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Johnny Chops

Johnny Chops Revealed

Johnny Chops By March 21, 2018 No Comments

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It’s been 5 years since Johnny “Chops” Richardson rolled out his first solo project, “Sticks & Stones” with his band The Razors. A couple more Randy Rogers Band records in the books and a lot of highway miles to go along, Johnny Chops has found the time and thanks to his fans, raised the money via PledgeMusic, to put out a self-titled, second offering on March 23rd.

“Johnny Chops and The Razors” picks up the rock where they last left it. It’s an eclectic mix of vintage tones, guitar fuzz, upbeat rock ‘n’ roll boogie and mellow blues all wrapped in a wild west ghoulish backdrop.  Think Tim Burton taking over a jukebox littered with traditional rock ‘n’ roll and country.

I was able to catch a Johnny Chops and The Razors show at Gas Monkey Live! several weeks back. Before the show, we chatted it up over some fish tacos. Chops is always laid back and easy to talk to, and oozes cool that’s far from presumptuous or aloof. Our conversation flowed effortlessly from music in general to growing up in our respective hometowns, sports, and finally to the new record.

Most people know you from your main gig as the bass player for The Randy Rogers Band but you’ve been doing Johnny Chops and The Razor for at least 5 years. How do you find time to do both?

I really don’t take vacations and I enjoy what I do. So it’s not like I’m going to “work” or I don’t feel like it’s that way. I’ll get off the route with Randy, take a day off, relax, then get up the next morning and start working on more music. It’s that simple.

In 2013, you established your traditional rock ‘n’ roll sound with “Sticks & Stones”, but your sound is unique in that it’s got this spooky, Halloween rock feel. Is that intentional?

Not entirely, we started out with a straight-ahead, guitar-driven rock sound. I don’t know if it’s because I was really into punk rock when I was younger but I just like the spooky feel. For me, it’s a comfortable place to write from and what I tend to gravitate to.

It even creeps into the tunes you’ve written for the Randy Rogers Band – “Wicked Ways”, “Ten Miles Deep” and “Shotgun”. It’s a mash-up of old westerns, God, the supernatural, death, and superstition that ends up creating a sort of “Western Death Vibe”.

You might want to coin that phrase, I like the sound of that!

This new record you’ve done with David Abeyta, who is producing a lot of folks these days. How was that?

Dave is a great person to work with; he’s easy going and we are into a lot of the same sounds musically. He’s also got some great equipment at his house that we were able to use. We really connected and I think it shows on the record.

“Believer” is the first single you released off the record and it’s a good transition from “Sticks & Stones” because it has similar tones. You also put out a video for it, so talk about both.

I wanted to write it from the point of view of somebody that’s so obsessive about their superstitions that they’re afraid to even walk outside. For the video, we came up with the idea of this guy that does everything blindfolded, as if he’s relying on nothing but his superstitions to get him through all these sticky situations. We shot a lot of it at the Globe Theater in Bertram, Texas which is this cool theater that’s been restored to early-twentieth century, period correct decor.

The second single you released, “Taking A Chance on Me”, features some gospel singers that bring some soul to that track. How did that come about?

While we were in the studio cutting it, somebody said: “Hey you really need some old school guys to sing on this and give it a gospel feel.” The song isn’t necessarily a gospel song, but it could be interpreted that way and when we got into the studio we decided to take it in that direction. I’m really happy with the way it came out and the guys that sing on it are three brothers who call themselves The Gospel Starz. They’ve been singing together their whole lives in this small church near Austin and they brought an energy that took the song to an entirely different level. We did the video in this bar in the Rainey Street district of Austin. It’s actually this old house that they moved 10 miles from the east side of town and it was a cool backdrop for the video.

“Stick & Stones” has a heavy rock slant while the new record leans on more Deep South, Mississippi Blues influences. Was that intentional?

Definitely. While I love the rock stuff, I’ve always been a huge Delta Blues fan. One of the things that got me started playing guitar was finding Robert Johnson. He was different than anybody I had ever heard, it was like two guys playing guitar at the same time but it was all him. He is still the benchmark for me. For a few years early on, I was listening to all blues all the time so I think it’s always in the back of my head. After the first record came out and with the feedback I got from live shows, it just seemed that the blues stuff was coming off better, so this time I tried to focus writing more in that vein.

You also did a really cool cover of a Muddy Waters tune, “I Just Want To Make Love to You”, but with a different take?

We had a half a day left in the studio and we just casually laid down this cover that we do at the live shows. After we were done tracking it, David had the idea of turning it into a duet to really take it in a different direction. He immediately thought of Brandy Zdan to come in and do it, but we switched things up and gave her the guy verse to sing as another spin. When I heard her vocals on the track, it really blew my hair back.

Album Review

Outside of the tracks already discussed, “Tombstone Flowers” is a Chop’s personal favorite. Dubbed  “a love song from beyond the grave”, it’s done in a swinging 50’s soda shop style that really lightens the mood. “Ten Cent Talkers” spotlights the scrubs of this world who oversell and under-deliver on everything they do    because “Idle hands are easy to keep clean.”

With its heavy keys a la Jerry Lee Lewis, “Rock Bottom” will you get you jitterbugging to its up-tempo,  optimistic, things-can-only-go-up-from-here attitude. 

A personal favorite, but more than likely a deep cut, is “Only When You’re Breathing”. It’s anchored in repressed anger and contempt for a cold, heartless woman who speaks only in lies. It’s a long tune, coming in at close to seven and a half minutes with the song building up to a really cool two-minute guitar and drum-heavy instrumental.

Finally, “Good Night” closes things out in what could only be described as death lullaby about a hitman who finally meets his match against a female opponent. It holds true to that “Western Death Vibe” he’s established.

Overall, “Johnny Chops and The Razors”  is full of dark subject-matter but presented with varying spins. It is at times chill, sometimes rockin’, other times upbeat and humorous, and occasionally flat-out creepy.

Come March 23rd, be sure to check out the new record available at typical music outlets. Also, keep in mind a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Rockport Humane Society and Adoption Center which has been on the front lines helping lost and abandoned animals as a result of Hurricane Harvey. For more cool tunes and information, check out the Johnny Chops website.

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Good Premonitions

Cody Canada, Dan Johnson, DocFell, Flatland Cavalry, Jeremy Plato, Johnny Chops, Randy Rogers Band, Red Dirt, Red Shahan, The Departed, The Texas Music Scene, Wade Bowen By January 22, 2018 No Comments

January’s kick off to 2018 is about over and music-wise, I’m pumped about what’s in store for the year. My personal trifecta of favorites – the Randy Rogers Band, Cody Canada and The Departed, and Wade Bowen are all putting out records this year. Past those heavy hitters, we have many a big name giving us new music in 2018. The spring in particular looks to be chock-full of great stuff to keep our ears busy. So here’s a rundown:

  • Of the aforementioned, Wade Bowen’s Solid Ground drops first (February 9th) and based on the tracks out there thus far, looks to be an homage to Texas life in both subject and sound.
  • The last word at Christmas was The Departed’s new offering is a slated for spring. In 2017 the band pared down to a three-piece outfit of Cody Canada, long time partner-in-crime Jeremy Plato (bass) and Eric Hansen (drums). I have no idea what Cody and company have in store, but I’m hoping we get a sneak peek at Mile 0 Fest.
  • The back-fence talk on the Dave Cobb produced RRB record is that it’s thick in Tom Petty influence. I know the guys in the band are pumped and let’s hope we see a single or two in the summer months. Expect the record to arrive in the fall.
  • If you were at Steamboat you got to hear William Clark Green’s new Hebert Island in its entirety, the rest will see it this spring.
  • Red Shahan finished Culberson County months ago and he we heard some of those new tunes back in July at River Jam. Can’t wait to see if Shahan follows up strong to Men and Coyotes, which as good of an initial offering as we’ve seen around here in recent years. This also hits everyone’s ears in the spring.
  • Mike and the Moon Pies Steak Night at the Prairie Rose will be a big winner this year. I can’t think of anybody who has mastered the steel heavy honky-tonk sound better than this Austin based group. The Adam Odor produced record is nostalgic and genuine, complete with boot burners, beer criers, waltzes and swing that might cause Jerry Reed and Don Williams to pay us a visit from the grave. You’ll be able to get your hands on it February 2nd.
  • Cody Jinks’ new record is out “very soon” and all we know is the cryptic title: _ _ _ _ R _
  • Johnny Chops and The Razors’ has a self-titled album arriving at the end of March. It’s the Chops’ brand of rockin’ blues he introduced us to with 2013’s Stick and Stones, but with a heavy nod to his Delta Blues influences.  We’ve got an extensive interview with Chops in the bag so you’ll be hearing all about this one in the coming weeks.
  • Dan Johnson – Hemingway. The writing and ambiance of Dan Johnson’s new project could propel him to the next level in this scene. It’s indeed a project, with a full narrative that envelopes the music. There are Quentin Tarantino-esqe scenes to the Hemingway story, giving us characters who have to make some soul-selling decisions that have lifelong repercussions on them and their loved ones. Check it out in early April.
  • American Aquarium – Things Change: BJ Barham has retooled his band after it disbanded in April last year and apparently we are going to see lots of harmonies on this new record which is slated for late spring.

Rounding out the release rumor mill, scene darlings Flatland Cavalry, 2017 phenom Koe Wetzel, and Cody Johnson all have new stuff expected to see light in 2018.

So there you go, keep in mind the list isn’t exhaustive and we’ll likely hear about many more as the year progresses. 2018 is looking good!

Quick Riffs:

    • Dierks Canada looks to have had a pretty good 2017. The oldest son of Cody and Shannon Canada continues to hone his chops on the axe and capped off 2017 playing with Ray Wylie Hubbard on the Gruene Hall stage in front of a packed house. Gruene Hall at age 12? Not bad kid.
    • I all but checked out of the NFL once the Cowboys got eliminated and I got my butt handed to me in my fantasy football playoffs. The “Minneapolis Miracle” was something to see even though I didn’t catch the replay until later in the evening after Twitter blew up. I have a love/hate relationship with SuperBowl Sunday. Love the game, the parties, and the commercials but it’s the final nail in the coffin of the holiday season. It’s the low point in the sports calendar and next to the frying heat of August, probably my least favorite time of year. To steal from Junior Miller’s Top 5/Bottom 5 – February sits behind August and July as my least favorite months. The good news is that this year I’m going to Key Westand soon after, pitchers and catcher report for spring training.
    • Speaking of Key West, Mile 0 Fest is just a couple of weeks away and I’m looking forward some beach time R&R and a ton of great music. If the OhWook! Productions team do a good job of pulling this thing off I’m thinking Steamboat could take a hit. I’m not predicting its demise, but if I’m an artist would I rather be breaking my fingers off in subzero weather or nursing margaritas on a 75-degree beach? Same goes for the festival goers. These trips aren’t cheap and if I had to budget for one festival, the argument of comfortably watching my favorite artist on a Duval street pub crawl versus freezing my junk off in a crowded tent (or worse, breaking my collarbone on a mountain) is pretty compelling.
    • In October I got to sit in on some sessions with Tahlequah based red dirt outfit, DocFell & Co. who were working on their latest album Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma. I’ve finally heard some early mixes and it’s cool to hear Dave Percefull work his magic at the production helm. These guys haven’t bled into Texas quite yet but they may make a push with this one in 2018.
    • For Christmas, my awesome brother bought us tickets to see The Eagles and Chris Stapleton in Dallas this June. That’s a bucket list worthy show for sure.

 

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