Shortly before Young Guns’s comeback in France’s capital city, opening for Billy Talent, RockUrLife’s team had a conversation with guitar player John Taylor, in the classy Elysée Montmartre venue.
Young Guns is back with a new album called “Echoes“. Why did you choose this title ?
John Taylor (guitar): It was about us having a conversation on what could be the main theme of the album based on the lyrics. Gus (ed. singer) realized that a lot of stuff that he was writing about was about past experiences and how it reflects on your future as well. He likes the idea of echoes being your memories and closing chapters in your life, then starting new ones. That’s where the idea comes from.
This album was written way faster than the previous one, “Ones And Zeros”. How can you explain that you’ve been so spontaneous with “Echoes”?
John: Truth be told, we were coming to the end of the touring cycle for “Ones And Zeros”, and we felt like it was over too quickly, that we didn’t do enough. All the press and the buzz around the album had died down, so we thought “let’s start writing again and see how it goes”. And then we had this opportunity to work with the producer David Bendeth. We jumped to the chance, we met David, we had a couple of Skype calls, and before we were hitting the studio, we were putting pressure on ourselves to write as many songs as we could to collect them together and take them to the studio with us.
Are you satisfied with how it turned out?
John: Yes. You always have things you would have done differently, but we are really pleased with that record. And it’s definitely the quickest we’ve done any music, so it feels very nice to be super productive and quick because we usually take a lot of time writing music.
It seems like you haven’t stopped working or touring since your previous album.
John: Yes indeed. Some of us don’t like to stop moving. There is so many places in the world that we haven’t been. We’ve probably spent the majority of our time touring America, but didn’t spend much time elsewhere such like France. Last time we were there was about 4 years ago. We didn’t want to wait any longer. We wanted to come back ans start touring again, not letting people forget about us, which I think is what was happening to be honest.
The lyrical content of this album seems to be deal with grief, bitterness and anger. It reflects on mistakes, bad decisions. How can you explain that negative emotions can lead to great art?
John: For me, I’ve always felt more inspired by misery than happiness. I don’t know why that is. I am quite a miserable person. In a lot of my spare time, I do complain about it. But misery is kind of romantic. Those feelings are harder to deal with, so you need a therapy for them. Happiness is just this thing where you do things that you enjoy, but it doesn’t inspire you to create as much. I think me and Gus are the same. All of us have had a pretty rough couple years with relationships and friends leaving the band, the band not doing as well as we wanted and so on. I guess we’ve used that disappointment to drive ourselves and try to be a better band.
What song would you consider to be your favourite from this record and why?
John: I think the title track “Echoes” is our collective favourite. I know Gus is very happy with the lyrical content and it’s a personal song to him. It is also super fun to play live. I think it encapsulates the heart of the album. I also like songs like “Mercury In Retrograde”, which I believe stands out from the rest of the songs. It’s fundamentally a pop song. Me and Gus locked ourselves in the studio one night. We opened up bottles of beer and vodka, smoked about 40 cigarettes, and made ourselves finish the song because it was our last day in the studio. I like the fact that “Mercury In Retrograde” is a reference to space, temperature, and also a lot of other metaphors.
You’ve released four albums in about six years. How do you manage to remain so creative on a daily basis? Is that misery?
John: I guess misery in parts, yes. (laughs) Honestly, we don’t tend to write a lot on the road when we’re travelling. We wish we could though, but it’s too hard to do. So, every time we get a break from touring, rather than sitting around doing nothing waiting for the next tour to come up, we would get together, practice, etc. We’re basically trying to collect songs together so we would have something to look forward to after the tour’s over. We hate sitting around, we get bored. Also, if you keep playing the same music for three years, you’re bored of it, so you’ve got to inspire yourself with new music to keep doing what you’re doing.
How much have you learned both as a human being and as a guitar player throughout your years in the band?
John: I have learned I am not a very good human being. I struggle to be around people a lot. I think being in a band basically highlights your flaws as an individual, especially if you’re hanging out with the same people 24/7. You acknowledge your flaws very quickly. I’d guess it helps you improving on being a good person though. As a guitarist, I would say I take that for granted and I don’t practice enough. We’re obviously playing shows every day but I don’t sit down and practice guitar, which is something I’ve started to do only recently. And I think the other guys should be doing the same things, but I guess this is the last thing you’d like to do after you’ve been playing on stage every night. (laughs)
Let’s talk about ego now. Everybody has one, but in terms of making music together, there must be a time when those egos clash. From your experience, how much ego is present in the process of collective writing?
John: I’m sure it happens a lot and to some extent it happens in our band, but we always try to be very democratic when we’re writing. There might be one person that comes with the majority of the ideas, but we let everyone have his word. Someone doesn’t like a section of music, we’ll scrap it and we’ll start again until everyone is happy. That’s just the way we work, which is annoying because it takes a lot of time to finish a song that everyone could be happy with. But you can’t put an album and tour for two years if not everyone in the band likes the songs. With “Echoes” for example, we just wanted to do a straight up rock album. But again, we didn’t want to go back in time. We wanted to be modern while keeping our influences.
Talking about touring now, there’s a big price to pay when you’re a touring musician, especially when it comes to family/personal life. Does being a musician mean being selfish somehow?
John: This is a very current topic for me right now. I think you fundamentally are probably a selfish person if you are a musician. But at the same time, I feel like people who don’t play music won’t understand. If someone asks you to stop playing music, it’s like asking to change a part of yourself. And I don’t think any of us can do that. As much as I thought about it, I would love a life that’s more regular, when we’d have some money, I could have a family or a dog, but music is very intrinsic and you can’t take it away from someone. Your soul would be very unhappy without it, basically. Music really becomes a huge part of your life and you start to forget how to do anything else. It’s kind of scary. The idea of us doing normal jobs is terrifying. Having a normal life is terrifying. It’s also that we don’t want to give up, but we probably could not. We are incapable of normal things.
Let’s talk a little more about your personal taste now. If someone wanted to get a better idea of who you are, which books would they read or movies would they watch?
John: I guess music is obviously very important. I’m not a close minded person, I like everything, so I would listen to anything from hip hop to metal, folk to country, etc. I guess it’s the same with film, but I find myself looking for metaphors in movies, books or songs, and how I can relate them to myself. That’s the way I consume art. I guess I’m selfish in that way too, because I’m trying to find things that are related to me in everything. I believe my biggest obsession is space though. I always find a way to relate space to my life. That sounds very obscure. (laughs) I think it’s quite romantic all these things that exist but you don’t know about.
Why space specifically?
John: I guess it’s just escapism from reality. I often find my thoughts drifting from reality, because there is so many things to think about.
To conclude, our website is called “RockUrLife”. So, what rocks your life?
John: I would probably have to say being in a band. Not a lot of people are able to do it. It allows us to travel, which I love. I see new places, meet new people. Music is a very cathartic thing. It’s really good for purging things that you are unhappy about. I’m very happy that I’m able to do that every day.
We are done. Thank you, and see you tonight.
John: Great, thank you!