Besides blessing us with one of the most gorgeous listening experiences of the past year with Queen of Denmark, former Czars frontman and Denverite John Grant subjected us to some of the most unflinchingly honest and poignant lyrics in recent memory on songs like "Jesus Hates Faggots," whose scathing title stings the tongue almost as much as its acidic content assaults the sensibilities.
After struggling with a persistent drug and alcohol addiction, reckless promiscuity that resulted in a case of syphilis and an unyielding self-hatred he developed because of his sexuality and the persecution he endured, John Grant has overcome tremendous personal turmoil to make a record that Mojo, one of the U.K.'s most prominent music magazines, praised as 2010's Album of the Year.
We spent the better part of an hour on the phone with Grant right around the time he earned the nod from Mojo and have been eagerly awaiting his return to Denver for the chance to share our insightful conversation. During our chat, Grant was disarmingly candid as he discussed the death of his mother, his eventual sobriety, his coming out, his time with the Czars and, of course, the new album. Here's an excerpt from the exchange, which you can read in its entirety at backbeatblog.com.
Westword: There's notable black humor on the record. There's also this sense of whimsy on tracks like "Marz," but then you have moments that are just completely dour, and angry moments like "Jesus Hates Faggots." Would you say, as a whole, that's a fitting representation of who you are? Are those all the shades of John Grant?
John Grant: Yeah. Of course, there's stuff that I keep to myself — maybe some of the most vulnerable things — but I think basically you can say that that's very much me, that those are the different shades of me. Humor is extremely important. Anybody who knows me personally knows that humor is a central part of who I am, and I really wanted that to come across in the music. I really wanted to be able to express that, because it's easy to express the bad stuff and the angry stuff, but it's hard to represent your personality in a way that's not cliché or trite.
And I think the most important part about making this record was that I kept distilling the components down to the most important parts. Because, you know, you censor yourself and you write your lyrics through a filter, and you let yourself be impressed by what you think you should say and what you shouldn't say. It was important for me to write these lyrics and not care at all what anybody thought.