If you read my previous post you know that a re-union of Johnny Crash could happen with a little help of their friends, and more importantly their fans. I decided to conduct an interview with the main man behind this decision Vick Wright and he kindly took the time to discuss this matter and a bit of JC history.
Hey Vick, first, let's talk about your own music career. You started at a really young age in England, your native country, and quickly joined Tokyo Blade, a successful band that was part of the NWOBHM. How was it to be in the music business so young and in the early 80s ?
I started getting into music around 13 or 14 years old. First listening to The Rolling Stones and Bad Company and then I got into AC/DC. I would sing along to the records and discovered I could actually sing. At around 15 I started hanging out at “The Vaults Bar” a local dive bar in my hometown of Bradford. I met Tim Walker there. He was a guitar player in a band called Topaz. I told him I was a singer and he asked me to audition. The band liked my style and that’s where my singing career started. Topaz was a progressive rock band, not exactly my style, so Tim Walker and I formed our own band called BOBO. We gigged all over my home town and got quite a good following. Right after I turned 17 I answered an advert and sent a demo tape to an address in Salisbury, UK. A few days later Andy Boulton from Tokyo Blade called me. He introduced himself and then said “I sure hope you can sing like you sing on your demo tape?” I said I could and replied “why?” he said “because you’re going on tour with us to France.” I was overwhelmed and asked him when we were leaving, he relied “In two days.” I literally had to learn 14 songs in 48 hours. That was my introduction to the professional side of the music business. From then on I didn’t stop playing shows, summer festivals and recording two albums. In retrospect it was amazing.
After leaving Tokyo Blade what lead you to move to the USA ?
I had been to the USA on vacation with my family when I was 15 and I loved it. So once things went sour with TB I decided to go and stay with friends in Los Angeles. I was fascinated with the Hollywood Sunset Strip Scene and I wanted to be part of that. The first band I saw in early 1986 was Guns N’ Roses. They were playing the Troubadour in Hollywood. I was blown away by them. Once I started to hang out at all the great clubs like the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, The Roxy and the Rainbow things began to move fast. People were interested in playing with me. It was an exciting time in music history.
Stylistically, you made quite a move as well. Were you fed up with the heavy metal music at the time ?
The NWOBHM was a scene that was amazing and holds a place in my heart, but I think ultimately I was always between that scene and the LA scene. Because the LA scene came after the NWOBHM then that’s probably why I am more recognized for the Sleaze Rock movement…at least here in the US. I know Europe probably knows me more for the Tokyo Blade years.
Now, Johnny Crash. Tell us how it all begun and if the line-up of these early days was the same that went to record Neighbourhood Threat, the first album.
JC was born out of Mandy Lion’s band, WWIII. Christopher Stewart and August Worchell left WWIII and were looking for a singer. Tracii Guns recommended me to Chris. I was asked to audition for LA Guns by Tracii, but at the time I was back in England spending time with my family. Before I knew it, they got Phil Lewis. I came back to LA and joined Johnny Crash. In the beginning we had many line-up changes, especially drummers. Skip Gillette was our first drummer, then Greg Rand, then Nicky Alexander and finally Punkee Adamo. Terry Love was the first bassist. He then left the band before “Neighbourhood Threat” was recorded and replaced by Terry Nails (Steve Jones Band) who played on the album. Once the album was completed Andy Rogers joined permanently, until his tragic death shortly after the recording of “Unfinished Business.”
How did you get sign to WTG/Epic, and did you record demos prior to the signing ?
Jerry Greenberg who was with Atlantic Records came to see the band at a showcase in Hollywood. He loved us and told us immediately that he wanted to sign us to his new label. Once he set up the label with Epic Records he signed us along with Bonham and Motorhead to his own label, WTG/Epic. Between him moving from Atlantic and setting up WTG/Epic we recorded many demos. We even recorded with the legendary producer, Andy Johns.
Were you friends with some of the other bands of the L.A. scene of this era ?
We used to hang out with nearly everyone at all the clubs and parties. From Guns N’ Roses, LA Guns, Poison, Dio, Love/Hate, Rhino Bucket, Junkyard and many more!
What are your recollection of the recording of the first album ?
We tracked at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood. In the big room where many famous albums were recorded. It was amazing for the first few weeks, until I received a phone call from my mother telling me my father had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He was given 6 months to live. It was hard for me to get though the rest of the sessions, but I used the pain and emotion to record my vocals. The sad part is my father didn’t live long enough for me to see him again. He passed away a few soon after.
There's only one video to support it. Why ?
We filmed the “Hey Kid” video and went straight out on the road with Bonham then Motley Crüe. It’s almost like we didn’t have the time to film one, or the record company just didn’t want to spend more money. I honestly don’t really know why
You are now a film maker. Was it this experience that gave you the bug for film making ?
No. I’ve always loved films. My dad used to let me watch great films with him when I was a little boy. We would watch classic B movies like “Magnum Force”, “Deliverance”, “Planet of The Apes.” I think that I was probably too young to see them, but I also think it made me want to be involved in movies from a very young age.
So you then toured to promote the record. How was the response from the press and the audience ?
The audience always understood us. We had many great shows at small gigs like the Cathouse in Hollywood and also huge show with Motley Crüe. The problem was the press. They wrote us off as an AC/DC clone band. I think this hurt us in the beginning. I think if you listen today to the albums that they are very original in their own right. Maybe they were ahead of their time. My friends in Airbourne always tell me this. At the end of the day, we played what the Australian’s call “Pub Rock.”
Back at home the band worked on the follow-up of Neighbourhood Threat. But the line up of the 2nd album is a bit different... Matt Sorum and Dizzy Reed are playing on it. How come ?
It’s a long story, but there were drug problems within the band. Certain members weren’t playing up to standard, or were just too out of it to turn up to rehearsals. Ultimately, Chris Stewart and I decided to change things. August Worchell went first and was replaced by guitarist, JJ Bolt (The Wild) and then Punkee went next. He was replaced by Matt Sorum who did an amazing job. He was never going to be permanent in the band, even though we wanted him to join, Guns N’ Roses was his band.
In my opinion it's still the best album Sorum recorded so far. Unfortunately it haven't been released until 2008. Can you explain the circumstances that lead to this ?
It really is some of the best drumming Matt ever did. Everyone who hears it generally agrees. We just told him do whatever he wanted and he did an amazing job.
As for the long delay in the album release, well that's a good question. Epic records owned the rights to the recordings and once those rights ran out we released it on a small label.
So it was on Suncity records in 2008 but the booklet's liner notes are quite inexistent. No line-up or recording credits, not even who took care of the supervision of this record. So who was behind the making of Unfinished business and why the booklet information are so, let's say, limited ? At least all the lyrics are included.
It was thrown together and released cheaply. Low-budget, bare bones. It is what it is. We probably should have done a better job with it. I know the fans would have liked to see more credits. Maybe if we do a re-issue then we’ll update it and make it better. ;)
This record is now out of print and Suncity out of business. Do you know how many copies were produce and can we expect a reissue at some point ?
There were not that many copies released before it went out of print. As to the exact amount I don’t know for sure. As for a reissue, only time will tell. I guess if the fans want it then at some point it might happen.
We are now in 2016 and here to talk about a possible present and future for Johnny Crash. I'm following you on facebook so when I discovered the news about a re-formation I was quite surprised cause you always said your Rock singer days were over. What happened ?
I have recently been getting a lot of interest from fans around the world. Up until now I didn’t think many people cared about JC anymore. But it seems I was wrong. It’s been something I’ve been contemplating for a couple of months. I think the Kickstarter campaign will help us see if there really is interest in a JC reunion. If I can raise the money then I believe that there is enough interest in us to warrant our return. However, if we can’t raise the money, then it probably isn’t worth getting the band together. Either way, it is in the hands of the fans.
I had the feeling that it still could remained bad blood between some former members. Do you think time could have healed some wounds and are you still in touch with your former bandmates ?
I hear a lot of talk from some of my former band mates and not all of it is good. I like all the guys who have been in the band over the years, maybe not all of them like me. At the end of the day, I aspire to be professional and I really don’t think “airing your dirty laundry in public” is the best thing for any group. If we can come to some sort of an agreement regarding the filming of the “JC reunion gig” using all the original members then that’s what we’ll do. If not, then I will still go ahead with this using guest musicians.
Please tell more about your current plan.
The plan is pretty simple. Most of it is explained on the Kickstarter page. First we raise the $7000. With this money I will put the band into rehearsal, book a show somewhere in Hollywood before the end of the year and play live. I will use my film crew to shoot the whole show, then I will produce a film from this. After the film is made we will then play a series of club/theater gigs around the world.
I personally pledged to get the Double CD with unreleased material, and of course the movie on the come-back. But, really, what can we expect to hear on this brand new release ?
The double CD is a secret. I can’t discuss what it is at this point in time. All I can tell you is that it contains 2 CDs worth of music.
I'm inviting every JC fans to back this campaign and turn it into a reality. The $7000 goal isn't far out so I wish you all the best and I'm eager to see the result. Would you like to add something to the attention of the readers ?
I want to thank all the Johnny Crash fans out there for all your support so far. If you can pledge even $1 to the Kickstarter campaign then that will help us finance "The return of JOHNNY CRASH" Reunion film. I know that this is achievable with your help. In the event that we don't succeed I will still owe a debt of gratitude to you all for getting the word out there and helping me in this quest. If it's meant to be then it's meant to be.
Long live Rock n' Roll!
Go to the campaign page
Johnny Crash facebook page