A two-part Interview with
(Former Bassist of WASP & Original Member of King Kobra)
that took place on May 31st & June 2nd, 2014.
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: How ya doin’ Bro?
Johnny: What’s up?
Glenn: I’m doing alright man. What turned you onto bass originally?
Johnny: Oh well you know man, actually when I was nine years old – I started playing guitar when I was nine – actually drums. I played a little bit and then I said, “Now, I’ll play guitar”. I was formally trained on the guitar for about four or five years and then I was listening to Hendrix in the late 60’s man – that bass tone and just whole thing man – the bottom end, the low end and just the balls that the bass has, I thought, ‘That’s what I wanna do man, because that’s the kind of person I am’ ‘Wow! Balls to the Wall Man’ (Sung). Hahahah!
Glenn: This is like talking to Stet Howland’s Siamese twin or something. It’s a total riot.
Johnny: Talking to him.
Johnny: Like Noddy Holder! Hahahaha.
Glenn: What was it like for music where you grew up? Not that you ever grew up!
Johnny: I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri Man. It was kinda like Birmingham (UK) – Hahahahaha! Birmingham in the Summer. No man, it was a mid-west town. Well you know the thing is, is where I grew up – that was in the 60’s, early 70’s man and I was just changing at the time. I was into Hendrix and all that heavy sh*t and most people around me were listening to bullsh*t. I was always thinking like five or ten years ahead. Anyway, you know what – it’s a good town to come from – hahahaha. I’m from there but I don’t live there anymore. It’s a good town to come from man.
I played in bands, I played in bars for many, many years. Man when I was 11 years old I was playing in a bar. I played in bars and I kept playing and I just.. I just kept holding my craft as they say. Just kept on working and getting better and better. People in St. Louis say, “Well what did you do man when you left, what did you do different?”, I said, “Nothing I just continued on doing what I was doing”, because I was wild, I was a maniac in St. Louis. I used to jump up on the bar with the bass, run down the bar, kick the beer bottles off, and say ‘F*ck You!’ at everybody and go crazy but they paid me – hahaha. I had to get the hell outta there.
Glenn: So that was bar life for you.
Johnny: Well yeah. Well again, I broke the guys stool. I went down the bar doing a bass solo and kicking the drinks right in the f*ck of peoples faces. Hahahahaha.
Glenn: Crazy sh*t.
Johnny: I was pretty much out there because… you know… People’d come to me all the time and they’d say, “Hey man, what the hell are you doing here?”, and I’d say, “Well that’s a good question, I ask myself that question many times”. But that was 30 years ago. A matter of fact it was 30 years ago… 30 years ago this month in June that I moved to LA and joined King Kobra in 1984.
Glenn: Yeah? Wow!
Johnny: Yeah I went out to audition for King Kobra in 1984 in June and I got the gig with Carmine there. And like I said, they said, “What you do?”, I said, “Man I just continued doing what I’ve been doing and I didn’t do anything different”. That’s what I looked like when I got there. That sh*t that I did, I’d already been doing that sh*t in local typed situations. But a big part of it is that I can sing and I gotta tell ya it makes the person a more valuable commodity when not only you can play your instrument but you can also sing. You know?
Glenn: Yeah. Totally.
Johnny: That’s when he was starting to switch. He had Randy Piper and he was on lead guitar. One major thing – we were touring with them in Texas – King Kobra was with WASP and Ted Nugent and he saw us up there and he saw me up there playing and singing and that’s when they asked me to join. I go from King Kobra to WASP to the Mean Motherf*ck*n’ Man, Chris Holmes.
Glenn: Chris is a good guy and he’s just moved to Finland as well.
Johnny: Oh man, Chris is a great guy. You wouldn’t believe… I could sit for hours and tell you stories about me and him hahaha.
Glenn: I bet you could as well. Feel free to tell me a few now.
Johnny: When we were down in Portugal, we were down in the Town Square on a day off and all I remember is crawling on our *ss to get back at the hotel. I don’t remember how we got there –hahahahahahahhaah!
Johnny: Woo! Anyway man, you what the thing of it is man, I like to have a good time – I like to have fun and I’m gonna have fun and continue to do this until I can’t do this anymore.
Glenn: Yeah. I mean, what’s the point to life if you can’t have fun?
Johnny: With Blackie?
Johnny: With Blackie – nahhhh – no no no no. What part of England you in?
Glenn: Sheffield. I’m about 14 miles from Sheffield.
Johnny: Oh you’re by Sheffield. By the home of my good friends, Def Leppard.
Glenn: Yeah I met Joe Elliott a few years ago.
Johnny: Well those guys are close friends of mine. I remember talking to Joe once – that was some pub in London at their show and Lemmy was there and me and him, we’re downstairs doing some stuff in the bathroom and I said, “Hey Joe, whatever you sing I’ll just go (does a wailing drunk wordless impression of Joe singing)” and he goes, F*ck You’ and I go, ‘That’s alright man’. We were all downstairs doing some sh*t that we shouldn’t have done – drugs. Anyway, those were those days man but you know. Those were the days.
Glenn: Yeah that was yesterday.
Johnny: Yeah hahahaha! Yeah you know when I was 14 the other day? It’s like I was 18. So you’re in Sheffield Man – how’s your weather?
Glenn: It’s sunny, it’s rainy, it’s cloudy. It’s the part of the world where you can have all four seasons all in the same day.
Johnny: I know, I know – I’ve been there. You run outside, the sun comes out, everyone runs outside to get the sun on their legs, then the sun goes away and the clouds come back.
Glenn: Yeah it’s crazy.
Johnny: I know man.
Glenn: We get all different winds coming through and stuff.
Johnny: I know I gotta tell you man that some of our greatest fans are over there in the UK because those fans are loyal. You know what I mean? They stay with you. That’s what I like about it. I mean United States and I’m American – I love America but you know what, people in America are very fickled, they are very spoilt man. They get so much. They stay today and then they don’t know you tomorrow, I mean next day wheras fans over there, they stay with you forever man.
Johnny: I mean I got 5000 people on facebook and 8000 requests from people I can’t take and I have people from all over the world and I try to talk to them as much as possible. I do – I send messages, I talk to ‘em on facebook as much as I can. A guy comes on and he goes, ‘You’re a man of the fans because….’, I go ‘Yeah’. The fans - they are the people who put you where you are man – you can’t forget them.
Glenn: Exactly. Exactly.
Johnny: You know what I mean? You can’t forget them. You gotta start giving autographs unlike some people I know who don’t do that or stop and give autographs. Well me and Chris did some sh*t on the road let me tell ya.
Glenn: Yeah. I bet you can.
Johnny: Well you know, King Kobra, we’ve signed with bookers right now for the Swedish rock festival next year (SwedenRock).
Glenn: Yeah? Awesome.
Johnny: We’re working on that and some other stuff so I don’t know exactly what’s going on. Talk to Carmine (Appice) - that guy - hahahaha.
Glenn: Yeah. I will do, I’ve not talked to Carmine yet.
Johnny: I tell ya man, the guy is phenomenal. He’s a legend. He was the first power-rock drummer I think man. Really if you think about it from where he came from. He was the guy that hit and really beat the sh*t out the drums man. When you do what I say, ‘If you’re drinking to forget, please pay in advance’.
So right now, I’ve just been playing with some friends - jamming, you know, sh*t like that and I’m waiting to find out what’s going on. Also there’s some talk of some WASP stuff but I don’t know. That’s been going on for two years.
Glenn: Yeah, what’s meant to be going on then?
Johnny: Well, I mean, there’s a lot of rivalry between Chris and Blackie. I don’t know because Chris, he really got screwed over out of money and things like that.
Glenn: Oh I know, he told me all about it.
Johnny: I think that Chris would do it again but it depends on the money and I don’t know… you know in the last they’ve been going back and forth with this crap. So the “30 Years of the Rolling Thunder Tour” or whatever the hell it was because I’ve seen that they use videos behind ‘em and they’ve got videos of me, Chris, Frank and everybody else and there’s nobody up there playing except Blackie. I know it’s good and I like it and I love WASP and everything but that WASP thing was ‘The Blackie Lawless Show’.It’s like man if he just put him and me and Chris whether it be Stet. Steve Riley, Frankie Banali or whoever on drums it wouldn’t matter. If you put Me, Blackie and Chris together again in WASP then people would come man.
Johnny: The fans would come and see that sh*t because I think that was the best line-up – that’s my opinion and Frankie Banali the drummer – that guy’s just f*ck*ng great. But so was Stet – Stet’s great too. I talk to Stet a lot while he’s down in Florida.
Glenn: While you are talking WASP, what would you say were the highlights for you were over all?
Johnny: The highlights I gotta tell ya was probably ‘The Headless Children Tour’ man because that album was really regardless of what it says on the album because the collaboration of Chris, Me and Blackie, we all sat in his garage in LA when he was writing that album… me and Chris would go to his house and we were sitting there, like in the video when we were doing the ‘Douchebag Blues’ – that’s Blackie’s garage.
Anyway, we used to go there everyday and we would just sit there and play these riffs and play these guitar licks and read chords and be writing stuff and that’s how they all got done. That was very much a highlight for me because it was… even though he took all the credit, it was still a collaboration of all three of us sitting there day after day after day just playing these chords and these songs and these arrangements.
So it felt at that moment in time like about ‘88/’89 - it felt like a team – it felt like a real band – like guys who just had a band. It didn’t feel like there was a separation of Blackie Lawless and Chris Holmes and Johnny Rod and things like that. You know what I mean?
Johnny: It felt like we were all together as one at that time. That’s why that tour kicked *ss man. I mean we got Frank and Frank is like.. you know that was just great because I remember when we were rehearsing for that tour and one day we were playing and Blackie was trying to tell Frank something about a drum part and he didn’t know how to explain it to him, how to describe it to him and I turned round and I said something to him about it and I explained it to him and he got it immediately and he held Blackie and he goes, “Hey listen man, now from now on let Johnny how to play these drum parts because he speaks good drummer”. (We laugh) Johnny speaks good drummer. It felt like a team at that time – that was the highlight mostly. That was the highlight for me in that band. In that period in the 80’s when we were working on that album and recording it and then going out and playing it man because that was kick *ss. That tour kicked *ss. See if he (Blackie) was smart – we would do that now – go out and do ‘The Headless Children Reunion’ I know people would come and see it man.
Glenn: Yeah totally.
Johnny: That was the highlight for me man but also the ‘Monsters Of Rock’ festivals – you know Donington?
Glenn: Yeah I was going to ask you something about that.
Johnny: It was still called ‘Monsters Of Rock’ back in ’87 and ’92. That was also a highlight for me because man, the people were great. I have to guess that had to be my favourite time – about ‘87/’88/’89. I just think ‘Let’s do a ‘Headless Children’ reunion and go out and play that album man. People would love it and I would still play ‘F*ck Like A Beast’ – ‘I got pictures of naked ladies, lying on the bed’ (Sung)
Johnny: It’s still one of my favourite songs.
Glenn: Yeah, when Stet plays in 10,000 Views in The Beached Whale (Fort Myers Beach) or somewhere he always plays ‘Blind In Texas’ – it’s always just an absolute riot.
Johnny: Yeah I know about that man. He told me down at that Beached Whale club.
Glenn: Yeah. You ought to come down some time.
Johnny: I will. I haven’t talked to Stet in a while but we were talking about it earlier this year. I talked to him about doing some kind of project and he said he’d be into it. I haven’t spoken to him. I haven’t decided what I want to do man. I’ve got money but I don’t know what I want to do and how to go about it. Dave Henzerling, you know from King Kobra, he wants to do another project – I don’t know the date. I got some money, you know ‘Selling England By The Pound’.
Glenn: Yeah exactly, Genesis – 1973.
Johnny: That’s one of my favourite albums of all time.
Glenn: It’s a good album.
Johnny: I saw them play that man, - 1974 – ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway Tour’ – the original. They did ‘Supper’s Ready’ off of ‘Foxtrot’, ‘The Firth of Fifth’ – that was one of my favourite concerts of all time. It was the original guys too with Peter Gabriel.
Glenn: What was it like working with Stet?
Johnny: Me and him. Well on stage it was phenomenal man. The guys a monster drummer. He’s just a poundering – a monsterous drummer man and he just heals it down man. Guys like him – like Stet, Frankie Banali, Carmine (Appice), they are just such phenomenal drummers. They make it effortless. They make it effortless for the bass player too in my opinion. They are so good – you don’t even have to think about it because they are just there. They’re there and you’ve never got to worry about not being there. The beat, the meter, the timing – all that sh*t – it’s what makes it effortless for guys to play if they are the bass player because the bass and the drums have to lock. They’ve gotta be like the one person. It’s gotta be like, especially rock music – they gotta be like the one. It’s like one guy. Like the kick drum is the bass guitar almost, you know and Carmine got with it and Stet, Frankie Banali – they are just up there man with some of the best rock drummers in the business.
Glenn: I agree.
Johnny: You know? And Chris Holmes – Chris Holmes guitar tone though – no-one can match that. I don’t care. He may not be the greatest.. he may not be Jimi Hendrix and that but you know what? There are very few people that can get that guitar tone. He’s up there with in my opinion with Tony Iommi – his guitar tone – people like that. He is – Chris is – I believe it. I used to hear it man. He was just f*ck*ng monsterous – huge.
Glenn: Yeah. I went to see ‘Where Angels Suffer’ – in fact I booked that three date tour when they played the UK and I’ve never known a band as loud. Oh Jesus Christ. It was like.. ‘F*ck*n’ Jesus!
Johnny: Hahahaha! Well you know what I say man, ‘The music’s too loud – then your too old!
Glenn: Exactly. Yeah.
Johnny: If the music’s too loud, you’re too old. Turn it up. TURN IT UP!!!!!!!! That’s gotta sound f*ck*n’ right! “Rock’s too loud”, now I go “Bullsh*t, turn that sh*t up”. Rock music was meant to be loud as hell. It’s loud. It’s like when they asked me to do a bass solo I told them I needed a distortion pedal you know. They said. “What kind of distortion pedal you want?”, and I said, “I want distortion. I want it to be so terrible sounding that’s it’s insulting when you hear it. I want it to be so, so terrible the distortion. I want it to insult ya. I want people to go, “Oh god turn that off”. Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahhaha. That’s the kind of distortion I want man.
Glenn: Stet said to ask you about the morning after Donington 1992 where you were in a room full of stewardesses.
Johnny: Hahahahaha. Hahahaha. About the stewardesses – Wow Yeah! I remember that, I remember that night. Yeah there was a couple.. Well you see when we were flying over to England we met a couple on the 'United Airlines' flight and they were called stewardesses then. They’re now flight attendants – hah hehe – politically correct or whatever. So we asked them and we told ‘em where we were going and that we were going to do the show and they said, “Oh can we come up there?”, “Well yeah, come on up”. We didn’t think they’d show up. We just said, “Sure come on up”.
They ended up showing up there at Donington Park man and so we got ‘em backstage and we did the show and we did the show and then that night in the hotel hahahahahaha. Well we had to crawl through these windows and we had to sneak around. I can’t say too much of what we did but we got into this… I don’t know… I don’t even remember what kind of hotel.. it was a Holiday Inn or something and it was 2 or 3 O’clock in the morning and we were of course not sleeping – we got these girls to crawl on this ledge with no clothes on. Oh yeah I can’t go too much into that. That was funny man.
We ended up doing some crazy sh*t man – me and Stet. That last tour was pretty wild – The Crimson Idol Tour Man! Me and Stet – two crazy guys – that was me and Stet at that time man. We were just notorious.
Glenn: It is yeah. Whereabouts are you based right now?
Johnny: Nashville Tennessee. Anyway, King Kobra. We put out these two albums on CD in 2011 and put another one out in 2013 you noticed and they are trying to book us a Swedish Rock Festival right now for next year and hopefully some other sh*t over there. So hopefully we get over there and do some stuff.
Glenn: Be awesome to get a few dates in the UK – get in Sheffield or somewhere close.
Johnny: I’m sure we will man, that’s what I’m saying. It’s not until next year so we’ve got plenty of time to book some other shows besides there.
Glenn: Yeah exactly. For various reasons, how would you say King Kobra were different from WASP as in work-wise?
Johnny: Well see in 1984 that’s when I… 30 years ago this month man, I went to Los Angeles from St. Louis and I got a chance to go out there and audition for King Kobra and how different… well I was in on the ground floor when they very first started so I was more like one of the founding members and it felt close because we all went through our sh*t together – writing songs – all that kinda thing and we were pretty close. But after two albums and three years, Geffen Records, they were dropping King Kobra and I was touring with WASP and Ted Nugent and that’s when they saw me down in Texas and I didn’t know at the time that Blackie was going to make a change.
They were watching me and after that tour, Chris Holmes called me. He was drunk. So he got me on the phone a couple of weeks later after we got off the tour because when I got into WASP, WASP was already established. I mean, they were pretty much established around the world. So in that aspect it was a step up – a step up into a much more well known band. But technically, musically and I don’t say this bad, I mean musically the musicianship and that, it wasn’t a step up as far as technique. As far as individual musicianship because David Michael-Philips/Dave Henzerling and Michael Sweda are really, really good guitar players with Carmine Appice on drums of course. You know Carmine is a legend – an outlaw drummer man.
Glenn: Yeah he’s amazing.
Johnny: And you know, when I joined WASP, Steve Riley was there. We also recorded the live album of the ‘Inside The Electric Circus Tour’ (Live In The Raw) and when we finished that tour in ’87, when they were mixing the album that’s at the time that Blackie changed the line-up. Then he (Steve Riley) was gone and I never saw him again. We did Donington in 1987 with some kid playing drums. Some guy we just got to play the drum parts for that Donington show. That’s when they hit the rack with the girl on it and sh*t. Hahahaha!
Glenn: Yeah I got it on tape that gig and it’s a tremendous gig that.
Johnny: Oh yeah. Great man and then we destroyed the stage. I like destroying sh*t.
Glenn: Yeah. No doubt. What were your favourite parts of that gig? I know it’s a long time ago. What stood out from that gig?
Johnny: My favourite part was when we were backstage with… well it was actually during that show. Metallica was on that show too and me and Chris Holmes, we went into their dressing room when they were on stage and stole their vodka. (We laugh) We stole the vodka of James Hetfield’s. We stole his vodka and they were on stage.. they came out and we were hiding waiting for ‘em. They kept running around the place – it was like Where are you Holmes you stole my f*ck*…? Where you at? We went ‘F*ck You!’. We were yelling across the way. Some of the funny shit that happened was not even on stage, it was happening off the stage.
We did ‘On Your Knees’ and ‘Tormentor’ when they did the rack – the rack scene with the girl. It was just something to see man because when I joined the band on ‘Inside The Electric Circus’, we didn’t do the rack on stage so I’d never really seen it until then. Then we decided to do it at that show and I was standing there on stage watching the show. I was playing while I was watching, going, “Check this sh*t out!”. It was cool. It was cool and the crowd was just all standing there going, “Oh Wow!”. 150,000 people you know. But that show – that was a good show. I liked Metallica but that was a cool part of that show for me and then ’92, the show – that was cool too man. I mean, there was Iron Maiden. I liked ‘Chainsaw Charlie’ hahahaha.
Glenn: Yeah. ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’
Johnny: Murders, murders in the new morgue (sung). (We laugh). I’m the tin man (sung).
Glenn: What a voice! Incredible.
Johnny: I know. I can do that sh*t pretty good. But.. you know.
Glenn: It’s amazing.
Johnny: So anyway, so King Kobra, we put these two cd’s out recently but I don’t think.. I’m sure we’re not gonna be touring or anything because it’s a problem with Carmine and Paul because they don’t seem to be into doing it. You got Dave and Mick and me – we’re ready but Paul (Shortino) & Carmine they just keep on dragging their heels. What can I say Glenn, you can’t force people.
Glenn: You can’t no.
Johnny: You can’t force ‘em man. I have thousands of fans on facebook and they ask me, “Hey, when’s King Kobra coming to the UK?”. “When you coming to South America or Japan?”, When you coming to Italy?”, “When you coming to Sweden?” You know, what do I tell ‘em?
Glenn: It’s like, “Well ask those guys”.
Johnny: Well yeah, so talk to them because you can’t force people man. It’s sad because I think that last King Kobra album was pretty cool man. I mean I like the original King Kobra with Mark Free, you know, the Singer?
Glenn: Yeah, yeah.
Johnny: But he’s a woman now.
Glenn: I was gonna ask you that. You must have been asked this a million times but how was it for you guys when he just decided, well obviously it was a long time before he decided to do it but it must have been really f*ck*ng weird and some shock when he said, “Oh I’m gonna be a woman next time you see me or something”. It’s like, “What the….”
Johnny: You talking about ‘Freedom’?
Johnny: I don’t know man because you know, back in the 80’s when we were together he lived with a woman. I don’t know what the deal was. I know he was always a little bit.. he hasn’t as aggressive as we were but you never got any sign that he wanted to be a woman or that he was a homosexual or anything like that. Then I heard about it and he left the band, I heard like in the 90’s, just one of them years that he was gonna be changing into Marci Free because I called him after about 10 or 12 years.
I go, “Mark”, just god, he was talking like a woman. He goes, “Hi Johnny how are you? (puts on falsetto female voice). I said, “Hey, I hear you man”, I go, “This is me man – don’t give me that b*llsh*t”. (We laugh). "Look at this guying around man, don’t play that b*llsh*t with me”. He goes, “Oh okay” (in mans voice). (We laugh). This is Mark and if you want to cut your d*ck off you’re still Mark. Get the f*ck outta here with that girl sh*t”.
You know man, we never knew. He was never with a man. He had a girlfriend. He lived with a woman. I think he was just confused to do that sh*t and then a little time goes by and they’re still not satisfied. So they don’t know what their problem is. The problem is.. I don’t know.
Glenn: It’s in their head – it’s weird.
Johnny: Whatever it is, it’s some kind of deep problem in there. The torture never stops (sung). That’s right man, that’s what I’m saying. I ought to put on facebook, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”. See I like to say crazy sh*t and post crazy sh*t. You know man, I’m an entertainer – it’s entertainment. That’ll be good when I go, 'I went down to the gas station today and got some gas in my car and went to the grocery story. ' I’m f*ck*d. It’s what you do normally. They don’t wanna hear that. They wanna hear you do wild *ss*d crazy sh*t. At least I do. That’s entertainment man.
Glenn: I always like that fact when you put something up on your facebook, you always stick a like to it yourself.
Johnny: Yeah, post something and then you like your own post. (We laugh). I do that on purpose man.
Glenn: I know.
Johnny: I do that just to f*ck with people. That’s what I’m saying. You’re duly expected. Every once in a while I get tons and tons of remarks posts where everyone answers and liking things and every once in a while I get some guy or some woman who really writes something ignorant. Like, you’re this or you shouldn’t do this and I go ‘like’ – I like it. (We laugh). Most people go… well you see a person’s gotta be.. well you gotta be willing to take the good with the bad if you are willing to put yourself out there. If you delete only the bad sh*t and leave the good sh*t that’s like censoring it. Hey man, those people got a right to their opinion. I don’t care if they like me or they don’t like me – good or bad they are talking about you.
Johnny: So whenever somebody writes something bad I go ‘like’. Hahhahahahaha. So once you do that where are they gonna go from there.
Glenn: It’s true.
Johnny: They’ve already written something about you so if you like it then what can they do now, what can they write now cos you like it because the whole idea is that they don’t want you to like it. If I like it then they are gonna go, ‘If I write something bad he’s gonna like that too. (We laugh). See I like it good or bad. It don’t make a difference to me man because Glenn if someone don’t like me, there’s the f*ck*n’ door. I ought to write a song called ‘There’s The Door’. Hahahahahaha.
Glenn: Yeah it’s good and why not?
Johnny: Hey man, you know what? Nobody can do what I do better than me. I can’t be them but they can’t do what I do better than me. I do my own thing you know?
Glenn: Yeah, yeah.
Johnny: And that’s it.
Johnny: But it’s great though. They are like you shouldn’t be ‘ra ra ra ra ra ra….’ – ‘like’ (We laugh). I gotta play on that Bruce Lee thing, (puts on Bruce’s voice) “Hah – what’s a matter with the lot of you”. The good old Bruce Lee movies. I laugh my *ss off. I just like to have fun. Fun is the best thing to have man. Man, I posted that old Slade song on your wall today.
Glenn: You did yeah, ‘How do you feel?’
Johnny: That’s a great song. Sh*t was ‘75, I was in High School.
Glenn: Is he one of your main guys, ‘Noddy Holder’?
Johnny: Yeah. So much of Rock music has come from bands like that in that era of Slade. Like Quiet Riot is a take off of Slade. I was playing that sh*t in the early 70’s when I was a kid. That’s the sh*t I was listening to.
Glenn: Yeah that’s awesome.
Johnny: And I was born in 1957 man. So in the late 60’s… well sh*t when I saw The Beatles in 1964 on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ that’s when I knew I wanted to be a musician – 1964 man!
Glenn: That’s what Rickey Medlocke told me as well and it blew his mind as well.
Johnny: I mean when I saw that sh*t I said “Yep” and I was 6 years old and I knew then that’s all I wanted to do and what’s so cool man is that I got to go there and go to Liverpool and go down the Cavern and go to Abbey Road Studios and stuff like that man. It was all a dream for me to get to do that. I’m very, very fortunate man.
Glenn: Yeah definitely.
Johnny: So many bass players have influenced me. I was watching last night, just watching 'Emerson, Lake & Palmer' 2 years ago when they played at the High Voltage Festival – damn – they were sounding great man. Why say, ‘Why they look old?’ – well what the f*ck man – everybody ages – what you gonna do about it? Good luck to ‘em and Greg Lake’s voice – what a voice. Sh*t – the guy was in King Crimson man! One of my favourite albums (In The Court Of The Crimson King) and Keith Emerson is a m*th*rf*ck*r on keyboards man. But not just bass players influence me – just musicians in general. No matter what instrument they are playing. Just with the style that they played and the feel that they played with. The musicians themselves whether it be guitar, keyboards, drums, bass whatever.
I take something from everybody that I would be inspired by and apply to my style whatever because man there’s a lotta… you listen to WASP albums, even King Kobra albums, I can point out on some songs like sh*t that I used that I heard back in the 70’s like from Roger Glover, Gary Thain in Uriah Heep, Mel Schacker in Grand Funk… I can show you bass licks that he did that I used in WASP songs because they sound so good.
Glenn: Yeah, yeah.
Johnny: I remember my mind. Them guys are fantastic cos musicians in those days… they played… there was very little electronic processing. You know what I mean?
Johnny: Everything is electronically processed today. All they do is trigger an electronic thing that makes the sound and you’re not really getting it from the instrument. In those days the musician made it with his hands – they made the sound. I know there were a few things but very little, very little. It was the musicians themselves that had to make the sound. That’s what I’m talking about. But things have gotten lost today. It’s gotten lost, Everything is electronically processed and add distortion - blah blah blah blah blah. Natural distortion is not coming from overdriving a pre-amp. Natural distortion is when you vibrate those speakers to the point where they distort. Like the old Marshalls. You just shake that speaker to its limit and that makes it (makes noise of speaker distorting). That gives you that natural distortion.
Glenn: Yeah and it’s like when the Who did it the record company thought there was something wrong with the tapes or something so they sent them back!
Johnny: That’s right. Like guys like Felix Pappalardi from Mountain, Mel Schacker. I talked to Mel one day and asked him, “How did you get that sound?’ He said they used to take those big old sun bass cabinets and take little needles and they’d get into the speaker and poke a ton of holes in the speaker. Poke a hundred or more little tiny holes in the speaker so when they played it just went (makes a distorted trumpy noise) and they got that sound man. Then the speaker would eventually just tear because they had so many holes in it and then they’d just just unplug real fast and roll another cab up to plug in and keep on going man. That’s how they got that sound. That killer sound like Mountain or Grand Funk.
Glenn: I met those guys a few years ago – Mountain – Leslie West and the guys.
Johnny: Oh yeah, is he cool? I never got to meet him.
Glenn: Yeah he’s a nice guy.
Johnny: You know King Kobra did one show – it was the early King Kobra about ’85. We were touring and for some reason we played a show with Mountain and it was in Pinup… somewhere in Wisconsin or something, an outdoor thing and it was Leslie West and Corky Laing – the original drummer and one young guy who was playing keyboards and bass – I don’t know who that was and they sounded really good. I was going, “Damn, listen to that man – God!”. What a great guitar player. Nantucket Sleighride’s one of my favourites man.
Glenn: I love it. There used to be this programme called ‘Weekend World’ in the UK. It was a political thing. I used to like hearing the theme tune and that was me done. What’s your favourite…..
Johnny: All I need’s my love machine yeah! (Sung)
Glenn: That’s amazing.
Johnny: I wanna be somebody, be somebody soon! (Sung)
Glenn: What’s your favourite moments in King Kobra so far then?
Johnny: Actually it was when I met Jaco Pestoris (Blood, Sweat & Tears Bassist). It was a few weeks before he died. We were in New York City. We were sat in Washington Square and this guy walks up and he says ‘Hey Carmine”. We didn’t even recognise him and he said, “Jaco – Jaco Pastorius”. I said, “Holy Sh*t that’s Jaco Pastorius man”.
We played down in Mexico in Acapulco at that rock festival – that was a pretty good one. Favourite moment in King Kobra? Hahaha – probably when I went to audition for King Kobra. That was in Carmine’s house and he had a double kick set up in there and they were singing and playing and all the rest of it and he goes, “Okay, I want you to act like you are in front of 50 thousand people”, and here I go, “Get the hell outta my way!”. I climbed up on to the drum set – one foot on each kicker and this was at the audition. He’s like “God what the f*ck”, so I did a split out in the air, jumped down and started playing.
Johnny: I mean they didn’t even know me, you know? I went out there. I was just going out there to audition. I flew out there. I go, “Get outta my way and I climbed up – one foot on each drum – hahahahaha.
Glenn: That’s crazy.
Johnny: He’s sitting there looking at me going, “What the f*ck?”, I go, “Count ‘em off man, let’s go!” I just took it Glenn. I just went on all fours – balls out. I didn’t hold back nothing. It was a pretty good moment. Actually man, there’s so many, so many I can’t even think of. Like recording with Carmine Appice man! I was listening to this guy in high school on the ‘Beck, Bogart & Appice’ album and sh*t like that – Cactus, Rod Stewart. I was buying his albums when I was in high school and here I am in 1984 joining a band with them – that alone man – think about it!
Another one – one of the good ones is when we toured with Kiss. We toured with Kiss on the Asylum Tour. That’s another thing. Here I am in a band called King Kobra with Carmine Appice opening up for Kiss on tour and I went and saw those guys in 1974 - their first album had just gone and came out and they came to St. Louis, my home town and they were playing the radio station in St. Louis called KSHE95 – a rock station, a big rock station. They had a thing outside every year in this park and they got this brand new band called Kiss who had just come out with their new album and they came. They played during the day and they just had their face make-up on and nothing else – just like jeans and t-shirts and the amps and that and there was 80,000 people there and that was a thing they had every year. Like people would go, be smoking weed and going crazy – 1974 – 40 years ago. A brand new band. We’d never seen these guys and then they came back a year later with that big, huge tour and I got to see ‘em that year in 1974 in like October/November and I’m thinking, ‘Damn’ as a kid and here I am 12 years later on tour with ‘em. You know what I mean?
Glenn: Yeah it’s incredible isn’t it.
Johnny: When you look at it like that. It’s like these are guys when I was in high school that I used to watch or buy their albums and here I am around it. I’m right in the middle of it. I mean it blows you away man. It’s like ‘Damn!’. But I realised I’m on the same level because I used to sit out there in concerts and watch bands. Man I saw Pink Floyd ’73 ‘Dark Side Of The Moon Tour’, Billion Dollar Babies (Alice Cooper), Led Zeppelin – I saw the ‘Houses Of The Holy Tour’ in 1973 – that tour. You know I used to sit there Glenn. I used to sit there and watch ‘em man and they were really good and I used to say to myself, “Man, I can do that. Just give me a chance to get up there and I’ll show you I can do it”. I got to do it man.
Glenn: Exactly. So how were Kiss towards you. Did you get on with them?
Johnny: Oh yeah, yeah. It’s so funny man. Well we used to talk to Paul and Gene every night. Eric Carr was on that tour – he was still alive. He was a real nice guy but he didn’t talk to anybody too much. He kinda didn’t hang around – he’d leave and Bruce Kulick was kinda like that too. He didn’t talk a whole lot to a lot of people but Gene and Paul, I remember one time we were getting ready to go on stage, King Kobra was, we were in the dressing room and my girlfriend was standing out in the hallway right? I peek out the door and there’s Gene trying to pick her up. (We laugh). I was listening to ‘em and we were laughing our *ss*s off. I talked to him. I talked to him a lot on a whole level because we’d see ‘em everyday. We toured with ‘em for four months. That was good because that was the ‘Asylum Tour’ when they had the make-up off. But they’re a good group man. That’s one thing I admire about ‘em is that they never claim to be great musicians. They just say they are a rock ‘n’ roll party they’ve been around for years man. That’s why. They are a band of the fans. They don’t give a damn about the critics and I totally agree with ‘em. It’s true. It’s true.
Glenn: So what’s happening with King Kobra? Have you got a new album coming out or are you just gonna like get together some time when the guys wanna do it?
Johnny: Well, Me and Mick and Dave are talking about doing something since I’m not sure what’s going on and Jimmy De’anda, the guy, when Mick was in the Bullet Boys and Jimmy was their drummer. So me, Dave, Mick and Jimmy are talking about the possibility of getting together and doing something. It’s nothing concrete plans yet or anything but we were talking about it. But we’ll see – I don’t know exactly what’s happening. I’m waiting to hear from Stet (Howland) and also Chris Holmes. Chris is over there in Europe somewhere going crazy and I had him on skype the other day but I haven’t talked to him since and I’m waiting on a call because we were talking about it and I’d love to do something with Chris.
Glenn: Yeah that’d be nice.
Johnny: Because I think Glenn that if Chris and I we did so I think people would come and see it.
Glenn: Oh definitely. Get Stet on there as well and that would be amazing.
Glenn: Yeah totally. What are you most proud of so far?
Johnny: I think more than proud, I am very grateful I got a chance to do what I planned to from when I was a little child but I’m proud I got off my *ss and chased it. I don’t know how many people I know who had those dreams and that but they just never really persued ‘em and figured ‘well it ain’t gonna happen so to hell with it’. Not me man, I just kept going and playing and playing and playing – never stopped man, I just kept saying to myself, “It’s gonna happen some day, it’s gonna happen man, I know it’s gonna happen’ and I didn’t know how, I had no f*ck*n’ idea at all how the hell it’s gonna happen, I just got a feeling I know it’s gonna happen, I’m gonna give it a chance and one day I got a phone call man.
Glenn: It’s amazing.
Johnny: That’s how it happened. These friends of mine from St. Louis who were roadies for me in the local bands I was playing in, they had got the gig with Steppenwolf being roadies and they were in LA in 1984. They just happened to see an ad in musicians magazine from Carmine that said… they called me on the phone and said, “Look John, you gotta answer this ad. It says, 'Carmine Appice wants young, aggressive bass player for metal band, Must look great, must play great, must sing great – blondes only!” (We laugh). They said, “Hey man, you’re perfect”, and they called me on the phone – that’s how it happened and I made the phone call the next day. I literally had to talk to him into letting me come out and audition because they’d already picked somebody. I’m on the phone with Carmine Appice – I’m feaking out. Like I tell you, it’s Carmine Appice - was the guy who I used to buy his albums. I’m talking on the phone. I’m like, “Man, I’m telling you Carmine, I’m the guy for the job, I’m telling you. I literally talked to him and he thought I was so crazy, he said, “I gotta give this guy a shot”. (We laugh). That’s how it happened and I flew out there man and I did all that crazy sh*t. I learned the songs right there on the spot because I learn real fast. It was on the spot – boom! I was there and I did that sh*t on the drums – I climbed up there on the drums, hahaha.
Johnny: But yeah, I’m very grateful that I got the chance to do it and get paid for what I love to do. That’s the only difference between me and somebody else but also like I said, I am proud of the fact that I didn’t stop – I never gave up. I still haven’t given up today. I just don’t have to work so hard at it. Hahahaha.
Glenn: When are you going to write an autobiography because some of your stories are pretty phenomenal?
Johnny: I don’t know man. Last time I heard about that for this group, “Why don’t you write a book?”, I said, “Sh*t", because you know listen man, I ain’t that important. I’m not that important that people wanna hear about me. I’m just John, you know - Johnny Rod. I just don’t think that I’m that important I mean, you know because you know, I’ve always remained a fan Glenn. I’m just like the fans even though I’m up there doing that, I’m still a fan. When I get around people, like famous people, I am like a kid and I like to go “Wow!”. That’s the thing, I’ve never forgotten where I came from. I never got the Rock Star attitude like some people I won’t mention who just like ignore the fans. Like every message I get from people they say, “Man, you’re a man of the fans”. People from all over the world they say, “John I remember when you guys were here, you came outside giving autographs and you were hanging out and with us talking, you and Chris and Blackie wouldn’t come out and blah, blah, blah”. I said, “Well I can’t do anything about that”, but that’s what I’m saying, I’m proud of that, I’m proud of the fact the people who, you know, feel that from me, they get that feeling from me – that’s what I’m proud of. You know what I mean?
Glenn: Totally. Awesome.
Johnny: They’re like, “I remember man, you were hanging out the window at Ulster Hall, you were throwing Guinness beers down to us”, I go, “Yeah”. Up in Belfast and I was hanging out the window and I go, “M*th*rf*ck*rs” and I’m throwing down beers to them so they can go and drink outside Ulster Hall.
Glenn: That’s funny sh*t!
Johnny: I get people (they) would send me messages like that. They remember that sh*t. They go, “Man, remember when you were here and you were doing this?”, and I go, “Ahhh yeah” and then I reply to them – I remember, some I don’t but that’s the funny one. I can remember that Ulster Hall, Belfast. Hehehehe!
Glenn: That’s crazy.
Johnny: Anyway so that’s what I mean man. I mean that’s what I like. The fans still remember – they remember that sh*t and they do – they remember.
Glenn: Awesome. What would you like to say to the people who may be reading this Interview?
Johnny: I would like to say is musicians, younger musicians or whatever – just don’t ever give up man. Don’t ever give up because if it’s true and your dream and your heart man and you dream long enough and you love it long enough man, some chance will come along somewhere, somehow it will, it will happen. To the rest of the fans I just wanna say, “Thanks to all you people over all these years who still remember man and I’m gonna try as hard as I can to come back around man with whoever, Chris Holmes or whoever, we’ll figure out something man. Who knows man, even Blackie may come round man and we’ll do WASP again – I’d love it. I’d love to do ‘Headless Children’ again. You know?
Johnny: That’d be my all-time favourite.
Glenn: That’d be incredible.
Johnny: But the fans man, I just wanna say thanks to all of you, wherever you are in the World man because you’re the people who put us where we are andI’ll never forget you man and if I do get to come around again I’m gonna stop and say hello to every single one of you – as many as I can.
Johnny: Yeah because I do like people. I like to raise the people and get crazy with ‘em. Even if it’s not about music – let’s just get crazy. Drink a beer and act crazy – wow!
Glenn: Stet’s the same though isn’t he? Stet’s exactly the same. He comes straight off and he’s talking to everyone – he’s great.
Johnny: Oh yeah. I know, I know – him and I are related. I’ll stop and talk to anybody anywhere, I don’t give a sh*t whether I’m on tour, at home or wherever I am. I’m the same way. That’s the thing Glenn. They’ll go, “Wow – you’re the same all the time”, “What am I supposed to be different?”. Why should I be different here? No this is natural – this is the natural me, the real me you know? 'Can’t you see the real me, Doctor, Doctor?' (Sung)
Glenn: Hahaha – I knew that was coming.
Johnny: You knew that was coming. It was the obvious next line.
Glenn: So what is your favourite WASP song of all time?
Johnny: I don’t know. Probably ‘Animal (F*ck Like A Beast). Hahhahahahahaha. I know people are gonna say it’s because it’s about f*ck*n’. No it ain’t even just because of the fact about sex, it’s just because it’s so outrageous, it’s so out there. To actually sing, ‘Animal, I f*ck like beast’, it’s just like so ridiculous I love it. It’s so far out there man. I also like ‘On Your Knees, you gotta’ (sung).
Glenn: It’s just shock value isn’t it?
Johnny: Yeah but I also like ‘Headless Children’. I mean, if you wanna get the most outrageous that’s the one because that kinda just defined it. It defines outrageousness and that’s what I like.
Glenn: Yeah. I think what’s really to the point without sounding over the top, apart from Kiss who more or less invented it on the next level after Alice Cooper, they went to another stage….
Johnny: Right, right. I just think we should get back together me Blackie and Chris and I’d love to have Stet and do the best of each album. Like do ‘Tormentor’. Do ‘F*ck Like A Beast’; Do ‘On Your Knees’ and do some ‘Wild Child’ a few songs like that and do songs off every album. It would just kick *ss with all of ‘em man. I think people would love that sh*t. I think the fans would love it.
Glenn: Yeah definitely.
Johnny: I’d like to say to Blackie some time, “You know what, we should have a reunion thing where you have all the guys that have been in WASP through the years if you can get ‘em and each guy comes out and plays their perspective songs they played on. Like you could have Randy Piper come out and do whatever song they were on. People would f*ck*n’ love it. Like have all the members instead of just these three. Have Blackie, Chris.. I don’t know if Tony Richards.. I don’t even know if he is around but what I’m saying, they have (Steve) Riley, then me and Riley and Chris and Blackie; then have me, Chris, Blackie and Frank; then have me, Stet and Doug Blair and Blackie, you know? Just have all the guys there and each guy play on his perspective album or whatever he did, whatever tour he did.
Glenn; That would be absolutely awesome wouldn’t it?
Johnny: I think it would sell out.
Glenn: I believe it would.
Johnny: I believe it could. You know one thing I’ve noticed, I was talking to someone the other day and I was saying that when it comes to entertainment and the music business, every other country around the world, when you have fans I notice, the fans they stay with you forever – they’re loyal. Whereas in the United States, people are not. There’s a handful who like Lynyrd Skynyrd and things like that but what I’m saying is that other countries around the World, people once they are your fans, they stay with you forever. They’ll come no matter how old they get. I noticed that and I think it’s great man. Like England, the UK, you know, we think of us playing or Real Madrid.
Glenn: How would you describe the Bass style of Johnny Rod and why?
Johnny: Oh sh*t, I don’t know man because you know what, I don’t know how I would describe it in just a short.. in just a few words because the thing with bass it comes from everybody from Noel Redding to Gary form Uriah Heep to Mel Schacker to Felix Pappalardi, Roger Glover, Deep Purple, you know, Geezer Butler. It’s like all those things are mixed into… no matter what album I’ve ever done, no one has ever told me to play these notes. I mean, I know the chord structure of the song but when it comes to playing, whatever I play it comes out of my head. The way I like to do it is, I don’t like to think about it too long. I like to be spontaneous.
It’s like I’d rather know that the chord thing is A,C,B, whatever F whatever the chord change and then just let my hand go and I just let it go and I start playing it. I get a a feel for it. I listen to it and Carmine’s beat or whatever and whoever’s singing and I do Glenn, I kinda just let it go, I let my mind go. I don’t think about, I don’t think, ‘What am I gonna play next?’, I just go, ‘I know the chords to different changes’ so I just let my hand go and it’s just… it’s kind of a freestyle. I don’t even think about it too much. I don’t analyse it and figure it out, like I think this will work and this scale because I know how to read music, I know scales – I know all that stuff, I know all music. But when it comes to Rock music and writing and recording and playing a song, I let it go, I let my hand go free and then I listen back to it. It’s like when I did ‘The Real Me’. We did ‘The Real Me’ and it was me sitting there with Blackie right and I knew the song – I knew it back in the 70’s – hell – when ‘Quadophenia’ was out, you know? I have a letter that John Entwistle sent me.
Johnny: John Entwistle wrote me a letter after we did that song after that album when it came out and he wrote the letter telling me how great a job he thought I did on it. I still have that letter. I got that thing put away. I got a letter from Entwistle man!
Glenn: That’s incredible.
Johnny: I’ve told a few people that but like when I recorded that I knew the changes but I had no plan on what I was gonna play. That’s the thing, I just went, ‘Okay go –boom!’ You know just go and my style is sort of a free spontaneous type thing man. I don’t know how to describe it in any kind of analytical word other than I just let it go free and whatever the song dictates and whatever the feel is coming up, the way it’s gonna feel and the way he’s singing about it for instance or even the feel of the singing whatever… If he’s singing about something aggressive you wanna get down on it, you know and it just… I don’t know… that’s just me man. I like to be wild and spontaneous and that’s how I am normally. Hahahaha. You never know what the hell I’m gonna say, you never know what the hell I’m gonna play (We laugh). It’s this so I play this – who the f*ck knows.
Glenn: Yeah. Do you have a favourite bass you like to play?
Johnny: Oh Fender Precision. I just like the feel of a Fender Precision and the sound and the neck. The neck is big. I like the feel that I got a f*ck*n’ tree trunk in my hand like ‘Ooowarrrrrr, wurrr’. You know? I know some people like Jazz basses and the necks thin and that but I can play those but I just like the feel like I’ve got something in my hand like it’s almost like something that I can beat on someone with. Anyway man, I gotta go. Thanks for interviewing me man.
Glenn: No problem. Thanks. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Johnny: Hey man, I really appreciate you calling man because it’s fun.
Glenn: It is.
Johnny: And fun is the best thing to have man and I gotta say, “Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is an option’.
Glenn: Let’s not go that way, let’s just grow old. You take care Johnny. See you later.
Glenn: You too man. Bye.
A big Thank You to Valerie Ince of Dreams Carry On Entertainment for setting it up.