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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Exclusive Interview: Ace Von Johnson on Juggling 'L.A, Guns' and 'Faster Pussycat' While Striving for a Balanced Life

Photo: Toxic Love Photography

I think in many ways, Ace Von Johnson has to be one of the busiest guys currently on the rock scene. Aside from playing with a handful of rock and punk bands, you'll also find him currently splitting his guitar duties between two legendary bands, L.A. Guns, and Faster Pussycat. I caught up with him recently, as L.A. Guns swung across the east coast playing dates to promote their new release, "The Devil You Know". I  encountered a clever man that is most definitely in charge of his current life and future destiny. What follows is an excerpt from my interview with Ace. The full podcast will be available on DailyBOOM and Boom Radio soon. 

Photo: Anabel DFlux

Ace on L.A. Guns new album, "The Devil You Know":

Ace: "The Devil You Know" is doing really great. When they were recording that about a year ago, it was sort of the first time that they had approached me about joining the band. Scheduling-wise and for a multitude of other reasons it just wasn't going to work then. I'm not on the album performance-wise but Tracii Guns has led me to believe that on all the albums, even when Mick Cripps was in the band, he kind of did nearly all of the tracking. I think that's kind of common for him to not have the other guitar player play the stuff that he has written. As a show of good faith, they did put my picture on the album anyway to solidify me in the band, rather than just having me look like another plug in and play guy. It shows that I'm a real member and that's nice. It was a show of good faith and it's a bit of an honor to be considered a band member rather than, 'oh we needed a guitar player and this guy was available for the next four months so,'. I'm honored ya' know, it's a legendary band and so I'm happy to be playing with them. It's nice to be treated like one of the guys (laughing) and it's kind of flattering as well." 

Ace on how L.A. Guns is a different kind of gig for him:

Ace: "There is definitely a level of professionalism in L.A. Guns that other bands that I've played with just don't have. There are rules within the band and with the crew and entourage that Faster Pussycat doesn't have and I don't think that's any secret. I've been with them for almost ten years now and Pussycat travels pretty light as far as crew goes. They're just two different gigs, it's like trying to compare an ex to another ex, one doesn't make the other less special. L.A. Guns in all forms tends to put out albums every 2-4 years whereas Faster Pussycat hasn't put out an album of new material in about fourteen years."

Photo: James Papaconstantine

Ace on the possibility of Faster Pussycat putting out a new album:

Ace: "I kind of get a little irked with being asked when Faster will put out another record because the only person that knows that is Taime (Downe). If someone asks me when L.A. Guns is going to put out a new record, even though we just dropped one, I'd be inclined to say two years. I've already seen Tracii write stuff and we've jammed on some riffs so I would imagine that you'll see another L.A. Guns record before Taime will put one out. I would love to see him do it and I've been trying to help facilitate that for several years now. I'm not really sure how interested he really is. I sense he is happy just getting out there and rolling with the legacy factor and there's nothing wrong with that. I will say this though, for me, being in a band for ten years and not having an album out is very frustrating for me. As an artist and as a guitar player I haven't done as much these last few years because I've been so focused on Pussycat, but in the years before Pussycat, I've probably been twice as productive in terms of putting out music. The band has just kept me so busy that I couldn't focus on other things and I'm not blaming Taime because it is a choice that I've made."

Ace on how L.A. Guns is inspiring him:

Ace: "Having a band like L.A. Guns, where the guys are really anxious to get out there and perform music or to put out new music and deliver a quality product, is really inspiring. It's nice to be around guys that are excited about having a new album out and maybe equally as driven as I am. The act of just getting on stage and being able to jump around and play some rock and roll is inspiring and cathartic as well."

Photo: Evil Robb

Ace on taking control of his career and how he brands himself:

Ace: "Well, this is my career so I have to be driven and smart with it. I learned a long time ago about branding and social media and interaction. It's not about capitalizing on those things per se, but you have to know how to sell yourself well enough to provide for yourself. I've tried to make the best of the opportunities that I've had. It's not like it used to be with bands being given thousands of dollars to do everything. In some ways, much of it is now self-funded, not that L.A. Guns doesn't have a great record label, but the money aspect isn't like it used to be. This is what I do for a living and so I feel like I have to help myself in any way possible. There are countless social media platforms and so I try to keep up with many of them. I think interacting with the fans who buy the albums and come to the shows is important and I think in the end it goes a long way in showing support to them as well. 

I'm always checking out new products and testing out what might work for me. I recently posted about flasks that I saw and there were enough likes on that post for me to go ahead and start marketing those on my social media. I think that fans really appreciate unique merch and so I'm always on the lookout for ideas."

Ace on juggling both bands and the importance of balance in his life:

Ace: "I think there's a lot of speculation about whether I'll stay in both bands, or leave one or the other. I don't really have an answer for that but for now, I'm in both bands. I don't need to decide things now and I don't have any real conflicts. I already talked to both bands about subbing me out and it's nice to know that I'm sort of prioritized. I also had a conversation with both bands about not prioritizing my life by a tour schedule. I've been on the road since I was eighteen, for half of my life so I've already done that. There are relationships and family, weddings and births and deaths that are at least equally important. I've just kind of put my foot down, whether it's for my sanity or for creative purposes or whatever. I have to do other things whether it's playing on another album or doing some different live shows, or just turning my phone off for a week and going to the Bahamas. 

Hopefully, everybody on all sides understands that there's going to be stuff that I can't do. It has nothing to do with the bands, it's all about me just trying to do what's best for me now. I've spent most of my adult life traveling in a van or a bus or a rickshaw (laughing) or whatever. It's tiring and it has cost me relationships and it has affected my health and that's just what we do as musicians. I would never change what I do but as I get older, I see things differently. I'm in a really healthy relationship at the moment and I don't want my stage persona or schedule jeopardize my personal life, so if I've got to bring her out on tour for a week then that's how it's going to be. Life can't just be about servicing a band; we all eventually need more than that and I think it's great when we realize that fact."

Photo: Anabel DFlux

Follow Ace Von Johnson on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, check out tour dates on L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat's official sites.

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