Interview with Rock Johnson

By: Jenna Melanson

Rock Johnson is from Truro, NS and he is one busy man! He is a solo artist and is a driving force in four bands, Chaos Theory, Broke on Payday, Low Cut Monday and From All Sides. On top of that, Rock is a talented songwriter, producer and performer.

Rock released his debut album as a solo artist, …And Begin in 2011. The album is a collection of varied moods captured in song.  Johnson wrote, recorded and produced the album, playing all instruments, as well. He draws inspiration from such classic and current acts as Matchbox Twenty, Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Audioslave and Collective Soul, but he manages to make this sound his own.

I have been given the opportunity to ask Rock Johnson a few questions:

First off, I want to ask, how do you have time for it all? 🙂

RJ: I probably really don’t, but it’s important to do the things in life that give you the most pleasure, it’s about priorities and music is mine. I don’t have kids, I chose music instead, and I have an amazing girlfriend who “gets it”. Other than that, just being organized, involved and having good communication skills. The basics go a long way J

How did you get involved in the four bands you play in? Did you start the bands or join them?

RJ: Well let’s see… with Chaos Theory I answered an ad that Lex had placed for a vocalist for a heavier rock band. It was the type of music I always loved and listened to, but never had a chance to be involved with others who shared that love. Fortunately for us it was a fantastic match right out of the gate both musically and personally. We just finished writing for the second album “We Are Disaster” and are test running the material in our live sets, and recording will start in the fall!

With Broke on Payday we we’re in two different bands at the time, Crackerjack and Max Fiasco, but both bands were parting ways at the same time. I become good buddies with the Crackerjack boys through the music scene and we loved to hang out, so it was a very natural progression. I was using Broke on Payday as a working title for my solo material at the time but Jay (Chesal) “borrowed” the name for the band, and before I even realized it he had the logo and press kits done, so I became Rock Johnson instead.  We just released our debut album late last year and are playing live as much as we can for the next while. I have a few new tracks ready to go once we are ready to explore new material.

Low Cut Monday is a recording through the internet project that once again came about through an ad. Mark (Pineo) had an astounding amount of really interesting musical compositions and he basically said have at it! So I started coming up with vocals and lyrics and sending files back and forth on the net, the next thing we knew we had an album out and had only actually met in person three times! We have two more albums in the can, but we are both super busy and have other projects that need our attention, but I am sure in time they will see the light of day as well!

From All Sides is kind of the metamorphosis of my former band Max Fiasco. Dayne (Michael), Jon (Guy), and I had played together for about 12 years in that band, seven years later we found each other again. The chemistry we have is magic, in fact Dayne taught me how to play guitar when I was 15, he’s been my musical hero since then. It’s pretty unreal to play with guys you admire so much, we all challenge each other to be better. I really like the role of side man in this band and love to sing harmony! Our first album “Kindred” is nearing the final stages, and I am beyond excited for this one.

My role is slightly different within each band, and my approach is different in each band. When you’re dealing with people you can never paint with the same brush. We always find a way to make what we are doing work. I’m fortunate that there are other workhorses in these bands that take a lot of the load off of me. Not only are these guys talented musicians, but they have other skill sets that enrich the business side of the bands. Lex from Chaos Theory is my partner in for our label Tenastic Music, and has done work for all of my other bands as a web designer and marketing pro.

What inspires you when writing a song?

RJ: Opportunity? Emotions? I don’t really know. I’ve been doing it now for 22 years, it’s become second nature. I’ve tried many different approaches to writing. I know that every time I pick up an instrument something new can come out and that is an exciting feeling. My rule for lyrics is that I have to believe and care about what I’m saying. I’m not big into party songs, they serve a purpose, but I’d rather write about stuff that pushes my buttons. I direct my negative thoughts into my music to make room for the positive thoughts in my life. It’s a way of thinking out loud, hopefully people get something from it. Being as busy as I am, I find the writing comes in spurts now. I write a lot of melodies in my van driving to rehearsal or shows because that is where I have my alone time.

Is the writing process different for you when writing for the bands, rather than your solo album?

RJ: Sort of, obviously with the bands there is a lot of collaboration. It’s the process of creating a vision on your own vs. trying to explain that vision to others.  You can lose things in translation in a collaborative setting, but from that you can derive “happy accidents” and make something even greater.

What song that you have wrote has the most meaning to you? What is it about?

RJ: Wow, that is a tough question! You’re asking me to pick a favorite child lol. I’ve written over 350 songs but if I had to pick one… I was in a band called Still in Stereo and we wrote a song called “Love, Lust, Life” and it’s probably my favorite. It’s about a failed attempt at a non-relationship, if that makes sense. Sometimes it’s love, sometimes it’s lust, sometimes it’s confusing and that’s just life. It’s the melody in that tune and the angst I feel when I sing it that rally makes that tune stand out for me.

What song off of your solo album is your favorite to sing live?

RJ: “Happy?” Is my favorite song on …And Begin. I like this one because it works well as a band song or stripped down to an acoustic performance. I feel that way about “Hooked” and “Shadows In Blue” as well!

What band / artist would you love to work with in the future?

RJ: I feel pretty fortunate to work with the people that I already do, but I think it would be a lot of fun to sit and write with some of the other songwriters in bands that I am friends with like Ben Edwards, Chris Ricketson from 7 Mile Stare, Robb Medwid from Brite VU, Dan Sawler from My Living Will, and Derek Roache from Human. I think it would be a cool experience to sit down with these people purely for the purpose of writing great songs without thought to genre. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and I think the possibilities are endless. I’ve never really done that before, but given the time, I would jump at that opportunity. Actually Chris and I wrote a song titled “Walk” for my upcoming solo album “Reasons”, and the result was awesome. In fact I have had several guest performers on my new album, not a lot of co-writes, but some really spectacular performances that I would never thought of on my own.

When you are not writing, producing or performing, what could we find you doing?

RJ: One of two things, playing softball in the summer or hanging out with my girl. She’s my favorite part of everyday. Other than that it’s music 24/7. I was actually born on July 24… 24/7, I was born with drive J

Explain your sound (solo album) in one word.

RJ: Honest.

Besides your solo career, and the four bands, do you have any other projects going?

RJ: Honestly, I don’t.  Everything I do ties into Tenastic Music and all of my bands. Rehearsal, gigs, the business stuff, the marketing, writing and recording as well as a full time job leaves very little time for anything else, and I wouldn’t have it any other way… unless someone wants to pay me to not work the full time job J

Social media is a very big part of the music industry these days, do you find it an important key?

RJ: Absolutely it is. No one can deny that. It isn’t everything, but it is part of the big picture. Cultivating relationships with fans has never been easier! It has taken away some of the majesty of rock and the mystery of roll, but it’s gotten rid of a lot of dead weight between bands and their fans and that is amazing! To find people who still appreciate the arts, and respect music as something other than a disposable commodity gives me hope that perhaps someday people will get tired of low brow reality TV and xbox and get back in touch with each other. Social media is great if you use it to be SOCIAL!

Is there anything about the music industry that you would change, given the chance?

RJ: Everything? Nothing? I don’t know, it is what it is. There are always good things and there are also bad things no matter what point in time we look at. The money aspect has dwindled, that usually makes room for the truly passionate people to shine, but it makes it harder to sustain your career in music. I work 40 hours a week to support my music, but given the chance to have the music support me I’d take it. Imaging what we could all accomplish if we could spend 40 more hours a week doing what we are good at, doing something you love, I think we’d all be a lot happier people.

What is your first musical memory?

RJ: Kiss 8 tracks in my bedroom as a very young child. I think I was about two or three years old and was listening rock music steady. My childhood wasn’t all that glamorous growing up and music was my escape from my surroundings. Music was the best friend I ever had, and I will always appreciate that.

What is the first concert you ever attended?

RJ: Metallica, Halifax Metro Centre, February 10, 1993! It was so amazing, I’ll never forget the crowd chanting of ”DIE” during “Creeping Death” It was so killer! No opening act, they played a long set, I actually went with Dayne from From All Sides and his mom, we go back a long time!

What is your current favorite song to listen to? (Not your own)

RJ: Well for stuff that is on the radio I really like the new Corey Taylor & Dave Ghrol tune “From Can to Can’t”. Also anything that Ian Thornley does is golden. For stuff you won’t hear on the radio I love the new Sevendust album.

Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

RJ: Thank you all for the shares, the posts, buying the albums, coming to gigs! Without you all this would be a very lonely trip!

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