MAN WITH A MISSION: The 10 songs that changed my life

MAN WITH A MISSION pack-leader Jean-Ken Johnny talks us through the music that makes him howl, from John Denver to Nirvana…

MAN WITH A MISSION: The 10 songs that changed my life
Nick Ruskell

MAN WITH A MISSION are a riot. A bunch of wolves going into space and playing rap-metal – what's not to love? How did alpha wolf Jean-Ken Johnny get here? He explains all, through the music that made him…

The first song that I remember hearing…Billy Joel – Uptown Girl

“The first song I remember hearing as a kid? Well, we’re wolves, so you mean when I was a cub… So when I was a cub, I’m pretty sure it was Uptown Girl. That’s pretty classic. I can’t remember specifically, but it was either that or The Piano Man. But it was definitely by Billy Joel.”

The song that reminds me of school…Nirvana – In Bloom

Nirvana were very famous all over the world at that moment, everybody was talking about them. I used to listen to hard rock and heavy metal stuff – I'm still a big fan – but I noticed that it just changed that moment the grunge movement came along in the ’90s. It’s what I imagined it was like in the ’70s when the Sex Pistols came out – Nirvana were this revolutionary band, running at the front of it. I prefer this one to a lot of the other singles. It's got a really good intro riff. It’s banging.”

The song that made me want to be a musician…Nirvana – On A Plane

“It was basically the whole of the Nevermind album. I was a big Nirvana fan. This one doesn’t get talked about so much, but I think it’s a masterpiece. I think it’s the only song in drop-D [tuning] on that album. And it just sounds amazing. I played a lot of Nirvana when I was learning guitar. They were a real inspiration to me.”

The first song I learned to play…Nirvana – Come As You Are

“I learned a few things on guitar, but the first song I covered was Come As You Are. That was a good one, because the riff was pretty easy. It felt like I was really playing the whole song. It was the first time I noticed guitar effects and stuff like that. I was only playing it on the acoustic guitar, just learning how to play it, but I remember listening to what Kurt Cobain was doing and thinking, ‘This sound is weird, man.’”

The song that made me realise MAN WITH A MISSION could be my life…MAN WITH A MISSION – Don’t Lose Yourself

“This was our first single. When we started recording stuff and making music, and when we started playing live, I noticed people reacted to us. Even though it was, like, 10 people, I really felt like, ‘Oh, this is going to be big.’ People were really into the music as well as the appearance, and we definitely had a confidence in our songs. It's really hard for me to say a particular song that represents us, but when we made this song, we kind of felt that this might be something.”

The song that makes me want to stage-dive…Foo Fighters – My Hero

“Basically anything that came out of ’90s alternative rock. Cherub Rock by the Smashing Pumpkins is a good one, but I’ll say the best is My Hero from Foo Fighters. I definitely prefer the slower and heavier ones, you know. These days, a lot of people try to stage-dive in fast songs, but to me stage-diving is like surfing on a cloud in those middle-tempo songs. People are more likely to catch you as well.”

The song that makes me think of home…John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads

“It says it in the lyrics, man: ‘Country road, take me home, to the place where I belong.’ That’s so perfect. It makes me feel like I want to go back to home. Even if it’s about places in America.”

The song I want to be remembered for…MAN WITH A MISSION – Fly Again

“I think this is a lot of people’s favourite song of ours, because it really represents the mixture of all the things we are. We are a really hybrid band. I tried to have the heritage of the ’90s but also tried to blend in some modern kind of rock and roll vibe. I think Distance and Into The Deep do that as well, but I guess most people will probably remember us for Fly Again.”

The best song ever written is…Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind

“That’s a hard question to answer! Me and my friends talk about it sometimes. We’ll all drink and try to agree on what it is, and we’ll get it, and then the next day we’ll forget what we said! But this is definitely one of them. It’s so simple, but the lyrics so poetic and philosophical at the same time. It sounds like anybody can do it. In the ’60s, Bob Dylan was so punk in what he was doing, he was totally new wave compared to what else was going on. He was like a revolutionary like songwriter in that era, and totally different from the others. And he still is.”

The song that I’d like played at my funeral…Oasis – Champagne Supernova

“Hmm, what should it be? If I was to have my funeral right now? I’ll pick Oasis. I love this song a lot. And the lyrics are so good: ‘How many special people change? How many lives are living strange? Where were you while we were getting high? And someday you will find me caught beneath the landslide in a Champagne Supernova in the sky.’ It's perfect for funeral. It's beautiful. It's big and poetic at the same time. A lot of people prefer Wonderwall from that album, but for me this one is definitely a huge masterpiece.”

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