Johnny B. Morbid
By Jay Oakley
Johnny, you've got your farewell show coming up in October to close out Johnny B. Morbid. Talk about the show and what you have planned.
Well, I've got the guys from the old lineup and the first thing I wanted to do was get them together, the original guys, so it's my thirtieth birthday and I was hopefully trying to use it as an excuse to convince them to agree to it and it worked, which was nice. [Laughs] I'd been contemplating having that night be the final show for a few months now, anyway, and it just seemed to work. I felt I would put things on the back burner if nothing "big" happened for me by the time I was thirty and I feel I've invested enough time in one thing for more then half my life and just trying to do something else. Do something else, do something for myself instead of doing everything in the name of music and literally having zero balance. Putting all of the cards on the table for one thing in my life instead of spreading them out.
So, it's going to be a reunion, a farewell show, rolled into my birthday and a Halloween party because my birthday's four days from Halloween so I just thought it was another thing I could through in there easily.
Absolutely. So, you've already touched on it a little bit and my next question would normally be, "Why now?" But, since you've talked about the amount of time you've put into this particular body of work, is it simply about giving some time for you and looking at other things?
Pretty much but I don't know if those things will necessarily be musically involved. It's just that it's been eleven years, doing the same thing which might not sound like a big deal in the grand scheme of things but, for me, it can get exhausting. I've had so many people in and out of the band. Every time there's someone new I have to teach them the songs because not everybody knows this so I think I should clarify. I write all of the songs, I pay for everything, I book all the shows, I book all the tours, it's me. The guys in the band, their only responsibility is to perform live with me. Even when we were on tour, it was my van, I would pay for lodging, the gas, the tolls, I would try to pay for their food when I could but not always so, yeah man, just having that for eleven years straight, I need a break. I pay for all the merch, the t shirts, the CD pressing, distribution, shipping, EVERYTHING was on me and I'm good, I'm set. [Laughs] I'm OK, I'm not over it because I don't want it to sound like I'm bitter, I'm not bitter, I'm just exhausted and I want to do other things for a while, that's all. I keep saying, "I'm closing the door but I'm not locking it." It's there but it's not. [Laughs]
Johnny B. Morbid put out a very solid collection of albums. Did you play all the instruments when you would record or did the original band record the original records?
The first three albums (How To Wake The Dead, Johnny B. Morbid, Calling All Monsters) are me on everything except for like two songs on Calling All Monsters, my third album, that were written by one of the original guys and he plays guitar on those tracks. But, aside from those two songs, the first three albums are just me by myself.
I didn't really start incorporating the guys in the band into the records until 2008's Some Things Are Better Left Undead. I played drums on some of those tracks still at that point but I had Archie Panic, he played on a few tracks on that album and I also had Kyle or Count Vlad Cadmus, he started doing guitar work. He went to college for classical guitar so when I have him do stuff it's things I can't do at all, otherwise, I take care of the guitars. But, he does shredding solos and stuff, things I'm just not capable of.
Then in 2009, Monsterpiece actually has four drummers on it, total. Just because I like getting people involved, it's fun for me. I only play one track on that album on every instrument. Archie Panic was on there and a couple friends of mine also play drums. The drummer on the song "Outlook" was from a band called Divinity Destroyed and the drummer on the song "Monsterpiece" is in a band called Coffin Dust right now. John Norcross (Eerie Steve) from Coffin Dust, he plays guitar in that band but he's also a KILLER drummer, like ridiculous. I had him play drums on "Monsterpiece" and the artwork actually, the illustration for the album, that was done by Matt (Slime) the singer for Coffin Dust and he was in Johnny B. Morbid for like a year in 2008, he was the rhythm guitarist that whole year. There's a higher turnover rate in Johnny B. Morbid then Wal-Mart. [Laughs] So Matt did the illustration and the color work was actually done by my ex-girlfriend who's a tattoo artist.
Welcome To Die!, I didn't play drums on at all. It was Archie Panic on everything except for "Drinking About You," "Enough" and the bonus track is "Rock And Roll Part 2" into "Born To Be Wild." That was Tony Baptist who played on those three tracks, who I met when I was playing with Michale Graves (former Misfits' singer,) he was the drummer. So, those two guys played on that, Kyle played a little bit on that, my buddy Rick Flanegan co-produced Welcome To Die!, he even helped out with Monsterpiece, he was in my band for a little while but I have a lot of people that I need to go through who deserve the credit so I apologize that this is taking a long time to explain.
That brings us to Fall Of The Cicada, all the tracks on drums were played by Miles Austin who was only in Johnny B. Morbid for about six months but we did a lot with him. I wrote all the songs and everything but we didn't even rehearse or anything. I never even saw him in person until we were at the studio to record the album and to say that he was "prepared" would be an understatement. It was amazing, I couldn't even believe it, we were just blowing through the songs. His instincts were just right in line with how I imagined the songs to be for the most part. I gave him a little direction here and there but 90% of the drums on Fall Of The Cicada are exactly what Miles wanted to do. I wrote all the songs but he wrote all of his parts for those songs so it was definitely a huge joint effort and I give him a lot of credit. So, that was mainly me and him. The bass player right now, Brian, he contributed some keyboards on that album and some backing vocals. Kyle is on there, he did a lot of guitar solo work and Christopher Jay, he did one Michale Graves tour on guitar, that's how I met him and he later joined my band and he did some acoustic stuff on Fall Of The Cicada and I think I got everybody, I hope. [Laughs] Rick co-produced that a little bit. He wasn't as involved with that one as he was in the other ones but he did some backgrounds vocals on Fall Of The Cicada as well. A lot of the growling and stuff is a culmination of me, Kyle, Rick and Brian and we're just having weird death metal parties on a lot of the tracks. [Laughs]
Was Miles your drummer when you did the Fall Of The Cicada tour last year?
Yes. Like I said, he was only in the band for like six months but he did a lot more then almost any of the drummers that were ever in my band. It was probably the most active year for Johnny B. Morbid ever, last year. We had Fall Of The Cicada come out, he was on that. We did the music video with Lloyd Kaufman (Co-founder of Troma film studio and film director,) he was in that. We hit the road and I think we played eighteen shows for that tour. Fourteen of those were straight, no breaks and he did that with us. The Fall Of The Cicada CD release show actually was his first show with us ever so he stepped right into it. I'm not sure right now but I'm trying to get him to play the songs off of Fall Of The Cicada for the farewell show so that'll be cool.
That's going to be a crazy night. We're basically playing two sets that night. My guys who have been in the band, we're playing first. Me, Chris, Brian and hopefully Miles will be able to make it. We're going to play like ten songs and then there's going to be a little break and then me and the original guys are going to come out. So, that night, Johnny B. Morbid is direct support for Johnny B. Morbid. [Laughs]
Do you have plans to record this show in any way?
Yes, I do. I have a contract with somebody who's going to film it professionally and there's going to be a multi-track recording that will be synced up to the video and I wasn't going to do a Kickstarter or anything but I am trying to sell some things to help fund the release of the CD/DVD combination of the farewell show, which is appropriately named Welcome To Live!. [Laughs] I can't take credit for that though. There was a fan, I can't remember who he was and I hope he sees this interview somewhere, but it was his idea years ago. Welcome To Die! came out and he's like, "You should put out a live album called Welcome To Live!." and I thought that was kind of funny.
That's sick, dude. What are some of the things that fans can get to help contribute to the funding of the live disc?
I'm going to be selling my wireless microphone that I've had for like eight years. I've used it at every single Johnny B. Morbid show for the last eight years. It was used on Michale Graves' The Lost Skeleton Returns tours. He used that microphone on both of those tours, he used it for the Marky Ramones' Blitzkrieg tours from 2011 and 2012. He never had his own microphone so I let him use mine because I figured for the greater good. Why not? So it's got some history in it, for sure, I'd like to get a fair price for it but we'll see. I have these drum heads that were used on Calling All Monsters, Some Things Are Better Left Undead and Monsterpiece. They were used on all three albums so I have those drum heads that have been around a long time.
Did I read that you are selling some of your gear from that night?
Yeah. It's pretentious which I understand but if somebody wants it that's cool because it will help me in the long run. But yeah, my leather jacket, the bloody shirt, my gloves from that night. All that shit's up for grabs for anybody who thinks it might be cool to have. That's up to other people. I'm putting it out there and if people want to judge me for it, that's fine, but if there's someone out there that wants it then their argument's invalid.
I was humoring this idea, I haven't really pushed it at all because there's still plenty of time, of a VIP/Farewell Show package. It's not a meet and greet thing, nothing stupid like that but it would be like one ticket, one pre-order for the CD/DVD release, one of each eleven by seventeen poster and then one of each four by six flyer for that show. So I was thinking about rolling that all in to one price that could maybe help me out but still be affordable.
Something that's not Johnny B. Morbid but still you is the musical project, Atomic Werewolf. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about that for people who are not familiar with it.
That's coming along very slowly, a lot more slowly then I had anticipated but there's eight people involved. That's seven guys plus the engineer so it's not the easiest thing to orchestrate. The drum tracks are done and that's it. [Laughs] Only the drums are done right now. Once they are edited we can start guitars and from that point it really won't be that difficult. Everything else is ready to go. T shirts are done, the stickers are done, the patches, the buttons. All that stuff is already done, it's at my house right now. We're just waiting on the music, the most important part. [Laughs]
Is this a touring thing? A side project?
I didn't figure it to be a touring thing but what's your basic idea and plan for this band?
It's just a one and done studio project. I don't want to say "Supergroup" but collaboration. For people who don't know it's me and I'm, actually, the least established guy out of the whole thing yet I'm spearheading the whole project, pretty much, it's kind of weird. It's me, Pat (Henry) from Swashbuckle, for those who aren't familiar with Swashbuckle they were on Nuclear Blast (Records) and they've played at Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany, they've toured the entire world, they played on the 70,000 tons of METAL cruise, they are very established. I knew them because we used to play with them back in the day, eight or nine years ago, played a lot of shows with them. They're buddies with the dudes from Coffin Dust and me, Matt from Coffin Dust and Kyle from my band, we did gang vocals on two Swashbuckle albums so we go way back with those guys and it was cool to do something with Pat because he's a good dude and he'd probably hate that I'd say that but he's like a really cool guy, really laid back, he's a great writer, a great player. He filled in for me a couple times, on bass, which is really cool. So there's Pat from Swashbuckle, there's Josh (Hansen) who is from Summer's End. For people who aren't familiar with Summer's End, they're a metal-core band that are from New Jersey but they were relocated in California for a while, they were signed to Hand Of Hope Records. TB, from Blitzkid, one of the more popular horror-punk acts. Paul, Paul Lifeless from Michale Graves, Gotham Road, The Banner, Suburban Scum. Justin Leary, he was in a band called Beyond The Flesh. Kyle's doing it with me. Before he was in Johnny B. Morbid he was in a band called The Concubine. They were on a label, I can't remember (Corrosive Recordings,) but they were technical death metal, this was maybe ten years ago. He was doing this really crazy technical stuff.
Bringing it back to the farewell show. Are you still going to be doing some gigs leading up to that or are you concentrating on the final show?
Very few. We're playing this Saturday with Chuck Mosley who was the original singer of Faith No More. So, we're opening for him this Saturday and then we have two or three shows booked in September that are unique because we're doing acoustic and it's a Variety Hour kind of thing, where it's going to be very laid back, very intimate, very interactive. We'll be sitting down, playing acoustic, doing some covers, mostly originals. We'll probably be drinking on stage, bullshitting with people, telling stories, doing a Q and A if anyone gives a shit to ask us anything and I'm going to be trying out my stand-up on those shows.
As a final question. Eleven years of Johnny B. Morbid and for the time being closing the door but not locking it, as you said. What does Johnny B. Morbid mean to you?
It means a lot. It has been my only true social outlet for eleven years. I didn't go to college. The only people I know are from high school or from playing. From playing shows, that's how I know you, that's how I know Pat, that's how I know everybody in Atomic Werewolf. Everyone always says, "It's all about the music, It's all about the music!" and yeah, of course, that's first and foremost but it becomes so much more then that. After a while, the people you meet and the relationships you cement over the course of time and the people who help you out and the people you help out. You form this whole community of contacts and friendships and for me it means everything. It led to me meeting a lot of the girls I dated and they all thought, "I want the ambitious guy. I want to date a guy that has ambition." Until they date the ambitious guy and then they realize they are second place to the guy's ambitions and that's were resentment comes in and it's good and it's bad. [Laughs] That's why I don't date fan girls any more, I can't. It just sets you up for fucking failure every God damn time, in my experience anyway. I can't do it, but like I said, at least having those experiences or at least the good ones, I focus on those. If it wasn't for Johnny B. Morbid, I never would have played with Michale. I was the guy's bass player for three years and I'm on three of his albums and I performed with Chris Motionless from Motionless In White. Johnny B. Morbid was the catalyst for all of that. Without starting something from the ground up it wouldn't have led to anything special at all. It means the world. That's why, closing the door but not locking it.