- Interviews
Johnny Gioeli - Hardline

I caught up with Johnny at this year's Gods 2002 Festival, but didn't get a chance for that interview. Instead, I talked to Johnny a few weeks ago via phone, catching Johnny hard at work in the office...

I may get interrupted once or twice so you'll have to bear with me. This week Andrew you just wouldn't believe what's happened with my business. I have over 100,000 orders this week.

Are you serious?
I am dead serious as a heart attack. I have a client who has a huge hit, a television hit. It's a tiny Portable sewing machine and we can't keep up with the orders. We can't produce them fast enough in China.
It's just unbelievable and that's just what's on backorder. For the weekend we sold 30,000 of the things.

Someone's getting rich quick?
Yup. We're all taking a piece of that action. You take it when you can because these television Infomercials have a life expectancy of about 8 months. If you get a year out of them that's great.

So the business that you and Joey set up is really happening for you?
Yeah it's out of control. Seasonally we average about 100 employees. We have 30,000 square feet of offices alone and we have distribution centers. But I kill myself. People say you have all these managers why don't you just take off and relax a little. It's not my personality. You have to watch like a hawk, you have to watch what's going on. Day to day this business changes. I could come in here and have a huge batch file of 40,000 orders or whatever and so it's completely wild what's happened.

The first time I talked to you, you had just expanded and things were going pretty well.
Yeah now it's out of control. I didn't get out of here till frigging 8.30pm last night. I was in at 7am, it's a long day.

So how amongst all of that did you find time to record?
I'll tell you exactly what I did man. I'd work a full day here, go home and share a little dinner with my family, throw some water on my face and do it. Pretty much just went for it. We'd work till 2am, 3am, 4am in the morning, go home and then get up and do it all over again. This record almost fucking killed me mate.
As we've talked about previously, I didn't want to do this record, my wife said you know what else are you going to take on this is too much. So whatever the wife says I do the opposite. In the long run if I think about it now that I'm finished and I'm happy with the result the pain goes away. I mean in the middle of it I was kicking myself saying that my wife was right that this record was going to kill me. You know you think you are full of all this energy and you can do it. Hey it kicked my arse. But I did have fun doing this record. This project was definitely the least amount of stress and it was painless. The songwriting and the actual recording process so painless and really easy.

Where did you know Bob Burch from?
Bob is actually a good friend of Joey Taffola and that's how I met Bob. Bob is very well known in the heavy Christian scene. Kind of like the Linkin Park of Christian music. Yeah he does some stuff that is just out of control. You know Track One on Hardline, ' Hold Me Down' times a thousand.
We got along really well and he was the twist that I really wanted to put in this record. I wanted Bob and his flavoring to the record.

The album does have a modern edge.
Yeah it sure does. What do you think of it though, really?

The album is great I love it.
You do, the album is different.

I'll be honest though, there's a couple of spots that I would have liked to hear something else of something a bit different. Some songs are freakishly good I'll tell you that. 'Why', 'Face The Night' and I love 'Only The Night'. 'The Way It Is' is great and 'Paralyzed'.
What do you think of 'Weight'? It sounds really great live. Now the more I listen to track Nine I wish we could have got it even heavier.

Johnny I've already written the review and you know what I said - I wish 'Weight' was heavier.
Yeah see me too.

I saw you guys live and my ears nearly bled because it was so heavy.

Don't worry there was only 2,000 to 3,000 people at the God's that heard it that heavy so many others that hear this are not going to have that comparison. I talked about the God's in the review but though that not enough people would have heard that so I took it out. I did leave in the comment that I thought that it could have been heavier.
Right, well just so you know we are on the exact same page. I actually sung everything on that record in the recording studio in my house and I'm telling you what's wild about that song is that when I sang this song I was in pure sweat. I went into the house and my wife said holy shit are you ok.
I said honey I just kicked shit out of this song. I said you know what I feel better. This was a song that stemmed from an argument I had with my wife and I compared the marriage and the situation to being physical weight on my shoulders.
It's what you are the weight. I wrote this song very quickly and when I sang it I was in a pool of sweat literally and it translated so frigging well. When we mixed it though it seemed to have smoothed out what was really aggressive. I listen to it and think fuck that's really not what I had on tape. What can you do, shit happens?

Isn't it strange how the process of recording does that sometimes?
Yeah kind of messed up the vibe a little bit. So just so you know it was more like the live thing it just didn't translate when we mixed it.

It has some radio potential I thought.
I think so.

So have a couple of other tracks on the album.
Yeah that song 'Weight' would be a good choice here in America. We're picky bastards over here. Hardline 2 would never be played over here, maybe at college level. Maybe some of the hard rock stations. Mostly because it's just stereotyped as an 80's style band. Even though a 'Weight' could easily compare to a Nickelback type of vibe.

Do you get frustrated is put into that category when your debut album wasn't even released in the 80's?
Yeah, I do. Even my friends say hey we love this 80's stuff and I'm like gosh damn it, it was 90's not 80's.
It's a bit frustrating for sure. My whole idea and the whole outcome I wanted for this record is that I can make music to make music. I don't have to rely on music to put bread on the table and I'm in a very fortunate place. The purpose of this record was to give true Hardline fans a chance to see where we left off and what we would have done.
I'm getting mixed comments on it, but that's cool we had mixed comments on the first record.

I've had a bit of feedback from the sound bytes on the site, which is a little bit mixed. I rate the first album as an absolute classic. Like you said though I've also heard mixed comments on that one.
I think the same people that thought the first one was classic will think the same of this and those not convinced last time won't be convinced this time.
Exactly right I've put this out there for Hardline fans and acceptance would be great but if they don't then that's fine too. I could give too shits about selling this record in America. It wouldn't work here.

You had your first taste of the European scene at the God's I take it, what did you take away from that?
Although my personal view on that show was that it was a fucking disaster. Oh God I couldn't hear myself, I had just gotten over a cold so my voice really wasn't in great shape for the show.
Would you like someone to tell you that you have to start in 30 seconds or you can't play? So there we are still plugging shit in and the cops are on their way. The audience didn't know all this but it was 30 seconds away from us not playing. They said the cops were on their way and it was something to do with the curfew. We were told you start in 30 seconds or we're pulling the plug.
So I can't hear myself and all my guys aren't settled and relaxed. It's very stressful and we don't have any water to drink and we have to try to pull off the show. That's why at first if you saw me running back and forth to the mixing guy I was yelling at him a little bit, nicely of course. I was trying to get it straight.

I was backstage for some of the show and I didn't know about any of it.
It was wild. My reaction to the vibe of the audience was great. It's a wonderful starting point to where I want to take it. Overall I had a blast.

You put together a new lineup; did you put a call to any of the original guys?
Well, I did. Neal and Dean. Dean was contacted first and although he was interested in doing it he was petrified that Neal would be pissed if he did it. Such baby bullshit and kind of hard to explain but for some reason Neal treats Hardline like a girlfriend he broke up with. Even though he broke up with her he's not real happy she's got a new boyfriend. Do you know what I mean. Kind of hard to put on paper. That's my analogy of how Neal reacts to Hardline. If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything.
I was disappointed because Dean really wanted to do it and from what Joey told me he was petrified of Neal's reaction. Then of course as you know I contacted Neal directly and he was all in favor of doing solos on the record based on him liking the songs. I said play on what you like and the fans will love it.
But I don't know if you want me to rehash how that went screwy.

I think we have covered that…
I had no way of knowing how to get in touch with Todd. I think he was back on the road with David Lee Roth. I just recently got word back from our keyboard player Michael that Todd would have been interested doing the record. It's a real kick in the ass but hey he couldn't have anyway being on the road.
I almost had the whole band back. I tried. I'll be honest with you Andrew, I tried for the Hardline fans.
It would have been nice for the fans to have the whole original group cut another record just like it should have been. I personally could care less I was only doing it for the fans. The Hardline 1 just so you know came about when Joey and I were putting a solo project together called 'Brothers' and it was going to be Hardline 1 and Neal was brought in to produce. Neal's brilliance with chord knowledge and his songwriting really gelled all three of us as writers.
We wrote a lot of material. Neal was actually having a great time and asked to join the band and we said no. I don't know if you ever recall hearing that. He wasn't too happy with that and at the time I think he was dating my sister, I don't think they were married, he said I can't believe you don't want me in the band. Well we had a different vision.
To cut a long story short I got with Joey and said look man it's not what we really wanted but he's a great musician and we're learning so much I don't think it could hurt anything let's give it a go. We're different but let's try it. The songs that are there 'Hot Cherie' and 'Can't Find My Way' these are all songs that came from Joey and I. This was our baby and this was going to be our solo record. Getting back to Hardline 2 I didn't really give a shit whether Neal was going to play or not. I think these songs are just as good as to whether Neal was playing or not in my opinion.

They're great songs. Neal has one co-writing credit on the album?
Yeah 'This Gift', which was actually recorded for the first record but we had so many good fucking songs on that record that we just didn't know what the hell to put on. Even 'Face The Night' was a song that I wrote that we recorded as Hardline 1 and didn't have space for that one either. 'Do Or Die' and 'Your Eyes' were also songs recorded for Hardline 1. So people are getting a real Hardline record.

The tracks on here are they actually the original recordings or the re-recordings?
No I re-recorded them. The only one that is original is 'The Gift'.
That is the actual demo of when Neal and I created that song. I thought that would be pretty unique. This is a piece of music that Neal handed to me just very unique and different and religious based. The premise of the song is that I was raised a very good catholic Italian boy and did all my Catholic schooling and to thank God for giving me a
Voice to sing and this was to sing back to him.

Is there a possibility of a Hardline 3?
With original members or this lineup?

Oh definitely. It's funny man you go through hell making a record and you're tired and this and that and the
Second it's done you want to start thinking about the next one. I am definitely thinking about the next one, it's in my brain. I have to make sure there's a level of acceptance that makes it worthwhile. I'm sure we're going to get that. If we don't sell any records I don't see a purpose in Hardline 3. I think our wonderful fan base will be the deciding factor on whether we do another record or not. I hope so cause I love making these records.

You've got one of the great rock n' roll voices I truly believe.
Thank you.

It's great to hear new stuff. I mean the Axel Rudi Pell stuff is great but he has such a distinct style.
Yeah it's different…that straightforward Metal kind of witches and dragons.

Are you going to be on Axel's live album? Is that recorded already or are you going to go over and do that?
You mean the DVD thing?

Yeah I'm on that.

It's already recorded?
Yeah we recorded it in Germany. So that's done. I think he went to Tenerife, that little island and they mixed it and all that kind of crap.

Are you guys going to release the live CD/DVD from The God's?
That's what I hear.

Still a plan then?
Yep still on plan. So I actually just signed off on some very important paperwork to make that happen.

Excellent. See people will get to hear 'Weight' that way.
Exactly, a good point.

'Face The Night' just went over so well.
You know I'll tell you what blew my mind is when we played 'Only A Night' and people were singing the lyrics and I thought what the fuck is going on. I forgot that it was released as a sampler. That blew my mind. I had a lot of fun when I figured it out and though oh you dummy.

You actually recorded a bunch of stuff for this record early didn't you, some heavier stuff? Bob mentioned it to me backstage.
Yes sir. That contributed to the long delay in getting this record out. It's because I had an entire record already to go in demo version. I'm just getting ready to record and Frontiers sent an e-mail and said I don't want any experimental shit I want Hardline. I sat back and thought well hey man this is ten years later this is who I am as a songwriter and I took a deep breath and then said you know what he's right. This record needs to be a Hardline record and I scrapped that whole thing. I then began to collect the old songs and new songs and worked from there.

So how many songs did you have in demo format, half a dozen?
Well I had a whole record; probably I actually had maybe 15,16,17 songs. I may turn those into a solo record someday. I've always wanted to do it. I could safely come out with it and call it Johnny, who the hell cares. Preview this music and people go holy hell I didn't know he had it in him kind of thing.

I'd love to hear that some time.
I'll see if I can get you some little snippets of that. You'll be blown away. It's pretty heavy stuff.

What happened to Joey Taffolla? Did he just do this original heavy material and then wasn't available for the next stage?
No basically he was involved in some of the writing for the heavy stuff. In a nutshell he also has a business that is also really busy and then we started to get some pressure to get the record finished. We wanted to get it into the Japanese record company hands as quickly as possible. They needed it to try and meet a deadline.
So I tried really hard to meet that deadline and we came really close but Joey wasn't able to let his schedule meet basically. He wanted a lot of time to do the solos and it was a lot of time I didn't have. So we kind of agreed to take a different path. So that's what we did.

In steps in Mr Ramos.
That's right. Yeah so I had to sit back and think who is talented and can emulate Neal Schon. Ding enter Josh Ramos.

He's good isn't he?
Even Neal said he is the perfect choice. He's like Austin Power's Mini Me. It's not that he copies Neal but stylistically the way he plays is very similar. We really were in the 11th hour and Josh recorded those
Solos in two evenings. He didn't hear anything just came out and said here play. If he'd really had the time to analyze and really get inside the song and work some stuff out it probably would have been beyond amazing.

He's a great guy too isn't he?
Yeah he's great, a really nice guy.

He was a bit sick at the God's too?
Yeah a little beat up. We were tired and having to wait around all day.

Michael Ross added a nice little dimension didn't he?
Yeah he sure did. The poor kids keyboards didn't work for the first three songs. So I felt so bad for him.
I always wanted to play with live keys but before Joey and Neal used to cover it on their guitars with guitar synth. I just think it adds a new dimension.

Yeah I think he does a really nice job on the 'Face The Night', the keys at the end of that.
Big time I agree.

You've got one of the best drummers in the business still.
Yep, I think so man. We go way back to the 80's and the Brunettes days. He actually played drums for several of the Brunettes shows. We had this little drummer guy and his name was Eric who was such a great kid but sonically he wasn't the greatest drummer but we didn't want to fire the kid we just wanted him to get better. We couldn't let him get better and risk failure for the group. It was a very weird situation that we created but Bobby actually played live shows with us. I'll never forget it because this kid Eric would go to the shows almost like he was studying and he put a fake cast on his arm. So he looked like he had a broken arm and that's why he couldn't do the show. Hilarious man. He was embarrassed but he knew he wanted to get better so Bobby filled in and he put a cast on his arm.
So we've know Bobby for a long time. We did this crazy Brunette movie called 'Smash, Crash and Burn'
With the Coppola family and Bobby cut all the drums on that record.

Oh you've never heard about this?

Back in around 1988 or 1989 Brunette the group I was in was hired to star in a film that Francis Ford Coppola's son Roman produced. It was the stupidest fucking movie. Kind of like 'Rockstar' but worse. Basically this group comes from the East Coast of the U.S and goes west and becomes famous and a girl tries to break up the group. It was one of those stories. We starred in it and we did an EP and Bobby cut the drums, Dana Strum From Slaughter produced it. It's funny we bring up Dana because it was Dana who brought the song 'Hot Cherie' to us. Yep. He was in a group called Danny Spanos and he said you guys should remake this song. This is a smash song. We listened to it and thought holy fuck this is a great song. The rest is history with that one.

I've got that LP; I'll have to go get it out now.
Did this movie ever get released?
No. We saw it and thought my God this piece of shit can't get out. They pretty much filed it away under garbage.

So you don't have a home video of it?
No. It's illegal. They wouldn't release anything in the fear that we may do something with it. So no absolutely not.

We could get some bootlegs going on the net or something!
Great, I'd laugh my ass off if I could see that.

I suppose we should do a track by track on the album.
'Hold Me Down'
I'll tell you a bit about personality, I'm an over achiever and there have been several people in my life that have tried to keep me from doing certain things. That's really the premise of this whole song. They keep trying but they can't succeed. That's what the song is about.
Simply a question that I ask myself about why things are the way they are so to speak. This song is about not really having an answer to the question. I hate doing these songs by song things because there are a lot of things that went through my mind when writing this stuff and I can't get it all out to you.
You know that was the only song written with an outside songwriter besides Neal.
Paralyzed was written with Mark Tanner who co wrote the song 'Everything' on Hardline 1. So I got back in touch with Mark and said I was doing another Hardline and I loved working with you on the first record and what do you have. So we worked together and came up with this. It's basically a chick song and totally engrossed in some one. I just thought it was a great rock song with a great hook to it. Mark Tanner's great, do you know who he is?

Yeah I'm a big fan of his work with 'Fiona'.
Yes of course.

I went out and brought 'The Calling' album purely because he produced it.
He's awesome.

Yeah very talented.
Again back in the 80's I used to write with him when we were going to do a deal with Capitol Records. He used to come over to my apartment and we used to sit and write lyrics together and he'd have to go and take a piss and he'd be so excited as he's pissing if he came up with a lyric that he'd piss himself. He would come back out to the lounge room and his pants would be all wet cause he'd pissed himself.
That's how into writing he is.

'Face The Night'
I wrote this song so long ago. I wrote it in 1987. Do you remember the original guitar player for Poison before CC Deville? I don't even remember his name that's how long ago it was. He quit the band to go back to his girlfriend in Pennsylvania. He literally gave up what might have been a wonderfully successful career with a lot of money and a lot of fame to go back there and start a family. That just took my balls off and I wrote the song. In the song lyrically when I say, " No matter what life could have bought me or brought me it bought me right back to you to face the night alone'. It was written because of that situation.
'Do or Die'
It was an inspired song when we had our LA riots. I could smell the burning from my house. It was when I was poor and nameless and had to live close to that area.
'Hey Girl'
I wrote this song about regret. One of my biggest fears in life because I am an over achiever is that I would not be fulfilled by not doing everything possible with my life. It was written in the context of somebody else not necessarily my life. They are looking at themselves saying do I like what I see. Am I really happy? Am I satisfied with life?
'Only A Night'
This was written a few years ago when I was preparing an easy listening album, a Christian based record. It's merely about having an opportunity to be with a person for just one night alone and life will change.
'Your Eyes'
It's a very simple tune. Also musically written year ago. It just means sometimes I get caught up in my own views and sometimes I need to step back and see things the way other people see them as well.
We all have our marital problems at times and I felt like I was carrying a tank on my shoulders.
'The Way It Is The Way It Goes'
It speaks for itself. A song about things I can't control. It's kind of funny how I turned this record into a concept record. Although some of these songs are happy there's a lot of negativity in here.
'The Gift'
That is the actual demo of when Neal and I created that song. I thought that would be pretty unique. This is a piece of music that Neal handed to me just very unique and different and religious based. The premise of the song is that I was raised a very good catholic Italian boy and did all my Catholic schooling and to thank God for giving me a
Voice to sing and this was to sing back to him.