Interview with Damon Johnson ahead of acoustic Norwich show with Ricky Warwick
Damon Johnson - who has been a member of some of rock’s most famous bands - tells ADAM AIKEN that although his upcoming show in Norwich will be acoustic, he will be rocking just as hard as ever.
Damon Johnson – part of the modern-day Thin Lizzy line-up as well as being one of the Black Star Riders – arrives in Norwich later this month for a show at the Waterfront with partner-in-crime Ricky Warwick.
But that’ll be it. It’s going to be just the two of them with a stripped-down sound as the duo go acoustic.
It’ll be the chance to hear songs from throughout the pair’s career with a fresh twist, although Johnson says there won’t be any less energy on stage than usual.
“If you’ve not seen Warwick Johnson perform live before then you’ll be absolutely surprised at the intensity and power of the two of us acoustically,” he says.
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“There is still plenty of ‘blasting away’. It’s hard-hitting, fast paced, loud and fun – and with just two guys on acoustic guitars.”
Both Johnson and Warwick – himself also a member of Lizzy and a fellow founder of BSR – have a history of acoustic shows, but the current project came about by accident.
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“Ricky and I each have a long history of performing solo acoustic,” says Johnson.
“There was a solo gig Ricky had booked in Belfast back in 2013, while we were on tour with Black Star Riders. I simply tagged along to enjoy his show. He called me up onstage to play a song together, which quickly turned into five or six songs.
“And what was better, the audience loved it. We knew immediately it was a special energy we have when we perform songs acoustically together.”
The shows on this tour will include songs from throughout both their careers, so expect to hear some Alice Cooper in there, too, given that Johnson had stints with Alice earlier this century. There might also be a few forgotten gems.
“We perform songs from each of our long careers in the music business,” says the 54-year-old, who hails from Georgia in the southern United States. “For as much profile and success that Ricky has had in Black Star Riders and Thin Lizzy, he achieved a great deal of success in The Almighty as well. Those songs go over great, always.
“And it’s cool for me to get to play some of my old Brother Cane catalogue and educate listeners about my past, as my old band toured very little in Europe in the ’90s. Add a handful of our favourite cover tunes and it’s a great night out.”
Johnson and Warwick are busy men. BSR are getting ready for their fourth album and have some dates in the UK later this year. Before that, Johnson has a solo album coming out, backed up by some shows in the US.
He’s opted for a Pledge Campaign for that solo effort – something he describes as “a fantastic way to offer my fans something special” as well as a way to generate revenue for “a proper promotional push”.
He adds: “Everything about my solo career is ‘do-it-yourself’ in every way. Besides writing and producing and co-engineering the music myself, I’ve got my own record label imprint. My family and I do everything in-house, including all related promo, as well as preparing artwork for the physical copies.
“The Pledge Campaign aids my fans in purchasing the music far in advance, and that provides me some operating capital to get the ball rolling with publicity, administration and digital distribution in advance of the album release.
“You’ll not hear me complain about the current state of the music business like some other musicians; I’ve fully embraced it. If you can write and record and perform and treat your fans with respect, there’s never been a better time to build your audience.”
Talking of audiences, those at this month’s Waterfront show can expect the unexpected.
“It’s never scripted and it’s always ad-libbed,” says Johnson.
“We don’t even bring a prepared setlist to the stage. We generally start with All Hell Breaks Loose and Lizzy’s Are You Ready, but then all bets are off as to where it goes from there.
“We have a master-list of about 60 songs to choose from, so that makes it as fun for us as it does the audience.”
Acoustic it might be, but it should also be a blast.
The Warwick Johnson Sonic Acoustic Attack Tour comes to the Waterfront, Norwich, on Saturday, September 29. Tickets are available for £15 advance from the UEA Box Office website.