Hardline are set to release their new album “Human Nature” October 14th via Frontiers Music and front man Johnny Gioeli took time out to talk to the Rockpit about the album we think is the natural successor to their classic debut – Double Eclipse.
We started off by asking how Johnny himself looked at the album and if he agreed with us that this could well be the album we were all hoping we’d get after Double Eclipse dropped in 1992, had the label not dropped the band in the wake of â€˜Grungeâ€™…
Johnny: I don’t know, it’s always hard to tell how an album will be received and what people will think of it. I’ve been doing a lot of running recently and listening to my own record! You know you’ve got to be humble when you look at these things. After I made this record I thought ‘Shit! Is it good? I really don’t know!’ So as I’m listening to it over, it’s growing on me more and more and of course I have my favourite songs like ‘Love is Going to take You Home’ and ‘Where Will We Go From Here’, and it does, I think it sort of resembles the power of ‘Double Eclipse’ but we didn’t try it man, you know what I mean? It just happens. We write for ourselves first and just hope that everyone likes it, and if they do they do, if they don’t they don’t!
Mark: I think the song that really did it for me and made me make that comparison was when ‘Nobody’s Fool’ came on about three or four tracks in, it just had that guitar line that reminded me of Hardline back in the day!
Johnny: Yeah it’s true! Thanks, you know you never know how people will gravitate or how they will perceive the whole deal. A lot of people are saying it’s a “concept” record! Concept? I don’t get that. We write what we feel and there’s so much negative stuff in the press and on TV that you can’t help but write about it, but the last thing I want to do is make a “concept” record! It’s not Queensryche!
Mark: Funny you should mention Queensryche, I was talking to Todd yesterday and he like you started off as a drummer I believe?
Johnny: Yeah, that’s right and I used to do all the lead singing behind the drums and I’ll never forget this man, I did a show with Poison and I had to be like 18, 19 years old; and all the girls were going nuts for Brett Michaels and I was like ‘No fucking way am I sitting behind these drums! I need to be out there with those girls!’ So I told my brother I felt like I was trapped behind there, we gotta do something, I gotta come out and sing because I used to sing way back there. You know Phil Collins can pull it off but not for this kind of music, so we made the switch and started looking for a drummer. Now my son’s playing and it’s cool!
Mark: Back in the Brunette days! It was great that you finally got out those Brunette demos, I think a couple of years ago now, I’d had this tape kicking around for years back from the pre-internet days, and over in the UK where I was we were reading in the press all the time about how good you guys were, how you were setting house records and we hadn’t heard anything over there – we were just waiting around for your major label debut which sadly never came, but a friend tracked down a demo and sent it to me, I loved it!
Johnny: Yeah it never came, we were one of those rare bands in Hollywood that could sell out a show in 15 minutes but never got the record deal. But you know what when I look back at this stuff because another journalist just asked me a question about what it was like playing Sunset Strip and I said ‘It was god-awful! I hated it!’ Now that was probably not the answer he was looking for (laughs) but I hated it. We worked so hard during that period to come up, that was like our musical puberty! We were growing hairs man! But it was so stressful and I hated that time period, and now listening back I hate those songs, but, there was a lot of memory there, you know so I can’t deny the music, and for a lot of fans there’s a lot of connection to those songs so I said ‘You know what? Release them!’ Because it was a time period when we were coming up, people remember the time, the good times, the bad times, it’s all part of history so put it out there. But you know what I hate that shit, I was young, I was learning, I was kind of jumping on to what I thought people wanted and I don’t write like that anymore. I don’t write for you anymore! I’m sorry, but these days I write for me, and if you like it – Awesome! If you don’t then sorry, maybe next time!
Mark: I’ve got a bit of a problem then because I kinda like most of it!
Mark: All through your career, Sonic the Hedgehog aside (Johnny is the voice of Sonic) which my nieces and nephews love, and they’ll kill me that I’m talking to you today and deliberately avoiding any questions on the subject of small animals!
Johnny: That’s funny! (laughs) I used to get my kids involved in writing that Crush 40 stuff! The Sonic guys would send me storyboards and I’d give them to my kids and say read this and tell me what it’s about as I’m not a gamer!
Mark: Getting back onto the music now, I’ve spent the last few days listening back to the last couple of Hardline albums ‘Leaving the End Open’ and ‘Danger Zone’ and there’s a different vibe, the sound has changed for ‘Human Nature’, it’s more robust, more in your face. How do you feel about those albums now?
Johnny: You know for me it’s time and place. I think that the evolution of ‘Human Nature’ is towards the roots of Hardline, there’s the same roots, vibe and heaviness as the first record, although we didn’t try for that, it just happened. You know ‘Hardline II’ and the other two you mentioned, there’s some great songs on those records, but you’re right this latest effort is quite different and I think some of it…
At this point Johnny’s midget Labrador Alice interrupts and needs to get down from the chair beside him- she’s been sitting quietly in with Johnny as he’s been doing his interviews and has decided she’s heard enough and wants to call ‘time out’ and relax on the couch!
Johnny: …I think that ‘Human Nature’ is the sound of this line up and how it’s evolved. So when I listen back to those records I love them, especially ‘Leaving the End Open’ the song. But like I said it’s all time and place for me, here I am, let’s write, what do I want to write about, what do I see, what do I feel and go!
Mark: So the next question is, how do you write an album these days, with all the modern technology making things easier is it a case of trading files, swapping ideas, getting together in one place or something of a mix?
Johnny: We did all of the above as far as the process goes, we worked together and we wrote and we did share files, we did skype sessions and wrote and we were there together to record rhythm sections. I did all the vocals here, and it works, it works fine. And I did it fast man, I did the vocals in like three and a half days, because it was all prepared, we all knew the songs, it’s was so smooth a process.
Mark: And the other question in relation to the new album is these days is it frustrating not to be able to play the new music live, or at least not readily being able to play it live?
Johnny: As far as touring, part of the reason this album has a heavier feel to it is because you could take the most beautifully orchestrated Hardline ballad, but when we play it live it’s heavy, so we wanted to start heavy knowing that we ARE going to tour! So we’re in the process now of booking Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Germany and others so European and Scandinavian countries with what I call my Italian Hardline. Then in the US it’s the 25th anniversary of ‘Double Eclipse’ we are attempting to put together the original line-up, now I’m not sure yet if Neal (Schon) can make it so I commit to at least four fifths of the band, ‘cos Neal has such a strict Journey touring schedule now. I’ve been talking to Neal a lot recently and texting so we’ll try and we’ll do a few big select U.S. venues and that should be pretty interesting, but touring will definitely happen.
Mark: It would be nice to see you on a few U.S. Festival bills?
Johnny: Like Rocklahoma and all that Hair Nation stuff. Well that’s all in the works with at least four fifths of the original line up and if we can sneak Neal in we will. We’ll have a bunch of fun and celebrate 25 years! Where the hell did 25 years go?
Mark: I know! The last time I got to see you was back in 2002 at a Festival in the UK
Johnny: Was that The Godz? That was the one CD I wish had never happened, it was 2am in the morning, they took it right out of the board, there was no processing whatsoever!
Mark: It sounded better in the room!
Johnny: I bet it did.
Mark: I read on the press release for the new album that some of your favourite songs were ‘Where Do We Go From Here,’ ‘Human Nature’, and ‘Take you Home’, of the slower songs I love the title track but for me ‘Take you Home’ is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time, it’s a fantastic song.
Johnny: I’m with you brother. I literally just recorded an acoustic version not two hours ago for my solo album Pledge Music update. I just did it because it’s my favourite song, the video is really cool too, it’s black and white and really powerful just a piano and voice, it’s just cool and the message is cool ‘Love always takes you Home’ I think once that’s released it’s gonna move quite a few records.
Mark: Another favourite and a different kind of song for you is the bluesy ‘Trapped in Muddy Waters’ â€“ it really is classy vintage-sounding Hard Rock with a touch of Blues – you sound great with that type of song, I’m surprised we’ve not heard more from you like that?
Johnny: You know I’m not a blues guy and even back in the nineties I wasn’t, but Neal, Neal is a blues guy and he was always telling me ‘Sing the blues man’ but I’m not a blues guy. I’m a Scorpions, Van Halen guy, a Ronnie James Dio guy, so that was not an easy one for me to do but I did it in one take and I sent it to Alessandro (del Vecchio, Hardline producer and keyboardist) and I said ‘I don’t know if you’re gonna like this because I don’t know if it’s right?’ and he immediately wrote back and said, ‘Are you F*#%!$!$% kidding me, it’s perfect’.
Mark: It’s a great and you’ve nailed it first take, maybe we’ll get some more one day! Taking it all the way back what was it that started you off in music, was there a big inspiration? A band? What made you realise that music would be your life?
Johnny: It was my brother. I had a short-lived acting career from 8 to 11, I had my own TV show, I did off-Broadway Theatre and that’s really where I learned I could sing as I had no idea. I started ‘Bye Bye Birdy’ and the musical director literally taught me how to sing. I didn’t know I could, I mean I knew there was singing in the show and it all kind of happened from there. The my brother had a band called Phase and in my basement on the East Coast I would sit on the steps and the drummer was right below me and I’d watch every song, every beat. And every night they practiced I’d watch and he would go home and I would play his drums. And one day he was violently ill and they had a show and I told my brother ‘Joey I can play’ and he said ‘What?’ and I said ‘I can play’. And I played and they ended up firing this guy and I became the drummer and singer. And that’s really how it happened for me and then my brother and I went on to other things. But it was my brother who inspired me to play music. I didn’t know I had that talent but I liked to go and see them in the club, the lights and all, it was cool. I learnt a lot and we played a lot, every week I was gone Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I don’t remember a Friday or Monday at school, I had to be tutored because I was always playing, and that’s how it happened for me.
Mark: You mentioned your solo album earlier, any other Projects coming up for you in the near future?
Johnny: No, Hardline is out on 14th October and then next step for me is the solo album which we’ll start recording in about 30 days. The Pledge is up and running and what inspired it was this young kid here, he was 17 years old, a high school kid, star football player and he dove into the Long Island Sound hit a rock, shattered his C5 and he’s paralysed from chest down. I was just on television with him the other day we did the Connecticut Morning show (Connecticut Styles, a big TV show locally), it was a blast. I woke up and I thought you know what the Community is supporting the kid financially and emotionally, but he’s not from a well-to-do family, they work very hard and insurance only covers so much over here and you’re responsible. It’s like 8 million dollars of care in his lifetime and where’s it gonna come from man, so I told my wife and said you know we could cut a check and hand it to the family but it’s not enough I want to get the world involved. And my wife said, ‘What are you talking about’ and I told her about Pledge Music and that I was going to do a solo album, involve the fans in the creation of the record, and I gave away all my memorabilia, old shirts, backstage passes, photos, albums and I pledged it to the fans and we’ve already hit 149 percent of the goal. I would have loved to have hit 100 but that’s great. And it’s my way to connect with all the fans and I love it, I always thought as an 80’s/90’s guy this social networking shit was not for me but I love it because now I’m engaged and the world has responded. I mean I didn’t know I had fans in Afghanistan and Iran and Iraq, people write to me from all over the world and they’ve pledged to help this kid through music! Now there’s a million charities that you and I could name off but the world has responded to this kid, and it’s a win-win, the fans get to get involved in the record and I’m keeping nothing secret, back in the day you never knew where van Halen as recording now I can let them into my studio. I love it man, it’s at www.pledgemusic.com/johnnygioeli.
Mark: I’ll have to check it out, see if there’s any memorabilia left!
Johnny: Yeah, all the Sonic stuff – boom! Gone! I’m looking in my son’s room going hmmm… And he’s saying ‘Don’t you touch that Dad!’ I joke with him.
Mark: And to close a couple of quick questions. If you could have been a fly on the wall just to see how the magic happened in the studio what album would you liked to have looked in on the creation of?
Johnny: Man that is a great question. God there’s so many man! I think I’ll answer this differently to how most people would. I think out of curiosity I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for the first Pearl Jam album. ‘Cos this was a time period I’ll never forget when John Kalodner from Geffen came into our studio when we were recording, as he wanted to sign Hardline originally and then he said ‘It’s over boys’ and we said ‘What? What are you talking about?’ and he said ‘It’s over. There’s a band called Pearl Jam, this is the new Music. MTV’s not going to be playing videos anymore’. So if I’m a fly on the wall it’s for the early stages of the creation of that Pearl Jam record so that I could have learned what the hell was going on!
Mark: I remember liking the album at the time, it was good and in a way seemed to reference the seventies more than anything else, you could hear Neil Young, The Who, Zeppelin and there was plenty of guitar; but I didn’t think it was ground-breaking, more regressive, like imagining rock skipped the eighties, and in those days I thought we could all just co-exist and be friends!
Johnny: Why couldn’t we all just get along? (laughing)
Mark: The final question, a real easy one: what is the meaning of life?
Johnny: Uh-oh! Balance, it’s easy “Balance”. Simple man, we just don’t know how to balance anymore bro, we just don’t, we indulgence in one thing or two things and life is about balance. We need to take care of family, fun, health, business: it’s just a balancing act but people just do it wrong I think.
Mark: I think you’re right. Thank you so much for talking to us today Johnny, I’ve loved your music for so long it was great to finally talk, especially about such a cool new album. Take care of yourself and I hope that you do get that final fifth of the original band, but if not fourth fifths of Hardline’s original line up will be a show not to be missed when you tour. Look after yourself and good luck with the campaign and the solo record.
Johnny: Do the same mate, take care.
You can join Johnny’s Pledge Music campaign for his upcoming solo album: here.