By Kim Thore----- Courtesy of All Access Magazine
Welcome to the place you may just want to call home after a
few turns in your cd changer. It's Warner Drive, the Los
Angeles band that is creating an industry buzz that is
deafening in its acclaim with their first full length CD, Fully Loaded and live performances that put you in the cross
hairs and send you reeling with the force of their unique
sound. With almost perfect vocals, a rock steady in the pocket
bass player, a tight stick man and shredder on guitar, Jonny
Law, Chris Koushayan, Peter Crowner, Matthew Shapiro of Warner
Drive are poised for the kind of fame most bands only dream
about. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with lead
singer Jonny Law, about Warner Drive's beginnings, what has
contributed to their success, and what the future is looking
like for the band that is quickly becoming the definitive
weapon of mass consumption. So sit back and prepare to be
locked, cocked and ready to rock?
KT: Let's start off with a trip down memory lane- how did Warner
Warner Drive started.... on Warner Drive. Matt and I lived within
a couple of blocks of each other as kids and we grew up jamming
(badly) in my Mom and Dad's garage on Warner Drive in Hollywood.
When we met Chris and Pete in our early teens, we would all just
get together in that garage and jam. The four of us were the core
of a few different bands. There was "Hoser", there was "FL", and
then there was "Fully Loaded" which was a combination of the
members of Hoser and FL. We toured pretty hard as FL and Fully
Loaded and gained quite the following. One day while on tour with
the Vans Warped Tour, we had booked another show in the evening
after our afternoon performance for the Warped Tour. We were in
San Francisco and after our set with Warped we left and went to
the club to pass out flyers to passers-bye in hopes of getting
some new people into the show that night. One of us gave a flyer
to a guy who said, "Oh, Fully Loaded, my brother has a rap group
out in Oakland called Fully Loaded". We went on with the Warped
Tour through Washington, Montana, Utah, and Colorado, and then
came back home. Waiting in my mail box was a Cease and Desist
letter from Fully Loaded the rap group. They didn't even exist
anymore. They were an early 90's group. But they still owned the
name. We offered them money but they wouldn't take it. So we were
forced to change the name of the band. The one thing that we all
always had in common were our musical roots, which we all
developed in that garage on Warner Drive. I remember shooting
names around in the van on tour when we were deciding on a new
name, and I recall all of us volunteering the names that suited
each of our personalities the best. I offered really cheesy and
corny names with words in them like "Lighting" and crap like that.
Pete suggested hard names that made the band sound tough like
"Ripping Hammer" or something to that effect. Chris liked catchy
names with rings to them. And Matt wanted something that he could
envision on a giant billboard, something big. We all had these
different ideas of what kind of name we wanted for the band and we
really couldn't all agree on anything. And then I said, "What
about Warner Drive?". Nobody immediately shot it down like all of
the other names we had come up with. We all thought about it and
agreed that Warner Drive described where we had come from and what
shaped us, not only as musicians, but as friends. From the parties
to the jamming, from the song writing to the trouble making... it
all started there. For me the name hit even closer to home because
it was "my" home. I had also just lost my Father, my hero, to
leukemia, and to have a name that stemmed from his support of me
as a musician, the place where he allowed and supported my musical
development both as a writer and as a player, meant the world to
me. Some people don't get our name or think it's an easy out and
not very creative, but that's only because they didn't grow up
with us on Warner Drive. The name is so important to all of us.
It's who we are.
KT: Your music has a similar feel to some of Three Doors Down's
work but with a grittier, more of a pocket punch feel. Is there
any significance in this?
Warner Drive: Honestly, I don't see that correlation. But that's
ok. I don't have to. I hear people say so many things.. You guys
sound like "so and so" and I can hear "this band" in your music
and they must be an influence for you. Three Doors Down is not one
of those bands, but if you personally hear some of that in our
music, and you enjoy that band, then great. Music is completely
subjective, and it strikes everyone differently. If that's what
you feel and think about when you hear us, fantastic. But I've
heard it all and typically they are bands that I personally do not
draw any influence from.
KT: Let's talk about the production of your latest and first full
length cd- You have some fairly impressive producers behind you-
How did that union come about?
WD: Mike Clink and James Michael. Two wonderful producers and two
even better friends. Mike's background in production is with
mega-bands like Guns N Roses, Motely Crue, Metallica, Megadeath,
etc.. And James has produced some big-time current acts like the
Deftones, Saliva, Alanis Morissette, Motley Crue's newest record
Red White and Crue, etc... Mike and James were working together
and looking for an unsigned band to make a record with and make
some noise within the industry, and after coming to countless
shows (with us nervously knowing they were in attendance), they
finally approached us and asked if we could meet with them. We sat
down and I really didn't know what to expect. I asked Mike, "So
what do we do here? Do we make a 3 or 4 song demo and shop it to
labels? Mike's response: "I'm gonna let that slide because you
don't know me very well yet, but I don't make demos, I make
records." I left that meeting with a smile from ear to ear knowing
that we were going to be making a full length record with Mike
Clink and James Michael. As a kid I really didn't listen to rock n
roll. But the first cassette I ever owned was Guns N Roses
"Appetite for Destruction". I read every word in the liner notes
and studied every name from who the band thanked, to the session
players, to the production/mixing team. Mike Clink was the first
name that I ever knew of in regards to someone outside of the band
members who had as much to do with the band�s success as the band
themselves. So for me, to get a chance to work with Mike was a
dream come true. And I really have to say, that after working
extensively James as well, James Michael might be one of the most
talented musicians/producers/mixers/writers that I have ever met.
KT: Was it at all intimidating working with such big guns in the
WD: At first it was incredibly intimidating to be working with
these two guys. And at the time I was going through a lot at home
because my Dad had just been diagnosed with leukemia. So our
recording sessions weren't just recording sessions... they were
therapy for me. James and Mike offered me an open ear and a lot of
really useful advice and consolation when I needed it. Plus, music
being an art was really a release for me. So I quickly got to know
Mike and James on a personal level rather than the black and white
relationship of producer and musician. The feeling of intimidation
quickly went away and Mike and James made it a very comfortable
and comforting situation for me to be in. And I think that
reflected on to the rest of the guys in the band as well. They
could see that these guys really cared about us and we became fast
friends. I truly respect Mike and James on so many different
levels other than their production accomplishments.
KT: What are you listening to at the moment?
WD: Right now in my CD player, a band called "Billy Talent" has
not left my stereo in months. I'm not the biggest fan of the tone
of the singer's voice, but the band is so good and the melodies
are so strong, that you quickly forget about that.
KT: What other bands have influenced you?
WD: I grew up on Elvis. I would come home from school and ask my
Mom to put on one of his movies. I knew every word to every song
he performed live or on record. I hated The Beatles for changing
the face of music and shifting attention away from Elvis. I wanted
to be Elvis. After that I really started getting into bands like
The Animals. Then I heard Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses in
Elementary school and I was hooked. Guns is by far my favorite
band of all time and Axl is by far my favorite front man. I wasn't
really into the other "hair bands" of the time. I liked Guns so
much because they were like a punk version of those glam bands...
Anti-Glam in fact. They were bad-asses and none of the other bands
were... and if they seemed like they were, it just seemed to me
like they were trying too hard to be something they were not...
Guns were true to who they were and for that, they were bad-asses.
I also listed to a lot of mellow music and another one of my
favorite bands happens to be Blind Melon. People are always
surprised to hear that, but it's true. In the mid 90's I found
myself at a NOFX show at the Palladium in Los Angeles. I knew
nothing about the band but I was there with some friends. The pace
of their music made my jaw drop. The energy in the crowd was
overwhelming. The looseness of the band on stage was fun to watch
because it wasn't about a big production with pyrotechnics, it was
about the band having fun, telling jokes, talking to the audience,
and laughing in between songs. I bought everything I could from
NOFX. From there I really got into that 3rd wave punk scene... No
screaming and yelling bands, just fast paced melodic punk bands
like NOFX, Pennywise, Bad Religion, and Goldfinger. Goldfinger was
another one of those bands that really influenced my music writing
later in life. Since then, nothing really made an impact on me. I
thought that what System of a Down was doing was incredibly
original, but I wouldn't call myself a "fan". I also really liked
Avenged Sevenfold and they caught my attention quickly. Billy
Talent is a new band that's really got me listening. But in
regards to influences, Elvis, Guns N Roses, NOFX, Blind Melon, and
Goldfinger pretty much sum it up for me.
KT: What influences your writing? Personal experiences, what you
WD: Really speaking... everything influences my writing. I write
about it all... The funny, the sad, the happy, the mundane, the
tragic, etc. I'll write about whatever strikes me at a given
moment. I'm kind of a romantic so a lot of my writing tends to be
about girls, but beyond that my Father inspires me to write. Past
experiences and hopes for new future adventures inspire my
writing. I'll write about never taking things for granted like in
the song "Broken" on our record, or something that made me laugh
as a kid like "The Shocker". I'm big on giving credit to the
people, things, and places that molded me. So songs like "The
Viper Room" have a special place in my heart since that venue gave
our band our first real chance. There is a song coming up on a new
EP that we're going to put out called "The King of Swing" which is
a tribute to my Father and probably means more to me than any
other song I've ever written. But basically, my song writing is
all over the board. I'm inspired by everything.
KT: There's a great deal of creativity in your video's, image,
etc...Is this a group effort or is there a band member who is the
wizard behind the curtain?
WD: It's definitely a group effort. And that "group" effort
extends beyond our band and falls in to the lap of people like
Mike Clink who has really taken us under his wing, and people like
Rick Sanchez from Post Haste Media who produced our videos.
KT: In terms of image, Warner Drive is not exactly known for being
a group of wall flowers... do you have to work harder at the music
to be taken seriously?
WD: The funny thing about that is that we don't think we have "an
image" at all. We look at all these other bands who dress alike on
stage or groups who all dress in the same style, or the tattoo
sleeves and jet black hair... THOSE bands have an image... not us.
We're four regular guys, all into different things, all of us
being ourselves. Chris is a surfer, and he looks like a surfer.
Matt is as regular as regular gets and image means nothing to him.
He is always himself and believes that this industry should be
about the music, not the image. Pete is a rocker true and true. He
is naturally the center of attention and with as much charisma as
he has; his image is more in his facial expressions than in his
clothes. The man is a freak! ~(and that giant mohawk doesn't hurt
his "image either). Then there's me... 6'5" and awkward. I wear
what I'm most comfortable in on stage and things that are
practical for me to perform in, which generally means that when it
gets hot and sweaty, I take my shirt off. Not to impress anybody,
but to remain comfortable on stage. People look at our band and
see Pete's blazing mohawk and me running around without a shirt on
and stereotype us as a punk band... but all we are is four guys
doing our own thing. If the four of us met in our 20's we would
have nothing in common and I don't think we'd be friends. But
because of the fact that we grew up together, we don't have to
look alike, or dress the same, or be into the same things... we're
a unit because of the bonds that we built as kids, not because of
what we're in to "now". And I think THAT is our image. A tight
knit group of best friends doing what we love and having a hell of
a lot of fun together in the process.
KT: Do you think that the more recent technology advancements,
things like MySpace, instant messenger and text messaging are
having a positive impact or a negative impact? Is this form of
communication an isolated communication? Or is it helping to get
your music to the masses?
WD: It's a tossup really. The internet and technology does allow
you to reach out to people and places that you could not reach out
to before. But it seems like nowadays people are so sick of being
solicited by bands on MySpace and other networking websites.
People block bands from emailing them and don't want to be
solicited. Band's sending emails out about an upcoming show are
viewed as spammers. So it's a toss up. Technology has really
helped us, but there are a lot of people who are closed off to
opening up and giving us a chance because they think we're going
to be just like everyone else.
KT: Is there a certain type of arrogance in saying that what I
believe is right and what you are saying is crap?
WD: I think that if there was anything "wrong" with music and
musicians today, it is exactly that. Music is an art... a self
expression. Song writing is like writing in a journal and then
getting up in front of a crowd of people and reading your journal
to them... exposing the true "you"... you're deepest darkest
secrets, the things that make you laugh, the things that make you
cry, etc. So who am I to shoot someone else down when all they are
doing is expressing themselves? If I've ever said a band is
"crap", it was in reference to the way they presented their
music... their musicianship and performance... NEVER about their
song writing. I would never shoot anyone down as a songwriter...
but let me tell you this; there are a lot of "crappy" guitar
players, bassists, and drummers out there! (Laughing).
KT: If you could pick your dream tour, where, when and with whom?
WD: Well for right now it would have to be a tour that would be
most productive for us to gain the most fans, not to just play
with my favorite band. So a dream tour would be with a band like
us... straight up rock n roll, no tricks, no gimmicks... just
rock. And I would like for that band to be as "big" as possible to
allow us to open for them and expose us to their fans who would
appreciate a band like them who are just straight ahead rock n
roll. And I think the band that would suit us the best to tour
with and open for would be The Foo Fighters. Their fans want rock
and good melodies. Their fans don't care about an image or a
gimmick. I think touring with a band like The Foo Fighters would
do wonders for our band.
KT: Jonny, you blogged what it was like on the road- and did an
amazing job of capturing the reality of it all- Your tour schedule
is virtually nonstop... How do you guys keep it together?
WD: It's not easy. But the fact that we're all best friends gets
us through the worst of times. To eat, sh*t, and sleep next to
three other guys night in and night out can quickly get old. But
we're best friends. Sure we argue, but we argue like brothers. As
long as we have the same goals with our music, noting can break us
KT: So, you swept some of the categories in the recent 2007 All
Access Music Awards... How is everyone feeling and what does this
mean to you?
WD: All Access has been great to us and it's so nice to be
recognized. We thank everyone there for their support. I'm not
sure what winning those awards will actively do for us beyond
making our resume that much more impressive, but what it really
did for us was motivate us even more to succeed. If All Access
believes in us and is recognizing our capabilities, then this is a
legitimate shot at something great.... so let's go out there and
KT: Let's talk about the future of Warner Drive- where do you see
yourself and your music going?
WD: My whole definition of "rock star" has changed. I don't have
that 18 year old dream of being on the cover of every magazine
anymore and having the paparazzi following me around. I want a
humble life. I want to do what I love, pay my bills, and live
comfortably enough to one day support a family as well as myself
and be able to provide for them so that we can be content in life
and be happy. If fame and fortune comes along with that; then
great. But if not, as long as I can make a living doing what I
love, then I'm fine. Warner Drive will continue doing what we do
until people stop wanting us to do it. As long as we grow and as
long as we continue to take steps forward, this band will never go
away. And every day we make new fans, catch the attention of a new
person in "the industry", become more and more productive and
reach out to bigger audiences. I'm truly touched by the support of
our fans and THEY are the future of Warner Drive. As long as they
want us, they've got us.