Many people want to come to New Zealand because of all those Middle-earth movies.

John Grant says his long-held urge to visit was, however, sparked by another Peter Jackson film, Heavenly Creatures, the dramatisation of the Parker-Hulme murder.

Its Gothic tale of a destructive love suits Grant's songwriting sensibilities. Plus, he lives in Iceland so likes a good volcanic landscape - something he should be able to see between his Auckland Arts Festival appearance tonight and a performance at Womad in New Plymouth on Sunday.

Grant heads here after releasing Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, his third solo album after 2010's Queen of Denmark and 2013's Pale Green Ghosts, which has continued a run of acclaim for his anguished, bleakly beautiful love songs, their arrangements often showing signs of his lasting affection for post-punk early 80s of New Wave.

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He's even got a remnant of the period in his band Budgie, the onetime drummer for Siouxsie and the Banshees played on the latest album and is on tour with Grant. Another music hero of Grant's, Tracey Thorn of Everything But the Girl, also guested on the album.

Grant, at 47, is something of musical late bloomer. Growing up in a religious household in Denver, he was in a band called The Czars for six albums from the mid 90s before everyone left a heavily drinking Grant to his own devices.

He eventually cleaned up but announced from a concert stage in 2012 that he was HIV positive, something he addresses in his songs.

Grant's solo career has continued to bloom, especially in Britain where Pale Green Ghosts went top 20 and Grey Tickles top five.

The latest record is one of blackly witty lyrics delivered by Grant's airy baritone over some stylistic musical swerves.

"There are so many styles that I love and there are things that I have been inspired by over the years that this mess of styles all mixed together seems to be what comes out of me. I might have a plan to make something that is more cohesive that is smoother but it is much more in keeping with my personality."

The multilingual Grant came by the title by combining phrases from Icelandic and Turkish to describe a mid-life crisis.

"It's an anthropological study of myself -- the way things have been for me and I suppose it is my way of expressing myself or making myself heard."

Auckland Arts Festival preview

Who: John Grant

Where: Auckland Town Hall tonight

Buy tickets now!