Pharaoh - Shining Power Beacon Part II
By: Matt Coe
Blistering.com: What are your feelings about the passing of guitarist Mark Reale from Riot, and what were some of your favorite memories through the years?
Johnsen: It was a huge bummer. I was kind of surprised at how young he was, because he looked terrible. He had been battling that disease for so long. When you look at what Riot accomplished album to album through the years, everything they released was good to awesome. There arenít that many artists who put out that many albums period- and especially in metal. It was really sad- when Mark and Mike did solos for us we didnít work directly with them in the studio. But when the Thundersteel lineup first reunited in Texas, my wife and I and Chris Black plus his wife flew there to see this show. It was a small club and we hung out after the show- I had primarily dealt with Mike Flyntz because Mark didnít have e-mail. So I found Mike and he introduced us to Mark, and reminded him of the solos they did for our Pharaoh album. Mark looked at me and said, ďWow man- you are a really great guitar player!Ē. That was very high praise- he didnít have a lot to say because he was in discomfort a large part of the day. Itís a bummer in a lot of ways because I donít know if Riot is going to go on- you have to feel bad for Mike because heís been the second guitar player since the 1990ís and heís a killer guitar player. I hope they continue in some way as a group- whatever lineup, they had a chemistry.
Blistering.com: Where do you see the metal scene headed in 2012? We all know that more people are downloading music than purchasing itÖ
Johnsen: Thatís just the way of the world. If we were kids at 14 now, we would not even consider paying for music. There are so many more entertainment options that are competing for your dollar. Itís a complicated thing- itís easier and easier to record an album cheaper on your own, so despite the fact that album sales are at an all-time low, record production is at an all-time high. This suggests from an economic point of view that the people who are willing to create the content are willing to do it for less than nothing- because you put in all of this money on your own for no gain. For myself, I donít have any expectations to make any money from Pharaoh - fortunately we do make a little money itís enough to put in the band account for shirts, fly people around for promotional pictures, itís there. What I want out of Pharaoh is to record music that I like to hear and other people will appreciate.
We are very fortunate to have a label that supports that - the recording and manufacturing is all taken care of by the label. What it will be like in 10 years who knows. I obviously have a gigantic CD collection and Iím sure at some point I will have to suck it up and begin paying to download my music - things Iím going to want are not going to come out on CD. I donít really worry about it - itís a bummer. People spend money on cable, cell phones, video games - you have to pay for unlimited data in so many places.
Blistering.com: Will Pharaoh be performing more in a live capacity for 2012? If so, is it true youíll have to adopt a different lineup for the live performances?
Johnsen: We are going to do more shows - we are doing the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse festival in Chicago soon, itís got Virgin Steele, Brocas Helm, Damien Thorne, and some other groups. We booked that because we thought it would be a nice, low stress affair. Itís not the same as going to Germany and playing your first gig in front of thousands of people at a festival- we expect a couple hundred people to play in front of. In order to do that we have to do a modified lineup, our bassist Chris Kerns is not available for live shows. The schedule of his life doesnít allow for it. Our drummer Chris Black plays bass in every other band heís in, so heíll do that live, which means we have to find another drummer. We finally settled on James Goetz from Division to play drums, and Matt Crooks will be our second guitarist. For the first time we are rehearsing regularly even though Tim is in Pittsburgh and Chris is in Chicago. Matt, James and myself rehearse together at a space in Baltimore once a week, which is nice. Booking tours will be Chrisí thing- itís my job to make sure the band is ready to go. Enrico mentioned we may be able to get a touring situation in Europe - I would do this as long as we can just make our expenses and for the experience.
Blistering.com: I know the challenge is to get enough vacation time between all the band members and their careers to make it worth your while.
Johnsen: You would think with the dollar being cheaper it would be better to fly to Europe, but itís not. I am going to the Keep It True festival in Germany and its $900 for one person to go over there. Multiply that by five and you have to sell a lot of tickets to recoup your expenses. One thing that definitely not many people appreciate is a lot of the European bands can get subsidies to play the United States. A lot of the Scandinavian bands can get money from the government to spread their countryís culture. The first time I saw the band Tyr, I thought it was the coolest thing. Weíve seen them now eight times, because the government of the Faroe Islands considers them their number one export. So they get free money to spread the culture to North America. But they have a competitive leg up on us.