2014 has been a big and flavoursome year for British melodic and alternative rock, and in no small part thanks to UK band Johnny Wore Black. The brainchild of London based songwriter/producer and stuntman (Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises, Fast and Furious 6, Fury ) Jay, the project on the back of a host of attention grabbing singles and videos over the past eighteen months or so, has released two acclaimed and enthralling albums this year. Walking Underwater Pt 1 and 2, the second released barely two week ago, encounters which and immerses ears and imagination in an evocative embrace, thought provoking propositions which infuse passionate creative roars with poetic melodies and fiery textures. Both albums reinforce the emerging stature and recognition of Johnny Wore Black as one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative songwriters and rock artists. With the kind sharing of Jay’s time, we delved into the heart of the man, band, and particularly the fresh majesty of Walking Underwater Pt 2.
Hi Jay, thanks for sharing time to speak with us.
My pleasure…thank you for listening.
You have just released second album, Walking Underwater Pt 2; how were feelings as the unveiling swiftly approached?
It’s always a strange time around release, in a way exciting and in a way a test of patience as in reality it’s about waiting to see how the product is received. As an artist, the reviews are important to gauge how good a job you have done!
Are there different emotions and expectations this time around after the acclaim and success of Walking Underwater Pt 1 earlier this year?
Walking Underwater Pt.1 was an opening, a beginning if you like so it will be interesting to see how Walking Underwater Pt.2 is received and how the journey develops in other people’s eyes and ears. It’s important to make music for yourself first and yet in reality, once released its journey becomes a public experience. My expectations are for people to enjoy it and find the right environment to use the music.
How should people look at the two releases, as two parts of one whole entity or the new release as an evolution and unique exploration from the themes and narrative fuelling the first album?
It is a new release of course, and yet a journey too. Honestly people will make of it what they want. Personally there is a journey there, a cleansing and an exorcism of past demons…to make way for new ones maybe?!
Before we look deeper in to the new album, can we ask about your history musically and other aspects before Johnny Wore Black?
Childhood poems then set to music when learning to play the Spanish guitar, pretending it was electric! Onwards, days in studios as birthday presents from my dad when I was fifteen and sixteen. Johnny Wore Black is the conclusion of life experience, being a singer songwriter, being in bands, and generally loving music.
What was the spark bringing the band to life?
The spark was a need to express my songs in a new way, to attempt to get closer to the music that turns me on and lights my fire!
The band name inescapably brings thoughts of Johnny Cash, is there a meaning behind the title?
I like the analogy of why Johnny Cash wore black, to identify with those less fortunate than himself. My dad called me Johnny and my grandmother Evelyn bought me a black suit, which I wore at my Dads funeral when I was seventeen. So, you see, life and all its shards of dark and light.
What would you say are your major inspirations?
A Perfect Circle, Karnivool, Tool, Depeche Mode, Metallica, Stone Sour, Johnny Cash…to name but a few.
Because of the success and potency of your first album anticipation and expectations of Part 2 are probably over demanding. Has this added any pressure for its creation?
In a way yes, but to be honest most of the pressure is self-inflicted. My goal is to make great music, who can say when that has happened? Really, I see it as a never ending journey.
With the close proximity to the release of the two albums, it is easy to assume both sets of songs or certainly many over both albums have been bred from around the same time. What is the time frame in that area and if they were written around the same period how did you decide which song went on which release?
I tried to put together songs that felt good together in order to create the story. There are songs here spanning a ten year period, hence why they needed to be cleared in order to move on.
Did you learn anything on Part 1 which you took into its successor to help its emergence or give it something different recording wise?
The process included working with guitarist James Coppolaro and drummer Simon Hutchby whilst David Ellefson and I also collaborated in more depth than before so that was a rewarding experience.
Listening to Part 2 we felt there was even greater personal intimacy to certain tracks than on the last; how close are the seeds of your songs to your life and experiences?
Some songs are closer personally than others but it’s interesting which songs individuals feel are intimate.
The album as you mentioned again sees you collaborating with David Ellefson, of course of Megadeth, in writing and playing. How did you guys meet and when did the link up musically begin?
We met backstage at Download in the UK some years ago. We started chatting music and immediately kind of bonded. I then began sending David songs in progress and he agreed to play on the first Johnny Wore Black single, All The Rage.
When you come to songwriting together, is it an even contribution or does David look towards the rhythmic side more?
It does vary per track. So far, on some David has sent riff ideas, like Firefly and on Gift of Desperation he sent a lyric, which I then developed. Writing is a very fluid process with no rules.
There often seems to be a different kind of spark to songs you too have created together, not bigger or lesser than on other tracks, just strikingly different. What would you put that down to?
I suppose that’s just two minds rather than being the dominant decision maker however I’d be interested to ask you that question back and see what you feel is strikingly different about those tunes?
Tell us about the new album; is there a specific underlying theme to its lyrical explorations?
Each track has a different theme so really would need to answer this on a track-by-track basis. My lyrics explore people, the world and our continued need to understand.
How did the recording go; was it an all meet up situation or more technology driven coming together of the band for the album?
Some of the album was musicians in a studio, old skool style, and some via Skype and Dropbox. This was an international project via the USA, UK, Canada and Croatia.
Walking Underwater Pt 2 also features Croatian singer Sara Renar on the track Shine On and Loretta Heywood on a cover of her own track Winter in July. How did those guest appearances come about, especially with Loretta. Was she instantly open to you taking on her song?
Sara and I met on the set of Game of Thrones in Croatia some years back. We stayed in touch and I have followed her musical career. She has a unique quality to her voice I felt complimented Shine On, on the album. She was happy to contribute once she heard the song, and recorded her parts in a studio in Split, Croatia.
Now Walking Underwater Pt 2 is out there wooing the world, what is next in store for Johnny Wore Black, alter ego ha-ha, and band?
There is work to do, releasing singles and creating more music videos. We are having discussions about hitting the stage and seeking to break the back of the USA. Oh and by the way, another album is due next year, totally new material and bigger than Texas!
A big thank you for chatting with us again, any last thoughts you would like to share?
Just that I am truly grateful for your time and interest in Johnny Wore Black and thank you for providing a platform to help spread the gospel according to Johnny Wore Black.
And lastly I cannot go without asking about the film samples which graced the first album. Can you tell us about them and why you did not use them for the new release too?
The first ones were from a documentary my late father directed back in 1967 called The London Nobody Knows. The samples fitted the music, the songs and were a tribute to him. I will say, we are currently in discussion about producing The London Nobody Knows Revisited to mark its anniversary. I liked the idea of samples a-la-Floyd to be part of Walking Underwater Pt2 but decided to just focus on the songs.
Read the review of Walking Underwater Pt2 @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/johnny-wore-black-walking-underwater-pt-2/
The RingMaster Review 05/12/2014
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