APRIL 1990 Interview by Dave Reynolds
If we’re compared to Rose Tattoo or ACDC my feelings are that it would be a compliment. They’re my heroes. I grew up in the ’70s listening to them.
“But if people claim we’re just a rip of then that’s wrong. We just come from the same school of clean guitar sounds and straight ahead rock and roll.
This speaks Johnny Crash vocalist Vicki James Wright when I confront him a question he’ll no doubt be hearing from a good many other people before the year is out.
Most reviews of ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ (the Johnny Crash debut out in the UK on Epic, April 16) have compared it to ACDC or Rose Tattoo but will the comparisons be a hindrance or help
“I don’t see it as that big an issue, really claims Wright. A yorkshireman who first made a name for himself as frontman of Tokyo Blade. We’re no more ACDC sounding than Rose Tattoo. Remember when the Tatts first came out and everyone compared them to ACDC That was rather unfair.”
Wright speaks with an accent that still betrays his Yorkshire roots but is becoming more and more American as time rambles on. He has lived in California for the last five years but pleads that Ross Halfin reckons he still speaks like a true Englishman!
“I came out to LA on a whim I just packed a couple of suitcases, bought myself a plane ticket and arrived in Los Angeles not knowing a soul. It was a real struggle at first but, well, here I am.”
WHAT WAS the problem with Tokyo Blade then
“I split with Tokyo Blade in December 1985,” the singer recalls. “Things had been going well – we were all friends – but something just crept into the band that turned it sour for me.
“I think it just went wrong because we didn’t communicate with each other in the finish. All the best bands in the world are good communicators. Once communication breaks down between band members then that’s when the splits occur. This is exactly what happened with Tokyo Blade. I really think only Andy Boulton…” (TB’s lead guitarist) “…was happy in that band.”
Are you still in touch with any of them
“No. But I did try and contact the bassist, Andy Wrighton, when I was over in London last summer mixing the album at Battery Studios, although I couldn’t get hold of him. John Wiggins isn’t on the phone…”
So what were your impressions of Los Angeles when you arrived
“It was weird. The first six months were more like a dream. I was in total culture shock. Everything was big and loud. I had plenty of time to gather my thoughts and think about what I wanted to do. The music I love is straight ahead, simple stuff like I’m doing now. I went to tons of auditions and went through bands, then I met Chris Stewart…” (Johnny Crash’s rhythm guitarist) “Every week since then something good has happened. Things have just snowballed from there. We formed Johnny Crash and soon got people talking.”
How long did it take
“Six months. Jerry Greenberg, the president of WTG…” (a subsidiary of CBS in the States) “…saw us at a showcase and told us, ‘Don’t speak to anybody else!’ “WTG didn’t exist at the time, but he loved us and told us that he’d sign us once he’d got his new label sorted out. We waited nine months.”
Wasn’t that pretty frustrating
“Yes, it was, but we believed in him. And in those nine months we worked hard, came up with loads of better songs than we had so it worked out in our favour.”
DIDN’T YOU have some kind of solo thing happening in LA before Johnny Crash I seem to recall seeing flyers and ads for the ‘Vicki James Wright Band’.
“You’re right, I did. The thing is that when you do a solo thing people seem to get the impression that you’re some kind of ego maniac. I did it because Tokyo Blade had a small underground following in America so I put a band together using my name to get my foot in the door. We did Tokyo Blade songs at first until we got our own material together. The whole thing lasted a year before I wanted to be involved in a proper band thing again. I was out for eight months trying to find a decent band to hook up with, but I couldn’t find one. I remember going to more auditions in one week than I’d had in my entire life. Some of the bands I auditioned for are actually kinda big now…Anyway, I got kinda disoriented so I came back to England for two weeks – and saw the state of the UK scene was even worse than when I had left! There are great bands in the UK but the apathy towards rock music in Britain is terrible. MTV in the UK sucks for a start, the record companies just aren’t interested in Heavy Metal, it’s not on the radio and people just stamp all over it. It’s a horrible situation. When I returned to LA my good friend Tracii Guns called me up telling me about a band that Chris Stewart was in called World War Three who were on the verge of splitting up and that they were just up my street musically. So I got in touch with Chris and, like I said, that was it! I joined Chris and the lead guitar player, August Worchell, and we put Johnny Crash together with ‘Punkee’ Stephen Adamo (drums) and Andy Rogers (bass).”
ONCE SIGNED to WTG Johnny Crash insisted on getting Tony Platt to produce.
“Yeah, we asked specifically for Tony,” confirms the singer, “and Jerry Greenberg was wonderful about it. He’s given us so much space and the label as a whole have bent over backwards to cater for us. Not only were we allowed to pick the producer but we chose the cover art, the songs and Nigel Green – the guy who mixed the album with Tony. So if the record fails then we’ve only ourselves to blame! Tony Platt was our first choice as producer for the record. See, we wanted a producer who wouldn’t come in and try and change everything but a guy who would work with us, like the sixth member of the band.Tony is a Yorkshireman like myself and he’s really a great guy to work with. We’re very pleased with the job he did. He comes from the old school of producers and he gave us a live feel basically because we virtually did everything live anyway.”
With ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ already in the shops Stateside, Johnny Crash are set for the road.
“We’re going out with Bonham shortly doing 2,-3,000 seaters over here in America. There has been talk of some showcase gigs in the UK but nothing has been confirmed, especially as we may be getting onto a bigger arena tour after our stint with Bonham is over, because we plan on being out for the next 14 months. But so far, I love British audiences the best because they get into the bands a whole lot more than LA audiences that, let’s face it, just consist of other bands who just stand there. When I was last in London I went to see a Thrash band at the new Marquee and it was mad! I definitely want to come back to the UK and play with Johnny Crash. The thing is,” he sighs, “some people will say I sold out by going to America, but it was a career move. I think I’m kinda intelligent, I thought I’d take a chance and go over to see how it was and it paid off for me. Let’s face it, Def Leppard would never have got anywhere either if they hadn’t gone to the US when they did.”
Right, so America must love Yorkshiremen! I knew there was a moral to this story somewhere…