Faster Pussycat's Ace Von Johnson
By Jay Oakley
Ace, thanks again for taking a second.
Yeah, thank you.
How was the set tonight?
Really good. Really great crowd, really energetic, enthused even. It was fun.
So you guys are just doing a short east coast run this time out, it's only a handful of shows.
It's four shows back-to-back. It's just a long weekend, it's a Friday through a Monday. Two Pennsylvania dates over the weekend and then Brooklyn on Monday and then we jet over to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and then home and then we're off for a month. We've got some Texas dates beginning of December, a Whisky A G-Go show on New Years Eve and then we're done for the year.
Nice, light to close out the year. Get to spend some time at home for the holidays?
Yeah, I'm looking forward to having a more-or-less, a couple months off. Give or take a couple of shows here or there.
We talked about this briefly the last time we got to talk.
Which was at M3, right?
Yes, at M3. Since it's been seven months or so, what's that talk on new Faster Pussycat music?
I think, we're actually supposed to do some pre-production when we get home. There's stuff written, there's stuff in various stages of production and the pre-production recording-wise we're scheduled to do in the next month or two will be with one, Mr. Gilby Clarke at his studio and we'll see. I don't know because there was new music recorded when I joined the band in 2009. [Laughs] Not to be a cunt but I've rerecorded a lot of that so we'll see, it's not up to me, it's up to Taime. Is there stuff written? Yeah, fucking absolutely! So, we'll see but what I'm aware of is a mix between The Power and the Glory Hole and the first record (Faster Pussycat.) It's got that Glory Hole vibe but songwriting-wise it's more of the first record. Before somebody dies there will be new music.
I love to talk gear, dude. What model is your flag guitar?
Yeah, I get asked about that a lot. Remember that band Jetboy?
Billy Rowe, the guitar player for Jetboy, that is his brand. It's called Rock N Roll Relics and Billy's been "relic-ing" if you will, relic-ing guitars for people for over twenty years. He's done stuff for, fucking name somebody, Joe Perry, Billy Joe from Green Day and he makes his own guitars and a couple years ago he started branding them and he makes really cool shit. It's a deviation of the Gilby Clarke model because it's a singular design but his is a Telecaster-type model. I asked him if he'd done this as a Les Paul and he said he hadn't yet. I said I'd like to commission him to do it as a Les Paul-type guitar for me and sure enough, here we are. He made me that roughly a year ago and it's my favorite guitar. It plays great, it's got David Allen pickups in it, it sounds amazing and the cool thing is it's the coolest guitar I've ever seen and it's mine so fuck it, I'm stoked. It's, more-or-less, one-of-a-kind. He's done the junior version, if you will, the Les Paul junior-type guitar with the double cutaway with no binding as the flag. It's great, it's a great guitar, it plays great and looks killer.
Your red Dean guitar that you were tweeking with earlier but it looked like you got everything in check for the set, are you with Dean?
I am with Dean. Dean's a great company and I'm a really big Pantera and Dimebag (Darrell Abbott) fan and a couple of the other guys that play Dean. I was at an event, I think it was a Monsters Of Rock event and I met Michael Angelo Batio, who may be one of the nicest people I've ever met and he's super sweet and he introduced me to his Dean rep, a guy named John Palumbo and he was also a very sweet guy, super cool, down to earth and we went to this event and John was basically like, "Hey, you're a cool guy and I saw you play with Pussycat, do you want some guitars?" It was that fucking simple. I was like, "Well, I'm not really a pointy guitar guy but...! I've been a fan of the Cadillac model for ten years so, if you could get me one that'd be great." and he was like, "Oh, you only want one?" I was like, "Well, how many do you want to give me?" Long story short, he shipped me two of them within the month, I played them for a while, they're great guitars. I had some issues transporting them because they're so pointy in the headstock, they have that signature V headstock, so he gave me that red Les Paul-style guitar which, I believe, is a Thoroughbred model just so it would fit in my travel cases and it's a great guitar, plays great. I've had some wiring issues as of recent but besides that it's a great guitar. The feel, even the pickups, the tone's pretty good, it's a great guitar. Dean's a great company. I've been with a couple guitar companies over the years and I'm happy to be with Dean for the moment.
What were you playing back in your punk days with Murphy's Law and Cheap Sex?
Always, a Gibson Les Paul. My mom bought me a Gibson junior for my seventeenth birthday which is December 27th and January 1st, five days later, I started my first legitimate band. Actually, four days later, it was a New Years Eve party and within six months I was playing with The Misfits and UK Subs and off I went. I was seventeen and by nineteen I had a record deal and toured the country four times over. So, I've been a Les Paul guy since I was a kid. I think, currently, I own six Gibson Les Pauls, six or seven. I have a storage unit that looks like a Guitar Center threw up. I'm not really sure what I have at this point. Gibsons combined with Epiphones combined with my years with Schecter combined with the several Dean guitars I have and combined with a myriad of other things. I would say, I have thirty-plus guitars in my collection.
A few Ace Von Johnson questions, what are some of your favorite horror movies?
My favorite horror movies?...wow. I will say this and this may make me sound like an asshole but I feel like a lot of people like horror movies or the imagery I should say because it's "cool" and my earliest memories with my old man are watching black and whites. I remember being four years old and watching Creature Walks Among Us and Bride Of Frankenstein and Abbott And Costello Meet The Wolfman and whatever the fuck. House On Haunted Hill which was my Dad's favorite movie when he was a kid. He actually saw that before it was released, at William Castle, the director's, house. He lived down the street from him when he was a kid and the same thing for The Tingler. That shit, to me, is very embedded in my DNA as who I am as a person and on a side note, the fact that I get to do these horror conventions and that some of my friends are people of these movies. I could text Doug Bradley (Hellraiser's Pinhead) right now. That's weird to me but that's cool. That's a benefit of what I do and without sounding like a name dropper, one of my dear, dear closest friends is a guy named Derek Mears. He's a character actor, he's in the show Sleepy Hollow, if you haven't seen it, check it out, it's amazing, he's been a predator in the movies.
The man's been Jason.
Yeah, exactly he was Jason Voorhees (Friday The 13th) in the remakes and he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. He helped me fucking move! That's the kind of friend he is. And, the people I'm a fan of who in turn will come around a say, "Hey, I don't want to be weird but I saw you're playing a show and maybe I could get on the guest list?" and I'm like, "Dude! Yes, whatever you want! Not only are you family but you're like this fucking icon." So, it's a really cool give and take and I'm really grateful for that.
The same thing with music. I got way off topic but where I'm going with this I love horror movies. I'll never not be a fan of horror movies. Newer stuff that I thing was great The Babadook, I think it's the greatest horror movie to come out in the last five years. Scared the shit out of me, I didn't sleep for like two days. I think the last movie to do that to me and kept me awake was The Exorcist when I saw it when I was like eight and The Shining. I've only seen less then a dozen movies that have fucked with me in the last five years. I thought It Follows was really well done and Don't Breathe, I thought was well done You can argue that it's not really a horror movie because it doesn't have a monster or a demon or a ghost but but you can say that about a lot of movies. Like, Cujo is a horror movie but it's about a dog so it just depends on how you spin it.
I'm a classics guy. When people ask me stuff like this I usually ask what genre or what time frame. When we talk about classics, Creature From The Black Lagoon has always been my number one. I was always like, "Man, I can empathize. He just wanted some poontang. [Laughs] He just wanted some chicks, bro." I'm kidding but he was, sort of, misunderstood and then you start fucking with him and he's going to rage. I like obscure Bela Lugosi movies like Black Cat was great, White Zombie, Plan 9 From Outer Space. I did a book report on Ed Wood's biography when I was in eighth grade, it's called Nightmare Of Ecstasy and my teacher, Mrs. McKibben, told me, "I don't believe you, you made this up." and I brought the book in which ironically, I just mentioned the other day to a friend of mine, still had the receipt from like Borders and it's from like '96, as a bookmark in the book. Plan 9 From Outer Space, which is where my obsession with Vampira came from. Even my dog is named after Maila Nurmi, hence her name Maila, which most people don't pick up.
The 70s; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gunnar Hansen, one of the sweetest people I've ever met. I wouldn't call him a friend but I would call him a really good acquaintance. We talked about dogs a lot, he was a big dog guy, as am I. Couldn't have been a sweeter guy, I'm sorry he passed away, to soon in my opinion and he was great as Leatherface. In The 70s you've got The Exorcist, there's so many cult movies from that time, even though it was technically 60s, you've got Night Of The Living Dead but Dawn Of The Dead is 70s.
Getting into 80s, Poltergeist. 80s is my genre so I'm going to name a list but Monster Club with Vincent Price, who's actually my favorite horror actor, 1981 with Donald Pleasence in it, Britt Ekland, that's one of my favorites especially because no one's ever seen it. Creep Show, another one of my favorites, anything I have tattooed on me and I have a Monster Club tattoo and a Creep Show tattoo. The Shining is technically 80s, Return Of The Living FUCKING Dead. By the way, Clu Gulager who played Burt lives about a mile from me and I see him all the fucking time. I almost hit him with my car, on my mother's grave. I almost hit him with my car about two or three weeks ago because he was jay-walking on Santa Monica Boulevard and I was yielding to this old man, walking slowly just jay-walking, then he raises his hand and I'm like, "That's Clu Fucking Gulager! Holy Shit!" And People Under The Stairs, that's one of my favorite movies.
And, besides horror movies because I can talk that all night, that you're into and so am I is Ouija boards, planchettes so what's the connection and what do you dig about them?
I can tell you a true story. I was born in Los Angeles but I went to high school in San Diego, when I was in ninth grade, my freshman year of high school my best friend and I drove downtown because that's where all the good record stores were and he parked his car at a meter, I'll never forget this and it sounds like one of those bullshit stories but it's true, we came back from the record store and I remember the ninety-nine cents bag from, I think it was called Record City in San Diego and Hanoi Rocks was in this bag, Michael Monroe, you rule!, and I walked up to his car and on the street was a smooshed, like the old time board games box, smooshed Ouija board box. I picked it up and I had never had one before but I always thought they were cool because of Witchboard which I saw as a kid in the 80s. I was like, "Whoa!" and my friend, who will remain nameless because he's a dick for fucking my girlfriend, he was freaked out. He was like, "I don't want that in my car! It's bad juju!" and I was like, "Dude, let me take it home!" He made me put it in his trunk because he fucking freaked out. I took it home and I didn't know that you're not supposed to play it alone so I remember sitting in my room asking it questions like, "Am I gonna do the girl in my math class?" It was like whatever, nothing really happened, it wasn't worth a shit but I just thought it was cool.
As I got into, maybe, my twenties I collected a couple, I have probably four or five Ouija boards at home and I just thought they looked cool. I didn't think there was any "marketing" value or whatever. Over the last five years I feel like I see it on everything but when I started doing merchandising and stuff like that, that was what I went to, it was my go to thing. I have a plaque at the Rainbow in Hollywood and it's the arts Ouija font and it's got the moon and the sun in the corners and it's a nice little nod. It's sort of horror-related, if you will, in that universe and I used to go ghost hunting with my friends when I was a kid and I've always had an affinity for that and that's what I like and that's never going to change. I have a planchette tattooed on my neck and I like it, that's what I like. Here's what I like; Horror movies, whisky, pit bulls, Ouija boards, redheads, I like what I like. [Laughs]
Ace, thanks so much, man. It's always a pleasure.
Thanks again for having me, I appreciate it. Great seeing you.
Ace Von Johnson
By Jay Oakley and Christie Gerber
I'm here with Ace Von Johnson from Faster Pussycat and you just got done being on stage with Faster, how did the set go?
I thought it was great! I thought it was great, it was way to early for me to be onstage. It was a great set, I had a blast. For 11:20 in the morning there was a fuck ton of people there and it was good. I had fun.
And, you guys have a show tonight, correct?
Yeah, we do. It's...you tell me.
It's Pittsburgh, I believe.
Yeah, Pittsburgh. This will be our third set in one twenty-four hour window in three different states, so I've got that going for me on next to no sleep and a lot of cocktails. So, I'm looking forward to it because that puts me that much closer to Monday's day-off. Nah, I'm being facetious but yeah, I had a blast today and the hard part's over so now I'm going to take a nap and do tonight's show and tomorrow's show. We're kind of on the last half of this tour.
And, you were just onstage for a moment with Adler.
What's your relationship with that? How did that come about?
That's been like a flirty thing where if I'm around and they're around I get up and I play with them. We did a mini-set at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood for about a half an hour a couple months ago and Steven, Jacob and I have talked and I've gone over and jammed with them a couple of times. I think I'm like a casual, I don't want to say the fifth Beatle, but you know. The next gig is the Monsters of Rock cruise in October so it's a minute from now but I think I'm going to get up and perform with them too. Tonight was just one song because it was kind of last minute but hopefully there will be other shows in the future and if my schedule's clear I'm absolutely down. Steven's one of the nicest people I've ever met, not to mention he's a fucking legend and Jacob's probably the best front man I've ever seen and the same thing about him. He's a brother, we go out and hang out in Hollywood all the time.
With you joining Faster Pussycat, how did that come about?
The story, truth be told, is that I was playing in a punk rock band called the U.S. Bombs and our booking agent was a guy named Charlie Overbey. Charlie, you're a bastard and I love ya. And, he has his roots deep in this, sort of, rock genre. He was in a band called the Big Bang Babies in the 80s which is where Keri Kelli started from. It was his first band, Keri of Alice Cooper, Slash's Snakepit and Night Ranger fame. Keri, if you're also listening, I love you and you're a bastard. So, yeah, Charlie saw me play with the Bombs and was like, "Hey, you've got a lot of energy and you're fun to watch. Are you trying to get out of this punk rock thing?" I said, I was because I'd done Murphy's Law and a bunch of other punk rock bands. He was like, "I've got this band with this guy from L.A. Guns, this guy from Faster Pussycat, this guy from Danzig and Brian Forsythe was in the band at one point from Kix.
There was this band called Charlie and the Valentine Killers, it was Americana, kind of Social Distortion meets Bruce Springsteen thing and I joined as guitar player. We did about two years worth of work, year and a half, we did a record, we toured with David Allan Coe and that's how I got my foot in the door with a lot of people. The Michael Jackson track ("Hollywood Tonight") I did came out of that. That's how I met Taime (Downe, Faster Pussycat's singer) initially, he was back stage in my dressing room, drinking my booze and I was like, "Who the fuck is this guy?!" and that's how I met him. So, I was doing Charlie and the Valentine Killers and I met Taime and about a year later there was an opening in 2009 and they had me go over to Taime's house and that was my first of two starts in Faster Pussycat. I sat down in his living room and played guitar for a minute and he said, "You can play, you look cool, don't suck Bubba." He gave me a CD and that was the end of it and I was in, I think I did a rehearsal or three and then they did some more dates with Michael (Thomas) and they brought me back in, initially in the beginning of 2010. That was it, that's how I joined the band.
Where was your first gig?
It was actually Universal Studios Los Angeles with Gilby Clarke and it was, like a family rock show in the park at Universal so, every song had to have edits. It was like, "With a slip of the tongue, I'm in deep..." [Laughs] So yeah, "deep stuff" but that was my first gig. Gilby Clarke took me aside that day and had a lot of really nice things to say, "Welcome to the family. Don't take any shit." and etc, etc.
What do you have coming up? Do you have any new recorded Faster stuff with you as a member?
Finally, something came out. It's that cover of Eagles of Death Metal's "I Love You All The Time" it's a single. It came out it's all for the Play It Forward campaign. All the proceeds go to the families of the victims of the Paris attack. It's for a good cause so go on iTunes or Amazon, any sort of digital music outlet. You can download it, just Faster Pussycat "I Love You All The Time." It turned out great, Gilby produced that, it's awesome and so we'll have some new stuff probably out within the year, original material but, ya know, as far as stuff that I'm on, that's it. Finally, after six years, I've got one fucking song out. Go figure. [Laughs]
Awesome. Ace, thank you so much, man.