It was a sultry, Los Angeles evening, with a cool breeze blowing through my open window, and Nag Champa floating through the hallways. Johnny Goudie was conferenced in, and the phone line immediately began to crackle with electricity. Not the type that causes annoying, audible static, but the kind that makes you feel that jolt through your whole body. Like when you get caught in a lie, or the way you would feel if you bumped into the person you had a mad crush on, in the hall at school. It was that kind of electricity. You know what I mean… don’t you?
I can’t really explain the mood of the conversation I had with Johnny without sounding completely cheesy, but I don’t remember ever having that type of psychic vibe with anyone else I’ve ever interviewed before. There was nothing typical about this interview. It wasn’t just some Q & A session. In fact, it didn’t feel like an interview at all.
I felt like I had taken a hit of Ecstasy, to be honest, just because I laughed so much, and got that tingly feeling afterward. Although I tried to stay on track, and talk to him about the making of their forthcoming debut ‘Peep Show‘, it seemed as if we were in the middle of this effortless exchange of thought, like talking with someone I had known for my whole life. The subject matter was fun, yet it was edgy, intimate, and provocative – just like the music he and his ultra-talented band members create. Meet my very cool friend, Johnny Goudie.
How you doing?
I’m great. How about you?
I’m excellent. Thanks for writing all that nice stuff about my band.
You’re very welcome. It was so easy, because I love the band so much.
Well, thank you.
So, what are you doing right now?
Right now? I just got out of the shower.
Yeah. I like to be clean.
You wanted to be clean for the interview?
I wanted to be clean for the interview.
Well, thank you, I can appreciate that sentiment; even if it is over the phone.
Obviously, you already know where this interview is going to be posted, and I’ll get it done as soon as possible. I’m so deep into this music, I just want to give people all I can, information-wise, about Goudie.
Thank you so much. That’s a really, really nice feeling.
You give me a really nice feeling.
Well, good. Thank you.
So, tell me about the first time you picked up a guitar.
Oh. I hated it. I did. My Mom made me take lessons, and I hated it.
It wasn’t until the first time I went to a Cheap Trick concert like 9 months or a year later that I really understood the whole thing. It seemed like a .. it seemed like a key to get laid.
So I decided that that was gonna be my thing. Plus, I was 14. So.. Yeah.
That was the thing that started it all for you.
Yeah. Before that though, seriously, I hated it. I actually ditched a couple of guitar lessons. When my Mom would drop me off, I’d wait for her to drive off, and I’d run and hide in the bushes, and then go to this friend of mine’s house that lived down the street.
Was it because it was hard?
It was because I lived in Texas. It was like .. my teacher was the nicest lady in the world, but I guess it was all the Kenny Rogers songs, and I just wasn’t interested.
So, it was the content.
Yeah. It was the content. That, and she made me learn scales, which I didn’t understand. Can’t they just teach how to be a rock star? I mean, scales had nothing to do with being cool.
Kind of like book smarts compared to street smarts.
I always wanted to learn too, but I just don’t have the patience. I just wanted to already know how. I think I know one cheesy, 80’s, hair ballad on the guitar.
(Johnny laughs and then starts singing ..assumingly some .. well.. cheesy, 80’s, hair ballad!)
So, you’re a Cheap Trick fan then?
I’ve always loved Cheap Trick since I first heard them.
So have I, and I hear a lot of their influence in your material. I guess that was a natural thing then?
How much of what you wrote for ‘Peep Show’ is non-fiction and autobiographical?
Huh. I guess everything, even the fiction is somewhat autobiographical. The lyrical content. Because you’re working sometimes subconsciously. You know? I would say that, uh, take for instance a song like ‘Julia’ where it’s fictional and it’s about a necrophiliac. That longing comes from a real place.
You know what I mean?
Yes. I do.
So it’s kind of both.
Would you say that you’re more of a poet, or a storyteller when you write?
(Johnny laughs to himself.)
I wish I was pretentious enough to say I was a poet.
You know what? I think that I just kinda sing songs. I don’t know. I would hope that it’s somewhat poetic. I mean, some of it’s story telling; some of it’s not.
Well, some people might write poems and then put music with them, and others might write music and then add some kind of story that seems to go along with it.
A lot of times I write music first.
What inspires you to write more, pain or happiness, or something else?
Another thing I have in common with you! But then a lot of writers share that as a common thread.
Do you think you’re a dark person?
Do I think I’m a dark person?
Absolutely. And that’s the whole concept behind ‘Peep Show’, too. It’s to house the things that no one ever talks about.
Is [music] your outlet do you think, or is it just a part of you that you’re nurturing and letting other people in on?
I don’t know. Obviously, it’s my outlet but I think I just became hyper-aware of that sort of uh… Well, maybe.. you know what? I always write stuff that I don’t want to talk about.
You write things that you wouldn’t normally say.
Exactly. That’s right. That’s what it felt like. And listening to the album, it definitely feels like that.
Are you the main guy when it comes to writing material, or is it collaborative?
It’s a collaborative songwriting thing, but I do write a majority of the lyrics. It happens differently every time. You know. Like, ‘Baby Hello’ – our drummer … (Johnny trails off, thinking..) We all have the capacity to write and record songs entirely, on our own. And our drummer came to us with ‘Baby Hello’. He’d been bringing me these tapes of stuff that he had been recording over at his house. Like, just different musical ideas and what not. And he brought over ‘Baby Hello’ and it was pretty much just like the music for the verses. With that picking thing, and the guitar changes, and stuff like that.
Yeah. It was really, really cool.
That is cool.
Yeah. And so, sometimes it happens like that. Then there’s a song like ‘Sugar Daddy’ that I wrote on my own. Or a song like ‘Made’ that our guitar player wrote with someone else that I didn’t write anything on. So it kinda changes and varies.
Have you ever regretted writing a song after performing it in front of people?
Um. No. But I do remember when there was a time they they were talking about the song ‘Tonight’ being the first single, and I remember talking to Jack Joseph Puig and Dan McCarroll when we were mixing, and going “Aw man!” You never realize when you’re writing…this could reach like millions of people and they’ll all hear this really personal thing that I’m saying. That track.. I felt very uh.. very vulnerable at that moment. But, I’ve never regretted it, no.
Because of the emotional nature of your songs, do you think that there will be a more female-populated audience, or ..
More girls, definitely. I think maybe, uh, young gentlemen will turn back around. Right now they have a lot of like, sort of what Kiss was like when I was a kid. Real ultra macho stuff, with like dudes breathing fire, and the blood, and being demonic.
We have Slipknot now. And young boys had Alice Cooper. I definitely don’t see us as being like ‘teeny bopper’girl band
But maybe leaning more towards a feminine side. And a bunch of sensitive guys.
It’s refreshing though, because there is so much heavy music right now, which I love, too. But this was an overwhelming breath of fresh air. It was like, “Oh my God, I needed this so bad right now”. I didn’t stop listening to it for days. I still haven’t really. I listen to it more than anything else right now.
Thank you. Wow. Thank you so much. That’s great. To work so hard on something and have people react that way.
Personally, I think this is highly flattering because your vocal range is incredible..
Yeah, as I’m sitting on my floor, smoking a cigarette.
…but does it offend you that people might mistake your vocals for female vocals on their first listen, before they learn about the band? No. Not at all. Not at all. Because, as far as ever trying to emulate vocalists, it’s always females. I had Chrissie Hynde, and the singer from the Innocents, who have broken up, unfortunately. People like that, I wish I could sing like. And they’re always mostly women.
Who are your idols? Are they musicians, or other people?
Idols in general?
Yeah. Who do you admire?
Um. Man, I admire… I admire Aimee Mann. I admire a lot of people. There are a lot of people who have had a profound influence on me, like the Beatles. Um. Unfortunately, with artists, you can’t really admire the human being all the time, because sometimes, you know, the better the artist, the bigger the asshole.
That’s sometimes true, yes.
So, um. There are a lot of people I admire. I admire The Stones, Bob Dylan… I used to admire… well… I admire friends of mine that I think are great. I really admire Travis, and Elliot Smith. Those are a few that I hold .. esteemed.
What would signify success for you?
I guess success is determined by every day, you know? Every day you meet certain goals. Like, right now I feel like we’ve been successful enough with our music to get people’s attention. I guess the next step is being a millionaire.
Ahh, the inevitable.
The inevitable. A pool. Yeah.
How are you on stage now? Do you get nervous or get stage fright? Do you feel more aggressive?
Um. It depends on the mood, you know. I always kind of save up everything for when I play. When I know I’m playing, I hold stuff in, and I let it out when I play. If I have a really bad day, it makes a really amazing sort of performance on my part. Just, on the level that I feel like they’re really cathartic and I really get something out, which is like, the best kind of performance.
Have you taken a lot of shit for the shirt you wore at the Viper Room?
Yes! I’ve taken a lot of shit for what I did at the Viper Room.
I’ve gotten a ton of emails from very frustrated, young, anglo boys.
Yeah. That don’t know me, and I don’t know them.
(laughter)They think I’m gay. And..what else do they do? (Johnny thinks for a second.) Yeah, they think I’m a jerk … and a pussy.
(I just continue to laugh.)
Well, I thought that took balls, and I was really proud of you.
Thank you, Lesa. You know, I had NO idea what kind of.. I mean. I was just… seriously trying to make my boss laugh.
(We both lose it, laughing.)
That’s all that was behind that.
I love it.
I thought, ” Whoa! Now, I wonder if my record company will beg me to wear a shirt about everyone I hate.”
A new line of clothing.
Oh man you don’t know! I’ve gotten a ton of emails offering, like, money for the shirt.
They can all make their own.
That’s what I said. I said, ‘Hey! I made my own.” You know, the sad part is, I brought it home, and I washed it, and the ‘F’ fell off!
(the laughter explodes)
I swear to God, I lost the ‘F’. I lost the ‘fuck’ in the first washing! So it says “UCK YOU FRED DURST”. So it’s not as powerful as it was. I would send it to you, but I don’t know if you could fit in it. ‘Cause I’m so much smaller than you.
Ahh, I’d love it.
So what helps you sleep at night?
Heh. Are you an insomniac?
Am I an insomniac? Um, I don’t sleep very much. Sometimes, when that goes on for days, I start going crazy. But I tend to write better then. So, sometimes I do it for a while on purpose. But other times, like this last week, I had this problem where I’ll just fall asleep and I’ll wake up 3 hours later, and that’s it.
Do you ever have dreams, and then wake up and start writing about them right away?
Yeah. All the time. That song “When Will You Be Mine”, that was one of the weirdest writing experiences I’ve ever had. I had a long conversation with someone the night before, and went to bed, and woke up the next morning, and made some coffee, and sat down at my 4-track, and sort of strummed through a couple chords, which were the chords to the songs. I turned it on, and sang, and like wrote that song in the time it takes to play it.
Which was really weird. I think that that came from a totally subconscious place, ’cause I was half asleep. It wasn’t until later that afternoon that I was gonna like, rewrite the lyrics that I listened to them, and I was like, “Wow. I shouldn’t change any of this.”It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but you totally know what I mean. And I’ve since been asked by publishers before, not our publisher now, but that were interested in working with us before, that I change the lyrics. They said the part like “She cries every night. I cry every night.” It’s just like you, she… – you never know who I’m really talking to. And I think that that’s pretty much the whole point of the song.
I’m glad you didn’t change anything.
A lot of it would be lost, and people don’t really … you know what I mean?
I totally know what you mean.
What was the atmosphere like inside the recording studio?
Did you bring in any personal items or good luck charms or anything like that, or was it strictly business?
No. No, no – we’re really weird. We, uh… like I was telling you before, we’re all capable of recording and playing all the instruments on our own demos. Initially we recorded this album in California, and we did it on Pro Tools and it was this whole big scene, and that didn’t really work out for us, so what we did was, we came back, and we recorded …I’m sorry to digress.. but…
When you go to do these big sessions in L.A. or whatever, they do like, two weeks of drums, and then a week of bass and two weeks of guitars or whatever, and a couple weeks of vocals. And it’s so spread out, and so scattered. We were so used to doing everything in a day! So what we would do, is every day we would go in to the studio, and we’d go like, “Okay, we feel like recording this song today.” And we’d just.. record that whole song, that day.
Like from beginning to end. Do all the crazy stuff, whatever.
Yeah. And so, we had candles everywhere, and incense burning the whole time, with huge stems of Nag Champa. And our shows. Oh, we had candles at the Viper Room. I remember because they were gonna hang us for burning them afterwards.
Guess what I can smell right now?
That’s right. It’s burning in my bathroom.
There you go.
We’ve gotta hang out.
That’s so funny.
So, we had that, and Kim Deal from the Breeders was dating the guy that owned our studio then, and she came by and brought us tons of keyboard feeds, which was hot. And um. Yeah, the atmosphere was incredible. It was very, very spontaneous and really, like.. it was like an insane…. free for all. It really was. It was crazy.
Cool. I think that’s good because your work is such a personal thing.
Why not bring that into the surroundings, you know?
Definitely. Definitely. And we’re not a machine. We’re not machine people, and we’re not a ‘machine’ band, or a band that comes from the machine, or belongs to the machine. I think we got that from not anything bad, but kind of seeing what a different vibe you have like, trying to be a band out there [in L.A.], than trying to be a band in Texas, where no one gives a shit. [Here] you’re just trying to get like, 5 people to a show, whereas out there, it’s so much more desperate, and so much more intense. What we did at the Viper Room, that’s shit that happens every time you play. I don’t think I could live like that. I would drive me nuts. You know what I mean?
Yeah. I do.
You gotta have some shows where if you’re hungover and tired, it’s not the end of the world.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home, and walk in the door?
What’s the first thing I do?
Pet my dog.
I take my shoes off.
I was just curious. I think that’s a very ‘telling’ thing about someone.
Yeah. Like, what was your last Halloween costume? Because that’s telling, too.
Um, I was.. uh… um.. God. (Johnny asks someone else that’s there with him,”Do you remember my name when we dressed up that year that we dressed up for Halloween and we wentup as other bands? A.J. was Beethoven. But what was I?”) I can’t remember. I was some character that I invented. With these guys… You know the band Vallejo?
Oh. The singer from that band, me, and our bass player, and a friend of ours that plays drums for this band, Dynamite Hack. We all ….
We all dressed up.
And switched identities?
And took mushrooms! No. We wanted to be this band of like, freaks. But.. it really was.. It really was a band of freaks.
We painted our faces and stuff. But I was like, a silver guy, and I can’t remember my name.
You were all silver?
Yeah, I was all silver.
Like the Tin Man?
Kind of like the Tin Man but some kind of weird freak. I can’t remember.
That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, It was pretty cool.
So it was one of those creative costumes, that people came up to you all night asking What are you? What are you?
Yeah, exactly. And some people knew but they were like, ‘You’re from that weird band!”
I wish you were asking our bass player that, because he’s the most insane Halloween guy ever. That year, he painted his bass to match his costume, he was so intense about it. And I did mine like, right before we went down there.
What do you listen to when you’re in a bad mood?
Um. I listen to the Cure.
What do you listen to when you’re in a good mood?
Sly and the Family Stone.
I can totally see you putting on an afro wig and like, pink platform shoes, anddancing around the house to Sly and the Family Stone!
I could freak you out, Lesa. I could really fuckin’ freak you out. The only thing is it’s like 10 years old, but I have a videotape of me walking around my house with an afro wig singing along with Sly and the Family Stone.
(Here’s where I totally crack up laughing.)
Oh my God, I feel so psychic right now. You are so awesome, Johnny.
You’re my new friend. Actually, I’m sure you’re going to make a lot of new friends. So, just be careful.
Just be careful…
“Friends” in quotations, you know what I mean.
Yeah. The kind that would steal my Sly and the Family Stone album.
Right. Which brings me to the last question.
What do you think people are going to want to know about you the most, as the band gains recognition, that you would rather not tell them?
…Because this is your chance to say, “Don’t ask me that.”
That I’m mean.
That you’re mean? You think you’re mean?
Sometimes I mean. So…. Yeah, that I’m mean.
So, you don’t want people to know that you’re mean?
No, I don’t want people to know that I’m mean.
Okay, I won’t tell. But wait, should I write this?
Yeah, if you want, go ahead.
Okay. So you’re basically telling everybody now, “Look, I’m mean. Just don’t ask me about it.”
Yeah. Because I could think of several other things that I definitely shouldn’t bring up.
That’s fair enough, everybody’s got to have their secrets.
I think you’ve told plenty of secrets with this CD, actually.
Yeah. That’s true, that’s what that’s for. It’s a secret. Come to me for the jokes!
Thank you for talking to me.
You’re welcome. And thank you so much for keeping in touch through email. I guess we can stay in touch through that, and we’ll definitely link up your articles when the web site gets updated. We’re switching our entire website. It will have all new art and stuff, and the servers are what my friend John from the record company calls ‘on the couch’. It’s difficult to get them to do stuff, but as soon as we get it all up, it’ll definitely be hooked up, and this one will be up there, too.
I can’t wait until you get out here again, I’ll give you a big hug.
Aww, thank you so much! It’s nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you too, Johnny.
Very special thanks to Amy at Elektra. You’re the bomb, girl! Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.