- His father was a local musician, who taught him to play the guitar; they played together in working men's clubs from when John was 12, calling themselves Us2.
- Started a band, Magic Alex (named after The Beatles' electrician), and toured with Echo and the Bunnymen in the early 1990s.
- After he played New Order frontman Bernard Sumner in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, he was invited to sing on stage with the band.
- Was the seventh actor to play Doctor Who nemesis The Master.
- Took part in the 31thirtyone charity photography project in 2010 to raise money for Crohn's and Colitis UK.
- Played the title role in Hamlet at the Crucible Theatre in 2010.
- Appeared in a 50th anniversary revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming in 2015 at Trafalgar Studios in the West End.