Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

Drummer extraordinaire Johnny Kelly was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show, dropping by to discuss his variety of projects. In 2023 alone, Johnny can be heard on Kill Devil Hill‘s recently released Seas of Oblivion album, he’s currently working with the new supergroup EYE AM and he’s still got touring with Quiet Riot and Hookers and Blow, while working out new music with Patriarchs in Black for release this fall. And, of course, his career really took off as a member of Type O Negative, so there was plenty to touch on.

Johnny talks with Jackie about finding the balance amongst his many musical options and he digs in to how Kill Devil Hill’s return provided some new challenges. He speaks to the in progress work of supergroup EYE AM, sharing that more new music is on the horizon.

And Jackie also asked him about his favorite time within the history Type O Negative and got some reflections from Johnny on the late, great Type O frontman Peter Steele. Johnny also shares an update on all his bands and their current status, so you can see what’s on the horizon for each. Check out the chat in full below.

Johnny Kelly, happy to have you on the show. You’re currently working on new music with EYE AM while your other band Kill Devil Hill recently returned with new music after a decade hiatus armed with a new album. Johnny, how have you found the balance in it all and do you find that there are moments where one thing informs how you approach the other or are you able to keep it all separate creatively?

I try hard to keep everything separate. Creatively they’re all a little bit different from each other you know, I don’t really see a point in doing the same thing with a bunch of other people. It seems rather redundant and I like the challenge of playing something a little bit different than what I’m usually doing.

Coming from Type O Negative and being that kind of drummer I like trying to fit myself into other things but sometimes the scheduling can get a little hairy! It can be a problem sometimes. Thankfully there really haven’t been too many situations where I needed to be two places at one time and usually I’m able to schedule and work around everything.

Johnny you’ve got a powerful new Kill Devil Hill song “Pharmaceutical Sunshine” with an impactful message. This song speaks to the ongoing opioid crisis in America and I understand it’s a very personal song for the group. Can you speak to the group’s ties to the issue and why it was important to get this down to share with the audience?

Well I’m sure that everybody at this stage, especially for us being a little bit older & wiser, everybody knows somebody or someone in their family who’s experienced this in some capacity and it has an effect. It has an effect on everybody, so it was just something speaking to that. We’re all going through it.

Kill Devil Hill, “Pharmaceutical Sunshine”

Johnny, Kill Devil Hill are back after a 10-year hiatus and you’ve been through a lineup change. How has the time away and the new band dynamics shifted how you approached music for the new Seas of Oblivion album? What personally was inspiring you as you started writing this new album?

Really, when we started working on it, there weren’t any expectations. We were just, you know, after not being together for a while, we had just started working on new music and it seemed like a lot of it had come together in a very short amount of time. Mark [Zavon]’s pretty good about coming up with riffs and songs and stuff. He has a lot of ideas so he wasn’t really short on anything.

We got together and decided that this was fun. That was the primary objective that we were just enjoying, you know, just making music together. Once we decided that we were going to go forward, Mark just started churning out all kinds of stuff and it was really fast and he just kept on sending me a whole bunch of songs. It just seemed like one was coming like every other day and I was putting drums on them, doing demos here in Texas and then sending them back.

Everything just moved so quickly. Once we decided to put our foot on the gas pedal everything just started going at a really fast pace and we were pleasantly surprised at how everything turned out. And it really just started out as just having fun. At that point, we didn’t have a record label. There wasn’t any outside interest or pressure or anything like that. It was really just getting together and making music, seeing what we could come up with, and just having fun with it.

Your new band EYE AM reunites you with Kenny Hickey. We got the song “Dreams Always Die With the Sun” as a teaser earlier this year, but I know you recently spent time with the band in New Orleans working on your first album. What can you tell us about the music? Is it more in line with that first song?

We just announced that we’re releasing another single in November called “Cryptomnesia.” I have a hard time pronouncing that. One of those multiple syllable words, you know, drummers have issues with that stuff. That single is coming out in late November. That song strikes me as being a little bit moodier.

The first single, “Dreams Always Die with the Sun,” was just fun doing it. Just getting together with Kirk [Windstein] and Todd [Strange]. Kenny and I, we’ve been playing together since we were teenagers. So that’s a very comfortable situation for him and I.

We’ve been playing together for so long, but to now work with Kirk Winstein and Todd Strange it’s different again, like being in a different atmosphere. Those guys come from a different headspace and it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve been friends for a long time, but never worked together up until recently, so it’s been really exciting to see what we come up with.

When we were in New Orleans a couple of months back we were able to come up with about, I believe it was like four songs. We were averaging like a song a day. “Cryptomnesia” was one of the songs that came from that. We’re planning on getting together around Halloween and going back to New Orleans to do some more writing and recording and stuff.

And who knows what this is gonna sound like. It may sound completely different than what we were doing a couple of months ago. But it’s interesting and it’s exciting in the sense of not really knowing what’s gonna happen. And not because there isn’t any preparation or because those guys are really terrible about sending me song ideas, but because I’m the last one to hear about it. I walk into the studio completely unaware of what’s been worked on. And then they just throw stuff at me. So that’s cool.

EYE AM, “Dreams Always Die With the Sun”

READ MORE: Kenny Hickey Says Supergroup EYE AM ‘Was Inevitable’

What are you personally getting on a creative level out of the new musical partnership with the guys?

Well, it’s just enjoyable. If I’m gonna be doing something musically, I need to be enjoying it. It can’t just be like a job or anything like where it’s a chore. I don’t want to be in that environment anymore. I’m at an age now where I don’t have to deal with that. It’s like doing something where you’re in an environment where you get to be creative and you’re really enjoying yourself and it’s encouraging to be around other people like that where they’re encouraging you instead of, “you just do this” just staying your lane, just focusing on this one thing. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s very stimulating in that it makes me think and it pushes me. It challenges me. I like being challenged like that.

Johnny, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about this milestone year for Type O Negative as well. Bloody Kisses, one of my favorite records of all time, turned 30 this year. Life Is Killing Me is turning 20. You had an influential run with Type O Negative and now, several years removed from that experience, I wanted to ask which album and tour cycle from the band’s career, both personally and professionally, was the most rewarding for you? And why does it stand out to you?

The first tours that we did when I joined the band right after Bloody Kisses was released. When I joined the band, the intention wasn’t to be a touring band. And I was in the band maybe like four months, five months. And then it was our manager, Ken Creedie, at the time, he was like, “Can you get time off of work? We’re going to go out on tour.” And then it just snowballed. So it was like once that first tour ended, we went out and we played clubs and they were like half empty but it was cool and exciting to finally be out on tour with a band.

And then that tour ended and you were only home for a few weeks and then it was like, “Can you get more time off at work? We’re going to go out with Nine Inch Nails for two weeks.” And then we came home and then it was like, “You’re going to go out with Motley Crüe” and then, we went out with Pantera and then we went out with Danzig, then we went out Pantera, then we went out with Queensrÿche and then we were doing tours on our own in between going out as a support act.

And to me, that was the most exciting time because it was new and it was the challenge to win over fans as we were building a fan base and, to go out and be a support act. I always liked the challenge of that. It was all, new and exciting and watching the band, slowly build its fan base and then by the end of the touring cycle, we had a gold record, which was like the first for Roadrunner. It was obviously the first for us, but it was, at that time, it was all very, very exciting. That was the most exciting to me. That was it, because I didn’t care about anything else. I wasn’t worried about touring budgets and nonsense like that, it didn’t matter. it was like you aren’t making any money, so there’s nothing to think about. You just go out and have fun and that was that was the most exciting part for me.

I was having a lot of fun and we were building something, we were doing it with friends.  And we’ve all been friends for years and so now to see us reach those kind of goals was really exciting.

type o negative, bloody kisses

Roadrunner

If I can just ask a personal question because obviously you were in a band with Pete Steele for such a long time. How often do you think about him?

I think I think about him all the time and it’s not really in a sentimental way. I spent so many years with with Peter and in Type O in my adult life and there’s so many stories like when I’m with other people and we’re just telling stories about traveling and stuff or just his name comes up all the time. He was such in a big part of my life for so many years. I’ll always be talking about him and I miss him incredibly. But a lot of the times, like when I talk about him, it’s always something funny so that’s good.

I can only imagine. Tell me what you got. Tell me your funniest Pete Steele story.

Alright.  For instance we’re on Ozzfest and we’re in Dallas and there’s a whole bunch of us hanging out in Phil Anselmo’s dressing room and King Diamond was there because King Diamond lives in the Dallas area so King Diamond’s at the show, in the dressing room hanging out with Philip and there’s a whole bunch of people there.

We’re all hanging out and Peter comes into the dressing room and he goes “Philip, what’s this shit you’re listening to?” And Philip just turns around at Peter and he goes, “It’s King Diamond.” And then he points to King Diamond sitting next to him. Like all I thought of was like the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Like, when somebody was a jackass and their face would turn into a donkey in the cartoon. And Peter didn’t even say a word. He was just so humiliated and embarrassed. He didn’t say anything. He just turned around and walked out of the dressing room.

And then there was like this awkward, silent pause, which was great. And then everybody just started dying laughing. I couldn’t, I loved it. I think this was like the greatest thing that he ever did. But that was just like one. That was just one day. Peter was a very genuinely funny guy. And because of how he looked and how he was, he couldn’t go to like the grocery store without something crazy happening to him. You know, like he got mugged.

What? Who would mug that guy?

Yeah, he got mugged. There was like a little corner store at the end of his block away from his house. And so he would go there all the time for whatever. Then he comes to rehearsal and he’s like, “I got mugged last night.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Somebody actually came up to you and mugged you.” He was like, “Yeah.”  Oh my goodness.  All the time.

Every day was something weird and unusual. Most of the time, funny, but there was always something. And so there’s a lot of times as you’re telling stories with your friends,  like I’ll be hanging out with like the Quiet Riot guys and we come from different environments and stuff and we trade like these war stories and his name comes up pretty often.

I’m sure because I’ve told you a million times that like Type O Negative like one of my favorite bands of all time and I was lucky enough to see Type O back in the day on many tours ,,, I mean I even saw Carnivore at L’amour. I mean that man was one of a kind and there will never be anyone like him.

He truly was, he truly was really such a unique person in so many ways – character wise, songwriting wise, as a bass player –  I’ve never seen I’ve never played with anybody that plays bass like Peter did. So unique and nothing short of amazing.

Johnny I know it’s a busy time for you. What does the future hold in terms of albums and touring and where can we see you and hear you in the coming year?

Well we got the Kill Devil Hill record. I have this project I’ve been involved with called Patriarchs in Black. I believe that records coming out in October and that is kind of like my Probot. It’s me and Dan Lorenzo from Hades and so when we put that together it was like at the time when we were talking about it, he was like who are we gonna get for singer for this and I was like look, I can’t be in another band. I’m already in like 50 bands. I can’t do it, but if you want to do some stuff like record  or do something like that, I was totally into it. So then that opened the door for like who could we get? And it’s like, you have a lot of friends. I have a lot of friends. Let’s just get a bunch of people that normally I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play with and, have them do something on the record.

So the next record, I even got my brother doing some guitar solos on it and stuff. I haven’t played in a band with my brother since I was like 16 years old. So that’s fun. And  that record’s coming out in October, but a lot of dates with a Quiet Riot coming up a lot. That’s been keeping me busy. We were going to do some Hookers and Blow shows in November, but we just got word that those got rescheduled for January.

You’re keeping busy.

Yeah, I’m so grateful. I’m thankful. it’s better than nobody wanting to play with me; That would stink, That wouldn’t be fun at all. So it’s great to be busy and especially after Peter passed away and Type O wasn’t active anymore, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do or what was going to be the next phase of my life or my career if I was even going to have a career after that.

But Danzig kept me very busy for a very long time, which was great. And now these other things have popped up and I’m glad that it’s keeping me busy. So I take it as a good thing. When my phone doesn’t ring anymore and nobody wants to talk to me or be around me or work with me or whatever, then I’ll be worried about it. But the rest, I’m just taking it all in stride, just trying to enjoy it. I’m just enjoying playing and just having fun.

That’s amazing. That’s what it’s all about. And I can’t see your phone stopping ringing anytime soon. You are in high demand. And good luck with, all of these projects that you have going on, Kill Devil Hill. EYE AM, these Quiet Riot dates you’re doing. I really appreciate you taking the time, Johnny. It’s always great to chat with you.

Thanks to Johnny Kelly for the interview. You can keep up with Kill Devil Hill via their website, Facebook, X and Instagram accounts. The ‘Seas of Oblivion’ album is available here. EYE AM can be found on Facebook and Instagram. Stay up to date with Quiet Riot here and Patriarchs in Black here and here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show here.

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