An Epic Chat with Johnny Gioeli of Hardline and Axel Rudi Pell
Now in their 25th triumphant year as a band, Hardline remains a dynamic collective ready to rock your world! Featuring front man Johnny Gioeli (who also does lead vocals for the Axel Rudi Pell Band), Hardline has just issued Human Nature through Frontiers Records. Their fifth glorious magnum opus, Human Nature by Hardline is destined to impress the old school Hardline fanatics and others looking for passionate new music to check out.
Highwire Daze recently caught up with Johnny Gioeli to find out more about the brand new Human Nature, his thoughts on the classic first album Double Eclipse, working with Neal Schon and Axel Rudi Pell – plus a whole lot more! Read on…
Any story or concept behind the CD title Human Nature?
Human Nature was obviously brought on as a writer and a creator, you can’t help but be affected by what you see. What you hear, what you feel and the news just blasting all this negativity, I couldn’t help but absorb some of it. So a lot of people are saying, gosh, it kind of sounds like a concept record. It wasn’t on purpose at all, it just sort of happened. The things we’re doing to our environment. Basically human nature consumes all of us and we’re all part of it and we all control it and so it just sort of came out creatively that way.
Select two songs from Human Nature, what inspired the lyrics for you?
My favorite songs are “Where Will We Go From Here?” which was the first single we released. Lyrically, for me, it sums up that we need change here in this world. It’s not just in America, it’s everywhere. We need change and we need to figure this out rather quickly, because we’re self destructing here. It’s really easy, but the solution is easy, getting there is not so easy. And “Love Is Gonna Take You Home.” It’s a simple ballad with a lot of emotion, a lot of feeling in the song and to sort of tie into “Where We Go From Here?,” love always brings us home. I traveled the entire world, all the time – it’s really a simple thing that people want. They want to be loved, they want to be healthy, they want to be happy. It’s simple stuff. Love is Gonna Take You Home is about understanding what is most prominent, or what should be most prominent in your life, which is love.
Can we expect Hardline to tour or play shows in the near future?
Absolutely. We’re doing two things. This year marks our 25th anniversary of the original lineup. So we’re attempting to put some shows together with the original lineup. I’m not sure Neal (Schon) is going to be able to make it, he’s got a really strict Journey schedule. But at least 4/5 of the original members. That’s something we’re planning, looking at a bunch of US festivals and stuff like that. Get out there and have a bunch of fun. The main Hardline group, my Italian peeps, absolutely we’re putting together a tour right now. We’re going to be announcing we have some shows in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Sweden soon. We’re absolutely going to tour on this record. It’s being put together right now. Thank God.
Compare working with Hardline to working with Axel Rudi Pell.
Different. Musically, obviously very different. The ARP show is not a very refined show. It’s more of a get up there, just kill it and have fun. You never know what’s going to happen. Hardline is a little more refined, serious. As far as the touring process, it’s all the same. [laughs] Put your ass in a great bus and have one meal a day and have fun. It’s just musically – I have to switch hats a little bit, and remember not to scream blood curdling screams when I’m doing Hardline because it’s not about that. Where with Axel it is, that’s really it.
In the past, what has been the best and worst part about working with your brother? (Editor’s Note: Joey Gioeli was an original member of Hardline).
My brother and I have always been super, super tight. So we’ve never really done too many things outside of each other. So, in the band I’ve grown to really respect the gift I’ve been given and he would just let me do what I do. I was the principal songwriter so it just worked really well. We always got along great, we never had any issues with music or outside of music. We also own businesses together, we’re pretty tight. It’s pretty hard to separate that bond right there.
Do you still keep in touch with Neal Schon and what was it like working with him on the first Hardline album?
Yes. I do, as a matter of fact his mother just passed away and of course I reached out immediately. We mostly text now, and I can’t believe that Neil Schon is texting, but he is. He really wasn’t technically advanced at all. Neal, you gotta press this. Nah man! I don’t know man! Now he has an Iphone and does work on it. Yeah, I keep in touch with Neal and check on him from time to time. I talk to Dean (Castronovo), gosh just about every other day now. Todd (Jensen) is really busy. He has a child so he’s always running ragged like I am too.
Working with Neal, Neal is an extraordinary musician. He’s probably the most underrated and super talented humans that I know. To work with him and to learn from him was nothing short of a blessing, man. Because his chord knowledge and what he hears in his head is unbelieveable. Neal just knows. It’s not only just playing, it’s sound, it’s layering. Hey man let’s put a strings thing on top of this. He always just – blew my mind. He can name any of these chords. He can kind of figure them out, but he’s not one of those guys that says – oh it’s an A# minor, augmented, diminished, C chord. So he’s just an inborn God-given talent guy and I learned so much. It really, obviously put me at a different level than just a musician coming up on the streets of Hollywood.
When you look back on that first Hardline album Double Eclipse, what do you think now?
I think it’s a shame. It should have been a mega CD. It really should have been a mega album. It has some classic qualities to it. I think it should have been a big record. Don’t get me wrong, it did really well, but it didn’t do Bon Jovi well. I think it should have done Bon Jovi well. I wish we could have had that album out three years earlier. I think it would have been a whole different story with that particular record.
Why was there 10 years between the first and second records?
When you have a 8,9,10 million dollar record deal, and then it’s gone, you need some time man. I didn’t want to resurrect Hardline. I really didn’t. I went on and my brother and I started a very successful business together. We were like, it’s not in our cards. I didn’t want to fight God’s wind on this, and then what happened was Serafino (Perugino), the owner of Frontiers sent me an email and introduced himself. He said you can’t let it die. I’m like, what are you talking about? It’s over. I don’t want to do anything. He said no, the world wants to hear your voice. I said, well, they heard it on Double Eclipse. He said no, you gotta do more. He pushed me for months and I said, no, for months. Finally he said please man, let’s give them another one and let’s just see what happens. So, he’s really the one responsible for me getting back into the game. The downtime was just, ya know, it’s like going through a divorce. You’re not going to remarry right away, you take some time. That was it for me. I did other things. I got real busy, the small family and the hope has changed. Serafino sort of resurrected me again, which I’m grateful for.
The Brunette recordings were released a few years ago on FNA records. What was it like to revisit those recordings again?
It was gross, man. I hate those songs. [laughs] I hate them. I’m like, oh my god, I wrote that shit? Pure crap! Those were the years – I was in musical puberty. I was growing hairs, man. I released them because the people – they have memories attached to them. Every song cured the heart. I remember writing it, I remember showcasing them to record companies and I received a lot of comments about those songs and that’s what prompted me to release them. I just thought, you know what? They obviously have some memory factor for fans too, so why not put them all together and get them out there? The FNA guys approached me, said you know what? I said, yes, let’s put them out there. I listened to that and go, oh god, makes my hairs stand up. It was that time period. It was what it was back then and so, I can’t be embarrassed about it. That’s what I wrote back then and I write differently now.
What’s up next for Axel Rudi Pell?
We have a ballad album that’s coming out in April. We’re going to record that in January, then we have some summer festival shows summer of 2017, of course. Then, late ’17 or early ’18 we start on our new album. You know what is crazy, Ken? We are booked literally through 2020, so I know the schedule through 2020. I don’t know what I’m going to have for lunch, let alone what’s going to happen in 2020, but the schedule is in place already.
Would you ever want to do a Hardline and Axel Rudi Pell show in the same night?
Oh brother. So wild that you said that because there are some festivals this summer where that’s probably going to happen. Absolutely! I think it’ll be a blast. At first I thought, no I can’t do this. But then I thought about it and went no, man, that’s going to be killer! A lot of my personal fans, they all cross into all the music. If you love the way someone sings, they love what they sing on anything, usually. So, I think it would be great for the fans to see an ARP show where I’m singing about wizards and dragons and black moons and devils and then over to Hardline where it’s a little more emotional. I think that’d be cool and it’s probably gonna happen. I’d say 99%.
Do you have any messages for Hardline fans who are reading this?
My message to everyone is, is first a message of thanks. I say this every show that I do, that without the people and without you guys I am just a voice. I’m nothing. It’s you guys that keep it alive, not me. I have nothing to do with it, I just create it. You guys accept it, so I just want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone and my appreciation for keeping this music alive. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
Johnny Gioeli – vocals
Josh Ramos – guitars
Anna Portalupi – bass
Francesco Jovino – drums
(Interview by Ken Morton)