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maandag 12 juli 2021
HARDLINE: Still going strong!

Interview with vocalist Johnny Gioeli in June 2021 by Vera

Hardline started as classic rock band from L.A., including icons like Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo besides singer Johnny Gioeli (Axel Rudi Pell, Crash 40). Through the years their line-up turned into an Italian outfit with Gioeli, a good oiled constellation since ten years. The new album ‘Heart, Mind And Soul’ brings a very positive message. We had an in-depth conversation with the talkative front man Johnny Gioeli, a man with infectious positive views on life.

Who are the main songwriters at the moment and for this album ‘Heart, Mind And Soul’?

For this Hardline record, it is myself, of course, Alessandro del Vecchio and Mario Percudani. That’s sort of the trio who writes, we always write together and then of course Anna and Marco put their flavour and their mark on the songs. We have a process that works and we stick to it. If it is not broken, don’t fix it. We like this album. This is probably one of my favourite Hardline albums. I really love it. And the song ‘We Belong’, towards the bottom of the play list, was written and inspired by my son Brandon who came downstairs from his room with a guitar. He was learning how to play the guitar and he had this little intro riff. I recorded him playing it and we turned it into a song, because I thought that the riff had such great melodies. That intro you hear is actually Brandon’s work. That song, regardless my son’s involvement, is probably one of my favourites. I just love it. It is about the relationship between music and men. It is not about what people will think, about a man and a woman or a relationship, but it is not. It is about the relationship we have with a song and music. It can take you with it and make you feel a certain way and you can always have that relationship, constantly.

A funny song title is ‘80’s Moment’. What are your memorable moments of the eighties?

(laughs) I have a lot of memories on the eighties. When the music for that song was passed to me from Mario and Alessandro, it immediately gave me that eighties feeling. It just sounds like the eighties and that song, lyrically, I wrote about a situation that is familiar in many rock-‘n-roll star’s lives. You are only interesting to someone when you are famous, and then the second when you are not famous, you’re not. That particular person moves on to the next famous person. To me it is a funny lyric. My eighties moments were not at all like that. I remember the eighties being a time of a lot of work, when we were trying to make it, when we were trying to become something. In the late eighties I was living in LA and there were 14 guys living in an old bus together, sort of like a camper… working on Sunset Strip and promoting (which I hated to do). I got problems with my stomach every time I had to go to Hollywood and promote with flyers. So to be honest with you, that time period for me was not a good one. I did not enjoy that part at all. Once we got on the map, then it was great. Then I had a reason to really push forward, but getting noticed and getting people into coming to the show, that was all just sustaining and a difficult time period. It obviously all worked out.

Indeed, with several bands, but I think you are a hard worker…

Very much (laughs) I don’t know anything else. No, seriously, I like to relax, like every one, but when you are trying to reach a place in your life – you can call it a goal – there is nothing more you can do but work hard and we were so focused to make it in the music business. And I am happy to report that I am getting ready to start album number 94. I am on 93 albums out there, it is crazy when you think about that.

That must be a labour of love!

Oh yeah, definitely. I am grateful for it, because not everyone has that opportunity, to release music, to continue produce music and share it with the fans. I am very grateful that I can continue to do it.

During the years the line-up changed few times. Now they all seem to have Italian roots, isn’t it?

Well, it takes a while to make sure that you have the correct synergy – not only musically – with the people that you work with. At my young age of 53 years, as an old man, I don’t have any patience for working with anyone I don’t love as my family. So it took a little bit of messaging to get the right line-up. Now we have it, for sure. The Hardline band is a family. We really enjoy each other’s company. We look forward to the hotel mornings, meeting for breakfast and you should think after the travelling and flying and boxing and just being together non-stop, that when you get back to the hotel, you just want to be completely silent from anyone, but no. We talk about the show and the next day. It just carries on until the morning. We are an Italian band, there’s no denying that, as you may know the Italians are very huggy and very kissy. Well, we all hug and kiss each other in the morning. People always look at us as if we are crazy, but that is just what we do. We are happy to see each other in the morning and then we go on with the day, with work. So it is really a great family and this line-up has been in place for a while now and we love each other tremendously, so it works great.

Can you go a bit deeper into some of the other songs?

Sure. I think, lyrically, this album is special to me, because this year – with the pandemic – everybody has gone through such difficult times, not just financially. A lot of people financially of course, businesses have been shut down and people could not go to work, but emotionally, it has been a devastating year for people. The message that I tried to put into a song, lyrically, is basically a message of hope. As a musician, obviously we don’t know every single fan and certainly we don’t know how every fan is feeling. There was a situation over the Christmas holidays that really struck me, when I learned that a fan was going to hurt himself of depression. It shocked me that one of my songs saved this person and it is not the first time that I have heard that, but, it is always amazing and staggering and eye-opening when you learn that your music has basically created an outlet for that person to feel better for himself or save himself. This is exactly what happened. The song ‘Surrender’, even though the title is ‘surrender’, the lyric is ‘never surrender’. It comes from that story. Some of the lyrics are about not knowing that you needed me. How can I possibly know every person out there and how they are feeling, so the lyric is: ‘you needed me more than I knew you, like I didn’t know you needed me.’ That is the whole message. And I want to focus this year on making sure that people know whether you are a rock star or you are cooking a hamburger in a restaurant, we are all the same. We all go through times when we need each other and it is important that people take care of their mental health. I was a bit more focused on a positive message and it is funny, because I speak to many people and journalists and some say: hey, is it a Christian record? No, it is not a Christian record. It is just that I want to make sure that I am delivering a message that is important to me that I think is important to you. That is what I try to do on this record. ‘Surrender’, ‘We Belong’, ‘Searching For Grace’: another song about looking for something that fulfils you, but in that song it takes a spin all the way. You have to push it to reach your goal, you have to face it. Messages like that make this album I think, a really tremendous album. The title ‘Heart, Mind And Soul’. The reason behind that is: the H in heart, to me it represents a ladder that we are climbing. The M in mind is kind of the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys of our life and the S in soul is kind of the road we travel. Sometimes windy, sometimes it can be straight. The S represents the direction of our lives, based on our heart and mind. So there is a whole concept, call it artistic, call it whatever you want, but it all comes from my wanting to bring out a really good message for people. The song ‘If I Could I Would’ is another example. If I could I would protect you from the world that’s in your way. That is how I feel. I love people, I respect every single person, every single fan, regardless of religion, race, colour, and I just love people and want to spread a good message on this album. I think we accomplished that. And I am speaking for the whole band. We are not interested in writing songs that make you feel down or angry, we want to spread good messages. Music that you can take with you and make you feel great. That was the whole purpose of this album and that is how it came out naturally. We did not sit down and said: okay, we are going to write an album this way. It is just the times that made us produce this kind of album. I love it. I did a lot of running on the treadmill here, when it was cold of course, and I listened to my own album and I really love it. I am very proud of it.

Very interesting to hear those connections with the title!

Thank you. In the artwork of the album you see that ladder, going up into heaven. People asked me: why isn’t that a stairway? That is because a stairway is permanent, but a ladder you can move. You can adjust the ladder, just like our life. Make it longer, make it shorter. Nothing is permanent with the ladder. You can obviously see flames coming out of the bottom of the ladder and then light at the top. We are always somewhere in between, right? That is what it is really about. The message is that you are emotionally healthy and find yourself on that ladder and then move yourself towards – obviously not to the bottom haha – but a feel good message. The artwork is crazy weird, it is just our vision of how we think people should be thinking. The older you get – I can speak for myself – the more I think: am I doing enough good for people, for life, for my family, for myself… it is just something that constantly circulates in my mind and I like that people start thinking about things, about their own lives and where they are at and that is also the message in the songs. It is important to me. Tomorrow we wake up and things can be changed, you know. It is important to be grateful and hold on to all positive stuff in your life and use that as what drives you forward. I put a lot of emotions, lyrically and melodically into this album as does the rest of the band musically. Everybody is on the same page on how we feel when we deliver our message on this album and live it is going to be so powerful!

‘Heavenly’ has a kind of bluesy touch in the guitar playing. It is also the longest track…

Yes, ‘Heavenly’ is one of those songs where the message is that people forget where to look for solutions in their life. Again it sounds like a Christian song, heaven is definitely Christian, but it is about looking outside of yourself and knowing that you need more than you can handle yourself. Looking to the heavens to make you whole, to make you better. Mario, his playing on this album is just unbelievable. He was magnificent on this album. His conviction, his choice of notes, his bluesy feel… And we made this record fast! We just knew what we wanted to do once we started. He played so well. Again I cannot wait to take this to the live stage. People are going to be blown away by the way this album sounds. We are going to combine the last album ‘Life’ plus this one and it is going to be a very big show.

Do you have plans for video clips?

We released ‘Fuel To The Fire’, because I just wanted that straight rock-‘n-roll, not reinventing a new sound, just to have a straight forward rock experience and that video is doing very well. The next video is the song ‘Surrender’, coming out at the end of this month May. It was a difficult video to make, because it tries to pull out all the stresses that we have in our lives from interacting with people, from financial to work, on and on and then the end of the video puts you in a place where music brings a smile. All those stresses are thrown away when we put the music on. It is going to be a cool production and hopefully it will come out in time. We cannot gather, so we have to use a lot of imagery to make a video. After that I am not sure if we will shoot another video, but we are going to prepare for our live tour. That is next. July is a very important month to focus on rehearsals. August will be here in a snap and we need to be prepared for what is coming. I believe we are at the end of these covid-19 nonsense and we are going to be all back to work and make everyone have a normal physical life again.

Geplaatst door Vera op maandag 12 juli 2021 - 16:46:26
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