Danny Johnson Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Danny
Johnson Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Music has many new fans throughout
Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe
yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?

Answer:  Europe has a
fantastic appreciation for American Music and its artists…sometimes even
greater appreciation than American fans. As a former Board of Director Member
of The Los Angeles Blues Society, I have a large network of Blues, Jazz, and crossover
musicians that I KNOW European listeners would love. I decided to capture as
many of them as I could (in between their own  respective band gigs and tours) and record a
compilation CD. The musicians I showcased were primarily from San Gabriel Valley
(outside Los Angeles, Ca.) and greater Los Angeles. I chose American Roots Music to be the
musical target genre because its all the American Heritage Music that inspired
Elvis Presly, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, BB King, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry,
Led Zeppelin, Arethla Franklin, and Mowtown. Simply put: Americana means
American Roots Music like Jazz, Blues, Country, Rockabilly, Swing, Cajun Zydeco,
Blue Grass, Rock and Roll, and Gospel. By selecting American Heritage Music as
a genre, it opened up the door to versatility to allow the players and singers
to spread their talented wings beyond BLUES alone.

Lamitschka:  How was the last year for you? What were
your highlights?

Answer:  Americana
Kitchen is a Studio Band CD that launched or debut CD called Come And Get It in only October of 2018
so it just recently finished. Therefore, I spent most of last year on post
production, mixing and mastering of the CD…pretty boring and uneventful,
right?

Lamitschka:  What is your latest CD and how’s it
doing?

Answer:  Come and Get It
is the name of the CD and its doing fairly well but its become difficult to
define well these days whenfew people buy physical CD’s anymore. Downloads and
streaming music dominate due to the listeners wanting to be portable using their
phones. Despite the fact that unit sales for all music isn’t selling in volume
anymore, I guess its just relative and we now have to re-think the grading
system on modern music sales (rather than unit count alone).

Lamitschka:  How did you choose the title for the
CD?  Is there a story behind the name?

Answer:  The Title was
changed from Blue Plate Special to Come And Get It because of the pinup girl on
the cover of the Artwork for the CD. Its a genuine Gil Elvegren pinup painting from
the 40’s and he (along with Vargas who did Playboy’s cartoons) was the most
famous pinup artist in American History. I licensed the image for the CD. This
particular picture is of a sexy cowgirl ringing a western triangle calling us all
to come and eat and the name of the pinup is Come And Get It. It just sounded
like a better title as well as a coincidence…dont you think?

Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not,
how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

Answer:  Yes…I wrote,
arranged, produced, and engineered all 20 songs on the CD as well as designed
the artwork and layout for the CD cover and finally the web site (www.americanakitchenmusic.com)
and Facebook Page (facebook/americankitchenmusic). The songs were all written
specifically for this CD project and the style of arrangement I used was
tailored to the specific target artists I had in mind for each song so I could spotlight
their best talents and abilities.

Lamitschka:  Please tell us about the songs on your
album (influences, etc).

Answer:  This is a double
CD with 10 songs per side. Side 1 is electric and contemporary feeling while
side 2 is more accoustic – native or country feeling. The song styles on side
1. include a Blues Rock opener called Hard Love, New World is a Funk-Gospel feeling
song featuring Jeff Lorber on keys and Tom Keenlyside on sax, the 3rd song is a
cabaret jazz song (picture a smokey bar in the 40’s), #4 Blood of the Blues is
a Rock Ballad about a modern day vampire. The remainder of songs on side 1
& 2 containg style in Blue Grass, Blues, Gospel, & down home country.

Lamitschka:  What is the difference between your last
CD and your current one?

Answer:  The CD I did
before this one was a band called Soul Provider and I wrote all but 2 songs on it
and it was not a double CD. It showcased Fast Eddie Davis who was an incredible
Mowtown and Gospel Style singer. He passed away a few year back and at his
funeral, I heard his nephew (Michael Sanchez) and niece (Michelle Sanchez) sing
a duet that gave me the chills (and an idea). When I got up to say a few words
at the funeral, I knew Eddie had many freinds and relatives who loved the CD we
made and I explained that it was me standing there who created it with him. Afterwards,
Michael and Michelle approached me thanking for the wonderful music on his CD
and that when I asked them to record on this Americana Kitchen CD and they were
delighted. They were on 5 total tracks on Come And Get It and I am thrilled to have
met them.

Lamitschka:  Your current single is being played by
radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to
hear it?

Answer:  There are 2
tracks that seems to be getting alot of attention and the 1st one is called Blood
of the Blues (track 4 – side1). Its the Rock Ballad about a Vampire. It has a
nice feel and groove and although its both Rock and Blues, its using differnt
chord changes not normally asssociated in tarditional Blues or Rock. I think
the singer (Jumpin Jack Benny Cortez), the melody, chords, and chorus are why
everyone seeems to pick that song alot. I also played the guitars and solo on
that track and had my friend Sammy Avila (Walter Trout Band) slay it on the
Hammond organ. The next song is called Livin Out Loud and has an infectious grove
(picture an uptempo Rolling Stones track (minus Mick Jagger) and plug in Susan
Tedesci to rock out instead). Well that’s exactly the image I had writing the
song and arranging the track for my target singer and friend: Francesca Capasso
who killed it! It also feature the great Michael Leasure on Drums (Walter Trout
Band) and Steve Hinson doing a great slide guitar solo (ala David Lindley).

Lamitschka:  What will your next single be?

Answer:  There are so
many selections on the 20 song CD that are noticed by listeners and for all
different reasons so its really difficult to say. Just when I think a track may
go cold someone tells me its their favorite on the CD?! Its only been out 3.5
months so far so perhaps time will help figure that  question out the more people listen to it.

Lamitschka:  What kind of songs do you like to record
the most?

Answer:  I write
acccording to the project needs. I’ve composed and recorded songs on over 120
TV commercials for various automotive dealer commercials and so that type of composition
will be faste tempo and usually rockin out. I’m currently working on music for
a TV Show pilot for a South American Treasure Expedition that I’m involved with
and that fun because I get to write music from a different time period (200
years ago) as well as create mood music that plays queitly under the voice
overs. Additionally, Amercan Kitchen‘s 2nd CD  (Vol. 2) is also being written and I’ve got
about 6 great songs that will make the next CD so I’d say I’m working on
exactly what I want to and fortunately, I like the direction so far.

Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the
songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?

Answer: I dont have a
favorite song right now. That sounds dumb, I know, but the truth is, there is a
period in the beginning when the project is fresh and new when we are so in
love and impressed on the progress in each song as it develops and unfolds. Thats
great! Then there is a saturation point in post production during mixing the
tracks when you cant stand listening to the tracks anymore and yourr ears want
to bleed. I mixed these 20 tracks over 1000 times becuase my mastering engineer
(the great Maor Appelbaum who mastered Yes, Guns and Roses, Judas Prist, Faith
No More, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, and more) kept telling me we can do better.
He politely asked me to do them all over 4 different times and thats why I
mixed them over 1000 times. In his defense, he was 100% right in the things he
heard and rejected. The process for me was terrible but when it was finished
and he loved my last mix, the mastering turned the songs into a fantastic mosaic
of sound that I am now very proud of. Back to my favorite song….I hated them
all after 1000 mixes…haha. Its getting better now😊

Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have
over your music?

Answer:  I have complete
control -100% which is a great thing when you have solid ideas and you know how
to navigate to the finish line. However, when you come up blank and have no
inspiration, you are lone-wolf and on your own. I had a song (and a good one – Blood
of the Blues) that I had the chorus written that I KNEW was good but I didnt
have the story. Without the story, you cant start writing verses, right? I threw
away hundeds of pages of paper attempting to finish the song (without inspiration)
and it was pointless because it was just terrible. I decided to put the song away
and work on other things until the right idea came to me. It took 3 years
before it did but the story made sense and so I was then able to sit down and
finish it. As a result, its one of the strongest and most popular songs on the
CD. I did 3 arrangements of it (Rock Ballad #1, Country Blues #2, and Modern
Jazz #3 styles). I couldnt decide which one was best for the CD because they’re
so good and so different from each other …so I used them all!

Lamitschka:  There’s a lot of work that goes into a
number one hit. What did it take to make it in your case?

Answer:  I wasnt aware that
one of my songs finally hit #1 but if you say it did…YAHOO!! Back to earth…well
thats a great question and I know plenty of songwriters like me haven‘t
experienced the joy of a number 1 song yet but I think I can answer the
question correctly anyway. Try as you may to write a hit song that makes you a
million dollars, isnt going to work because the music will be terrible and
obviously contrived. A sophisticated listener will pick it apart in the 1st
listen. However, todays pop music isn‘t for sophisticated ears and I’m being
witness to terrible songs played alot by a younger more unspohisticated
audience so maybe I dont know what the hell I’m saying because I just contradicted
myself?!@# In my generation, heartfelt and genuine effort went into composition,
melody, harmony, arrangement, and target audience marketing.  Younger kids today are fed a diet of Hip Hop and
twerking so perhaps I’m in no danger of a hit record anymore…haha (joking).

Lamitschka:  Do you have any interesting stories
about how fans have been affected by your music?

Answer:  I had someone
tell me one time …If you could ever
write a quality song that stood the test of time and would still be relevant 20
years later, it would also be good enough played and arranged in any miusical
style!
Well at first I though he was an idiot and who the hell would even
bother because NO SONG IS THAT GOOD. Some time later, I started thinking about
that statement and found that not only was he right, he was almost prophetic. I
began trying my music in various styles like he suggested and realized they didn‘t
all work. As a future goal, I decided to keep that in mind from now on when composing.
As a result of focus and practice, many of the songs by Americana Kitchen were
recorded on Come And Get It were arranged and recorded in two or more song styles
(and completely different from each other). This is good feed back that, if he
was right, my songwriting is indeed getting better. That may have been one of
the most important and life changing comments from a fan I‘ve ever received and
if I could remember who it was I’d tell him so and buy him a drink.😊

Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep
do your musical roots run?

Answer:  Born in 1960 and
grew up in the 70’s, I’d say I’m still a Rock & Roller at heart but all
music from that time period left an imprint on my musical tastes (including Motown,
British Invasion, Soul and Funk, and Jazz). My parents had plenty of music and
lots of albums laying around. My dad loved Jazz (Miles Davis, Gerry Muligan and
The Modern Jazz Quartet) while my mother loved James Brown, Ray Charles, The
5th Dimension, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and so we had plenty of ablums
that my sisters and I played until the grooves wore out. Whether you know it or
not, everything we listen to as kids molds our ears for later musical opinions
as teens and then adults. Collectively, my musical tastes now include Opera and
Classical (probably due to my musical training and studies so I appreciate composition).
I’m all over the map now and probably need therapy!@#$

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today’s music
scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?

Answer:  Napster single
handedly killed Album and CD sales because it opened the world up to file
sharing which led Apple to market MP3 technology (replacing CD – WAV
recordings). As the world became more mobile (with cell phones), MP3’s made
better sense and a younger audience latched on and never let go. Today, there
are no more Record stores, no more physical items to buy because downloads allow
buyers to purchase 1 song for 99 cents (instead of the entire album) and streaming
audio on Rhapsody, Pandora, and Spotify are now free so listeners no longer
purchase music at all. As a musician and artist, I hate the trend of music
today because musicians and songwriters can‘t make money (that why live
concerts are so expensive – its the only revenue musicians have left now). As
far as today‘s musical styles, its not my cup of tea. I grew up holding a
guitar on stage and emulated my favorite guitar hero‘s. There are no guitar
hero’s or frontmen anymore. Guitar sales at Guitar Center, Sam Ash, and
Sweetwater Music are down 40% over ten years ago as a result. Gibson Guitar Company
was arguable the finest guitar maker in America over 100 years old. They filed
Bankruptcy in 2018. I’m not pleased about the young kids music of today because
it has no soul and killed guitars and Gibson…seriously. It also coincidentally
doesnt pay to make terrible music because its now free…next question.

Lamitschka:  If you had the chance to change
something about the music industry, what would it be?

Answer:  I would like to
help design a licensing law (like software) so music that is sold or played on
the radio would pay artists, composres, and labels…not just the publishers. I’m
a self publisher myself with BMI and everytime my music plays I recieve
mechanical royalties. I am speaking now on behalf of the  artists and composers. They can‘t make enough
money to support themselves full time yet while their music plays on Rhapsody,
Spotify, and Pandora for free and they are told they should play their music for
free for the exposure, those companies mentioned made over $2 billion dollars in
advertizing sales in 2018 and they have a legal clause protecting them from
paying performance and mechanical royalties to artists like they have to on mainstream
radio (like in our cars). This needs to change. Imagine going to movies and the
movie stars were told to do the movie for free for the exposure while the movie theaters and studios made
millions! (same thing).

Lamitschka:  As an artist, you have so many tasks
such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your
favorite activity?

Answer:  Lately, I haven’t
had the time to playout live on stage with an audience but if I had to choose,
it would definitely be playing on stage with my band as an ensemble. The
feeling when a songs goes right in front of a live audience is the most gratifying
of anything. I think thats one of the 1st reasons we become musicians and
singers in the 1st place. Now that post production is over on our CD, I have
already practiced more with my forgotten guitar in 3 months than I have in the
last 3 years. I’m back Mortimer!

Lamitschka:  Are you doing anything to take music
beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?

Answer:  Thats a decision
I’m faced with right now and I have discussed it with many of my associates.
The decision is simple: Do what is trendy and get in on the mainstream (even if
you dont like it) or keep true with who and what you are and don‘t be afraid of
your age group and listening preferences (even if its not trendy or current).
If we are genuine to ourselves 1st, we will find an audeince no matter what the
industry experts say. Good music always finds a fan base. That being said, I
have some pretty daring song ideas that clearly dont fit the cookie cutter
music mold for millenials…but I don’t think I should care about their musical
needs and think more about my musical boundries. Yes, I would rather cross the
line of conformaty moving forward and be true to myself than worry about whats
trendy.

Lamitschka:  What was your big break that got you
into the music business?

Answer:  I didnt have a
big break that led to the music industry. It was a touch butchosen path.
However I will tell you of a Fastrack that I discovered that got me to the important
people faster than a casting couch or a $100,000 Rolodex and thats Facebook. I’ll explain. In the entertainment industry, networking
is the difference whether opportunities and doors open at all. Knocking on
closed doors is demoralizing and the Red Ropes are clearly marked where we don‘t
belong making access to those important people we need to meet impossible.
Enter Facebook. Now we can friend request someone…anyone…a musician,
producer, movie star, business executive, writer, engineer, etc. and most of
the time they will approve your request. (Try getting note or messsage to
Sandra Bullock…good luck. But she actually friend requested me on Facebook
and she’s a lovely person and contact). I have over 3500 contacts on Facebook
and all but about 500 are entertainment and music industry people. You cannot
imagine the casual conversations Ive had with world class industry people. Some
of those casual contacts led to me having them play on my CD. Do you seee now
how to get around the Red Ropes?

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become an artist?

Answer:  I was a drummer
inspired by Buddy Rich and John Bonham until I hear Robin Trower‘s Bridge of
Sighs album and knew I needed to make melody to express myself better. I took
classical training to read and write and to understand musical harmony. I
attended college class with Chris Cain before moving to Southern Califirnia in
1979. The music scene was on fire and how could you NOT want to a part of it.
Meeting people is still a best chance to sneak in past security and get
somewhere and we do what we could. If I had landed in L.A. instead of Irvine,
Ca. When we moved to So. Cal., things probably could have happened alot easier
and sooner. But as it turned out, I met some incredible musicians and have no
regrets about the musical journey so far.

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become a
songwriter?

Answer:  The Beatles.
They became popular at a time when publishers found music for pop starts like
Elvis. It was rare that bands wrote their own music but the Beatles decided to
do it themselves and their success influenced Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to
try it as well. Imagine a world with no Lennon & McCartney songs? Anyway,
pop songs, as easy as they sound, still have structure, composition and harmony
that needed to be learned and studied. As a musician, I would learn cover songs
and anylize the composition to see why and how the song was constructed. From learning
the construction of other musicians songs, we start to see patterns and similarities
that can be identified, cataloged, and labeled for recall later (this comes in
handy later when you need ideas on how to create songs fron thin air). Songs
all have a formula: AABA, ABAB, Verse Verse Chorus Bridge Chorus, etc. All
these concepts I discovered on my own and were verified later in college. This
scientific method is key and paramount to all songwriting.

Lamitschka:  What drives you?

Answer:  Cars…mostly cars.
(joke). New sounds…cool lyrical phrases….a beautiful vibrato by a singer
holding a note.

Lamitschka:  What’s unique about you that will
differentiate you from other artists?

Answer:  My DNA I
hope…(joke). My approach to music is both artistic and mechanical. I know
exactly what I’m doing musically live or in the studio from a mechanical or
scientific perspective. I also have an artistic demand of my music as well as
the performance of others I perform with. I dont care for unorganized people who
waste time. Perhaps I could lay back more but time is money and its usually my
money so I always try to come prepared and rehearsed as a courtesy to my band
mates and I want that same respect in return. I dont use music as an excuse to party
and get high and I dont play with musicians anymore that can‘t multitask and
waste our time goofing off. That sounds harsh but filtering them out has helped
complete projects on time and with a better quality than if I gave everyone too
much latitude. The music business is a business and should carry the same respect
as any other business…other wise its not a business…it just a Jam.

Lamitschka:  What moments in your career stand out in
your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?

Answer:  I won a Battle
of the Band a few years after moving to So. Cal and that felt cool. Ive gotten
to meet some really kind and cool industry people since I moved to So. Cal. And
learned some humbling life lessons along the way. I cant say that anything I
have been exposed to stands out in my mind but I’m sure I’ll remeber a very important
one long after Ive turned this back in to you?!@#

Lamitschka:  Who is your biggest critic, yourself or
others?

Answer:  Me of course.
The problem with understanding many facets of music starting with song
structure, harmony, chord theory, drum time siganture and rudiments, studio recording
tecnique, mising tricksm reverb and delays settings, correct drum kit types and
mic placement settings, guitar pickup selection and effects used, mixingeffects
used like compression and normalizing audio DB levels, etc. …..is I dont hear
the simple pleasure of Johnny Be Goode like you do…I hear everything and am
constantly breaking it down to learn it so I hear everything in my music as
well and I‘m always anylizing and listening for flaws you wont even know about.
Knowledge is Power…true….but also  a
curse (sometime ignorance is bliss).

Lamitschka:  When you get time off, how do you like
to relax?

Answer:  Travel…great
food…cool drinks…awesome friends…golf….and self improvement studies.

Lamitschka:  Is there anything in your life that you
would change if you could?

Answer: Many years ago I
became a salesperson. A really good one and its made me a very comfortable
living while making music without stessing and worrying about running out of
time before I won a Grammy. However, the same passion and organizational skills
I use in my music is dwarfed but my work ethis in my day time career which has
put me at the top of my game. However, I had 2 small children in my late 20’s that
needed me to be more available for them when they were growing up. My career
was already demanding with long hours and then I needed additional time for the
music in the evenings. My wife is wonderful and stayed home to be the super mom
that they needed since I was always busy. It took me too many years to see what
I had missed and when they were grown up with college degrees and moved out, I realized
I missed more than I knew. I wish with all my heart that if I could have anything
I want to do again, I wish they were 5 years old again so I could do it over but
this time cherish every minute of their childhood and be the dad they wanted.
We have discussed this a few times and at first they vented. Now they forgive
me but I dont and know I could have been less selfish. I told them I missed the
1st 20 years of their life but I’m here now and promise to be there the next 40.

Lamitschka:  What hopes and desires do you have?

Answer:  No hopes
anymore…my life is blessed and I appreciate small things now that I didnt
when I was younger and ambitious. I want my family healthy and happy…I want
my friends to live a little longer than some have…I would like to see less bi-partisan
political tension in the world and I hope to live long enough to see it.

Lamitschka:  Many European fans travel to the United States
to attend the several of the music festivals for the opportunity to see so many
of their favorite artists, bands and celebrities. Will you be participating and
how will the fans be able to find you?

Answer:  I can see my
band playing Blues or Americana Festivals, yes. I will have to put some thought
into which ones make sense and discuss with the band. They are open and eager
and would probably say yes if I organized. Its on the discussion table now. We will
wait and see.

Lamitschka:  Is there any place you haven’t played
that you would like to?

Answer:  Italy…

Lamitschka:  What can your fans expect to see when
they see you in concert?

Answer:  Possibly 2019 or
2020 depending upon the music being worked on at that time and which band mates
aree involved.

Lamitschka:  When you’re on tour, do you have time to
play tourist?

Answer:  I’m on a plane
somewhere every month. I play every trip I make or it will become a hasssle
traveling.

Lamitschka:  Many music fans today get their information
about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find
there?

Answer:  Thank for
offering us a Plug!!  YES, please  visit the Americana Kitchen Web Site at:

wwww.americanakitchenmusic.com  Buy the double CD with artwork ordo the
downloads toyour phone – 20 songs and you can audition them before you decide.

Lamitschka:  Tell us about the fan club and how
people can join it.

Answer:  Its on the web
site and Facebook Page. Both can be found on our web site and I’d love toto LIKE
our Facebook Page ( Facebook / americanakitchenmusic) as well as send an email
on our web site which automatically puts you inthe fan club!

Lamitschka:  What’s the best compliment a fan has
ever given you?

Answer:  You dont look
fat in those pants…

Lamitschka:  What’s your favorite song that you wish
you could have recorded?

Answer:  Whole Lotta
Love…yep.

Lamitschka:  What message would you like to send your
European fans?

Answer:  I know you all
appreciate American Roots Music as Europeans have supported touring American Musicians
for over 50 years. I wish we had you all over hear in America so we could play
for you more often and share a pint together!

Lamitschka:  You have a new love in your life? Can
you tell us something about it?

Answer:  My dog named
Frito…he‘s a little black puppy that makes me smile and hug him everytime I
see him.

Lamitschka:  Describe what a perfect day is like for
you.

Answer:  Morning Coffee with
my wife and dogs in the backyard….guitar practice at 10:00am….jacuzzi at
11:00 am….BBQ’d Rib Eye steak at noon….Guitar practice at 2:00 with  Corona…Jam in my studio with my band
friends at 4:00…dinner break at 7:00 for BBQ Chicken with vodka & tonic….movie
time with my wife at 8:00 (red wine mandatory)…sleep at12:00.

Lamitschka:  Most careers don’t last as long as
yours.  What’s given your career the staying power?

Answer:  Stay happy and
busy….try new ideas…try new musicians to get new perspective…re-invent
yourself every 10 years or become a Troll!

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de ) for
Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

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