying everywhere in order to get to the places on time. So, to kinda keep up with that schedule was a bit crazy. I’ve never felt so tired before. But, with any kind of tour, or if we get a bus on a tour or something, it’s always a lot easier because you can always get to a bed whenever you want to. But I absolutely love it though, I get so excited at the begining of a tour. Seeing the list of all the places that we’re going to, and even though the guys have been to a lot of these places before, I haven’t. I don’t really do a lot of promo so i’ve got plenty of time through the day to wander around and at least get a grasp on what the place is like.

@acoupleoflines – If you could play with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
James Taylor would be good. James Taylor and John Mayer again. Or Donny Hathaway.

@settled0wn – What is your favourite song on The 1975’s album?
I do really, really like ‘Pressure’. I like the whole vibe and feel of the tune. And um, I don’t know. That’s the thing, I can kinda see it retrospectively because i’m not really in the band, so I can treat it like a fan listening to the music as well, and it is hard to pick a favourite because it’s such an amazing album. I’ll probably just say ‘Pressure’, even though i’m biased!

@adamnham – Favourite movie?
I like Into The Wild. Probably that I think.

@rickilouise – If you wasn’t a musician, what do you think you’d be doing?
It would have to be something creative. It sounds like quite an arrogant thing to say, but I don’t think I could ever work for someone else. It’s not by any means an ego thing, i’d rather worry about my own problems than someone else’s. So i’d be either like a freelance – I don’t know – photographer, or artist, or writer or something. Or, something crazy like an extreme sports athlete, because I don’t like having a regimented job.

@punktruman – Favourite song at the minute?
There’s a band called Snarky Puppy, they’re like an instrumental band from New York, and they’ve got a tune called ‘What About Me?’ (below) which is amazing. They do these live albums in a studio, so they invite fans around into the live room and record.

@the1975loves – Have you always played the tenor sax or did you start with an alto?
Yeah, I started on alto, because it’s a little bit smaller and if you’re a kid it’s usually like the entry level thing to start with. But then I started playing tenor 2 or 3 years after that.

@charlielunn182 – Do you know how to play ‘Careless Whisper’?
Yeah [laughs], but surprisingly, to play it well, you probably have to be quite good to make it sound nice. But I hate it so much, i’m so reluctant to play it anyway so I just don’t. I quite rate George Michael, but I just don’t really like – it’s funny actually, someone played it the other day and I was like, actually you know what, that is quite a nice tune – but it’s such a sickly sweet, gross, saxophone solo, it’s just not me at all, I hate it.

And finally, what’s next for you after The 1975’s tour?
This kinda goes up until the end of February 2015, so after that i’m hopefully looking for a spot of teaching work, and doing workshops and that kinda thing. I do a little bit of writing for all kinds of different clients, like jingle writing. I’m hoping to kinda just build on that, and just be playing and teaching music hopefully.

www.johnwaughmusic.com
@JWaughSaxophone

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