Johnno Casson aka Snippet – Chippa (Album)
Chippa is a 17-track, 43-minute New album of joyous happiness and calm introspection that will brighten your emotions and improve your day. Chippa crackles, pops, and bubbles with a delicious intention, full of beat, song, and poetry. Take it with you on a trip, listen to it throughout the day for a little pick-me-up, or dance to it in your kitchen in your slippers at any time. This is the best English Wonky Pop for everyone in the country and around the world.
Snippet (aka Johnno Casson) is a Hackney born, Colchester based music artist who creates delightfully wonky pop songs for your ears & hearts. He honed his craft and toured extensively as the lead singer of various bands before hooking up with trip hop pioneers Deep Joy, working with the likes of Andrew Weatherall (Primal Scream), James Lavelle (Mo’ Wax/UNKLE), Adrian Sherwood (On-U-Sound) and David Harrow (James Hardway). He has been releasing music under a variety of different names including his own, Snippet , Old Tramp, Walken400 and 3 Potato 4.
Johnno is the founder/producer of the community arts, music & history project The Warm and Toasty Club – holding weekly Memory Afternoons at retirement venues to make older folk feel cherished. He has released nine albums & six EP’s which have attracted a world wide following and picked up great radio support from the likes of Radio 1, BBC 6 Music, Amazing and an array of wonderful national and international radio stations, his song ‘We Luv The Sunshine’ features on the soundtrack to ace movie The Space Between.
Snippet was named by Tom Robinson as the most played artist on his BBC Introducing show on BBC 6 Music. Now a well-established and respected member of the DIY indie music scene in the UK Johnno continues to ride against the grain and yet somehow always comes up smelling of roses.
Today we had a chance to interview Johnno Casson aka Snippet about his journey into the music industry and his freshly released album, “Chippa”.
- How did you first get into music?
I soaked up everything I heard around me as a child, from the themes to children’s TV shows, to listening to the records played by my parents and then my brothers and sisters. And then of course listening to all kinds of wonderful radio shows from my bedroom in Hackney, London. Even the sounds of the trains that used to run past the back of our house introduced me to rhythm. Like many kids I wanted to make music like the songs that I heard on the radio and TV. In my early teens I started writing poems and by the time I was 15 I began to turn them into songs, I would mime in front of a mirror with a tennis racket for a guitar and a soap-on-a-rope microphone dangling from the light fitting.
- What instruments can you play?
Guitar, piano, melodica, bass, percussion, drum machines, vintage synths and keyboards and a toilet roll tube filled with risotto rice.
- Where do you see your musical career in 10 years?
Still singing, writing songs and producing albums I hope, and continuing to learn and improve my craft. I have so many ideas for new projects.
I gave up plans for world domination a while back ha, instead winning people over person by person, street by street, town by town and I take pleasure in being satisfied that my music lifts peoples spirits or improves their day.
I’m often asked when I will next be on tour, but the truth is I won’t be touring anytime soon.
It is a weird thing for a music artist to release an album and not tour but the simple truth is that I can’t travel more than short distances because of a nasty back condition and I also have a medical condition called #mecfs which for anyone who knows the condition will understand how debilitating it is.
But hey – I’m not looking for sympathy, just being straight with folk as it would be lovely to be with you and sing for you/with you. Life for me now is not about what I can’t do but what I can do, and I rejoice in having short wonderful bursts of #loveliness in my life and being happy and successful in a surprising number of ways.
- Which instrument is your favourite to play?
Guitar, in recent years my Cordoba Mini O travel guitar is my companion when writing songs.
- Which instrument is your least favourite to play?
I don’t have any instrument that I don’t enjoy, each instrument brings melody and ideas to inspire me. There will be plenty of instruments I cannot play at all of course, but what is life if not to dream.
- What would you say is your greatest strength as an artist?
Individuality, compassion, my Englishness, my warmth, my sideways view of the world, my lyrical interplay and my ability to write great hooks.
- What would you say is your greatest weakness as an artist?
Not having enough hours in the day to get things done. Not sure I’m the greatest promoter of my music either, some jobs you are good at and some are best left to others, budget permitting. I certainly know that most promoters/PR people have magical skills that I don’t have.
- Who is your favourite musician?
This can change day to day, week to week, and there are always so many, never just one (sorry). From my past life it would be Marvin Gaye, Nat King Cole, Bill Evans, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Gil Scott-Heron, Augustus Pablo. Michael Jessett, Freddie Phillips, Bobby Womack, Madness, The Beatles, Ian Dury, Robert Wyatt, Terry Callier, Roy Ayers, Gregory Isaacs, Ray Davies, Chairmen Of The Board, Paddy McCloon, José Feliciano, Kevin Rowland, De La Soul, Elvis Costello, Beck, Joe Bataan, Ben Folds Five, Paul Simon, The Specials, The Postal Service, Eek-A-Mouse, Merz, Johnny Osbourne, Ini Kamoze, The Clash, Hall and Oates, Tracey Thorn, Tom Robinson and The Cure
And from the now it would be Damon Albarn, Gruff Rhys, Phoebe Bridgers, Daudi Matsiko, Ady Johnson, Joan Holland, Roots Manuva, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Sweet Baboo, Moses Sumney, Mike Skinner, Mary Lattimore, Ron Sexsmith, Sunflower Thieves, Emma Miller, Arlo Parks, Paul Weller, Chris Wood, Marina Florance, Jeanes, Bon Iver, Tragic Sasha, Alex Highton, Hak Baker, Laura Marling, Nick Hakim and Lambchop.
- What is your proudest accomplishment as a musician?
I’ve toured and performed in many places, been on the TV and had my music played on radio stations across the world, I’ve won awards and received a fair amount of accolades for my music, but I guess the proudest I am comes in two ways. 1. When people really connect to my music and it makes a difference to their life and they tell me about it. 2. When I complete each album, this continues to be something I am very proud of…..until shortly afterwards (and having enjoyed the love I receive and the recognition given to my work) I am already planning in my head for the next big project, and onwards the wonderful musical cycle keeps turning.
- What interests or hobbies do you have outside of music?
I run a community organisation called the Warm and Toasty Club, hosting online and in-person events for older folk with music, laughter and chat https://ww…toastyclub and I love doing that as it is a very rewarding and enriching thing to do. I enjoy simple pleasures and being easily pleased in life, such as growing my own produce, reading (books, magazines and current affairs) and being in nature (the great healer).
- What is your creative process when making music?
It always starts with improvising, usually on the guitar with me singing and I always have the voice memo app on my mobile phone pressed to record from the very beginning to make sure I capture everything, as the first ideas are usually the best. And quite often the first words and melody I’ve sung randomly into the phone make it all the way to the final master of the song. I have a little travel guitar by Cordoba Guitars ( https://ww…itars.com/ ) called a Mini O that I love and that little beauty helps me deliver most of my songs these days.
Ideas for songs float through the air waiting for the moment to land in my brain when I feel inspired. I think you have to work on your craft to be ready for when that inspiration arrives, and I’ve trained my ears, to then trust my ears.
The best songs I’ve ever written always arrive the quickest, they are usually fully formed within 20-30 minutes. Sometimes the inspiration for songs come from what I’ve observed or felt in my life, another artist or sometimes they simply start with a title.
I absolutely love the songwriting and recording process.
Once I have a structure or a general idea for a song I start recording it on Logic Pro X and I really like creating interesting sounds with my voice, plug-ins, guitar pedals, old keyboards and handmade percussion and trying different things out, all handmade with a lot of love. I put a lot of effort into the vocals and alongside guitar, I also play keyboards, melodica, bass and I program or play drums/beats.
I played and produced everything on my Chippa album at home but I don’t really consider myself accomplished like some kind of amazingly talented multi-instrumentalist, I’m just very good at making tracks that I love and cherish, first and foremost and luckily others do too.
I am proud of my songwriting and production abilities and achievements but there is always something new to learn and get better at every single day.
I follow the sounds, instruments and vocals until they sound right to my ears. Nowadays they start with a demo in Logic Pro X and stay there until I mix them.
When a track is completed by me, I ask my friend Luke Barwell to master the finished mixes because he is very talented at it (and makes great music on his own as Bitmap – https://re…dcamp.com/ ).
- Tell me about your top performances?
I never remember tbh and the next day I’m off onto the next thing. I know when I’ve felt really good when performing, but the best judges are the audience.
- Take me through how the songs on the album idea came about, the writing and production process?
When writing my new album ‘Chippa’, I went with optimism. Maybe it was because I needed to, to get me through the day and not always be wrapped up by pain, or that an inner voice was calling for the sunny disposition inside of me to rise up again, that it had been missed and it didn’t come out into the sunshine often enough.
I took the decision to not use my art to moan about the pandemic, rather take an optimistic and hopeful route into our new tomorrows.
Life has become a series of short wonderful bursts of loveliness in recent years after all, so I’m getting to truly appreciate that and know it is plenty enough for me.
Chippa is my journey over the last 12-18 months that ebbs and flows in light and shade just like my life has, with songs blending into the sounds of the street whilst life tries to gently go about its business.
With the inspiration of my family, my home and our nature suggesting to me that being upbeat and blocking out the discomfort you are in by ‘just being’ is enough and should be cherished.
Hey, even in the hardest times – a change is always just around the corner, right?
I wanted this album to be a journey for the listener and I think it benefits from being listened to as a whole piece, well it did for me as I listened to it all just now (it clocks in as a respectable 43 minutes, so not overly long).
I sit here feeling proud of what I have created, not arrogant of its amazingness, just satisfied with the job I have done (with Luke Barwell doing a great job on the mastering).
For #Chippa there were so many people, circumstances or situations that inspired the songs. From the love of family and friends and the amazing power of women, to a worldwide pandemic and lockdowns, I wanted this album to sound and feel like spring and speak of hope, optimism and the power of humans to overcome, rather than wallow in the pain of Covid 19. I wanted to project the possibility of repurposing, reinvention, and choosing kindness and happiness wherever possible.
Nature and the need to switch off and just enjoy life feature a fair bit, with melody, hooks, rhyme and beatiness often lifting its head the highest, as my kind of wonky indie pop music has a habit of doing.
I’ll always have a cheeky and active imagination and I hope that comes through, in not taking yourself too seriously and knowing that life is a million times easier if you can laugh lots and get completely lost and zenned out in the process of being creative in your own voice, your own sound.
Chippa is personal, observational, reflective and very appreciative of life. I got that sense when crafting these songs and these sound collages, they soothed and made me happy when I wasn’t always feeling that way. Making this album lifted my spirits and I hope it does the same for you.
All handmade in Colchester with love. Enjoy
Who would you most like to collaborate with artistically?
Damon Albarn, Flying Lotus and Joe Lycett
- Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?
Two people, one was my late producer Wim Oudijk who I worked with for 9 years and yet we never met face to face, conducting a beautiful collaboration and relationship over the internet and over a fair few releases, and he taught me so much and I miss him every day. The other would be the songwriter, music artist and broadcaster Tom Robinson. He has been my greatest supporter in a broadcasting sense via his work with BBC 6 Music and his featuring of SO many of my songs on his shows, he even named me the most played BBC Introducing artist ever on his BBC 6 Music show and was always there championing my music, and I just have learnt so much from him. Often when he probably hadn’t even realised he was teaching me, the man is an absolute legend for not only his own work, but the years of commitment to supporting independent music artists. After championing my music endeavours on his radio shows he invited me to be a team member of his (then) fledgling music blog Fresh On The Net and I did that for 8 or 9 years. https://fr…net.co.uk/ And after a self sabbatical I hope to return to the team soon and help support great new music from independent artists again.
- Have you ever taught or mentored another musician?
Yes, many more than I have fingers or toes to count on. Always an honour, always a treat. Advice, guidance and support from writing a song to producing and mixing it, to creating a release and promoting it, and everything in between.
- What was your worst performance?
Now for many years I haven’t had regrets, but the pandemic changed that and I have been more retrospective about personal and professional things lately – but to be honest this should be avoided. There are a couple of shows I have done in the past that I have beat myself up about not being good enough or not in sync with what we needed, one as the singer in a band when the world and his wife came out to see us and I knew it was our potential biggest break ever. We weren’t bad at all, we did a very good show but I always felt that we just were too young to recognise the importance of that moment (my bandmates may disagree, and hey – hindsight is a wonderful thing). And the other was a show that I did for a solo album under my own name, the musicians who joined me were great but I always felt I let down a VIP guest who came to see me, because on that night with those songs I wasn’t the dynamic person I had been on record. The thing about regret for me is that for the majority of my life I chose not to have any regrets and I was totally at peace with that because I couldn’t do anything about what I had got wrong anyway, but recent challenges for me with illness – and like many of us – the pandemic, have given me to find the time to reflect, and doing so negatively always gives fuel to the beast known as self confidence and self doubt, and that my friends – is a slippery slope.
- How do you deal with disinterested or unruly audiences?
Humour and what people have described as quick with and quick fire references.
- Do you prefer to work alone or collaboratively?
Mostly I prefer to work alone, at my own pace and as inspiration dictates. But there are times when collaborating with others is an absolute joy, so I remain open.
- What are your favourite venues to perform at?
Venues that don’t sell beer.
- What inspires you as an artist?
People, TV, radio, books, movies and lots of other artists + people I find interesting.
- How do you nurture your own creativity?
- By feeding it with interesting and inspiring stories. I treat making music as my therapy, my passion and my medicine. Making music – for me – is a time of pleasure and pure, delightful escapism from the world.Do you have trouble with performance anxiety?
I have had nerves in the past and try to use them to fuel me. My saying is ‘feel it, don’t think it’, you’ve put the time in to be ready beforehand and if you follow that saying you will be fine.
- What are your favourite musical genres, and are there any you dislike?
So many I like, easily to say what I dislike – death metal and anything involving Pierce Brosnan.
- How do you differ from most other artists?
Well I am completely unique and totally me, just like other artists are totally themselves. After all, no one sounds exactly like me. I differ from most by being DIY – writing, playing, recording and producing everything myself. Doing my own artwork and doing all the boring admin jobs too, but my songs kick as good as mainstream and has the same international passport
- How do you think of your previous songs compare to this newly released?
They all have their merits and all have songs that sparkle, soothe or make you move. I think my new album Chippa is possibly the most cohesive album I’ve ever produced and it really benefits from being listened to as a whole. The nice thing is most of the followers who have been writing to me have said the same thing, alongside Chippa being great to put on when there is a task at home to complete, or take with you on a journey or just dance to, wherever you might be.
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