Johnny Gioeli, best known as vocalist with Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell, Crush40 and many more, expands on his singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?
Good question. This is an odd answer. I never really had a record collection as I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone. I didn’t have a lot of musical instrument knowledge as far as lessons. I sat down at a piano and I learned to play on my own and I didn’t know how to play anyone’s songs. As far as singers, I’m a huge Freddie Mercury fan, I love P!nk, I thinks she’s amazing. Frank Sinatra. There’s reasons I love different singers and why I’m influenced by them. It could be their sound, their phrasing, it could be lyrical content and it could be vibe. I think that the list is too long for the interview! As I grew up I was weaned on the old-school Metal like Ronnie James Dio, Rainbow, Sabbath, Ozzy and old Scorpions stuff. As far as wanting to be a singer. I started out on the drums, which as a kid I thought was pretty cool hitting things and making noise! Then I realised all the good-looking people were in the front!
I made the transition to singing pretty early on.
Do you not fancy trying what Dean Castronovo does, singing and drumming?
Dean hates it! He hates feeling like lead singer! But me, I’m not a drummer anymore. I’m a singer, I just wanna sing. I don’t like to pick up the guitar anymore, I just wanna sing!
Have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?
Another good question. The short answer is no. I’ve been approached by a number of bands but I felt that it was not what I wanted to do for my career. I like to work with as many artists as I possibly can. Back in the late 70s/early 80s and you jumped from band to band you were known as a “Band Hopper”! Today though I want to reach out and work with as many talented artists that I can. I love it! It’s like if Picasso came to you and said “Let’s work on this tapestry”, would you say “No”? I have been approached by many ‘big’ bands but it didn’t feel right. It felt I would lose my creative part in this.
You have appeared on a great number of albums. Do you have a favourite and why?
Certainly my debut International album, “Double Eclipse” in 1992 by Hardline. It not only has special songs but it was my baby. It was the first big thing, it was the start. I just spoke to Neal Schon the other day and thanked him for all his hard work on that album. So that album goes down as my number one, not only for the songs but for the memory of the start of my career. Notably also, I love my brand new Enemy Eyes Metal album. I usually don’t listen to my own recordings. I support it, I tour, but not listen to it. I’m into running and I’ve had that album in my ears and every song that comes on I’m like, ‘Wow! I like that song!’. So that’s like my new favourite album. The start and the current favourites.
Did you have to adjust your way of writing for the Sonic The Hedgehog adventures?
Not really. Part of what they wanted in those games was my gritty, growly voice. Just toned down to fit the sequence what was happening in the game. So if you’ve got a “beat ‘em up” scene you wouldn’t be singing a light ballad. So I just made it work for the scene. These are really fun to do. The scene is already there and I just need to get creative and write something to fit. The song has to take you somewhere. Whatever song you hear on the radio or wherever has to make you feel something. It has to have an outcome.
Do you have any plans to release another solo album and maybe play some solo gigs?
I hate your questions! [laughs] I want to do another solo album! I’ve been thinking about doing another album and you’ve just brought I out! I have started to do a few shows that are more intimate and personal with smaller audiences acoustically. I’m not really an acoustic kind of guy but I did it for the first time in Norway last summer and it was a smashing hit! It was really fun for the band as this was a Hardline thing, to tone it down and be more personal with the people. People were crying because they got a real sense of the song in a different format. I would entertain a solo album in a different format and maybe gigs of a more acoustic nature. I’m not opposed to it!
Have you finished touring for this year?
Yeah I’m done. My next tour is in South America, Chile and Brazil in February as a solo artist. I’m doing a gaming event in Chile called The AEX which is about 8,000 screaming kids loving gaming music!
Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
More so. The older I get, the more I realise how important this music is to people and at a lot of the shows I demand that the audience forgets everything in their life outside of the concert walls. I really try and make it a special evening. Every show I think should be a special show. By special I mean make it the best you can vocally and performance-wise. I’ve been a performer since I was eleven and I still count down the hours till the show.
You have toured all over the world. Do you find a difference in the audience reaction depending on which country you are in?
Yes. It’s different country to country, city to city. There’s a great new invention that’s happened to musicians in the past, and they’re called ‘In-Ears’. I just recently started using them and with these monitors we can’t hear the audience unless we ‘mic’ the audience. I don’t know the level of scream so what that does to me is I give 100% regardless of the reaction! So I can’t hear the screams, but before you would sense the audience was subdued and it may bring your performance down. I just sing and do my show.
I believe you play drums. Any thoughts of picking up the sticks again and playing live?
Only for fun and goofing around!
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip top shape all these years?
I’m into the gym and health. I think it’s helped with the longevity. It’s not scientific fact as I’ve known guys who have smoked all their lives and done lots of partying and sing amazingly and never lose their voice! For me, I like to be mentally and physically in great shape. It gets harder and harder as I get older! I try to run a 5K almost every day. I don’t do anything special in terms of gargling and I sometimes don’t even warm up. My routine is staying healthy and knowing how to use the voice. If it’s a little tired or sick, knowing how to work around it.
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
Yeah. I’m still waiting for P!nk to call me! Her cool growly voice and my growly voice would work great together on a duet. That’s one artist I’ve always wanted to work with. Can you make a couple of calls for me today?
Is there any unreleased recorded material from your early days with Brunette that could be released?
It’s old-school, kinda 80s, cheesy learning period of my life. There’s tons of material! There’s a record label that has those tracks but a lot of them are demos really. So the answer is yes but I would never revamp them, I’m not interested. It was so long ago, and I was a kid! In my view I hate those songs! You’ve gotta love what you put out there.
Have you any plans to team up with Dean Castronovo for a follow up to the excellent “Set The World On Fire” album?
We’ve talked about it, the ‘GioNovo’ project! [laughs] We’re focussing more on Deans’ backward journey as he’s got Revelution Saints and various other stuff. I’m working on album number 101, then I start a new Hardline album in January. So I don’t think anytime in the near future we’ll get together but we’re always talking about doing something together.
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some live shows in the UK with either Hardline or Alex Rudi Pell?
I know that Hardline will return to the UK next Summer. We never really finished with ‘Heart, Mind & Soul’ properly in the UK. With Enemy Eyes, trying to cultivate that sound for big festivals, that’s for 2024. Here’s a cool fact. With Enemy Eyes I literally went from writing straight to the microphone and never went back. So a lot of guys will write the song, record a demo, then they’ll think about it. So everything you hear on that record was, paper, microphone, done! I never went back. I wanted it to be full creative right to the microphone at that moment in time.
Have you ever thought about doing any production work?
I thought about it but it’s not my thing. I just don’t want to sit in a dark cave day after day, maybe when I’m like eighty!
Do you have anything in the pipeline at the moment that you would like to share?
Well as I mentioned, the Axel Rudi Pell ballads album which is a collection of songs plus some new remakes. That album will be out in 2023. A new Hardline album for a 2024 release. I signed a deal for American Idol for licencing of songs. I’ve got so much stuff going on! It’s a really exciting time. I had hoped to have slowed down by now but that’s just not in my cards! My life is having to wake up very early because I have so much stuff to catch up! The only way is to create more time during the day. It’s my life and I love it!
Interview by Stuart Dryden