An interview with Johnnie Holiday and Weeds is just not another interview, a discussion… it’s a whole experience. It’s like transporting to another era, like time traveling back to the day when rock was king, popular and loud. Obviously, one of the main subjects is the transition from Star Star to Scream Idol, the reasons that led to that and of course the big gap in discography. Of course, all that is just an excuse for a wild roller coaster ride, which you can actually watch on the video below.
Interview: Sakis Nikas, Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: A new beginning, but not exactly a new beginning. Why Scream Idol. Why now?
Johnnie Holliday: Well, we just felt that we couldn’t continue anymore with Star Star. Because we felt we drifted. We were much further from as a band than what star Star was like. We developed into a new band, and that was Scream Idol. We’ve just felt differently. Didn’t feel comfortable calling it Star Star anymore because it wasn’t Stars Star anymore.
Weeds: It was a decision that we should have made a while ago, but we decided now. It seemed like it was perfect. We always thought about it, you know?
Rockpages.gr: When you say that you always thought about it… Why did you think this was the right time to change the name?
Johnnie Holliday: Well, it’s been a while that we were thinking maybe we should change the name. You know, maybe it’s time to move on, turn the page. We just kept putting it off, putting it off until we until the new album was about (to be released)…
Weeds: And now it seemed like the perfect time to do it. We never pulled the trigger until… now! Now we felt, it’s the right time.
Rockpages.gr: What are the main differences between Star Star and Scream Idol?
Johnnie Holliday: Well, besides the musical differences, it’s a reflection of where we are now as people, I guess. Whereas, you know, Star Star was a different era in our lives. And, you know, the music that you create reflects what’s happening in your life at that time. So it’s definitely reflecting a different era in our lives, not a more mature era or anything like that, but a different era.
Weeds: You’ll get the attitude and the true grit feeling that we had on stage.
Johnnie Holliday: We haven’t abandoned our rock’n’roll roots!
Weeds: Oh, not at all.
Johnnie Holliday: The only thing that we ever really wanted man out of making new albums was just to be able to play and live the life…
Weeds: Live the rock and roll life.
Rockpages.gr: What happened in between those 30 years from the release of “The Love Druge Years”? It’s not been 5… it’s 30 years.
Johnnie: Yes, I know. It happens, man. It’s like… you’re partying and your fucking chicks… And you just get into this whole thing of “okay, it’s going to happen. We’re doing it. It’s getting better. We’re doing it better. We’re re-recording it. We’re doing this”. Meanwhile, you’re playing and everything is going good. You’re feeling good. You feel like you have this momentum and you just keep putting it off. You just keep thinking “it’s going to be better” and “it’s going to be better”. And that’s what happened to us. We just got into this thread of, “well, now we don’t play this live this way. Let’s change the recording. So, that’s re-recorded.
We we recorded this album like four or five times.
Weeds: Yeah, this album is being recorded for five times… different variations of the album…
Johnnie: And months went into years and it just kept going, man, you know.
Rockpages.gr: Does starting from scratch scare you?
Johnnie: No man, that’s the excitement of it. I’ll tell you the very best part of this whole rock and roll thing is getting your band off the ground. In the old days, it was going down to the Sunset Strip and handing out fliers. Going in Manhattan downtown and handing out flyers… “hey, come to my show, man”. I love it. I loved it, man. You know – I made it. One of the reasons I feel excited about this whole change is because I feel like, “man, here we go again”. Like we did when we were a little younger.
And we’re not going to run away from the Star Star link, you know?
Weeds: You know, it’s part of the history.
Rockpages.gr: Was Star Star a New York, or L.A. band?
Weeds: It’s hard to say.
Johnnie: We played both scenes, so they consider us a New York band because we signed our first deal in New York City, but we originally formed and played in LA.
Weeds: So yeah, the first shows were in LA.
Rockpages.gr: How was the scene in the States back then? How would you describe it?
Johnnie: Drunk! It was exciting. There’s a lot of bands. Everybody was in a band, you know! We had the attitude then… we didn’t care about getting paid to play or anything like that. Everybody just played to present their show. The whole concept of the band was like, you get a band together to present your show and do something big at some point. The difference today is that you see bands getting together, they haven’t played a show and they approach club owners and they’re like, “how much are we going to get paid?” Well, how much should you get paid, man? How much money are you going to bring in to get paid?
That was the difference. We used to get together because we wanted to express ourselves. And that’s changed over time.
Weeds: It was never about money. There was always about us hanging out and the whole camaraderie with bands and having fun.
Rockpages.gr: What was the different between the New York and the LA scene back then?
Johnnie: The New York scene that I grew up in that I was too young for,so I can’t speak about it. But, the New York scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s it was different, you know? I think it was a lot more creative than the L.A. scene. It was a step ahead of them as far as new music coming out and the whole punk, the new wave scene. That was the main difference, I thought it was more cutting edge. It was more European influenced. It was a more international city. Not that L.A wasn’t of course, but nothing’s like new York, you know, it had that cutting edge energy.
Rockpages.gr: Is it difficult to be a rock’n’roller in Greece?
Johnnie: It’s the same.
Weeds: Yeah, it’s the same. I’d rather be here right now than, than New York, to be honest.
Johnnie: Well, I’ll tell you this: The Scorpions are playing here in front of 60,000 people at the Olympic Stadium. I guarantee you, the Scorpions would not sell 60,000 tickets in New York City right now, except for like the old people that will go there for the nostalgia. I hear this a lot, but, man, I’ll tell you, Europe for us, still rocks, man, you know? Thank God.
Weeds: Yeah, people liking rock is a rarity now in New York.
Johnnie: When was the last time you heard of a band coming out of New York or L.A.. A rock band! Honestly. When was the last time?
Well, look, the last few years things have changed. It was better here, though, before the the crisis and the pandemic and all of that. It was okay. But you know, that has nothing to do with how you live your life, man. You know, you’re not going to live differently because there’s not enough clubs or something like that.
It doesn’t matter because look, man, rock and roll has always been an underground art. Anywhere you go… you think in America when we were touring, we didn’t get heckled walking in the streets. I mean, that happens everywhere, man.
The worst place where I was actually scared for my life was in Georgetown. You remember the Georgetown University over there, right?
Weeds: Yeah, Washington, D.C….
Johnnie: We were scared to death there. We couldn’t walk.
Weeds: They were looking at us.
Johnnie: So, you’d be surprised, man. Rock’n’ roll has always been a subculture and the mainstream will always react to you, act like you’re an underground individual and doesn’t matter whether you’re here, or you’re in America, man, believe me, there’s places in America where you don’t want to be.
Rockpages.gr: Still, what it lacks here, it’s the true spirit of the American rock’n’roll. People are re-producing the sounds and the melodies, but it’s different. Why is that?
Johhnie: That’s a good question. I think it might have to do with like how you grow up, what’s instilled in you as a kid. It’s very important when you grow up in a country where rock and English speaking rock music is not really your native thing, it’s really hard to kind of absorb that into your personality as you grow up.
I think that’s the element missing. I don’t want to be derogatory, but sometimes when I see some bands not only from Greece but some other countries playing rock… it seems like Madonna is playing rebetika music, you know what I mean? They just don’t have the culture. They’re mimicking it.
I think that in America and in England, the advantage you have is the mainstream music. The pop music, rock and stuff like that. Whereas in other countries, the mainstream on the radio is the music of of that country.
That mimicking thing that you mentioned is not only a Greek phenomenon. No. The whole industry has changed. That’s what the industry wants now. Years ago, the music industry was looking for bands that had their own sound, character, you know? I mean, you think of the old bands, the big bands, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, the Beatles. They all had a completely different sound.
Now it’s exactly the opposite. They want bands that sound like the proven hitmakers, man. That’s why so many bands sound alike. Now, honestly, you can play me ten different bands and tell me is the same one. I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t tell you that you’re wrong. I swear to God, man, it sounds the same. They all sound the same!
I think it has to do with the music industry gyrating towards that mentality. They decided to start putting bands together like the Backstreet Boys and they started constructing bands and creating a standardized product.
Rockpages.gr: So, maybe when the record companies ruled and were very carefully picking which bands to promote, things for rock music were better, with bands like Motley Crue and Guns’n’Roses dominating…
Johnnie: Well, I’ll tell you this man: the thing that Motley Crue, Nirvana and Guns’n’ Roses had that these other bands don’t have, that the record companies were looking for, is that they were original man! They were big because they were original. If you want to mimic something, mimic originality, don’t mimic what somebody does. Mimic his mindset of being himself, being original! That’s why they were the leading bands, because they were original. Nirvana spawned all those bands. So did Motley Crue and Guns’n’ Roses. They weren’t a result of that scene. This says a lot for other bands that were a result of those bands.
Rockpages.gr: Well, Nirvana, Motley, Guns… This was more than 30 years ago. Who are the new rockstars?
Johnnie: You know, maybe our this whole rock star band thing… Maybe that’s done. Maybe we’re not going to be seeing that anymore. Maybe things have changed. There hasn’t been a major rock star in years and years, man. Who’s the youngest major rock star? Is he over or under 60 years old? I mean, a rock star man! Like Mick Jagger, or somebody like that. You know what I mean?
I heard a discussion the other day saying that the only rock star left is David Grohl. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’m just saying maybe things have changed.
I mean, look, bands have changed now, you know? I mean, as far as rock music, man, I can understand why it’s, you know, sunk so much down in market value and just in people’s consciousness, you know, rock. I saw a graph of, you know, rock music, country music and rap and hip hop, and rock was like nonexistent on that graph, you know? And I think there’s reasons for it, man. Do you want to go into these reasons?
Rockpages.gr: There are many reasons. One being maybe the lack of music industry…
Johnnie: Yeah, but you know what, man? The music industry can’t make bands. The bands make the music industry. If you’re expecting to get a cue from some producer, or some promoter, then hang it up, man. The bands are the ones that set the tone and not the industry. The industry should follow.
Rockpages.gr: You know what’s also sad? 20 year-old kids who listen to music through the Internet and not really supporting the bands.
Johnnie: I don’t blame these kids for turning their back on rock. The last 20 years suck. Let’s be honest, man. There’s nothing original. It’s the same old sound, same old style, same old formula. I don’t hear anything original.
Now, you going to say “why, Johnny? Are you original?” No, but at least I had my own attitude. Like when you put on Scream Idol. I think that, you know, it’s Scream Idol.
Weeds: That’s the thing.
Johnnie: You’re not going to write a new progression or anything. Everything’s been written and done million times. It’s the character, the personality you put into it. And it seems like everybody’s not only copying the formula, they’re copying each other’s personalities. It’s crazy.
So I don’t blame these kids for turning their back, because it’s not exciting. It’s kind of depressing that all these rock stars, they’re like, so doom and gloom and that’s not what rock and roll is about. And rock n roll is about dancing. Yeah. About being with chicks and having fun. I don’t know when they decided that rock and roll is so heavy and gloomy…
So, if you’re a kid and you’re watching this video of a rock star that wants to kill himself, he’s in misery… And then, you switch the channel and you’re watching a rap video of this guy with chicks at the pool with chains. Yeah, you’re going to be attracted to that. What do you want to be? The miserable rock star that wants to kill himself, because he’s so sick of his money, or the other dude that’s celebrating life? I’m not saying about the money thing, the gold chains… it’s not that. But the chicks, the cars and stuff. I mean, look at the difference between a rap video and a rock video these days. Come on! As a kid, without some ideology or anything like that, as a kid, what would excite you more?
Rockpages.gr: Yeah maybe this anti- rockstar started with the grunge era.
Johnnie: That was the beginning of the end. I was in Paris in 90-something in the early ‘90s and they asked me something about that and I said what I thought, “this is trendy music and it’s not good for rock and roll”. And, and the guy at the radio station, he just said to me, “Pearl Jam rules”. Okay, look at all those years later, man. I turn on the radio now. I haven’t heard Pearl Jam on the radio in a long time, but I still hear Led Zeppelin all the time and the Stones and Pink Floyd and all these classic bands. So I was right: it was music of the decade, it was trendy music, and it didn’t help rock and roll. It took it down some dark road, which had nothing to do with the rock’n’ roll roots, man. Rock’n’ roll is dancing… Hence the name “rock and roll”, man, You dance, you have fun know.
But, it’s certainly not the bands’ fault. They were just expressing themselves. It’s just the way that it was adopted and cultivated by the music industry. And it just replaced rock’n’ roll bands man.
Rockpages.gr: So, last question, as a Star Star fan am I going to be disappointed when I go watch Scream Idol live? What should I expect?
Johnnie: We’ve upgraded. We have a whole brand new show, man. It’s nothing like the Star Star show other than us doing it. So, hopefully there’ll be something rejuvenating and fresh. The whole thing is, we want to sound fresh. We feel that way, man. We’re not stuck on yesterday’s music – we never were. We’re always listening to new stuff and… you know, we want the fans to feel they way we feel about our new music, We hope that we have some kind of contemporary vibe, some modern vibe, something that could take rock’n’roll to some other level.