Interviewed by Thomas Schwarzkopf (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
He is one of the most underrated musicians in the whole Rock circus, although he produces hits on the assembly line: JOHNNY LIMA. After five long years the Californian Melodic Rocker is about to release his new album “My Revolution” on March 1st. The contributers of his crowdfunding campaign already had the pleasure of listening to his album (in a Limited Edition) first. Find out what he had to say about the possibilities of crowdfunding, fraudulent fans as well as what it’s like to be an independant artist and much more in my interview with this very charismatic and talented musician.
Hello Johnny, many things are happening at the moment. How are you?
Johnny: I’ve been doing great! It’s always an exciting time form me when I release a new album. The feedback I’ve been getting from the fans has been amazing!
Your latest output „Livin’ Out Loud“ was released in 2009, so it took you five long years to produce your new album „My Revolution“. Why did we had to wait so long?
Johnny: I typically don’t start an album unless I have an album’s worth of great songs to record. So I haven’t been working on this album since the release of Livin’ Out Loud. I didn’t actually start getting into the recording until about two years ago. Which is still a long time to make an album. But you have to understand that I’m a one man operation. I do almost everything by myself. From the writing to the pre-production, to the recording, to the sales. So it’s a lot of work. Also, in between I was putting together a live band, and was performing. When I’m performing, recording is the last thing on my mind. I don’t have the time to do both. So when I’m playing live or rehearsing, I don’t record. And when I’m getting into recording mode, I don’t like to perform.
You financed parts of your album through a crowdfunding campaign. What can you tell about it? Do you think this is the future for musicians like you?
Johnny: I honestly didn’t know what to expect. This album went WAY over budget, and I lost money on my acoustic tour that I did back in October. So I needed to reach out and get financial help from my fan base. They answered the call, and the album was able to be completed. I don’t know if this is the future for all musicians, as you’ll need to have a large enough fan base to make it work, but I can tell you this will be the future for all of my releases. It just makes more sense this day and age.
Do you see any risks or problems in crowdfunding?
Johnny: Not really. However, Record Companies tend to shy away from artists that go this route. At least from my experience. Which is a joke since I don’t need a company to stamp a logo on my CD and sell it to the same people I can sell to myself.
Let’s get back to your new album: first of all many people will be interested when it will be finally available and where they can purchase the limited edition.
Johnny: Well, the limited edition CD just became more limited as I couldn’t find a label to license the album. So I’m just going to release the official version via digital distribution, so the official release date is March 1st..
Right after you sent all contributors the music files from your new record, your album was leaked. What did you feel at this moment, because it has to be one of your own fans? Do you have a message to this person?
Johnny: I’m not naive, I understand that in 2014, my music is going to be available on the internet for anyone to grab and there’s nothing I can do about it. I was just disappointed that someone who’d want to help finance my album would then turn around and add it to a torrent site and devalue what they paid for. That was a huge stab in the back to me. I thought that I was doing something cool by giving the contributors the music to enjoy while I finish getting the artwork, and manufacturing done. People need to understand that I don’t perform 4-5 nights a week making $1000 a show. If I did, I wouldn’t give a shit if people didn’t pay for my music. I’d be making enough doing live shows, that it wouldn’t make a difference to me if you bought the album or not. But the reality is, CD and Digital sales are where I make MOST of my money with my music. In 2013 I performed 3 shows!! 2012 I performed 7 shows. Not enough to make a living with. So if you’re not paying for my music, I cannot go on any kind of tour. So you need to ask yourself: Do I want Johnny Lima to make another album? Do I want to see Johnny Lima play live in my area? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then buy the fucking music. Don’t steal it!
Let’s speak about some songs on „My Revolution“ – „Nowhere Left To Go“ was written for „Livin’ Out Loud“ and was some kind of bonus track in 2009. So why it didn’t end up on this album and why you put it on the new one?
Johnny: It didn’t make the album because it was between that song and GIMME SOME ROCK SO I CAN ROLL. I got a lot of people emailing me asking me why I didn’t put it on the album (Livin’ Out Loud). So I planned on putting it on this new album before I even started thinking about making this album.
As you know I’m a huge fan of „Blame It On Love“ – where do you get these great melodies from? To me it’s the perfect airplay radio-hit.
Johnny: They just come to me. It’s hard to tell exactly where it comes from. I guess it’s just one of those gifts from the Universe. I can go months without writing anything cool, and then all of a sudden I’m hit with a cool melody.
Speaking about the most untypical Lima song on the new record it has to be „Fill You Up“ with it’s electro sounds. What was the idea for this tune and how you finally arranged it?
Johnny: That electro part has been around since around 2005 or so when I used to produce a lot of hip hop music at the studio. The intention was to try and pitch it to a hip hop artist. I’ve always loved the music as it was really catchy and sexy. One day I was in my kitchen and I started singing „I’ve got something in my pocket, I know for sure you could rock it….“ and then I instantly thought of this music piece that I had recorded. I opened up the session and to my surprise the vocal part fit nicely with the music. So I added guitars and a chorus and the song was finished. It was an easy song to write and record, and it’s one of my favorites to play live. It’s sounding really cool at rehearsals. Can’t wait until people hear it. This song is one of those love it or hate it type of songs. And trust me, I’ve heard from the haters!! HAHAHA!! I can understand how a traditional melodic rock fan wouldn’t like it, but I’m not interested in just rehashing a bunch of stuff that’s been done before. I want to try and do something fresh once in awhile, and this is as fresh as it gets.
Which songs won’t make it on the official standard version from „My Revolution“ and why you chose them?
Johnny: The last 4 on the limited edition CD. I chose those four because they didn’t move me as much as the other songs. I’m not saying they’re bad songs, and as a matter of fact I’ve heard from people who’ve listed some of those songs as their favorite.
I think everybody knows that you deliver quality work when it comes to production and sound. How do you make an album sound that good? You don’t have the biggest budget and you play most of the instruments, so this isn’t so self-evident.
Johnny: First you start with great songs! Then you capture great performances using whatever tools you can afford to use. Recording music is a passion of mine. I love working in the studio whether it’s my album or someone else’s. So I don’t half-ass the recording process because to me, I’m always trying to outdo the production of the previous album.
Although you’ve written a bunch of potential Rock hits why it is so hard for you to get a license deal with a label? Are they crazy?!
Johnny: No, they’re LAZY!! The labels I approached loved the album, but didn’t want to license it because of the crowd funding campaign. With the exception of Frontiers, who passed on it because they were booked until December with releases and I couldn’t wait until December. I’m not going to license it to anyone that’s just going to sell to the same people I can sell to myself. What’s the point of that? In this day and age, it makes no sense to license the album to a company that can’t sell more CDs than you can on your own. Unless your an artist that just wants to brag that they’re signed, which I don’t give a shit about. I’ll let my music do the bragging.
What are your experiences with record companies?
Johnny: Well, being that I haven’t worked on a label since “Version 1.2”, I haven’t had much experience lately. But from my experience in this business, you’re better off selling 2000 copies of an album by yourself than sell 20000 through a label. Financially speaking of course.
In 2012 you appeared on Firefest festival in Nottingham and it seems like this changed your life a bit. Am I right?
Johnny: Absolutely correct!! Such a shame that this is the last year.
Speaking about live shows: after your little acoustic tour last year – can we expect another tour in 2014? Maybe as a support act for a different band?
Johnny: Not sure. That all depends if someone’s going to pay for it, as I don’t have the money to tour. We’ll see what happens. Right now, the only shows on the table are Vasby and Melodic Rock Fest.
I read you have your own radio show now on Firebrand Rock Radio. What can you tell about it? How did it happen?
Johnny: Well, I was asked if I’d like my own show. I thought it was a good idea at the time, and I’ll continue doing it as long as I have the time. The moment it starts stressing me out will be the moment I stop doing it.
You are very often compared to Bon Jovi and I can tell you that you’ve outdone their latest album „What About Now“ in all points. I heard people saying things like „The new BJ album should have sound like this.“. What do you think about such statements and the never ending Bon Jovi comparisons?
Johnny: I don’t mind the comparisons, as Bon Jovi’s a great band. But I’ve never heard of Bon Jovi doing a song like MY REVOLUTION or HAPPILY EVER AFTER YOU or TELL ME LIES or DIRTY GIRLS and the list goes on. Maybe a very small percentage of this album would fit on a Bon Jovi record. So not sure why anyone would say this is an album Bon Jovi should’ve done. They’ve NEVER done an album that rocks this hard. I think people say that kind of stuff because of what they’ve read or heard in the past. “Livin’ Out Loud” was far from Bon Jovi as any other album. It’s just there’s one or two songs that might sound similar and people just gravitate towards that. They’ll hear a song like BLAME IT ON LOVE and say I sound like Bon Jovi. Well what about all the other songs?
By the way: what do you think about the „hard working man“-image from people like Jon Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen in comparison to their overpriced tickets sales?
Johnny: Well, there’s obviously people willing to pay the prices. So I say good for them. I think an artist has a right to charge whatever they want. But let’s not forget, the promoters are the ones that set the price of the ticket.
Imagine you would be the ultimate Rock superstar – what would you do differently?
Johnny: I’d drive to the studio in a BMW instead of a Ford.
What motivates you to continue making music?
Johnny: The fans. They’re the only reason why I continue to make music. If not for them, I’d have no reason to continue doing what I do.
Some people are shocked when they get to hear that you also have a day job. Did you ever thought about focusing just on the music thing and leave the job behind?
Johnny: Why the shock? A lot of us have day jobs. At least those of us who aren’t mooching off of some unsuspecting female that thinks their musician boyfriend is going to keep her around after he makes it big! HAHAHA!! I have to make a living just like everyone else. My day job pays me more than my music. Maybe one day, when people will stop downloading my music and actually pay for it, I’ll be able to quit my day job. Until then, my family’s well being is more important to me.
I think they are shocked, because it shows that you haven’t the commercial success you deserve with your music. I think that’s a bit unbelievable for some people. Speaking about family: What does your son think about his dad and his life as a Rock musician?
Johnny: He’s thinks it’s cool. Although he’s probably too busy playing video games to really care what I do. HAHA!!
What are your future plans? I heard you talking about a cover album, an acoustic album and much more.
Johnny: Yeah, I’d like to eventually do a cover album, but that will have to wait. My next album is going to be an acoustic album, as I’d like to have something to tour behind, and an acoustic tour is easier to do than a tour with a whole band, because it’s much less expensive and less of a risk. Besides, I’d love to give some of my older material some new life, and I think doing some of the older stuff acoustically would be a lot of fun. But I’ll definitely have a lot of new material as well. Should be cool!
Sounds great! Thank you for taking the time, Johnny! The last words are yours.
Thank you Thomas for all your support, and I’d like to thank all my fans for their support throughout the years. They are the rock that makes me roll!!