J Crist, born Giuseppe Cristiano, is an Italian musician and storyboard artist. After living and working abroad for over 25 years, he finally returned to Italy and still continues his artistic passions from the comfort of his home studio. Active since the 80s. J Crist plays various instruments and records mostly solo in his studio. He’s done a few indie film soundtracks and performed with various bands and genres. Over the years J Crist has experimented with all kinds of music, from punk to pop-rock, electronic, lo-fi, prog, etc. J Crist has even taken the time to write a few books. He also writes scripts and directs, mostly freelancing for advertising agencies and film production companies around the world. However, he has also done storyboard work on games (Mad Max, The Walking Dead, SpiderMan, Cyberpunk 2077, and many others). Let’s get into the interview!
Your style is very versatile, where does your inspiration come from and who would you say inspires you the most?
There are so many artists inspiring me, in the beginning, there were the Beatles of course and from there it has been always a new discovery and passion. So I don’t have a specific favorite genre and at times I like very much to experiment and bend what is generally obvious. So I would construct a song in a very different way than traditional, I mean with the progression of the chorus, refrain, bridge, etc. But I go in to periods when I get really into something I would listen as much as I can in the genre. I always liked artists such as David Bowie and Peter Gabriel, their ability to change style and yet keep their own signature in everything they did. I have had my punk period, new wave, synth, pop, electronic, Once you start the possibilities are endless.
What led you on your musical journey?
Probably the fact that when I grew up there was always music in my house, my dad had lots of records and there were some instruments in the house. A big old organ with two keyboards and pedals, piano, guitar. Nothing really fancy but I used to record my early song using two tape recorders. Adding tracks every time I was playing it over. In the end, the result would be so noisy that you could hardly hear any music on it. I think I was 12 at the time. Then many years later I manage to get myself a small Tascam PortaOne tape recorder.
What is everyday life like for you?
For a couple of years, there is not much going on. I did one gig before the pandemic and since then I only record in my home studio. In general, I do many things because of my work and music is just one part of what I do. It’s more my hobby than my main profession. It has always been second to my work in the film and advertising industry. But in the latest year, I brought up a lot of old projects and was about also to start playing gigs with a new band.
Have you performed live shows?
Yes, in the past with different bands. Not so much in the latest years and of course, the pandemic has put a stop to everything.
Do you prefer working alone or with other artists?
It depends, I like having a band but it’s kind of difficult when I lived and worked abroad for so many years. I like to collaborate with a bunch of good old friends. We always find common ground in what we do.
What instruments do you play?
Mainly I play the keyboard, bass, and guitar. I am not a very skilled musician, in fact, I can’t read music at all. I can play all I need in my recording.
How long have you been a musician?
I guess since I was a kid. Always wanted to have a band. I think at 12 I convinced some friends to play together but it didn’t really sound great. At the time I thought we were cool. I always had this interest in creating stuff. Songs, stories, images. In the end, it’s what I do for a living. I am a visual artist and music is part of it.
Do you create or enjoy other types of art outside of music?
I draw for a living. Storyboard for movies and games. I worked a lot for animation back in the days, and also for a lot of music videos. With some of the most known directors in the industry. Other than that I write books and draw graphic novels. I have a few new titles coming out this year.
As an independent artist, do you plan to cultivate your own collective or label, or do you plan on remaining solo?
Not really sure, things have changed so much in the industry in these latest decades. It seems like in many ways some of the glamour has vanished. People don’t get impressed that easy and it appears also that the general attention span is at the lowest possible place. I am not sure what is best to invest time and money these days. For me, it’s more important to keep doing what I really like but also, being in total control of it.
What are the hardest obstacles in your life you’ve overcome?
Many obstacles really, all the time. I guess to start all over is always a big shock for anyone and at one point I had an accountant that stole from me and my company, I had to close down and start something else to get on my feet. But after many years, in and out of court I won and he finally paid back.
Do you find it important to reflect this in your lyrics?
Yes, very much so.
What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great musician?
I don’t think I am a great musician. I do okay with my ideas and I wouldn’t be able to perform for other artists. I stay in my limitation, perhaps that is my strength, to know what I can and what I can’t.
Do you have any weaknesses that you’re actively working to improve on?
Well, aging I guess. You have less energy than before when you could do an all-nighter without problems. I need to reorganize my studio every now and then to be able to keep all of my projects going. Also because I bring in new gears all the time and sometimes they’re more than I really need around. It becomes a mess.
When you are not focused on making music, what do you do that inspires your artistic endeavors?
I love reading, watching movies, traveling and I hope we can start doing that again. Inspiration can come from anywhere really, sometimes an article in a newspaper or even a photo in a magazine.
Do you feel the impact of social media has helped the independent musician more so now than in the past?
Yes, there are more opportunities to reach an audience. Definitively it’s satisfactory to have your song on various platforms. You can send a video around, you can play your song anywhere but on the other hand, everything is consumed too quickly I think.
Long gone are the days when you would wait for a new album to come out and for the following weeks, you would only listen to that record over and over. With so many options people tend not to listen anymore, at least this is what I feel.
Musically, who is your biggest inspiration and how do they inspire you?
It’s so various. Goes from the Beatles to Genesis, I think my interest picked up in the 80ies where I was at the right age to enjoy the pop culture coming out. So bands like Talking Heads, Talk Talk, The Police, Prince, The Cure, Tears for Fears, The Smiths but also Tom Waits, Zappa, XTC, etc. I can go forever.
What future projects are you currently working on?
I am working on a graphic novel for which there will be a soundtrack. I did already one at the beginning of the pandemic with a friend (Emilio Di Donato, together we have an experimental prog-pop duo called Beat Out).
Music, in general, has many facets and subgenres, do you feel these labels and distinctions matter? If so, in what sub-genre would you categorize your music?
Not sure, sometimes I have been labeled as prog-pop, some of my songs are featured in the CD compilation of the Prog Magazine from the UK.
Has the recent pandemic helped or impaired your creativity in any way?
Both, the pandemic gave me time to evaluate some projects that I have been putting aside for years. But it also limited so much more. I wanted to stay away from the “quarantine” themes and subtext. In fact, I don’t want to include the recent event in any of my compositions or work. It annoys me in fact when suddenly you start seeing masks in films or even comic books. It means that we surrender and accepted it as the new now. For me pop culture, movies, art, comics, music should be a means of evasion, we can do better than that.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not much, I am working on two more albums but I realized that I have so many more tracks than I counted on. So, I probably will have to split them into several releases.
Be sure to follow J Crist:
Be sure to check out his 2 newest albums!
Onward: 2011-2021 (Collezione):
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I’d like to give a special thank you to J Crist!
Keep creating brother, the world is a better place thanks to the artists within it!