Britny Fox and Doro drummer Johnny Dee talks to LRI about the evolution of the Fox and touring the world with Doro

Britny Fox and Doro drummer Johnny Dee talks to LRI about the evolution of the Fox and touring the world with Doro
September 5, 2012 | By More
Johnny photo by Darkana Kat

photo by Darkana Kat

Johnny Dee is a cool cat.  Anyone who’s had the pleasure of watching him play over the years knows he gives his all every single time he picks up a set of drumsticks.  Johnny is currently getting ready for a nice fall tour banging the skins as part of Doro’s official band (as he has for almost two decades) and supporting Doro’s new EP “Raise Your Fist In The Air”  on Nuclear Blast and available through iTunes.  I love Warlock and I love Doro;  if the title track from “Raise Your Fist” is any indication we are in for a lot more amazing and super catchy music from the band.  The real reason I personally  that Johnny is so cool though, is because he understands what a massive Britny Fox fan I am and basically spent an ungodly amount of time talking about every era of the band with me.  I haven’t been able to track down any of the other guys from the band but Johnny kicks unbelievable ass for answering every question I threw at him.  Check out the new Doro and read on…..

Legendary Rock Interviews:  Let’s start off with the logical question on this page Johnny.  When did you first become a fan of Cheap Trick?

Johnny Dee:  (laughs) Oh man, I was a kid who had an older sister with a very cool record collection.  A lot of the cooler stuff that I ever got into was as a result of her record collection.  “Heaven Tonight” was probably the first one that I really got into.  My sister turned me on to Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Elton John and all this really cool stuff from that era, including your local boys there, Cheap Trick.  Then I got ahold of Budokan and that was it, I was hooked.

LRI:  When did you know that you wanted to play drums?

Johnny:  It was pretty early on.  I kind of just messed around a bit when I was really young but the interest was there.  I think I didn’t take it real serious until I was around 11 or 12 and I got a real drum kit.  Up until then I had the usual little crappy paper headed playset type things but you can’t really learn how to play on that so I finally graduated to a real kit.  I got a nice little three piece kit and really started to just teach myself around 12 but I knewI wanted to play before that.  I remember being really young and looking at drum sets in the Sears catalog and thinking “Man, I would love to have that”.  At first it was more of a visualization or a fantasy but eventually the time came and I got one.

LRI:  I know you’re a KISS fan.  Did you have a bit of a Peter Criss fancy in those days? Did you want that massive surround kit he had?

Johnny:  I did have a bit of a Peter Criss thing going on,  yes.  My first attempt to build that big kit came later.  I knew this older guy that lived nearby me and was looking to upgrade and basically sold me what was a combination of two separate drum kits.  It was basically just a bunch of random drums and I took them home and covered them over with vinyl that I bought at the autoparts store and I made this Frankenstein kit.  I literally was going for that Peter Criss, 8 inch tom all the way down to the 18 inch one, i had just a rack of tom toms.  That was pretty cool.  Of course I also had to dress up in the makeup and play along you know?

LRI:  Oh I know.  I have many favorites but once you’re in the Army, you’re a KISS fan for life, it’s burned on your psyche.

Johnny:  Pretty much.  You can never really replace that first impression of “Wow”.  Although I’m a massive Beatles fan I didn’t really get to be there during their crowning moments or get to see them live and for our generation KISS is that band.  I mean I really love the Beatles and I probably knew their music before I even really knew anything about them, hell Cheap Trick themselves are wonderfully derivitive of them and influenced by their melodies and magic but KISS was like…..

LRI:  It’s hard to even describe how the imprint works but it does.

Johnny:  Well, you saw them on TV and it was like “Oh my god this is amazing” but it was nothing like actually seeing KISS live onstage and moving and playing right before your eyes.  I’ve been hit and miss with them over the years as far as the catalog goes but that initial impression and those early albums, there’s nothing else like them.  I can watch those early videos from the Paul Lynde Halloween special and it’s still got that same sort of “Oh my god” feeling for me.

LRI:  Most people know you cut your teeth in the Philadelphia rock scene in the eighties.  Everyone knows Cinderella and Britny Fox but there were a lot of cool bands besides those two that were pretty damn cool.  Do you think it was kind of unique in its own way?

Johnny:  Well, obviously I’m a little too close to the scene to be too objective in terms of what other cities had going on but yeah, I think it was a pretty cool thing in Philadelphia at that time.  Sunset Strip and L.A. were pretty much the epicenter and Philly kind of was a slow build.

LRI:  John Corabi told us he thought it was hilarious that the second he moved to L.A. the scene back home in Philly blew up and most of the guys he knew got famous.

Johnny:  Right, right.  It was kind of crazy timing for him but he’s such a talented guy, he always was.  One of my first original bands in town was with Corabi, it was a band called Fragile.  They started out as a cover band and evolved into an original band with a lot of the hard hitting Philly cats.  John was probably the best all around singer in the area.  I mean, to be in a band with that dude at that point, the possibilities seemed endless.  I can’t say enough good things about just how good he was, even then.  Right around that time was when we started talking about moving to L.A. because that was kind of a little before the Philly scene started taking off.  Cinderella then came out and I think John was already on his way to L.A. and I was in a band called World War III at the time.

LRI:  Wasn’t Dean Davidson (Britny Fox singer) in that band too? 

Johnny:  Yeah, but not as a singer, he actually played drums in the band before I did.  The band was fucking killer, killer songs, killer musicians, a real heavy sound.  The two brothers in that band were great players but I think were a bit older and kind of missed the boat as far as being in the right place at the right time.  Especially at that time, it was so image orientated and to have a couple older cats that didn’t fit the typical hair band stereotype it just didn’t work in their favor.  We had done some recording and the band had released some stuff on a French label called Axe Killer but they’re one of the bands people tend to overlook and were quite good although, a lot heavier than most of the bands that spring to mind when you think of that scene.  I left the band to go work with Pete Way and his band Waysted and right around the time I came back it just so happened Britny was taking off.

LRI:  You were barely drinking age when you got the gig with Waysted.  Was that just an unbelievable eye-opening experience?

Johnny:  I think I was like 22.  It was my first real touring and recording experience and it was just a huge learning experience.  I mean, I went over to England and was just blown away.

LRI:  Were you a big UFO fan growing up?

Johnny:  Oh god yes.  I was a huge fan and I could never understand why they were like a cult band and weren’t as massively popular as other bands.  They toured constantly and were one of the best live bands ever.  To work with Pete and join Waysted was a dream come true for me, that band was one of my all time favorites.

Johnny's pre-Britny band WAYSTED on the Somewhere On Tour tour

Johnny’s pre-Britny band WAYSTED on the Somewhere On Tour tour

Johnny with Pete Way and Waysted

Johnny with Pete Way and Waysted

LRI:  Ok.  I was such a massive hard rock kid that I will admit I was part of the Britny Fox street team leading up to the release of the first album.  I remember the autographed photos and guitar picks and all that shit and there really was a nice buzz going on the band in the glam underground even before the debut hit.  Do you remember those days leading up to the MTV success?

Johnny:  I absolutely remember them.  We had a very nice support system leading into the release of that album and even had a nice fan base prior to getting signed to tell the truth.  There were a lot of people who really helped us get a leg up and helped push the band well before the videos hit.  That was a pretty exciting time.  The band was already big locally.  I knew all of those guys just from growing up in that scene in Philly.  They were all my friends.  I grew up with Billy Childs (bassist) he lived a couple blocks up from me and was in some of my first real bands I was ever in growing up, we go way back.  The other guys were all guys I knew from various bands, back then, everybody knew everybody.  I had spoken with Michael quite a few times about maybe doing something so when it came time that they were ready to find someone and continue  after Tony (Destra, original Britny drummer) passed away it was kind of a no-brainer that they called me.  They asked if I wanted to jump in and I said absolutely because the timing of it all was just perfect and they were all guys I was already friends with.   I had been in L.A. at that time but I jumped at the chance to come back to Philly and play with the guys.  The next thing you know we were playing some gigs and in the studio making the first album.

LRI:  Were you very familiar with the “In America” demos or the “Rock Is Gonna Fight”demo after that?

Johnny:   I wasn’t following it super closely but I was definitely aware of them and the material, especially the  second demo which Adam (West, Tangier) played drums on.  I also knew Adam and had been hearing that demo quite a bit and was definitely diggin what they were doing prior to joining.

ad for the debut BRITNY FOX lp

ad for the debut BRITNY FOX lp

LRI:  Again, there was a lot of excitement building but were you guys listening to what you were recording on the debut and beginning to think “This could blow up”?

Johnny:  I think we were aware that there was a possibility just because we were getting re-launched and put out there by a major label with major label push but at the same time we were just kind of riding a wave in many ways.  We had no idea whether or not it would go gold or platinum or whether it would be considered a flop if it didn’t go multi-platinum, we were just focused and hoping for the best.  It’s never a given.  We got real, real lucky with our fan support because Dial MTV was huge back then.  We could have had all the video money in the world and all the advertising in the world but were it not for fans of the band calling Dial MTV, Girlschool  just wouldn’t have gotten as much exposure as it did.   It wasn’t like we put out the album and it blew up on radio.  We released “Long Way To Love” and it wasn’t really a hit on radio, it barely charted.  If it wasn’t for MTV and the whole video surge from the fan base I don’t think it would have taken flight.  After MTV started playing the videos things started to fall into place, we started getting tours and there was something of a groundswell and finally the album actually started selling.

LRI:  A lot of those MTV bands weren’t quite as impressive in a live setting but KIX and Britny Fox opened for RATT and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t one of the very best concerts I’ve ever seen.   All three bands were amazing but there was something so simple and straightforward about the Britny Fox live gig. 

Johnny:  We were just a simple, four on the floor, no bullshit hard rock band.  What you see is what you get.  It translated well in an arena setting because it was built to be that way from the beginning.   It wasn’t too musical or too introspective or complicated.  It was all about the crunch and the anthem.  It was easy to put out that vibe in a big setting because that’s what the material was all about and what the band was all about.  We were built on AC/DC and KISS and that whole arena hard rock template which is always, always about the live show and having a good time along with the audience.  The band was a live band that wanted chicks to shake their asses and dudes to raise their fist and we wanted every single person that came out to have a good time.

Britny Fox, Boys In Heat album cover

Britny Fox, Boys In Heat album cover

LRI:  As much as I loved the debut I was for the most part confused by the follow up,” Boys In Heat”.  I kind of like some of it now but at the time it really put me off for some reason.  Were there any musical disagreements or tug of wars that were affecting the sessions or the final outcome?

Johnny:  I would say without a  doubt,  yes.  We started to veer away from a lot of what made you really like the debut.  We agreed on a lot of things in the sense that we wanted to grow a little bit and take it to the next step but not get too far away from what everybody liked about the first album.  You don’t wanna alienate your fanbase that early into your career.   Dean (Davidson, singer) being the main songwriter started to think maybe a lot of people would rather not hear the screaming vocals as much and wanted to try and sing more from his natural voice and natural tone.  There was a lot of discussion about direction and songs and songwriting and we were wanting to get involved a little more in the writing process.   We were starting to have disagreements about the writing and I remember thinking that there  were a few too many songs on the album.  I think it could have been whittled down a bit more than it was.  Everybody has their own version of what happened there but I think the bottom line is that Dean started to get a little carried away with what he thought the band should evolve into.  I hate to even make the KISS comparison but as a fan of the band there was a level of stability in those first 3 or 4 albums in terms of image and direction.  They had a style and stuck with it even before it produced mass success.  He wanted to drop the clothes and the look and the heavy metal/hard rock tone and it was a bit much to change so radically in sound from a first to second album.  I thought we should have stayed a bit closer to the debut in most respects while still showing some growth as a whole.  We started to go a bit too much one way and I think we did lose a lot of people with that change.

LRI:  I must have stared at the cover for hours and I still don’t really get it but I remember liking it more than the music on the album (laughs)

Johnny:  Ahh, the cover.  Yet another disagreement.  Not only were were disagreeing amongst each other but we were having discussions and disagreements with the record company about the album title and cover and we all had all these different ideas.   Everything we threw at the label they were like “No, we hate it, what else have you got?”.  Dean blurted out “Boys in Heat” because it was the name of a band that he had back in Philly before Britny Fox and I literally cringed when I heard it.   Of course it was like slow motion and I could see it coming because like any label they were like “Oh, yes, that’s brilliant we LOVE it” and I was like “Oh, great”.  Then they had this guy do a painting I guess depicting boys in heat or something and it just spiraled into this whole ridiculous concept and we totally lost control of the whole package and situation.  Some people loved the cover, some hated it and some people just didn’t get it at all.  It was one of those situations where we wanted the label to really get behind the record and work it so we kind of let them win that battle at that time but it’s one of those things where it’s uncomfortable because you know deep down that you’re going against your own inner feeling and instinct.  At that point you start feeling like you compromised what you do and the whole experience is all downhill from there.   Once you let them have that much control then they start telling you what songs should be released and everything else pertaining to your career.  That was the thing on the first album, that album was much more organic and true to the spirit of the band.  There were no mentions of big name producers or songwriters the songs themselves were recorded exactly as they were written and performed live.  It was very much truth in advertising, what you see is what you get and I think people responded to that.  There was no need to start second guessing and appeasing people on the second album and you get further away from what it was that people liked about you to begin with.  The end result is that it didn’t connect with people and they didn’t respond, it sold minimally compared to the first record and now looking back it seems like that whole era of the band just lost control and I was like “Ok, now what do we do?”.

LRI:  Was the touring for “Boys in Heat” also a troublesome situation?

Johnny:  It started out with everything looking pretty good.  We had done the first video, the release was all planned and we got the Alice Cooper tour in Europe and found out we secured the KISS Hot In The Shade tour back home which was like, forget about it, we were over the moon and excited beyond belief about.   The first two bands that blew my mind were Alice Cooper and KISS.  Things seemed to be going well.  It was cool going to Europe and seeing a new market since we spent so much time in America on the debut.  As tickets were going on sale they decided they were going to hold off and postpone touring until their record picked up and everything started really cranking.  We were completely bummed because at that point we had to go out and do some gigs and support our album and couldn’t afford to wait 3 or 4 months for them.  So then we go from being an arena support act to being a small club headliner which, for a while, was kind of cool, at least show-wise.  We could do a much longer show and got back to headliner status for that period and our fans were getting the maximum show but at the same time we were getting nowhere near the push or exposure.  That was a difficult time for us, just going from being so excited about KISS to having the rug pulled out from under us and slugging it out back  in the  clubs.  Then I think KISS ended up going out and taking Winger and Slaughter and we started to really feel that pressure that happens to a band trying to retain their standing.  The stress that was already there between the rest of us and Dean was being magnified by the feeling that we were losing some of our momentum.

Johnny at a Britny Fox in-store

Johnny at a Britny Fox in-store

LRI:  What specifically led to Dean leaving?

Johnny:  It was building on that tour and by he end of the tour, one night Dean just told us he had a band all ready to go and a whole new style and a bunch of songs written that he wanted to do whether we liked them or not.  He was basically like “I’m gonna take my toys and go home”.  That pretty much sucked (laughs).  We really had no other course of action and no backup plan other than just standing there and looking at each other like “What the fuck just happened?”.

LRI:  I think one of the biggest crimes of the 90s was that “Bite Down Hard” was so criminally overlooked.  It’s possibly the best album the band made.   How much time did you spend before settling in with Tommy Paris and making that album?

Johnny:  We took as much time as we had to basically.  We put out the call looking for singers after we started getting over the whole bitter stage of the breakup with Dean.  We were getting slammed left and right by him in his interviews and we were just on the sidelines like “Ok, what do we do?” and then we started putting the word out in those magazines and publications that we were looking for a new vocalist, because obviously he was making it clear that there was a breakup.  We kind of went back to the well and were a strong musical base that just needed to find someone who could write with us and sing songs with us that fit in the mold.   Dean didn’t want to fit in that position  anymore even though he created the band which is kind of interesting.  It’s almost like he created it, got tired of it and wanted to walk away.  We needed someone to come in and fit in to our team, so to speak.  We started getting tape submissions.  We got a lot of good ones, a lot of horrible ones and we just had to sift through them all and see who had something to offer.  There were a few definite possibilities and people who came in for tryouts but Tommy’s tape stuck out because his songwriting was really good and his voice was ridiculously good.  So much so that we thought there was definitely something there so we also had him come in for an audition.  I think the biggest swing in his favor was the fact that Billy and Michael sent Tommy some riffs and ideas, basic frameworks of songs that they gave him just to see what he’d come up with.  I think the results of what Tommy came up with were the biggest reason why he got the gig because a lot of those songs ended up being some of the best material on the album.  It got to the point where it was just a no-brainer to welcome him into the band.  The guy could sing like nobody’s business and he wrote crazy good and just generally fit in perfectly with what we were doing.

LRI:  How patient was East/West or Atlantic Records during this period?

Johnny:  Oh, they weren’t even a factor yet at this point.  Basically, when Dean left, Columbia had the option to continue on with us.  We told them “Look, Britny Fox is going to continue on, we have the name, we have the logo, we’re getting a new singer and we’ll send you some demos as soon as we have them” but they basically said “Thanks but no Thanks” so we started looking elsewhere.  It was pretty funny because John,  our A&R guy from CBS, had moved to East/West at that time and he still believed in the band and heard the stuff we were doing and thought he’d take a chance on us.  The times were changing of course in the rock scene and East/West’s priorities were acts like En Vogue and stuff like that so it was a little bit of a weird situation for an 80s metal band or hard rock in general but we had our nose to the grindstone.  We definitely had a point to prove, we felt we had great fuckin material and our A&R believed in us and let us make that great record in L.A. and work with a whole different set of people in a whole new scene.  It was a happy time with a lot of newfound camaradarie because there was a lot of new energy and a whole lot more focus and determination.  “Bite Down Hard” was fun.   I think that’s evident when listening to it just like it was clear on the debut, you can feel it, you can hear it.   We knew what we wanted to do and we knew what songs needed to be on there, there were no sacrifices or compromises or trying to appease certain people.  It’s a slamming record, the songs are great and it sounds great, everything is good on that one, I like it.  It was a new band, it was a different band but still the same spirit.  What it really felt like was that we had finally moved from where we wanted to be on the first album, we had finally achieved that growth we were hoping to achieve when we set out to make the second album.  We took those steps and then some.

LRI:  It’s an awesome album.  1991-92 was NOT an awesome time for hard rock bands touring.  Were you surprised at how the fans accepted Tommy?

Johnny:  We were just glad to be back out there playing at all but once again the problem was that we had little to no touring support other than to just go out and do it on our own.  The exposure thing was a problem once again.  We had one video that came out for “Louder” and MTV barely played it we got swept under the carpet like all the hard rock bands did because of the trends going on at the time.  So we decided “Fuck it” and went out and slugged it out in clubs but a lot of time had passed.  The attention span in America for popular music is nanoseconds and it was like “Britny Fox??  Those guys are still around” or it was like we were completely forgotten about because to be honest a year and a half is a long time in pop culture.  We went out and did some great shows for some great fans and did the best we could given the situation and climate.

Johnny with the Tommy Paris administration

Johnny on the left with the Tommy Paris administration of Britny Fox

LRI:  If a year and a half was a long time then the decade plus wait for “Springhead Motorshark” in 2003 must have gathered quite a layer of dust on the old fox.  Again, a lot of the material is pretty damn good but what prompted another run at that point?

Johnny:  That record was kind of a different situation altogether.  It wasn’t really even planned at first.  We had all been trying to write and keep it alive and stuff and by that point we had done the “Long Way to Live” record which was 2001 I think.  There was a little bit of a resurgence of our kind of rock going on and we had done a VH1 “Where are they Now” thing and Spitfire Records made an offer to us to do the live thing and we did it.  They came to us initially and wanted to re-release the first two albums but they couldn’t get the rights to them from Sony so then they were like “Well, what do we do now?” and one of us or some of us came up with the idea to record the “greatest hits” live with Tommy singing them.  We all kind of agreed that it would be a great idea, the quality of recording was right on the cusp of being where it could be done fairly affordably and still sound good so we went for it.  We had some problems with the sound but Tommy worked his ass off on that record and really did a tremendous job on the mixing and final product.  The idea was to capture the spirit of the band and get people reaquainted with us, we did some gigs around that time but things had changed so much that it wasn’t financially easy for us to stay out on the road as much.  We did what we could once again.  By the time that had run its course we were pretty unhappy with Spitfire doing anything for us because basically they just threw it out there and didn’t do anything to promote or help it in any way.  We had had it with them but we were supposed to have a two record deal with them contractually and they were just telling us they wanted to part ways.  We told them that they’d have to buy out our contract and they didn’t like that option so they said “Well, how about we give you this much money and you deliver us a record” which wasn’t much (laughs).   Basically, we had to make a record for a label knowing full well that they were basically going to take it and throw it in the trash can as soon as we delivered it (laughs).   It was kind of a hard thing to deal with because they wanted nothing to do with us.

LRI:  In many respects it’s still a great album although the production suffered.

Johnny:  Yeah, thank you.  We tried to make an album that was basically unlike any album we had done previous to that.  We got together and just worked out the material keeping in mind that however we ended up with it was how it was going to end up being onstage.  Like you said earlier, we’re at our best when we’re straightforward and what you see is what you get.  We got a little crazy with the improvisation and we literally were just working things out as we went along and putting it down spontaneously.  I was in DORO by that point and was out of the country a LOT so oddly enough, the drums were actually recorded last on that album which flies in the face of almost all logic and is completely ass backwards from the normal method of recording.   In my opinion it could have been refined and worked up to being almost more like “Bite Down Hard” but I’m glad you like it.  It has the spirit of the band and some good songs but we just kind of did what we always do which is try the best we can with the resources available.  To be honest, at that point we weren’t really even a band anymore, in the sense of a group of guys touring, getting off the road and making records, it was more of just a project we had to do but it was fun.  It was like “Ok, what song do you have?  Ok, what does he have? Ok, let’s lay down these demos to a drum machine and wait and see what happens when Johnny comes back from DORO”.  I mean, the guys were literally in my house recording in my basement while I was playing gigs in Germany (laughs).   It was a pretty interesting way to make an album in retrospect.  It’s experimental if one of our albums can be called that.

Johnny and the killer Japanese Girlschool Mafia

Johnny and the killer Japanese Girlschool Mafia

LRI:  Hey, I like KISS, Music From The Elder, a LOT.

Johnny:  (laughs)

LRI:  I was shocked when Dean floated it out there that he planned on doing a Britny reunion in 2010.  Were you shocked by that?

Johnny:  Yeah, I was totally.  I’ve stayed in touch with the guys and there’s always reasons why we haven’t done shit but that was really weird from Dean especially.  One day I wake up and I’m just blasted with all of these messages on Facebook and all these people seemed to know something I didn’t talking about “Dude, is it happening, what’s going on?” and I was like “What?”.  Then I came to find out that Dean just threw this press release out there without even talking to anybody in the band whatsoever.  I was like “What the hell is this?…..The band is back together but we’re the last to find out???!!”.  I was like, “I don’t know what’s going on” but that’s Dean for ya, he kind of just operates like that.  I guess he felt that it was finally time to accept the band and wanna do something with us but he just forgot to actually call any of us and talk to us to find out if we’d be into doing it with him.  I just can’t imagine going twenty years and not feeling like time could somehow erase whatever was wrong with the situation all those years ago.  If the only success you ever have was in a band that really wasn’t that bad why would you go and hide from it for so long and run away from it, especially when you created it.  I would just embrace it and try to move forward and make the best of that success.  That was the point we tried to make to him when he wanted to leave the first time, like “Look dude, if you have a stash of songs or unlimited ideas that you feel you need to do then do it, get it out, do a solo record, that’s what people do, you don’t have to leave the band because they can’t agree on material, they make solo albums instead.”  We told him he could write songs that fit Britny Fox and then do his solo stuff as well but he spent the last twenty years just trying to walk away from it all and not wanting to be associated with us in any way.

LRI:  Lots of acts never even get a taste of success.  Jani struggled with his own creation like that as well.  Rather than being worried about being put in a box it’s probably better to be comfortable with the fact that your box was bought and accepted in the first place.

Johnny:  Exactly.  We all know that Britny kind of got very lucky to make a dent and an impression, not to say that we didn’t work hard but like you said, lots of bands work hard but don’t taste success.   In retrospect, the first album blew up pretty easily so maybe Dean thought “Well, if I did that once, I can do it again in a different situation” but that’s not how shit works.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice like that (laughs).  I mean, that was his decision and obviously all this time has passed so hindsight is 20/20 for me but I just never understood his issue  of being in Britny Fox, I never got it.  I was like “Why would you throw something away like that” or disappoint fans who obviously connected  with you and proved to you that they were into what was going on.

Johnny at the Paiste Cymbals factory

Johnny at the Paiste Cymbals factory

LRI:  Do you think him announcing that “Reunion” harmed relations among the guys or hurt the fans?

Johnny:  Well, I’d like to see it happen but that wasn’t cool.  It was like a false alarm kind of thing.  It was definitely a letdown to the fans that it didn’t happen but it was also another instance of one person trying to take control of the whole thing.  Like I said, none of us knew that he was going to announce it and we all heard about it from someone else on the internet.

LRI:  So, hold on.  You’re saying you’re NOT opposed to doing some type of reunion with Dean Davidson?

Johnny:  No, not at all.  I never have been.  I wish maybe we could have continued all this time.  I have nothing but respect for Tommy but I think that we gave up too soon on making it work with Dean.   I mean, I understand the stress he was feeling at the time because like I said, when you get used to a certain level of fame or touring it’s very difficult when you drop down a rung on the ladder.   You have to be able to think, all four of you, on the fly about how to keep this thing you have from dying a complete death.  Maybe we needed a break because at that time we had kind of exhausted our opportunities but flash forward many years later there has been a total resurgence and need for that type of band and that type of product, even if it’s strictly in a nostalgia kind of way.  Let’s be real, we’ve reached that point, as have many bands, where we can capitalize on that nostalgia.  Why not get a piece of it.

LRI:  There is no way in hell that Britny Fox would not land a nice spot on a package tour or a Monsters Cruise or at least one of those types of festival gigs.  I’m sure Frontiers Records would listen as well (laughs).

Johnny:  There’s nothing wrong with embracing the demand as long as it’s there and it’s wanted.

LRI:  Realizing you can’t speak FOR them…..Do you think Michael or Billy would be down for it?

Johnny:  Michael is a tough call.  Of all of the guys, he’s the one I’ve kept the least in touch with but I used to talk to him more than anybody in the band.  I will say that  even during the early 2000s when we were doing the Springhead album and Live album he was definitely not into really going out there and playing the live shows again.  We’re really dealing with the idiosyncracies of four people far removed from whatever heyday we had trying to create something when the sutuations aren’t exactly like they used to be.  When we began we were four guys living in a house and waking up together to make music every day and by the time the last album came around our lives were just nowhere near that place or time.  I can’t say about Michael but I would talk to him because I’d be curious to see if he’d be interested if it all came together and the right situation presented itself.  Then we had the whole issue with Billy trying to do the band himself with none of us involved which really was kind of a thorn in all of our sides and rubbing salt in the wound just a bit.  That was really uncalled for but I think he got frustrated because nobody was doing anything.   I can tell that was his motivation because it was like “Well, the name is sitting there and nobody’s doing anything with it”.   I mean, I am really busy with touring and recording with Doro but  I agree that the band should be out there in at least  some capacity doing something, every other band from that era practically is so it’s ridiculous that we haven’t gotten it together.  I get that, but the way Billy went about it was wrong, once again, it was like the Dean thing where one person is attempting to control the entire situation without even bothering to discuss it with anybody.  He was just like “I’m gonna do this” and we were like “No dude, that’s totally not cool” (laughs).  Everybody got a bit sour when he did that and that was that but I do agree it would be nice to be able to have Britny Fox around, even in a limited capacity, while some of us do other things.   It would be fun to get together and do a few one-off shows and get people off with the music again and the original lineup, there’s not a reason on earth why we couldn’t do that in some way, shape or form and still keep everybody happy.

Johnny on tour with DORO by Sabin Lacob

Johnny on tour with DORO by Sabin Lacob

Johnny and the Doro band in Paris

Johnny and the Doro band in Paris

LRI:  I would say you’re doing quite well aside from my pet obsession with Britny.  I would love to interview Doro someday and you are playing to absolutely massive audiences in the DORO band.  How are things going moving into the home stretch of this year?

Johnny:  Things are amazing with Doro.  The shows have been great.  We recorded a new EP which should be out by the time this is out, called “Raise Your Fist In The Air” which is on  iTunes and Amazon and we are touring through the end of the year.  I’ve been with her band for 19 years and that’s been a blessing for me because at the time I joined her metal and hard rock was in an ice age in America and I went to Europe with Doro and found it to be alive and well.  I went over to Germany and was like “What the hell is happening here??”   it was as if the scene never died.  It was better in a lot of ways than anything I’d ever experienced because they do these ridiculously huge festivals and stuff that I never got to really taste with Britny Fox in America.  It was awesome and I am so thankful.  It’s not exactly the same situation because I was hired to be her touring drummer and it wasn’t necessarily “my” band as she’s a solo artist but she is so incredibly loyal and wonderful that it’s evolved into this long standing gig.  She gives us a lot of leeway as far as our other creative projects,  she’s a wonderful person and it’s a cool, cool gig.

LRI:  I have noticed how warm she is to her fans, even after all these years. 

Johnny:  Yeah.  There’s two things I always say and first is that for a lead singer she is totally down to earth and a normal, real person and two that we all know women can be complicated at times but she is just insanely phenomenal.  I’ve been noticing that for as much shit as female singers get and while some may have their moments they can be remarkably much more stable than their male counterparts (laughs).  At least that’s my experiences.

Johnny and the Doro band postgig

Johnny and the Doro band postgig

LRI:  You grew up with that sister influence you talked about when we started.

Johnny:  Yeah, maybe.  That may be it.

Johnny next to the the lovely Doro

Johnny second from left, next to the the lovely Doro Pesch

LRI:  I know that the original WARLOCK guys came up onstage for a few songs during the live show that’s on the DVD.  Were you a fan of the old WARLOCK prior to joining DORO?

Johnny:  I wasn’t that dialed into them to begin with.  My initial exposure to them was probably “All We Are” on MTV back in the Britny days.  She and I joke around about how she used to watch “Girlschool” and Britny on MTV and I used to watch her and now we’re in a band together.  She was like “Yeah, we loved that song ‘Save The Weak’ and you were great” and she’s telling me all this as I’m like “Wow” (laughs).

Johnny and another LRI favorite Neal Smith of Alice Cooper Group

Johnny and another LRI favorite Neal Smith of Alice Cooper Group

LRI:  I would imagine some of that early WARLOCK stuff could be challenging or fun to play live, is it?

Johnny:  Yeah, it is.  It’s pretty intense.  They were basically kids when they made those first few albums you know?  Some of that stuff is cool and some of it is so early and so primitive in it’s recording that it’s like “What?…wow” (laughs).

LRI:  How on earth does she maintain the level of power and strength in that freakin voice?

Johnny:  You know, the weirdest thing is she really doesn’t do that much to maintain it.  I’ve seen guys warm up this and drink that and don’t talk or do interviews to save their voice and I’m here to tell you that girl talks literally from the moment she gets up til the moment she hits the stage and then for a couple of hours afterward.  It’s insane.  She doesn’t warm up before she hits the stage she does it night in and night out.  She’s an insane machine.  She’s a natural at it.  She’s also a whirlwind of energy.  I mean we’re gearing up again but when we’re not busy as a band she’s doing interviews, she’s writing with other people, she’s just nonstop motion.

Johnny in Germany on the Mosel River

Johnny in Germany on the Mosel River

LRI:  This month you’re playing Baltic Open Air and a couple of these huge Euro festivals.  Will we maybe see some more U.S. tour dates?

Johnny:  I hope so, that would be great.  We don’t play to quite as big of crowds here as the massive ones in Europe but the fans here in America make up for it in other ways.  They’re very rabid and hungry because they haven’t seen us around as often and we’re always out of the country.  With the new record and new things happening it would be nice to be able to play a few more shows here at home.  We’ve got a good label in Nuclear Blast and Doro’s been able to do things over here like “That Metal Show” which has helped our visibility to people who maybe have forgotten or are new fans.  We really appreciate the shows here in the states as much as the fans who come out do, we have a blast.

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Category: Interviews

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