I remember the first time Johnny Solinger made an impression on me. Skid Row was playing with Nugent and KISS and half the crowd had no idea it wasn’t Sebastian while the other half were watching and waiting to see what would happen. It was no simple task stepping in for a larger than life personality in a band that had become a household name but armed with a microphone, a cowboy hat and a Texas-sized voice he commanded the stage. I was wildly impressed and am not surprised that over a decade later Johnny has stood the test of time having recorded and toured the world with the band. I was a little surprised to hear he’s a huge gourmet chef and a little surprised to see just how seamlessly his outlaw styled country music career has worked out but that’s just Johnny being Johnny. He’s got a quiet confidence and is real easy to like. I recently talked with Snake Sabo and was very pleased to finally talk with Johnny about his cooking, his country and his continued calling to rock including the recent rumors of a potential Skid Row reunion. Read on…..
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hey Johnny! I wanted to ask you about your cooking background before we got into the music and Skid Row stuff. We have a sister site www.forknstein.com that is now up and going and we’ve noticed a lot of rock guys are making signature sauces and wines, even cookbooks. How did you get in touch with your culinary side?
Johnny: Well, for me it all stemmed from being an only child and a latchkey kid. If your parents work you either get real tired of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when you come home from school or you learn to cook. My mother and grandmother taught me a lot about cooking, stuff I still use to this day and I made my first chicken tetrazzini at age 8 or 9. I enjoy it and it’s something I’ve done as long as I can remember.
LRI: You also have shot some videos that are on youtube called “Cooking With Johnny” which were funny and informative, are you going to keep going forward with that project?
Johnny: I am, I’ve shot a pilot for the company that owns Food Network, Cooking Channel and Travel Network. It’s fun and it’s a mix of cooking, music and travel. I can’t show it to you yet but I think there’s a lot of interest, people are just trying to figure out what to do with it. I love cooking and I think it shouldn’t be this complicated, difficult thing. Everyone can keep learning about cooking and learn to really enjoy it. If you don’t eat, you die so you might as well enjoy it and have fun with it.
LRI: Do you think there’s something in the touring rock lifestyle that just makes you want to develop that skill rather than eat at crummy diners or whatever on the road?
Johnny: I think there’s something to what you’re saying John. When you’re out on the road you tend to eat out a lot and sometimes you’re hungry but you just don’t like what you’re eating or the place cooking it. It can be interesting out there, especially in foreign countries. We have guys in the band who prefer American food and will just find a McDonalds or whatever but I just can’t do it. Rachel (Bolan, Skid Row bassist) and I will actually branch out and go try the local cuisine whether we’re in Russia or China or Vietnam. Let me tell you, Taiwan has some pretty interesting food but we enjoy being adventurous and taking it all in. Once in a while some of it will upset your stomach (cough, cough) Indonesia (laughs) but for the most part it’s always a blast. To me it’s part of the adventure of being in a rock band, I mean, I would never get to eat all these things or travel to all these places were we not touring the world. You gotta take advantage.
LRI: As a Texan, do you still have a soft spot for all that down home barbeque-type stuff?
Johnny: Well, a lot of that is really a southern thing and everybody likes southern food but as far as Texas goes, I’m real close to the border. I can get fresh avocados from across the border and delicious peppers and produce that is not only cheap but makes for the best Mexican cooking you could imagine. I love it.
LRI: You’re coming our way in a few days to play a big festival called ROCK’N THE VALLEY and I imagine you’ll be hitting a lot of big summer shows from here on out. Is it pretty much easier just to do those type of fly-in shows rather than get bogged down with a tourbus and all that?
Johnny: Yeah, it is. I’ve been with the band now for about 13 years and the guys are very selective. I like to say there’s three really rich guys who sold 20 million records and then there’s me and the drummer Rod Hammersmith (laughs). The guys have earned the right to decide that they don’t wanna get on a bus and get dragged around the country to play a Tuesday in Des Moines with some bullshit band, that’s just something that’s not gonna happen. Unless it’s a big, big tour like Alice Cooper, AC/DC or KISS we’re not gonna do it because it just doesn’t make sense. We can do very well on our own doing fly-outs and we still manage to stay pretty busy and do at least 100 shows a year. That’s the way Cinderella and a lot of bands choose to do it as well and it’s good work if you can get it.
LRI: After 13 years of singing for Skid Row is it still just as much fun to pull into a town and headline one of these big, all weekend festivals outdoors with the moon and stars shining and a large, happy partying crowd?
Johnny: Are you kidding me John? Everyone needs to go check out my Facebook “like” page and see the pics I posted from the other weekend in Michigan. We are having as much fun as we’ve EVER had and we’ve always had fun. I think there were 20,000 people as far as the eye could see at last weekend’s shows. People are having a great time, they’re not finding what they’re lookin for on the radio so they are going back to the rock and roll they love which is why these festivals are just getting bigger and bigger. We are playing to bigger crowds than I’ve ever seen and the evidence is in those photos. Our fans are dedicated beyond belief and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of them at ROCK’N THE VALLEY this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be playing a show in front of three people or 30,000 and some of the smaller places can be real cool on a different level. We played House of Blues there in Chicago a few weeks ago which is a really cool venue and pretty intimate, you could see every face in the crowd and it was great but these festivals are just amazing to see.
LRI: When you get a chance to truly headline you guys put out like nobody’s business. I saw a bootleg of a show you did a few weeks back in Georgia and you played something like 18 songs. It was a Skids fan’s dream set too with some of your material like “Ghost” and “Thick is the Skin” and even some stuff from the next album alongside songs I haven’t seen in years like “Get The Fuck Out”. You are really giving everyone their money’s worth, it might have been the best Skids set I have ever seen.
Johnny: Wow, thank you (laughs). It’s nice to play those long shows when we get to. We played with Cinderella the other week and we only had like an hour long set so it’s hard to mix in a lot of that along with making sure we play the big 6 songs the fans wanna see. The guys usually try to fit in three from my era, which is very gracious of them and then we have room for a couple other things. Now when we get to headline a show like you’re talking about that one hour turns into two hours or we just play until they kick us off so we can do a lot more. When we play those shows I’ll sing all that and more. I’ll sing other songs like “In a Darkened Room”, “Quicksand Jesus” and “New Generation”. Rachel always sings “Psycho Therapy” from the B-Sides Ourselves record. We try and do something from every single record in the catalog. We’ve been playing more stuff from “Subhuman Race”, stuff like “Beat Yourself Blind” and lots of stuff from “Slave To the Grind”. Like you said, we played “Get The Fuck Out” which of course was banned from “Slave” and replaced on many of the copies with the song “Beggar’s Day”. We’ve been told at numerous all ages shows not to play it and we respect that but we love to play it when we can because it’s a great song and a lot of fun to play live.
LRI: Snake told us in our last interview that there was a lot of new material you were sifting through and I think you played one the other week, a song called “Let’s Go”, is that correct?
Johnny: Yes, that’s a new one and I’ll tell you John, this new material is some of the best stuff we’ve done, definitely some of the best since I’ve been in the band. I consider a song like “Ghost” a truly great song that really should have been a big hit single but that song came out on my first album with the band, “Thickskin” and nobody gave a shit at that time which I understand. At this point, I’m on my third album and I’ve been around for over a decade. This next album and these songs are going to put us right back where we need to be because it’s been a while since “Revolutions Per Minute” came out. The new album’s got a lot of the energy and vibe of “Slave To The Grind” and the lyrics and riffs are just technical and crazy and everyone is just really juiced up about it and that excitement is translating itself onto the tape.
LRI: Snake had said he was in no hurry to get it out and that the songs all had to be there but the way you’re talking it’s moving along nicely. Do you think we’ll see it around this time next year?
Johnny: Snake’s really right in saying that to you. I mean, we all talked about that and we could rush it out just to put it out but we just don’t wanna do that. We’ve definitely got the songs but we don’t wanna just push it out there like that. If it’s not great and things aren’t lined up than we’re gonna wait. We are in negotiations with a pretty cool label and we’re talking about all kinds of different ways of doing it. It’s a different era and the whole record company business has changed so there’s been talk about putting out a couple of EPs or doing it this way or that. Snake is very cautious about that and I understand that but we’re setting on about 12 or so demos that rule to be honest with you!
LRI: You mentioned talking with a label, are you also waiting to see what materializes as far as producers or is that something you’re willing to go on your own with?
Johnny: The way technology is and the way these tapes are sounding with Rachel’s studio and equipment it’s tough to say. I think once the ink is in place on this deal we will have a better idea of whether we wanna go with a name producer or try and go at it ourselves. I don’t have a problem either way as long as they don’t try to change the sound or the songs too much because they are so headed in the right direction. We could easily do this one ourselves but I guess it all depends on how the business end of it shakes out.
LRI: I went into graphic detail with Snake about a lot of the stuff we talked with Sebastian about and since I love both of you, I’ll spare you most of that. I do have to ask one thing though because I was kind of perplexed by something that came up from him recently in regards to your band. He made a lot of headlines a month or so ago when he said that he knew for a fact that there was only one person who was against a Skid Row reunion. I knew from Snake telling me point blank that it was he who was dead set against it but I was also kind of confused because just a few months earlier SEBASTIAN himself was telling me he wasn’t interested and was more than happy with his solo career. How difficult does it make things for the band when Bas floats things like that out on Twitter or whatever?
Johnny: You know John, I’ve never said anything bad publicly about the guy because I don’t care, it’s my band to sing in now and has been for thirteen years. First of all, when he comes out and says stuff like that it’s all crap. It is, just like “four out of five dentists approve” is crap. He’s been wanting back in the band since I joined but there’s not much he can say about it and not much I care to say about it. His statement that four out of the five guys are wanting a reunion with him was just his way of getting a little attention and we don’t really care either way about it because it’s not going to happen. I’m not saying that to be bad to the dude because I’ve never been that kind of guy to slag him or anything he does. In fact, I totally understand the old Skid Row fans that abandoned us when I joined, that’s fine, I get it. I totally love the fans that stayed on and enjoyed me with the band, of course (laughs) and I totally love the old Skid Row fans that have come back into the fold. I just appreciate all of the fans, old and new, because they’re all Skid Row fans. It’s all about the songs and the creativity and I love that about this band and their fans because they get it.
LRI: Paul Stanley once said something to the effect of, “there’s a reason why your ex is your ex” and that seems to be the case in a lot of bands as well…
Johnny: The thing that blows my mind about all these guys is that they’re all still friends. I mean, we play shows with other bands where the guys in the band can’t even stand to be in the same room at the same time and it shows when they’re onstage. My guys, to their credit, are all very cool. They hang together, they talk to each other and are genuinely close which isn’t always as common as you’d think and is really something that makes it a pleasure to be in this band. There’s not a druggie in the band, there’s not an asshole in the band, all these different personal issues that can get in the way of making music are not an issue for us anymore which is why it’s so funny when those reunion rumors pop up because it’s just not gonna happen. All the true-blue fans know that by now though.
LRI: What’s your armchair psychologist’s opinion on what each guy brings to the table. I watch a guy like Scotti Hill live and it’s just insane to me that he wasn’t on more magazine covers or mentioned as a true shredder because he just kills night after night. He’s totally underrated and under the rader. What’s a guy like Scotti really like?
Johnny: Well Scotti’s got a new lease on life. He’s been sober for a while now and he’s got a young child now. As a player, I’ve always considered him completely underrated because he is just a phenomenal talent, world-class. He’s the kind of guy I would have sought out to form a band with, he’s so good, he just happens to be with all these other guys who are equally amazing.
LRI: Rachel is one of those guys I’ve been seeking for an interview for a long time now because everyone I know who’s talked to him has said he’s so interesting and such a big part of what makes the band go. Is he really the wildest member of the band like people tend to view him, what’s your take on Mr. Bolan?
Johnny: I’d say he is definitely and it’s not an act. The man wears a buttflap onstage. He doesn’t effort or try to be punk rock, he IS punk rock. Go listen to a lot of that material on “Slave To The Grind” and you will hear Rachel’s influence all over it. He’s the heart and soul of the band, he does vocals, he writes, he handles the business end. I love the man, he’s a special person.
LRI: You’ve played with a few drummers but Rob Hammersmith seems like he is finally become a fixture. Is that fair to say?
Johnny: Yes. I am trying to count all of the drummers, it’s been friggin Spinal Tap but Rob is settling in (laughs). He’s been here a couple of years and he hasn’t blown up so…so far so good. His timing is spot on and his ambition and sense of humor brings a lot to the band. He’s a family man as are most of us, so he’s not out there chasing skirt and that clear headedness has helped him hold his his own against Snake and pass the Sabo drum test. Snake can kind of be an asshole drum Nazi.
LRI: (laughs) Wow, that’s a good lead in to my question about Snake who seemed to be, at least in my interview, one of the most strangely polite rock stars on earth. No?
Johnny: I dearly love Snake and he is such a genuine guy but he’s also a complete drum Nazi. If a drummer’s timing or feel isn’t cutting it he will be a total asshole and will not rest until it’s right.
LRI: What is it about Snake that makes him such a fan-favorite and has allowed him to be so damn happy all the time?
Johnny: (laughs) The guy is not only an iconic rock star and a personality in that light but he’s also just a personality in general. There’s really noone else in the world quite like him and I’m so glad that he, along with the other guys, is my best friend. He’s just Snake and it’s really hard to explain why or how people are drawn to him except to say that he’s real. He’s such a character and a personality that I think sometimes it overshadows his songwriting and his playing. This next album is gonna make things perfectly clear though. It will bring back that true twin guitar attack and you’ll hear, clear as day, Scotti on the left and Snake on the right. People will always recognize those classic leads on those first two records and the tone and personality that their playing has is gonna come full circle this next time out.
LRI: You put out a great solo album, an old-school outlaw style country album a while back and I’ve been hearing that you have another one up your sleeve. Is it true that it might be a little more mainstream or accessible? One of the things that made your self-titled album so good was that it had a little “fuck you” to it.
Johnny: Yeah, thank you for checking it out first of all John. That album was done regionally and even featured the Skid Row guys on a song. Since it was released independently it was a little more easy to do that. This one was done through Nashville and will be a little more accessible and I understand that because it’s going to be a worldwide release and all. It’s done and in the final stages of being shopped but it is a little more commercial. I do think that if you liked the last one you’ll like this one still because my influences haven’t changed. I can’t listen to new country, I just can’t.
LRI: It seems like a lot of the problem with new country is the songwriter racket on music row. The artists get fed all these songs from proven hitmakers and they have no personal connection to the music. It’s a far cry from the old days.
Johnny: It is. I was just driving through Dallas and listening to the radio and it’s all country stations anywhere in the middle of Texas. I kept hittin the button and changing the new country stations until I finally happened upon one that was “Classic Country” and it was like “Woah…” All of a sudden you’re gettin Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings and Don Seals on there and then you drive a half hour further and you lose the damn signal. I don’t like modern country and I’m not gonna record it so maybe I’ll fail but at least I’ll love what I’m doing.
LRI: It sounds like the country labels are going through a lot of the same problems as the big rock labels and now there’s a pretty big independent scene though so maybe it will work to your advantage.
Johnny: Oh the major labels are going down left and right. True artists are sweating it out and playing live, shaking hands and holding on to their integrity and I respect that. You can still go the easy route and play everyone else’s songs and Wal-Mart it out there for 6.99 or whatever but that’s not what I’m interested in and that’s not why I’m doing this.
LRI: Were you always just as influenced by Hank or Johnny or Loretta Lynn as you were KISS, AC/DC and Aerosmith?
Johnny: Oh yeah, I was way into Hank Sr. especially but yeah obviously, all of them. Being from Texas it was all about Willie, Waylon, George Strait and all of those icons. If I wanna put on a record and sing along it’s still Hank Williams “Greatest Hits” (starts singing…”Your cheaaating hearrrrt”). Speaking of Loretta Lynn, that song she did with Jack White called “Portland, Oregon” and that last album she made are just phenomenal. You wanna talk about an icon, she’s still doing things her way. Those last few albums Johnny Cash made before he passed were as vital as ever and that cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt”….I love Trent’s version, but I love Johnny’s even more. You wanna talk about pouring your heart and soul into an album, that’s how its done.
LRI: Thanks for talking to us Johnny, you’re alright for a Cowboys fan. You don’t also like the Rangers do you?
Johnny: I do….I do and yes, I’m a die hard Cowboys fan and will probably piss a lot of fans off because of that although to be honest I just want to see Romo have a good season some day. Let me tell you a good Rangers story real quick though. My wife and I were filming this thing for a video project we are working on and we thought, why not film us going to a Rangers game. So, I called up a ticket broker guy I knew and got set up with great tickets for the game that night and got down to the Stadium except… no one was there…..the game was in CHICAGO!!!! I got tickets to the game alright but we were in Dallas and THE RANGERS were in Chicago…..True story (laughs).
Sites That Link to this Post
- SKID ROW Singer JOHNNY SOLINGER: Reunion With SEBASTIAN BACH Is 'Just Not Gonna Happen' • Metal4ALL.com | July 10, 2012
- Sebastian Bach to Skid Row: Let’s Come Together for the Sake of the Fans | July 11, 2012
- Sebastian Bach bites back over reunion claim | Classic Rock | July 12, 2012
- Sebastian Bach Writes Open Letter to Fans, Skid Row Members, and One Very Unlucky Writer | July 12, 2012
- Sebastian Bach on a Skid Row Reunion: ‘I Would Do It for the Fans’ | Soundabble | July 12, 2012
- Sebastian Bach Writes Open Letter to Fans, Skid Row Members, and One Very Unlucky Writer - 100.7 KOOL FM | July 13, 2012
- Sebastian Bach Writes Open Letter to Fans, Skid Row Members, and One Very Unlucky Writer | July 13, 2012
- Sebastian Bach către Skid Row: Mă puteți suna dacă vreți să cântăm împreună pentru fani | July 14, 2012