INTERVIEW: Johnny O’Neil

1.    Hi Johnny, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hello VENTS! I’ve been quite fine, thank you, but just a little sleep-deprived. I lead two lives, “Johnny O’Neil” the rocker by night, and “Dr. John O’Neil,” Ph.D.-level clinical and forensic psychologist in solo private practice, by day. Not to mention I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful teenagers for whom I also try to reserve precious time!

2.    Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Snake In The Grass”?

Sure, it’s the first track and single off my new solo album. I also have a video for the song on my YouTube channel. I wanted to lead the album with a tune that grabbed you by the throat, so to speak.

3.    Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?


Well, without getting too deep into details, as I mentioned, I have a psychology private practice in my “other life.” The original inspiration came from a certain CEO (whose name shall go unmentioned) of a group psychology practice that I left to start my solo private practice. The process of doing so was a bit messy, shall we say (as in the classic lyrics of Warren Zevon, “bring lawyers, guns and money”). Of course, the song also applies to any number of a cast of nefarious characters, including a certain “ex-president” (whose name shall also go unmentioned).

4.    Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

The worldwide premiere of the video for “Snake in the Grass” was released on 2/04/21. You can view it on my YouTube channel.

5.    The single comes off your new album Truth Or Dare – what’s the story behind the title?

I co-founded a band called “Dare Force” with my Blood Brother and co-producer of my album, Brian Bart, when we were 18 years old. I had reformed a new version of the band back in 2017. The last incarnation of the band just wasn’t working from a creative standpoint due to polar-opposite views regarding politics and the pandemic. I’m a Ph.D.-level trained scientist, and as such am not prone to adhering to crazy conspiracy theories, never mind being a member of the political “cult” of a malignant narcissist. You could say that “the virus killed the Force.” The title represents a hard choice that I was “forced” to make…

6.    How was the recording and writing process?

The album features nine songs, including never-before-recorded songs I wrote and performed with Dare Force years ago, brand-new tunes written by me, as well as an acoustic tune I wrote when I was 16 years old. I’ve also done a remake of The Beatles’ classic, “Revolution”!
 
One of the most wonderful aspects of this project was the chance for me to work in the studio once again with Brian Bart, who engineered, recorded, mixed, mastered, and co-produced the album with me. In addition to writing all but one of the tunes on the album, I sang all lead vocals, and played all guitars (lead, slide, acoustic, and bass) on the album.
 
However, I also enlisted a “secret weapon,” percussion powerhouse Joachim Baecker on drums. Joachim played drums in Rattlin’ Bones and Funhouse with former members of Obsession and Flipp, and has worked in the studio with the legendary producer Jack Douglas, and the late, great Mick Ronson, former guitarist for David Bowie.
 
Joachim and I were also most excited to have a very special guest artist, Danny Peyronel, the original keyboardist for UFO, contribute his stellar keyboard skills to three of the tracks on the album.

7.    What role does Minneapolis play in your music?

I am a “Minneapolis kid,” born and bred. I grew up in a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis appropriately named, “Golden Valley.” Brian Bart and I grew up across the street from each other, and started playing together in garage bands when we were nine years old. Our music teacher at our beloved Sunny Hollow Elementary School was Bob Dylan’s younger brother, David Zimmerman. Brian and I co-founded Dare Force when we were 18 years old, and the band was based out of Minneapolis (including several band houses in Minneapolis). Minneapolis plays a huge role in my music, needless to say.

8.    Having achieved major success back with Dare Force – would you call this a departure or rather a continuation?

As in all things in life, people, relationships, events, and bands must pass. So, too, it was with the latest lineup of Dare Force. But as every door closes, another one opens, and this life chapter is no exception! My debut solo album was released on 1/21/21. I will also be most definitely performing live shows as a solo artist once we get through all this COVID-19 upheaval! My band features Joachim Baecker on drums, along with my new partner in six-string crime, the one and only John Funk on lead guitar and backing vocals! John is also a veteran of the Twin Cities music scene, and is well-known for his high energy stage presence and blistering fretwork! We also are most excited to have Benny Craig come on board as our bass guitarist and backing vocalist! Benny, too, is a veteran of the Twin Cities music scene, and was an original member of the band, Paradox. We can’t wait to see your faces at our live shows!

9.    Do you tend to take a different approach when collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

When working on my own, I will have a completed song with lyrics, chord structure, and melody all set before recording. Collaborating involves working with someone else as a team, taking bits of lyrics, chords, melody, etc. that each person brings to the table, and combining them to create something that is more than the sum of its parts.

10.    Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Personal experiences and relationships, world events, history, literature, the arts, psychology, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter, Michael Schenker/UFO, Phil Lynott/Thin Lizzy…I could go on and on…..
 
11.    What else is happening next in Johnny O’Neil’s world?

We are filming a video for our second single, “Comin’ For You” in two weeks, and will release it “to the masses” ASAP. I am also intensely rehearsing with my brand new band in preparation of getting out and performing live shows as a solo artist as soon as it is safe to do so. We are already writing new tunes for the next “Johnny O’Neil” album, which will feature my full band. We hope to start recording the next album later this year, which will be released under a label rather than as a “self-release.”

LISTEN HERE

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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