Being fascinated by a neighbour’s guitar-playing saved the young Kieran Johnston from a lifetime of video games – and he’s now part of an up-and-coming rock band tipped for the top.
Lead guitarist Kieran, from Galashiels, is a fifth of Perpetua, and they are heading out on a UK tour next week after winning the title of best metal band in the country at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMA).
But that moment, last Wednesday night at the Garage in Glasgow, was a million miles away from the Kieran of 2005.
He said: “When I was 10, I had been listening to metal all my life because my dad is really into it, but I never thought I would play.”
At the time, he was living in Langlee with dad David and mum Mag.
Kieran, now living in Edinburgh and working in Tesco, said: “I was very rarely seen outside my bedroom, as I was playing video games all the time.
“Then, a neighbour, Joe Hardie, took up the guitar.
“I often went over to Joe’s and watched him play solos and stuff, and I thought it was amazing.
“And one day, I had gone out to buy a game for the PlayStation 2, but I only had £30, which was not enough.
“I went through the Argos catalogue and found an acoustic guitar for 30 quid, and I bought it.
“Then I would bring it over to Joe’s and try to copy what he was doing.”
Kieran said he never had a lesson on the instrument and his skills are largely self-taught, and that he was mostly influenced by the “billion” metal bands his dad listened to, including Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
He added that he loved Mr Big guitarist Paul Gilbert’s playing.
He said he remembered playing some guitar at a classical music lesson at the school, and he was talked into going along to a band practice night at Langlee Community Centre.
He said: “It was a band in Gala, called VIB, which was a pretty terrible name.
“We only played covers, and we didn’t ever really do anything, but we did learn just about everything Metallica ever did.”
However, it was when he upped sticks to start a college course in the capital that he met brothers Stephen and Andy Dickson, Perpetua’s drummer and rhythym guitarist.
Along with vocalist Jack Gordon and bass player Jack Sandilands, the five-piece played their first few gigs as the Falling Rain.
The other lads hail from Prestonpans and Port Seton, and they all have a similar taste in music.
Kieran said: “We all have some say in how our songs are written. We each have a say in everybody’s part, whether it be drums, lyrics or a guitar solo.”
But, as often happens in bands, tensions began to show.
And when he went on tour with them, he said it made him ill.
He said: “There were the five of us, and with the lead singer’s brother and a couple of other people, we were all basically sleeping on the floor of a really horrible old van.
“I have the worst immune system at the best of times, and in the back of a van with that lot was not the best of times.”
Kieran added: “We weren’t really doing anything much, and we didn’t really have much drive or enthusiasm for it.
“We were all busy with our own lives outwith the band as well.
“I honestly thought that by now we would have broken up as I couldn’t see how it was going to work, but after we changed our name to Perpetua, we were late replacements into a festival known as Throne Fest in Glasgow.
“We were on the same bill as bands such as Heart of a Coward and From Sorrow to Serenity – who are huge at the moment, really good stuff – and it was the best buzz ever.
“Our music was well received, and it made us want to continue.”
The band’s latest EP, Resistance, met with rave reviews and it garnered new fans, as well as promotional agencies, and that is how they ended up being shortlisted in the SAMA awards.
They had been nominated by Rock’n’Roll Tattoo and Piercing in Edinburgh, as well as promoters Triple G Music and the Daily Dischord Agency, and each shortlisted act had to rely on fans’ votes to gain the award, which shows just how much the band has come in the past year.
“It’s fantastic to have so many people vote for us,” said Kieran this week.
The band posted on their Facebook page the following message: “This award is a realisation of the hard work we have put in over the past year, and it means so much to us to see such respected industry professionals recognising the effort we’ve put in throughout 2016.
“We couldn’t be prouder to be taking this award home to Edinburgh.”
The band’s tour – this time, thankfully, in a much nicer van – starts at the Opium Alternative Club and Bar in Edinburgh on Saturday, and goes on to venues in Dunfermline, Cardiff, Neath, Abertillery, Bradford, Basingstoke and Worthing, finishing on Tuesday, November 1.
Click on www.perpetua.bigcartel.com or find the band on Facebook for details.