Slave To the System’s
March 27th, 2006
Damon Johnson of Slave To the System and Alice Cooper Band recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Metal Rules about the current STTS tour, recording the CD, the upcoming Alice Cooper tour and much more.
How is everything going?
It’s going awesome man. Are you in Canada?
Yes, in NL, Canada.
You will be playing here May 1st with Alice Cooper.
That’s exactly right. Coming back to the Great White North.
It’s taking place about 4hrs from me.
That’s awesome man.
I’ll definitely be there for it.
Excellent. It’s good to talk with you man. I appreciate you giving Slave To The System some support. We all appreciate it.
It’s a great album. I believe my review was a 4.5 out of 5
That’s fantastic. Thank you. I’m glad you dig it man.
How is the tour going?
Everything has just been fast and furious. It’s almost like we’re trying to make up for a little bit of..not really lost time…we just want to get out there and educate people that the record exists, the band is here. That it is just something a little different for people to check out. I hope that as the year continues to unfold that we can play dozens and dozens of shows as a band cause I love playing with these guys.
Is touring and playing shows with STTS any different than playing with Cooper?
Well I don’t know man. Playing with Alice is a great experience and Alice has been a great kind of teacher, not intending to be but by example. How to put a good show together, how to carry yourself onstage and just present the spectacle that is rock. To incorporate a little of that into what we are doing with Slave To The System has been good. I think the shows benefit from a little of that bombast and the big sound and the big lights make an impact. Obviously the big difference with Alice is I just play guitar and with Slave to The System I get to stand up front and sing, feel the power the power of this amazing band around me. That would certainly be one of the differences for sure.
With STTS are you given more freedom onstage?
Ya, for sure. Alice’s thing is more of a production, almost like a musical, like a Broadway show in a way. There’s so many props, lighting cues and things like that the set list definitely needs to be consistent on a nightly basis so he can present it in that way. With Slave to the System I love the flexibility of changing the set list up every night, maybe stretching out some of the jams at the end of the songs. Definitely allot more flexibility.
I got the chance to see Alice last summer in Toronto. The show seems really well rehearsed and he’s right into character.
He definitely becomes this other guy. He goes out there for an hour and a half every night and lays it down. It’s got to be fun for him to keep doing it. He don’t have to be out there, he does it because he enjoys it. That’s how he gets off every night. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alice does this thing for another 20 years. He is obviously loves it. He is obviously one of the greatest of all time at it. It’s an honor to be in a band with him.
This is his first time back here since ‘88
WOW! This should make the show in May a big deal then. Man that’s awesome. I’m glad he’s bringing the show back that far east. It’s gonna be great.
I guess you know that Ryan has left the band?
Oh yeah. We got a great new guitar player coming in named Kerri Kelly. Ryan will definitely be missed. All of us are very supportive of his decision to spend more time with his family. He’s been on the road a long time. He will always be a part of the Alice Cooper family. Ryan is a great guy and a great musician and a great guy to be out on the road with and we certainly all wish him the best.
What prompted you guys to get together and make this album?
You have to give some credit to the creative energy that existed between Kelly and myself. We had a great time when we worked on the Brother Cane WISHPOOL album together and shortly after that he ended up joining Queensryche for a couple of years. That was when he and Scott Rockenfield talked about doing something else outside of Queensryche that was much less structured, but still about great songs. Kelly certainly gets allot of credit for bringing everybody together.
Is this a one shot deal or can fans expect too hear more great music?
Well at the time I think it was kind of a one shot deal, everything has changed now. Fans can absolutely count on many records from Slave to The System. It’s a great band and a great platform for all of us to be able to do something outside of the other projects we’re involved in. No one is a bigger fan of Slave to the System then we are individually. Fans can definitely count on more songs and more records.
In a world of allot of generic bands how hard was it to come up with a great and distinctive sound and album?
That’s a huge compliment and I appreciate that. We always use the word timeless when we’re writing. It was just a goal for us to come up with some material that would have been great 20 years ago and it would still be great 20 years from now, and not to get too wrapped up in sounds and trying to sound trendy or be trendy. To be honest with you, between the four of us we listen to so little radio, I don’t buy a lot of new music. The stuff that really hits me is stuff I grew up on. There are some great artists out there now and some new bands in general. The stuff that makes me crank up my radio is old Sabbath and old Deep Purple and early Soundgarden stuff and the first Nirvana record, things like that. We just used all those albums as motivation to do our own thing. Maybe that’s why our’s sounds so different, is that we weren’t influenced by anything contemporary.
It seems allot of the newer releases don’t get the support they used to in years gone by.
I tend to agree with that. I really do. It was just a different motivation I think back then. Bands wanted to make allot of records and make allot of money. I don’t know man, to be a Rock n’ Roll band in 1977 think of all the amazing stuff that was on the radio, all the amazing bands that were touring, things that you could listen to and go see live to get inspired by. Obviously its just down to individuals taste, but we’re definitely fans of some of the classic metal and hard rock bands for sure.
You and Kelly share the vocals on the disc. Who handled most of the leads?
I guess I’m singing definitely more song’s than anyone else. There was never any set guidelines like “Hey dude, you’re gonna sing everything”. We never went into it that way. It was just whoever picked up a guitar, grabbed a bass, there’s a couple things where Kelly plays some bass on the record. There was a couple of demos that we did where I sat down behind the kit and laid a groove down if Scott wasn’t there. He would come in and go “ Hey man that was awesome, I’m gonna cop that same groove”. (Laughs) Again, just be who we want to be, write whatever we want to write inside this bubble that is Slave to the System. I can promise you that there will be more of that diversity on future records. I’d love for Roman to sing on a song, I’d love for Scott to sing sing. It’s just down to what anyone wants to do. I have no ego about being the guy up front. I’m happy to do it and I enjoy grabbing the microphone but I’d also love for the other guys to sing as well.
I guess there was no ego clashing during the making of the album?
No man! There’s no ego’s at all. That’s what makes it so cool. You got a group of guys with so much experience individually together and put them all in the same room it ain’t always easy for people to leave their egos at the door or to not let that kind of get in the way. I think it’s a testament to the right kind of personalities in the band. It’s like we just got lucky and put all the right ingredients into the soup right off the bat.
Dipping into the past here for a moment. You recorded a full album with Damn Yankees that has never seen the light of day. Can you give a little insight to that project?
That was a real cool experience for me, especially because I grew up on those guys and all the bands they were involved in. To be asked to be a part of that was exciting for me. The record just suffered a little bit from too many cooks, there was too many ingredients in the soup. The final mixes I remember were a little disjointed, it was like there wasn’t a cohesive sound. I don’t know if I’d hold my breath that that record’s ever going to get released. All I can tell you is there was definitely some stuff that I was then and still am very proud of. I remain friends with all those guys to this day. I have allot of respect for their talent and their musicianship. It was definitely cool for me to be involved.
Having recorded with Brother Cane to Faith Hill to Alice Cooper is each studio experience or method different?
Well I think when you get down to the people with the most experience its all kind of the same. You realize that the number one most important thing is the song. If you don’t have a great song thenn there is no point in moving forward. The great thing about artists like Alice or Faith Hill or Santana, all these people been doing it for so long that they know instantly when it’s a great tune. Again for them to ask me to be involved, to be contributing songs, any of that kind of thing it’s a real honor. It’s a cool learning experience too. The more of this kind of stuff you do the more confidence to do your own thing, to write your own songs and sing your own songs.
Alice seems like he could come off as the more of a perfectionist.
That’s where you’d be really surprised. Alice is the one most flexible. He just wants to sound like The Stooges. He just wants it to be loose and rock and fun. He wants to have some hair underneath it. You know what I mean? He leaves all of that plugging in the right parts and crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s to the producers. He’s all about focusing all his energy on the songs, getting a great song written and putting a cool vocal on it.
On his last couple of albums he appears to be going back more and more to the Classic Alice sound.
I think allot of it has to do with his own band. Some of the records he did in the 90’s he was using studio musicians and allot of different writers. Nobody wants Alice to have a great album more than his band does. He deserves allot of credit for having the guys he tours with for 6 months of the year involved with writing and co-producing and recording the parts. It’s always going to sound better with a band instead of studio musicians. Always.
Is there a follow-up to DIRTY DIAMONDS in the works?
There is already some new material being worked on. There is discussions going around the schedule and calendar to find the time to do it. I would love to make many records with Alice. He’s a champ. He’s an amazing artist to work with.
His shows are amazing.
It’s a great night out, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a great gig to take a date to, to bring a friend with. It’s a great release from the routine.
When you are up here you are going to have to check out the sights.
You can bet Alice, Chuck and I will be on the golf course. No better place to see amazing scenery than that. We’ll be checking it out for sure.
That’s all I have
Thanks for talking up the band, I appreciate it allot.
Thank You. See you May 1st.
You got it buddy, speak to you soon.
Thanks to Kerry at Stereo Dynamite for making the interview possible.
Live pics by Celtic Bob 2005