Johnny Monaco Interview
Most music fans will have at least one artist that they feel should be huge and have gained a lot more public success, and Johnny Monaco is certainly one of those. To many, he will be known as the lead singer and guitarist in the band Enuff Z Nuff (an under rated act themselves). However, he has also produced some stunning solo material. We got the chance to chat with Johnny about his experiences in the band.
Ok, guess we have to start with Enuff Z Nuff. You rejoined the band last year after they finished a tour here in the UK, what happened?
Chip & Donnie had a falling out on their last UK and Chip asked if I’d be interested in regrouping for a US summer tour they had booked. I was in between bands at the time so I decided to give it another go.
So, are you permanently in the band now and is Donnie out?
I’m not sure of my future with the band at this point and I have no idea what Donnie’s plans are. He’s the main songwriter & voice of the band so it’s obviously his legacy. I’m more of hired hand for now and I’d expect Donnie to be back at some point if he chooses to do so.
You’ve previously been in the band for a considerable amount of time (in fact, far longer than most bands actual careers!), why have you never contributed songs to the albums? I appreciate that Chip and Donnie regard themselves as brothers, but I would still love to hear what you and Chip can come up with together.
I’ve tried that before. I’d bring songs to the band but they would just get diluted, rewritten & basically micromanaged into an Enuff Z’nuff sounding tune. Chip would use the bits he wanted, change them in the process then re-write the rest completely changing the song from its original form. Of course to him it’s making your song ‘better’ but he just seemed to be doing it for the sake of it rather than to actually “better” the song. Everyone has a formula when they’re writing songs but when you impose your writing style over everything else that’s being brought in it just comes off sounding compromised & manufactured to me. He used to call it “putting his kitty-cat scent on it”. This kind of stuff went on for years so I eventually decided there wasn’t any point in trying to write together. That’s also why I don’t play on a lot of the CD’s. I don’t mind being told what to play every second of the way but there better be some good reasons for it and most of the time there just wasn’t. And I get it that it’s their band but with those guys It’s more of a dictatorship and them battling each other to get their parts in over the other guy so they can see their writing credit next to the title.
Before you joined Enuff Z nuff were you actually a fan of their stuff? It just seemed to be such a perfect fit from day one.
Yes, I was a long time fan growing up. I used to go see them play at a local club called The Thirsty Whale all the time. I always liked the songs & the overall vibe of the band. It used to be an event to go see Enuff Z’Nuff back in the day.
I would also be interested to know the reaction you get from Enuff Z Nuff fans, any abuse from die hard Donnie fans?
Surprisingly most everyone seems to really like the current line up. Or at least that’s what they’re telling me to my face. I do sometimes get mixed reactions from the die-hards but I understand that. You can’t please everyone.
Personally, I have loved the band since I first heard New Thing, but I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed the gigs with you better than those with Donnie.
Thank ya, very kind. More than a few people have actually told me that. I’m just trying to get as close as possible without embarrassing myself too much.
One thing I have noticed, however, is that you always seem to get a cold when you tour here!! I hope that isn’t going to put you off playing over here again?
Yea I don’t understand that cause I’m usually never sick. I even went out of my way last time to try and not get sick and still got the flu. I don’t get it.
Ok one last question on Enuff Z Nuff (which is also kind of a plea), when I last saw the band (admittedly with Donnie) they played three cover versions during a pretty short set. Given the band’s huge back catalogue of awesome songs, can you throw any light on why they do this?
Laziness & playing it safe.
Let’s move on to your solo stuff. You have released some great material which, whilst retaining some of element of the band’s sound i.e. quality tunes, also seems to have a more modern and produced sound. How do you approach song writing?
I think like anyone else I try writing from all different angles. Sometimes it starts with a riff, sometimes a lyric, sometimes a chorus, etc. It depends on the tune and inspiration at the time. I usually write alone & rarely collaborate.
How frustrating is it trying to get your own stuff out there, have you given up on the conventional music industry?
Yes it’s difficult. Things have changed drastically over the past few years and almost anyone can get a song on iTunes, YouTube, etc. Record labels are no longer a necessity and unless you’re writing Top 40/ pop it’s not always beneficial to have one either. I haven’t given up just yet & I’m hoping to keep putting stuff out in some capacity.
Your most recent release was by Johnny Monaco and The Traitors, which I loved (see the full review here https://thesoulofaclown.com/reviews/i-l/). Is that band still going?
Yes that’s my UK band. I’d love to come back and tour again sometime, we’re trying to find a way to work that out now.
Are there any plans for future releases?
Yes, I’m always writing for that band as well as my own stuff. Hopefully those guys will be available to tour around again at some point.
I believe that band also included Rob Lane who is a fellow Brit, how did he become involved?
Yes. Rob Lane is good friend of mine. I met Rob through Enuff Z’Nuff and we just became good friends. He & Michael Richards offered to help me set this whole thing up so I was all in. Rob also does all my graphic design and has a real hip eye for that kind of stuff.
I very recently watched a documentary on the legendary Elvis Costello and was struck by the similarities between him and you i.e. sound of his voice, delivering great pop based rock songs and even the image.. Was he an influence?
I keep hearing that. Yea I mean I think he’s a fantastic writer & performer. I try not to emulate that whole thing too much but I guess a lot of it has stuck with me over the years. The glasses aren’t by design, I just started needing them lately and it was either Ray-Bans or wire frames and the ladder just didn’t look right on me.
Who else are your musical influences?
I’m kind of all over the place with that but of course I’m a big fan of the classics like The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Rush, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Cheap Trick, Hall & Oates, anything from the late 70’s etc… but i also like a lot of newer stuff like The Strokes, Radiohead, Weezer, Oasis, and a bunch of guitar players & dance music.
I am always interested to discover new bands, so who are you listening to or really liking at the moment?
MGMT. Their new album is pretty crazy but everything that band comes up with is a masterpiece. I’ve also been revisiting the whole Elliot Smith collection.
What have you got planned for 2014? Does it include any new material and will we be seeing you back over here in the UK? (although realise you might want to wait for the Summer….if we have one!!)
Enuff Z’Nuff are putting a European tour together right now that will start in May and goes to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands & the UK. I’m also mixing my new EP “LA Vacation” right now and it should be out real soon. I’d love the opportunity to come back to the UK and hopefully that will happen soon!
Final Question, if people want to check out your stuff where is the best place for them to find it?
Thank ya Paul!
Anyone who is a fan of quality pop rock music should really go and check out his website and get hold of his music. Keep your eye out for his new EP, which we will hopefully review on The Soul Of A Clown, and then perhaps we can persuade him to come back and visit us here in the UK.