Wayne W. Johnson Interview with Patrick De Sloover for Metal to Infinity-8/6/2009-Belgium
To see the actual interview, click HERE
I still remember the time that I was reviewing the EP ”Slave To The Hourglass” of Syracuse based metal outfit Caroline Blue. The comment that a lot of Kiss influences were present in their songs was only a positive remark, as the vocal chords and arrangements have a lot in common with the material of Gene and Paul. It’s time to hook up with Wayne to hear what the band is up to right now!
MTI: Wayne, what’s up? How you’re being doing lately?
WWJ: I’ve been doing good-albeit busy as usual. Actually, I’ve been busier than that as of late-hence why I’m so late in getting this interview back to you. Sorry!
MTI: This is the second chat with Metal To Infinity from Belgium. What were the major changes for the band since our last conversation?
WWJ: Quite a lot actually-especially since it’s been about 4 years. We’ve had a few line up changes and the band has released 2 CDs-an EP called “Slave to the Hourglass”(STTH) and a full length CD called “Not For The Innocent.”(NFTI) We have done 3-4 music videos in conjunction w/ the STTH CD. We also have distribution of the STTH CD thru Hellion Records in Germany. We’ve had a lot more of reviews & interviews.
MTI: Do you feel that the band got more respect and recognition from the European metal heads, or is it a kind of status quo?
WWJ: The response we’ve received from our Fans, Friends & Freaks in Europe via our My Space & Facebook pages has been awesome! We will continue to keep working on spreading the virus of CAROLINE BLUE as much as possible!
MTI: ”Slave To The Hourglass” drew my attention, not only because I’m a huge Kiss fan myself, but also because of the own typical style of the band and the way that you arrange and compose songs. The tracks on ”Slave To The Hourglass” didn’t follow any trends at all, it seems like you got stuck to the good old hard and heavy sound with a slight underground feeling… Do you agree?
WWJ: I would say the majority of CAROLINE BLUE music does follow the tried & true, but with some modern touches-some songs more than others. It’s not really a conscious decision though. What comes out comes out. There might be an arrangement change here & there but for the most part it’s like the song dictates how it comes out.
MTI: How was the overall comment on that EP?
WWJ: It’s still selling so somebody must like those songs 🙂
MTI: Was there also much interest from other states in the US and perhaps from other countries and continents?
WWJ: There seems to currently be a higher response rate to the STTH CD in Europe than for the NFTI CD. It could be because marketing & promotion for the NFTI CD was slow to begin with. We’re working on getting that caught up though so we’ll see…
MTI: Can I say that this was the first ‘big dream’ that came true. This was the next step on the ladder of Caroline Blue?
WWJ: You mean releasing the STTH CD? Yes, that was definitely a dream come true.
MTI: When people reach a goal, it doesn’t take long to long for the next one. Which one was it? Perhaps promoting the EP as much as possible live, getting recognition from the press and fans, or just write and compose new stuff and focus on new material and recording sessions?
WWJ: All the above! 🙂
MTI: Caroline Blue is a band from Syracuse, upstate New York, and in a way it’s also the region where legendary Kiss started as a rock ‘n roll party band. How is the scene nowadays? Are you able to promote the band live, do you have many clubs in your area, or is it really difficult to get gigs?
WWJ: KISS was actually more of a New York City band whereas we’re in Central New York. The scene is tough for bands that that play hard rock/heavy metal originals. CNY is more about cover bands-but I would say that’s true with most cities. It seems, in general, more people would rather hear what they’re familiar with than listen to something new. Along with that would be-if it’s not on the radio-they don’t pay as much attention to it. But we still keep at it and do our best to reach out to as many people as possible.
Having said that, we played shows in Ogdensburg, NY at a place called Boneshakers Tavern. They hired us based on our originals (even though we did mix some covers in) and played in front of 200-300+ people who had a great reaction to us. It was just an awesome show in all aspects.
There are a number of clubs in CNY-but not too many that cater to originals in our style of music. Most of the places want the cover bands. That’s OK-I believe there’s room for everyone. As long as we have a place to play in any town/city, I’m happy.
MTI: Is it still necessary that you have to be +18 or +21 to attend a gig, like it was years ago? I remember that I have been in clubs to see a regular hard rock act, and people below the age of 18 were refused. That was back in 1988, so I hope that the situation changed through the years?
WWJ: Yes-it’s still true for the most part. You can have under 18 shows-but those are more like special events than the norm. On top of that, in New York, they now have a smoking law where it’s illegal to smoke inside most bars. If you want to smoke, you have to go outside. I see both good & bad with that, but there’s not much we can do so we just deal with it and keep moving….
MTI: If not, perhaps Barack Obama might give it an legal adaptation, because that’s a stupid statutory, isn’t it?
WWJ: I doubt Obama will even notice it-he has his hands quite full w/ the US economy among other things….
MTI: Talking about Barack. Have you been to the inauguration in DC? It’s not that far away from where you live, and it is a historical moment, isn’t it?
WWJ: No, I didn’t go to the inauguration, but I did see parts of it on TV. It’s actually several hours driving distance from where I am. Seeing parts of it on TV was fine with me.
The STTH CD was nominated for Best Rock Recording at the 2006 Syracuse Annual Music Awards and the band won an award for Best Rock & Roll Original Band at the 1st Annual Upper State Indie Awards in Central New York. CAROLINE BLUE songs have also appeared on a few CD Complilations-including Thunderground Radio, Sexy Killer Records Vol.10, Buffalo Rockers For Life 2007, Metal Vs. Rock-Vol.4 % The 2009 Fingerlakes Metalfest Sampler Disc.
MTI: However the whole event took place in front of the majestic Lincoln Memorial Building, nobody wrote or talked about the fact that Lincoln is murdered. The chance that a moron, a racist or extremist brews on a deadly attack is and will be continuously present…
WWJ: I have to admit, while watch parts after the inauguration, seeing Obama and his wife get out of their car and walk for awhile down the main street was a bold & surprising move. I’m glad nothing bad happened.
MTI: Let’s hope that all of this won’t happen at all. If so, the security services might use ‘a Caroline Blue’ as an emergency code. In the previous interview you explained the name of the band… A Caroline Blue is a part of a code word for a retail store that you used to work for in the late 90s. Their code words for emergencies were called ‘Carolines’ and a different color would signify a different type of emergency, isn’t it?
WWJ: Yes-but it was in the early 90’s though 🙂
MTI: How about today’s life. Are you able to live from a band like Caroline Blue, or do you all have daytime jobs to pay the bills?
WWJ: I still have my day job-but it’s not with a retail store. I work in a shipping department for a company that makes connectors/cables for cable TV, satellites, fiber optics, etc. The other 2 members of CAROLINE BLUE do not have jobs-I’m the only stubborn one left! 🙂
MTI: What kind of jobs are you and the rest of the band doing for example?
WWJ: Looks like I answered that in the last question 🙂
MTI: Is it the intention to keep Caroline Blue as a great chance to express oneself, or do you all strafe for a promising musical career?
WWJ: Both. I’ve always said I want to take CAROLINE BLUE as far as I can. I now have a lineup that has potentially unlimited potential…how’s that for a word bite? 🙂
MTI: Do you believe that it’s still possible nowadays, where everybody is downloading a lot?
WWJ: It’s possible-but the rules have changes a lot. The main thing is getting your music out to the people. Downloading helps that in a lot of ways. Any way you can get people exposed to your music is good. For example, we give out sampler CDs at our shows. If we were tied to old school thinking, we wouldn’t do that unless we got paid 1st.
I can tell you though, giving away sampler CDs has helped us get the music of CAROLINE BLUE to A LOT of people-many of whom would probably never have heard our music otherwise. That’s all you can really ask for-get the music to the people. What they do with it is their choice. Besides, downloading is now a fact of life-you can’t go backwards. It’s better to figure out how to work it to your advantage than to sit there complaining & doing nothing…
MTI: The internet is a really helpful tool, but also results in lesser support to the bands who want to sell their music and albums…
WWJ: I believe the lesser support is more of a result of their being a lot more bands out there than ever before-the internet has really opened that door. There are so many quality bands out there-as well as crappy ones. It tends to be overwhelming. For example, do you have a My Space page? How many bands drop by and bombard you with stuff? Now imagine you’re a label and multiply that amount.
Just because of that there will be less support from labels and such. Course, the internet has also brought a DIY approach which is most welcomed. Marketing, Promoting & Networking have become the big things to do-and you have to do it yourself. No one is going to care more about your band than you do. You have to get out there and do the work or you’ll be no more than just a drop or water in a sea of bands…
In addition, you really have to make things happen yourself-for the most part-these days. The labels who can actually do things for you won’t put any money forward for things like tour support (the last things they’ll give a band BTW) unless you can prove that you can not only make it back but make a profit.
MTI: Okay, back to the EP and present time. What about the line up? You have a new drummer and perhaps, there have been other line up changes as well?
WWJ: Joe Boyle has been the drummer for CAROLINE BLUE since June 2008. Andy “Doc” Gore has been the bassist for CAROLINE BLUE since August 2008.
MTI: Can I conclude that the present line up of Caroline Blue is the strongest one to date?
WWJ: You may and I know for a fact both Doc & Joe will love you for it 🙂
MTI: We received the full length album ”Not For The Innocent”, but it was already recorded and released in 2007, am I correct?
MTI: How comes that we received it at the beginning of 2009?
WWJ: We’re too cheap to pay for decent postal service-HA! Seriously-the CD was finished in early 2007, but since the launch of the CD (mid-late 2007), the promotional/marketing efforts have been messed up for a number of reasons-mainly lack of financing. We are still independent with no backing after all. There were major problems with the artwork initially.
Then the duplicator / distributor we were using not only messed up some of the orders we did, but also went out of business just before we sold out of our 1st run of CDs! So it was a huge mess for awhile. It wasn’t until almost a year later we were able to get a decent amount of CDs for sale/review. In addition, while that was going on, there were a few lineup changes in the CAROLINE BLUE ranks as well so, for awhile, things were on shaky ground so to speak.
On top of that, I’m also the one who does the majority of the booking / promotion / marketing / web site upkeep & networking as well as playing guitar / singing. Add this to normal daily life stuff & there are times when I tend to be a tad overwhelmed 🙂
MTI: Perhaps you focus on a local release first in stead of mailing out packages to stations and zines all over the globe. The direct contact with the fans is in your own territory, isn’t it?
WWJ: Looks like I got ahead of myself here again 🙂 In regards to that last question, there are actually more Fans, Friends & Freaks of CAROLINE BLUE outside of CNY than within it (based on My Space/Facebook).
MTI: How was the reception of the album in your hometown and beyond?
WWJ: We had a pre-sale of the NFTI CD and it sold 10 times the amount that the STTH cd did in it’s pre-sale. From what we’ve heard, the majority of people who have heard this CD have said it’s a lot better than the STTH CD.
MTI: Did you play a lot of gigs so far to promote the album?
WWJ: Thru out 2007 and most of 2008 we didn’t play many shows for various reasons, but since the inception of the current lineup, we’ve been catching up….
MTI: Did you had the chance to open for a major band, or do you have to pay to play?
WWJ: We have yet to open for a major label band, but I have been told that part of being able to do so-in many ways-involves pay to play. We did play a festival in mid 2007 that also had Brand New Sin & WWIII on the bill-that was pay to play….
MTI: What is in your personal opinion the main difference between this album and the previous EP, if you talk about structures of the songs, arrangements, etc…?
WWJ: Well, the song structures aren’t too different for me. I think there’s more vocal variety in NFTI and we kinda stretched the musical boundaries of CAROLINE BLUE a little more. Some of the NFTI songs I think are catchier/more melodic…. The main difference between the 2 CDs-to me-is the production.
MTI: Can we say that the band improved a lot in song writing, or did you focus mainly on the identity of the band, without talking too drastic changes?
WWJ: On the STTH CD, those songs are older songs from bands I’d been with in the past and were all collaborated with other people. On most of those songs, I was only involved in writing the music. On the NFTI CD, I did all the vocal lines & lyrics and most of the music. It came from within me. One interesting thing that I hear a lot is that with NFTI, the way they hear those songs on CD & live are very similar whereas that’s not the case with the songs off STTH. Course, it also depends on who’s in the band at that time….
MTI: You recorded in the same recording studio, with the same engineer? How comes? Perhaps it was a natural decision because you spent already time at the Strangeland Audio Studio, and you already knew Scott Patnode?
WWJ: Actually we didn’t. STTH was recorded at Eastwind Studios. We were the last band to record there before it closed down. NFTI was at Strangeland. I’ve known Scott off & on for years. In fact, Scott was bugging me for awhile to come record the next CAROLINE BLUE CD at his studio so I checked it out and he had some great sounds and a very reasonable price. On top of that he’s very easy to work with and the sound quality is higher with NFTI than with STTH. Maybe we should remix the STTH at Strangeland….
MTI: What is the deeper meaning of the album title ”Not For The Innocent”?
WWJ: Anyone who reads the lyrics to the majority of the songs on the NFTI CD will realize that most of the songs are about relationships gone bad and/or bad moments during relationships. I guess you could say that, in my own way, I was trying to say that relationships are “not for the innocent” because if you enter one that way, you will not have your innocence when you leave. The ending of a relationship will change you and that’s why sometimes relationships are “not for the innocent.”
MTI: And the link between the front cover artwork and the title? Is there a story to tell as well?
WWJ: As cool as it would be to say there was a deep meaning/connection between the 2, in reality I just thought that image looked cool & it just seemed like a natural thing to do for it. The cover shows a different side of me that most people haven’t seen. Maybe to symbolize the changes one goes thru when your innocence is taken away? Maybe I’m thinking too much into it….
MTI: I know that you are the main man of the band, that this is your, so called ‘little baby’. Is that also the reason why your picture is on the backside of the album? How did the other members of the band feel when you decided to work it out this way?
WWJ: When the recording started for the NFTI CD, I was the only one in the band! This was actually very similar to the recording of the STTH CD. With the NFTI CD, Monster Mike Merrifield (currently drumming for Joey Belladona) was hired to do all the drum tracks. He had also performed on 3 of the drum tracks on the STTH CD. Also on NFTI, me, Monster Mike Tom Catera (Wishpool) & Nathan Angell (Zadoc…& The Nightmare) did backing vocals on the song “Pain.”
All the rest of the vocals & all the guitar & bass playing was done by me. Towards the end of the recording Johnny Sniper was in CAROLINE BLUE but he wasn’t able to get down to the studio (he lived 3 hours away) to take part in the recording. The CD was already done when a new CAROLINE BLUE lineup was formed so I just had my pic in the back.
In addition, there’s another reason I did that. On the STTH CD, when it was 1st released, I used on the back cover a band pic of the current lineup-even though the bassist & drummer in that pic didn’t play a single note on the CD. Unfortunately, I was hearing thru many sources how one of those band members was shooting off his mouth on how great he played on the CD. So, out of respect for the person who did play on it, I changed the back cover to what it currently is now. Of course-all CAROLINE BLUE CDs list the people who played on the CDs in the booklet.
MTI: Perhaps, people might think that Caroline Blue is a solo project of Wayne W. Johnson?
WWJ: I can see how people would perceive it to be that way-and, in some ways it kinda is. Everyone in the band has a say in anything the band does, but I have the final say and everyone else in the band has agreed to that. It’s only right though-I started this band and am the only one to have been there since day 1. Having said that, don’t think that Doc & Joe are just “Yes” men. They contribute quite a lot to CAROLINE BLUE and the band wouldn’t be where it is now without all the hard work they’ve put into it.
MTI: Have you seen reviews yet?
WWJ: We’ve seen some and, for the most part, they’ve been favorable. We received this great review from a website in Belgium named Metal to Infinity 🙂
MTI: Metal To Infinity already wrote an interesting review on the album. Do you agree with the comment, with the personal vision of Stefan, who wrote the review?
WWJ: Well, it’s a positive review so how can I not like it? (HA!). I thought it was a great review-but I’m a little biased so….
MTI: If a band pays attention to positive reviews, you also have to pay attention to negative reviews. How is the situation so far? What would be the average score if you put all the reviews that you have seen, together?
WWJ: We get our share of bad comments / reviews-just like any other band. To date, the good has outweighed the bad. It’s OK-people are entitled to their opinions. There’s no band/musician that is universally liked by everyone so….
MTI: In the meantime, the band got already spins in my radio show OVERDRIVE on Radio Active. The people seem to dig it, so we’ll keep on spinning some tracks. Do you have some favorite songs do you like to request?
WWJ: That’s awesome-thank you very much! It’s hard for me to say cause I love them all. Over here “Love Me or Leave Me” is getting the most response-followed by “Pain”, “Deny” & “Nothing Will Satisfy You.”
MTI: Did you pick these tracks because they combine the whole idea of the band, or perhaps you like them most to play?
WWJ: Both-plus they get the most reaction from the people we play our songs to.
MTI: Do you agree that a lot of Kiss influences are present on the album?
WWJ: There are some… Maybe you could start a new drinking game. Listen to a CAROLINE BLUE CD and for every KISS influence you hear-take a shot 🙂
MTI: What other bands influenced your way of composing? For whom do you bow your head?
WWJ: I feel that anything you listen to-if you do it enough-will find it’s way into your writing. In terms of bowing my head, I only do that when I’m nibbling on a woman’s…ah…”cookie.” (HA!)
MTI: It would be really cool if you could play as an opening act for one of the mentioned bands isn’t it?
WWJ: It would be awesome!
MTI: What are the future plans of Caroline Blue? What can we expect within months from the band?
WWJ: We’re looking into making some music videos for songs from the “Not For The Innocent” CD. We’re also working on expanding our playing radius and exposing more & more people to the music of CAROLINE BLUE. Hopefully before year’s end, we’ll start working on a brand new CAROLINE BLUE CD-which we’ll make sure you get a review copy in a timely matter this time 🙂
MTI: Please tell us where people can buy or order the album?
WWJ: There are several places….
THE CAROLINE BLUE ONLINE STORE
HELLION RECORDS (GERMANY)
ROCK STAKK RECORDS (JAPAN)
MTI: And if there are shows in the near future, just mention them here as well!
WWJ: Right now the shows we have booked are based in NY State. Out of all the sites we have, the CAROLINE BLUE My Space page is the place to go to find the most recent up to date news & show dates http://www.myspace.com/carolineblue
MTI: A lot of American bands hope to cross the ocean for a European tour or some gigs at the major Summer Festivals like Graspop Metal Meeting, Wacken Open Air, Bang Your Head, Summer Breeze, Sweden Rock etc… what about Caroline Blue?
WWJ: We would love to play shows in Europe-that would be awesome! We were in communications with a booking agent in Europe, but the negotiations fell thru. Perhaps next year….
MTI: What are the expectations, what do you know about Europe and its metal community?
WWJ: I feel that Hard Rock / Heavy Metal is more popular & accepted than here in the U.S. The community is very well versed & passionate about their music & bands are judges by a higher standard. I feel that our music could go over very well there-and we look forward to one day being able to do that.
MTI: As we are from Belgium, what do you know from our little country? Can you position it on the European map; do you know the specialties of Belgium?
WWJ: I know where Belgium is and can point it out on a map. I unfortunately do not know much about the country and / or it’s culture. We do look forward to being there & learning someday! Doc did tell me that the beer in Belgium is awesome.
MTI: In case you didn’t know we have the best beer in the world. So if you come over, just drop us a note and we will hook up with you guys. Unnecessary to tell that the beer’s on us!
WWJ: Oh, I can’t let my drummer read that (HA!). We’ll definitely let you know when we’re there.
MTI: I want to thank you for your time to fill this form out. I do hope that the band will get the attention that you deserve and once we will meet! If there is a last thing that you want to tell, this is your spot…
WWJ: Thank you for the great interview-I’m just sorry that it took me so long to get it back to you. We look forward to one day coming over to Europe to play. To anyone reading this, please go to the CAROLINE BLUE My Space page: http://www.myspace.com/carolineblue and find the “DEMAND CAROLINE BLUE” box and do so.
Also, feel free to add our songs to your music players. And on behalf of the band, I want to give a HUGE thank you to all our Fans, Friends & Freaks! You people are the best!
MTI: Wayne, give our best regards to the rest of the band and Stay Wild!
WWJ: You betcha!