John L. Walters is a composer and journalist who once wrote a tune that people whistle. He studied maths with physics at King’s College London, attended short jazz courses and studied privately with Neil Ardley. He met Chris Heaton and Richard Burgess at summer schools and formed a nonet that became the eight-piece Landscape, releasing Thursday the 12th (1975) on Gordon Beck’s Jaguar cassette label.
As Landscape evolved into a co-operative five-piece, John added electronics to his soprano sax and flutes. In 1978 he discovered the Roland MC-8 MicroComposer and bought a Lyricon and a Wind Synthesizer Driver, all of which initiated important changes in Landscape’s sound.
He and Richard learnt to program the MC-8, which they used on ‘European Man’ (EDM 1) and the Tea-Rooms album, which featured John’s distinctive Lyricon tune on ‘Einstein a Go-Go’. With Richard, John also worked with Kate Bush (programming Fairlight CMI on Never For Ever) and as an arranger/programmer for Shock, Hot Gossip and Pamela Stephenson.
After Landscape, John went into record production, scoring a top 20 hit with Swans Way’s ‘Soul Train’ in 1984. He produced Kissing The Pink, Twelfth Night, Mark Springer and others, and wrote several TV themes that often featured Andy Pask on bass. A production high point was Big Music (1988) by jazz composer Mike Gibbs.
In the late 1980s John formed Zyklus, an ‘electronic jazz orchestra’, with Neil Ardley, trumpeter Ian Carr and multi-instrumentalist Warren Greveson, making the album Virtual Realities (1992). With Laurence Aston, he co-founded and edited award-winning creative music journal Unknown Public (to which Chris Heaton was a valued contributor).
John reinvented himself as a journalist, doing freelance editing for Auto Express, The Sunday Times and The Architectural Review and writing for The Wire, Jazzwise and Gramophone. His newspaper journalism includes ‘Stretch your Ears’ and ‘God is in the Details’ for The Independent and the ‘On the Edge’ column for The Guardian. He is the author of the graphic design books Fifty Typefaces That Changed the World and Alan Kitching: A Life in Letterpress.
John became editor of Eye, the international review of graphic design, in 1999, and in 2008 – after a management buy-out – he became its co-owner with art director Simon Esterson. Eye has produced many significant editions, covering branding, food, editorial design and music design, plus a type special with 8000 different covers.
Since 2014 John has also edited Pulp, a customer journal in three editions and five languages that Eye makes for Italian paper company Fedrigoni. John programmes Eye’s Type Tuesday events at St Bride Library in London and speaks at design conferences and colleges worldwide. He has won three British Society of Magazine Editors ‘Editor of the Year’ awards.
Read: ‘INFLUENCES – JOHN L. WALTERS’
CHRIS HEATON BIOGRAPHY
RICHARD JAMES BURGESS BIOGRAPHY
ANDY PASK BIOGRAPHY
PETER THOMS BIOGRAPHY