Volumen 11: Entrevista a Alain Johannes de Eleven

plural: sidemen
Un músico de soporte en una banda de jazz o grupo de rock.

A veces no prestamos atención a ese otro individuo que está en tarima con los artista que idolatramos –el sideman. A veces estas personas han contribuido más de lo que el ojo permite ver, como es el caso de nuestra siguiente entrevista.

Alain Johaness es un músico y productor nacido en Santiago, Chile y criado en Los Angeles, California, que probablemente hayas escuchado muchas veces y hasta tengas en tu colección sin saberlo. Ha escrito canciones, grabado o producido discos para Arctic Monkeys, No Doubt, Live, Eagles of Death Metal, Jimmy Eat World, Sound City y Dessert Sessions. Y además ha sido un sideman compartiendo tarimas alrededor del mundo junto a artistas como Chris Cornell y PJ Harvey, colaborando también con los grupos de Josh Homme, Queens of the Stone Age y Them Crooked Vultures.

Pero no siempre ha prestado sus talentos a otros, habiendo dedicado tiempo como miembro fundador y líder de grupos como What Is This? (junto a Flea y Hillel Slovak de los Red Hot Chili Peppers) y su queridísima Eleven, en la que tocó con otro de los Peppers (Jack Irons) y su esposa fallecida, Natasha Schneider. Hablamos un poco con el guitarrista acerca de su carrera a través de los años.

Puerto Rico Indie (PRI): Thank you for your time, Alain. You mention being on tour recently with PJ Harvey?

Alain Johaness (AJ): Yes. I was on tour with my friend PJ Harvey, playing in her band which includes the amazing John Parish, Mick Harvey, James Johnston, Terry Edwards, Enrico Gabrielli, Alessandro Stefana, Jean Marc Butty and Kenrick Rowe –and of course our glorious leader, Polly!

PRI: Where did you tour?

AJ: We played Norway, Sweden, New York City and Los Angeles, then did a fall tour of Europe and the UK.

PRI: You play quite an array of musical instruments, both string and horns. Did you grow up in a musical family?

AJ: Yes I did. My mother was a singer as were both my uncles. My uncle Peter Rock was a multi-instrumentalist. They often used to rehearse at my mom’s, so there would be instruments and recording gear I had access to since I was 6 years old.

PRI: You were born in Chile but grew up in Los Angeles. When did you make the move?

AJ: Yes, born in Santiago, then spent a few years in Europe and Mexico before moving to Los Angeles when I was 12.

Los Johannes Chili Peppers

PRI: One of your first bands growing up as a teen included Hillel Slovak, Jack Irons and Flea. So you basically jammed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers before they even existed?

AJ: I met Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons in Bancroft Junior High School and we jammed as a 3 piece for a couple years, then at Fairfax High got a bassist named Todd Strassman, later replaced by Flea in 12th grade. We continued a bit after under the name What Is This, then Flea left to join Fear and after another year they formed the Peppers. We coexisted for a bit then. When we both got record deals, Hillel and Jack stayed with me in What Is This for our EP and full-length album, then Hillel rejoined the Peppers, then Jack a year later.

PRI: Eleven is your best known band. Do any particular moments come to mind as a highlight from that time in your career, playing with Jack and Natasha?

AJ: Eleven was an incredible band and all of our creative time is a highlight. Though I suppose if I had to be specific, our years opening for Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and later the short tour opening for QOTSA when we became friends.

PRI: Now that you mention all of those bands, the list of artists you’ve worked with both in the studio and in a live setting is a who’s who of rock royalty. Anyone left you’d like to work with in the future?

AJ: Sadly, a lot of my heroes have passed. I would have loved to work with David Bowie and Jeff Buckley.

Them Crooked Vultures

PRI: Did you feel any pressure as the fourth member of the “super” group Them Crooked Vultures live?

AJ: No more pressure than any other band. I was given a lot to do and was brought in as more than a utility guy. The band really developed a high level chemistry and we were really in tune improvisation wise. Of course it’s often referred to as a 3 piece and photos of all 4 are very rare.

PRI: How hard is it to be on tour for long periods of time?

AJ: For me, it’s the funnest, easiest time –ha! I love to travel, discover new places, people –and I love playing so much.

PRI: How did the Sound City “A Trick With No Sleeve” collaboration with Dave Grohl come about?

AJ: Dave Grohl invited me to be a part of that wonderful album and tour since I had worked at Sound City. We collaborated on that song and I performed on a few others as well.

PRI: Being a Fender Jazzmaster player myself, I’d like to know a little history about your black Jazzmaster? When did you buy it, mods, year, story?

AJ: I got that guitar in 1978. It had been owned reportedly by one guitarist since he got it in 1962. Originally, it was tobacco sunburst, and in the mid 80’s I had it painted black by this guy who took 6 months to do it because he was using as faithful as possible techniques and was a nut for the right humidity in the air. Ha! That was hard to be away from that guitar that long. I also put in Duncan 59 humbuckers using Jazzmaster pickup covers as mounts so there wasn’t any cosmetic change or routing to the instrument.

PRI: Fragments & Wholes, Vol. 1 is your latest work… Being a multi-instrumentalist, how much of your songs’ instrumentation do you have figure out before entering the studio? Is there space for improvisation?

AJ Well, for that album I had been posting little 15 second improvisations or fragments on my Instagram account. Then, when I was ready to go for it I would choose one in the morning and arrange it in my mind. Start working on the lyrical imagery and lay down usually a guitar part after some percussion I recorded for feel, then do drums, bass, horns, whatever. Sing it, add bv’s, go get dinner and mix it after. Next day start another song.

It was all me recording and performing everything really quickly, spontaneously, just feeling my way through what the song wanted. The whole album was done in 12 days.

Johannes también trabajó como productor y músico en un álbum que recientemente retomó importancia por razones trágicas con la partida de Chris Cornell. Titulado Euphoria Mourning, el mismo es considerado por muchos como el mejor trabajo solista del legendario cantante de grunge y grupos como Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog y Audioslave. Debido a que esta entrevista se realizó antes del fallecimiento de Cornell, no pudimos obtener comentario de Johannes en cuanto a lo sucedido. Sin embargo, el músico compartió su sentir a través de su cuenta de Instagram, compartiendo además un enlace al concierto final de la gira de Euphoria Mourning en el año 2000. Pueden disfrutar del mismo a continuación.

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Músico, Diseñador de ondas sónicas. Soy fanático del baloncesto, en especial los Dallas Mavericks y Vaqueros de Bayamon. Mi pedal favorito es el Deluxe Memory Man y tengo el tatuaje para probarlo! Bebida predilecta: "Old Fashioned"