Soledad Brothers
june 2003 - e-mail
interview with Johnny Walker by Angus Anderson

Hello, can you introduce yourself? (name, age, sex, hobbies, taste in ice creams, colour of your pants, anything you want,...) 

Johnny Walker, two days older than dirt, male, medicine, vanilla, my pants are always stripped.

Your music is truly rooted in American culture and yet blues rock is undoubtedly universal. Did you expect any success when you started playing ?  

We only started playing because it is what you do in Toledo OH.  It was something to do to keep us out of trouble.  Success was never an option.  Are we successful?  Define successful.  We are more natural than successful, I think.

Your music is made with energy but blues is basically made of pain. Is this a crossover that correspond to your state of mind? 

Pain can have a lot of energy.  Have you ever seen a good bar fight?  A lot of energy and a lot of pain.  Any struggle involves a lot of energy.  Sometimes good things come from these struggles.  Like a revolution.  Oops I said the R word.  Leonard Cohen said that every time you say the word "revolution" you postpone the revolution by 7 seconds.  tick, tick, tick... still waiting for that energy.

Regarding the energy that flows from your music, do you prefer jamming, rehearsing, recording or touring?

It's all one in the same.  Jamming leads to writing songs ie rehearsing.   Ideas, ideas, ideas..  Then you record the songs.  Then you display the songs to people in the live format.  All of these are important to the others.  I feel like I am cheating if I only do one or the other. 

You released a live album after your first 2 albums. why? Is it hard to capture your energy in studio? Is this more representative of the sound/music you want people to hear from you?

It is a tribute to the "clubhouse" where all the new Detroit rock came together.  The Gold Dollar has since closed its doors.  We have better live recordings, but not at the GD.  I like to hear my friends harass me on tape.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.   Besides, it gives our friends around the world a good idea where we come from.  They really missed out on the swingin' Detroit days.  

You played on the White Stripes' debut album, so we guess both bands have started playing music around the same time. Can you tell us about the ‘old days’ in Detroit?

Everyone played with everyone else.  If your amp broke down at a gig it was a five minute ride to borrow one.  We used to have solo nights in the lounge of a bowling alley every Sunday.  A local musician would rehearse for a week with 5 or 6 or 7 of his friends and get a set together.  Always a surprise.  We would get paid with a fifth of whiskey, until someone fell into the cigarette machine and had to go to the hospital.  It was always free and always a good time.

The success of the White Stripes undoubtedly provided a window for the Detroit scene (The Von Bondies, you…) to be known around the world. How do deal with the fact that you are part of a hype that may fade in a few months? 

I'll still be here in a few months.  I will always play guitar and write songs.  If the hype is more important than the music I will still choose the music.  If someone else is more interested in what the "it" band is than what their music is I really don't need their support.  Their priorities are all mixed up.  It's not style but substance that counts.  Substance knows no time.   Style is fleeting.  Those "it" people will be chasing style the rest of their lives, never satisfied.   You can't capture style, it is fickle.     

How does it feel to be reduced to rock & roll stereotypes by the press?  

I don't really pay much attention to the press.  I worry more about what my friends and family think.  They know the true me.  These are the people I have to live with the rest of my life.  I just try to do what I percieve as right.  No hard drugs, no womanizing, try to be honest...   honest with myself first and then others.   It's easier that way.  Then I can concentrate on more important things.  Like the nature of man, the phenomenon of religion, what makes people passionate, etc.  Oh no, did i just say something very un-rock n  roll.  Stereotypes are for the feeble-minded who can't form their own opinions.  I have more important things to worry about than stereotypes or what the press thinks.   

Who is Doctor J ?    

On a lighter note, Doctor J was my hero as a child.  His name is Julius Erving.  He was thee basketball player in the 70's and 80's.  He had a 6 inch afro and made an art out of the dunk.  He was also a fantastic humanitarian and wonderful role model.  Something that is missing in this day and age of sensational headlines.   

Now, here are some silly questions. Feel free.

Do you hold the key to solve the crime?  

Legalization of drugs.  80% of all violent crime is drug and alcohol related.  Prohibition of drugs equals very expensive drugs.  Very expensive drugs equals crime.  Simple logic.  More importantly, the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world is the US.  Most of those are drug related.  Think of how much money would be saved if we concentrated on rehabilitation instead of incarceration.   

Eminem or Led Zeppelin?

duh didn't I just talk about substance over style.  I like melody, so Zep 

What do you look like in a tuxedo?

A million bucks, not a dime short.

When did the screw up happen? 

All the time, it's how I learn.  From Mistakes

Canned Heat or John Lee Hooker?  

Canned Heat with John Lee Hooker.

Why is life worth living? 

It beats the alternative.  Actually, I think about this a lot from many different perspectives.  I have done a lot of work as a psychiatrist.  That is what I studied at school. 

Is there a question you cannot help asking yourselves? 

Why do the people who are the most qualified to lead never accept the job?  Maybe we should nominate them more often.  I dunno.

Thank you again. bye


/sept 1st 2003/