Johnny Lima: A Californian boy!

Johnny Lima talks about the frustrations of life within the melodic rock scene in 2003 and in detail about his new album Made In California.

So Johnny, all this time we've been mates and I've been plugging away for you on the site, but this is our first interview?!! Thanks for pointing that out by the way...make me feel bad and all!!
Yeah, I was beginning to think you didn't like me. HAHA!

So Made In California is done, complete, finished and on the verge of a release. Can you believe that?
I won't believe it until I have the finished product in my hand. I keep checking my mailbox, but nothing's arrived yet.

Even better - can you believe you and Danny Danzi have album's released in the same month???
You mean to tell me Danny's album is out and that little bastard hasn't sent me one yet?!!!

Not yet, but it's out in Japan December 17. Made In California is a great album - you must be very pleased with the results, but how do you view it now, looking back over the last few years and past albums?
I still think it's a great album, and definitely the best one I've done so far. I've lived with this album for quite a while. More than anyone else and I still get a rise when listening to it. There are a lot of great moments on this album, and it's definitely something I'm very proud of. I really believe this album is a huge leap forward from the other two albums. Everything about it is better. The songs, the production, the performances. Everything!

To me, it sounds like a natural continuation from Shine On. Is that how you view it and what you had intended?
Yeah, I guess so. I always keep my current fan base in my mind when I'm making an album. No matter how much I want to get away from the classic melodic hard rock sound, something keeps bringing me back. I'd love to make a power-pop album, or a "nu-breed" album, but something tells me that it wouldn't go over very well with my fan base. That's not saying that I let them dictate what I write and record, it's just me taking them into consideration when I'm making an album. That's why you still hear that classic sound, with a few modern twists. That way I can keep the fans happy, and myself happy at the same time. It's a win win situation. I don't think I have the balls to completely alienate the fans that have been with me for so long.
Maybe I'll come up with something totally modern, but I won't call it Johnny Lima.

In the future then?
Definitely. Craig and I are talking about doing something together. More like Rob Zombie but with huge melodies and vocals. So sort of like Melodic Hard Rock/Metal with Trance music mixed in. Jason and I also talked about doing something together, but he moved to Sacramento, and it's a little hard to get together and write. So who knows if anything will come out of that.

When you started out on writing and recording of the album, did you have any idea it would take so bloody long to finish?
No not at all. Just like I didn't know I was going to be married or have a son, or buy a house. The only thing you can be sure of is your next breath, and there's still no guarantee that's going to happen either. I hope it never takes me this long to make an album again. If it does, let me apologize ahead of time. HAHA!!

Ok, so now's your chance to explain just what went into the recording of the album and why it took as long as it did...start at the beginning!!
I started writing for the new album in the end of 1999. I had about 5-6 songs written by the time I started recording in January of 2001. By the end of 2001 I finished recording 7 songs and then my son was born. I didn't write or record for a few months after that. So then I started mixing those 7 songs because I didn't have any others written at that time. I must have mixed each of those songs a hundred times. So by the time I recorded the rest of the album, we were already halfway through 2002. Time flies when you're stressing out!

How many tracks were written / recorded to give you the final 11 tracks that make up the album?
13 songs were recorded, and Mark Ashton only wanted 11 on the album. I'm not sure as to why he only wanted 11, but I'm not going to argue with him about it. This album is short and sweet.

Where you still writing while recording? I'm wondering if you added any tracks at the last minute, as you preferred them over another track?
I was writing, but none of the new songs were for this album. The songs I was writing were going to be for Ted Poley's solo album that never happened. Maybe I'll include those songs on the re-release of the debut, or just put them on my website for anyone to download for free.

So, you must have some favourite tracks from the album - let's here some thoughts on the tracks if you don't mind:
· Made In California
This was a pretty heavy riff that I had and was going to use to pitch to Anatomic. However, after I finished writing it, I decided to include it on the album. This isn't really the type of song that I'm into. I think I'm pretty much done with crotch rock these days.

· Best Night Of My Life
This was the first song I wrote for "Made In California". I wrote this at the end of 1999 after I got back from England. I was totally pumped up from the show, and I just had to write a song about it. The crowd made a huge impression on me, and I will hold that night in my heart for the rest of my life. Thanks England!!

· Chosen One
This was the last song written and recorded for the album. I was totally burnt out and couldn't think of anything to write. So I asked Ted if he can write the lyrics. I gave him the concept and he took it from there. Had the song finished within a week. Ted's a total pro and I hope him and I have more opportunities to write together.

· Go On, Go Away
This was one of the first three songs I wrote for this album. I don't remember where the inspiration came from since it was almost 4 years ago. Damn, time flies by!

· We've Got Tonight
This was another one from the early writing sessions. I wrote it for my wife at a time when everyone around us seemed like they were getting rich from stocks, and we basically had nothing. So it's a song about appreciating what you have and not giving a shit about what you don't have.

· Another Girl
The chorus to this song was written back when I recorded "Shine On" but it wasn't finished until the end of the MIC sessions. This happens to be one of my favorite songs off the album.

· Help
This is my favorite Beatles songs, and it's funny because almost all of the reviewers so far have said this song has been done to death. I've not heard it done once by anyone other than the Beatles. No kidding! Anyway, it was a very fun song to record and it's another one of my faves off the new album.

· Love Ain't Enough
Brent De Leo, someone I've worked with for many years, came up with the chorus to this song. This one just sort of wrote itself. I think I finished the lyrics and music to this in a day or so. I think these lyrics are probably the best I've written.

· Something About You
This one has H.I.T. written all over it, if I say so myself. This is another one of those songs that I don't know where the inspiration came from, or how the riff came along. It just happened. Sort of like divine intervention or something.

· Where Are You Now?
Another one of my faves. I just love how this song is arranged. The concept behind it is really cool too. Not saying that spousal abuse is cool, just that it's cool that I didn't write another boring love song. HAHAHAHAHA!

· Welcome to My Paradise
By the time I finished this song, I pretty much thought it was going to be a Jap bonus track or something. It's my least favorite song. It was Mark Ashton's idea to include it on the album. I would've much rather had one of the other two songs that didn't make the album. But I'm sure glad this one was included, because it seems like a favorite to a lot of people.

I have to ask about the inspiration behind Another Girl!! What a classic!
HAHA! Thanks! I'm glad you like it. This song just shows what a sense of humor I have. I didn't want to write a boring story about "boy gets girl, boy gets sick of girl, boy dumps girl, and then finds another girl". I thought that "Boy wants girl, boy can't have girl, because girl prefers tacos over hot dogs" was much more interesting. This wasn't a personal song though. In case you were wondering.

And the inclusion of The Beatles cover. Why that song and why chose that over a J. Lima original?
Plain and simple. I think it's a great song. Some people are going to love my version, and some people are going to hate it. I didn't have anymore original songs to include on this album. I was completely burnt out by the end and the last thing I wanted to do was write another song. Besides, I've always recorded a cover song for my albums. It's just that "Help" was the only cover that actually made it on an album. The other cover songs I've recorded in the past were "Blue Tears" and "I Love Rock 'N Roll". Please don't ask for a copy because they were never completely finished. That's why they never made it on an album.

If there was any justice, “We've Got Tonight” would be all over radio. Is there anything you can do as an American based indie artist to help your chances of this happening?
I agree with you, but I know nothing's going to happen here in the U.S. I'm sure it would help if I put a band together and played in every hell-hole that I can to promote the new album. There's no license deal here in the U.S., there's no distribution.

Ok, moving on! You play most of the instruments yourself - how hard is it to co-ordinate various pieces of the recording puzzle and out them all together into a great sounding package?
The only hard part is keeping myself on track. If I'm on track, then it's pretty easy for me to work that way.

Where did the guests featured on your album come from?
I've known Craig Takeshita for almost 10 years. He's the one that introduced me to my wife. I've always loved his guitar playing. He's one of those virtuoso types, but knows how to play for the song. He doesn't play all that Yngwie "Turkey Gobble" shit that so many guitar players used to play. He could if he wanted to, but he doesn't. Now that's a guitar player. I've known Brent De Leo since the old Cheshire Cat and Attitude days. He was the keyboardist and co-songwriter in those bands. He produced and played keyboards on my debut album. Great guy, and very talented. Too bad he lives in Pennsylvania now. Jason Granucci and I met through a mutual friend of ours. Jason is another great guitar player. Not as clean as Craig, but Jason can write the killer riff. I call him the RIFF MASTER.

Tell us about the cover art? No half naked chicks I see?
Yeah, my idea got thrown in the toilet. Al Barrow did the artwork for it. I really wish we would've started throwing ideas around sooner than we did. The album was already finished and mastered by the time we started working on the concept for the artwork. I think Al did a fantastic job especially under intense pressure to get it done.

When are you and Danny Danzi going to record an album together?
Good question. I'd love to make an album with Danny. He's an awesome guitarist and singer. I think him and I would make a great album together. Who knows, maybe now that our albums are finished we'll have time to work on something. You'll be the first to know Andrew.

You are mid/semi way through re-recording your debut album. Why do that? What is the idea behind that and why not just re-release the original?
The reason I don't want to re-release the original is simple. The original sounds like complete shit. [too funny Johnny…]
The production is horrible. The recording is horrible. My vocals sound like shit. I know so many people like the album as is, but it's my name that has to go on it. I'm a much better singer now, I'm a much better producer now, and I'm a much better songwriter now. It won't cost me a dime to re-record it, so I'm going re-record the whole thing, and make it something I'd be very proud of. After people listen to it, I'm sure they're not going to say they prefer the original. It's not like I'm going to take the old songs and turn them into pop punk or something. It's still going to be Melodic Rock. The only difference is it's going to be recorded better, and there's going to be some edits in the arrangements. Some of the songs are just way too long.

You are very vocal about various issues concerning artists/labels/the music business/the Internet and I thank you for sharing your input via the site's Noticeboard.
As you see it - from your own position - how hard is it surviving in this game circa 2003 and the music business as such?
I think so many people are disillusioned by the music industry. I know I used to be. It's a lot harder that before. So far I'm really impressed with their performance.

And the Internet? Friend or mortal enemy filled with nothing but thieving music pirates?
Definite friend. I'm not going to bitch and complain about people stealing my music over the internet. I'm sure there are more people that discovered my music through the internet and bought the album, than there are people that downloaded it for free and forgot to send me a check. Besides, if you download my album and don't like it enough to buy the real thing, then shame on me for putting out a shitty album.

What else is on your plate mate? What else do you have planned/lined up/in development?
I've been working at the studio recording local artists as well as working on my next album. I've also been working with Amanda Shelby who's being produced by Rene Moore (Janet Jackson, Jennifer Holliday). I might be writing some songs for her as well. I'm also planning on producing and recording a female artist by the name of Briana Hales. So I'm trying to do all this and still spend a lot of quality time with my wife and son.

How's the home studio going?
It's no longer at home. Hasn't been home since the son was born. I merged my studio with Suspect Studios, which was the place I recorded my first two albums at. Dave was looking to upgrade his studio to Pro Tools. Since I had it, and know how to use it like the back of my hand, it was a perfect match. He has a ton of outboard gear and an awesome mic collection. I'd say we're one of the best studios to record at in the South Bay Area right now. Not many studios have the kind of equipment we do. Shit, now I'm starting to sound like a commercial

Let's finish with a few favourites - fav's websites? Fav musicians and current classic albums?
Fave Websites of course! [just as well….]

Current Classic Albums
Evanescence - Fallen
Avril Lavigne - Let Go
The Tories - Upside Of Down

Favorite Musicians
Bryan Adams
Mike Tramp
Jon Bon Jovi
Def Leppard
Danny Danzi
Pete Lesperance & Harry Hess
and many more

Anything you would like to add?
No I think we've covered all the bases.

Thanks Johnny, for doing our first interview together!
Thank you Andrew!

Log in to Johnny's world at