Intervju med John Nymann i Y&T!
När jag letade efter lite saker inför intervjun med John hittade jag min gamla mailintervju med honom från 2004, vilken jag fullkomligt glömt. Time flies, som man säger.
Nu skriver vi 2012 och Y&T är verkligen på bettet, vilket konserten på Göta källare visade. Bandet turnerar som aldrig förr och har en relativt färsk platta, "Facemelter", i bagaget och en dubbel livecd som kommer ut på Frontiers i november.
John var lika trevlig som sist vi sågs och det blev snack om bl a senaste plattan, det glada 80-talet, hans tidiga karriär och om hur Heather Locklear spolade ner Tommy Lees droger.
How´s the tour been going?
John Nymann: Well, we just started. It´s our fifth show tonight, but it´s been eventful because we´re doing fly dates. Athens, Greece to Helsinki, Finland and then over here to Sweden. We´re a little jetlagged from just getting out here as always the first week, but it´s going great. It was the first time in Greece and it was packed, sold out. A lot of passion and people singing every song and that makes you feel good when you´re in a band. (laughs) Even the melodies when Meniketti plays guitar and crying when people hear “I believe in you” and people crying to “Midnight in Tokyo” and “Forever”. It´s like “Finally I´m hearing this after all these years!”.
Well, they´ve got a lot to cry about in Greece.
John Nymann: Yeah, true. (laughs) But it was a passionate crowd as is always the first time, in Helsinki too. This time was a week night and then Sweden is always good, thanks to Sweden Rock Festival and all the fans that supported us all these years.
Speaking of crying. The first time you played SRF, I almost cried. I had been longing for it for such a long time. I became a fan when “In rock we trust” came out and I just wished for Y&T coming to play over here, but they never did. It was a killer show!
John Nymann: I know. I don´t know how good we were, because we had just gotten back together and with me playing guitar. I joined as a background singer during the “In rock we trust” tour. They hired me and the band I was in, The Eric Martin Band, had just lost the record deal and we threw in the towel basically and Eric went off to do some stuff before Mr. Big. He did some soul music and tried some other avenues, but Y&T said right away “Hey, you wanna come on the road with us? We´ve got this great record with all these vocals on that we can´t do, so we need some extra support.”. I did keyboards and sang and it was great. I love that record! “In rock we trust” is one of my favorite Y&T records as well as “Ten”. It´s really good, but there´s something good about every one of them. I´ve known them since before they were a band. I grew up three blocks from Meniketti.
So that´s the connection!
John Nymann: Yeah, we go back to high school. I´ve been longer friends with Leonard, since we were 12 and he was in a band called The Mustangs and his guitar player showed me my first things like “Secret agent man” or something. Then three years later I saw Meniketti doing a high school jam after school and they were so good. Leonard too. He had gotten so much better as a drummer and had this big Gretsch set and Meniketti with his Les Paul. They were doing poppy songs like “Make me smile” by Chicago and I was so influenced that it really kicked me in the ass to go home and work it. Then I started a band and next thing you know, I was the opening band for their band. When Yesterday & Today started up, I had a band called Mile High and we used to open up a lot of shows for them, so we just got real close.
That “In rock we trust” tour must´ve been a blast? Parties and girls?
John Nymann: (laughs) Yeah, you know. For me it was great, because… how old was I? I was 29 and single and as a matter of fact, I was the only single in the band. They were all married so I had the pick of the litter and we were out with Mötley Crüe for “Theater of pain”. (laughs) I couldn´t have been more happy and Mötley Crüe loved Y&T because they used to open up for Y&T, so we just had whatever we wanted. They´d come party on our bus and bring all their girls, so it was great. It was a perfect time. It was many tours but that one in particular was girls, girls, girls. (laughs)
Back then, was that tour only in the US?
John Nymann: Yes. And Canada. That was an intensive tour because “Theater of pain” was a pretty big album, so we were playing 20 000 seaters sometimes. I mean, as much as. That was probably the biggest, but it was memorable for me for many reasons. I love to play drums. I´m a drummer and I wanted to be a drummer, but my mom said no. “You gotta play guitar like your brother!”, which I´m glad she did, but Leonard at one part of the show when he did “Rock and roll´s gonna save the world”, they split the audience and did that thing. He was the more vocal guy in the band than the other members besides Dave, so they decided he´d get off the drums and go down to Phil´s mic and they´d split the crowd and get them to scream “Rock”, one of those live performance deals. He asked me to sit in on the drums and I´m sitting there playing these coliseums and I was like “I can´t believe it! Not only am I singing in Y&T and playing with my buddies, I´m playing drums.”. I was cracking up.
Cool! Touring with Mötley Crüe then, did you notice that those guys were heading for trouble, since they were heavily into drugs at that time?
John Nymann: You know, everybody at that time was partying. Sure they were on top of the world and making some dough and they could afford it, you know, to go maybe a little over the top, but they were on every night. I watched them and I was a musician and paying attention and they might be partying but they brought their A game to the stage every night and it didn´t affect them. I heard some stories, like Heather (Locklear) flushing drugs down the toilet because she didn´t want Tommy to do them. (laughs) It was fun times and everybody was care free. It was like “So what!”. I didn´t know them that well after that. We´re a northern California band. (laughs)
Was it all tour buses back then or planes too?
John Nymann: No, tour buses. I don´t know if they flew? Maybe if it was a super long drive. On tour buses you just go to sleep. Nothing to worry about and you wake up in the next town.
“Down for the count” then, was it just backup vocals or did you play as well?
John Nymann: I just sang on “Down for the count”. I didn´t play any keyboards on any of the records. I only played them live. They hired a session guy or something. I´m a guitar player. I´m just a utility keyboard player. I can play and I play drums a little bit, but it´s not by any means my main instrument.
After that, did you do more stuff with Y&T? I can´t remember.
John Nymann: I was there on through for “Contagious”. I would´ve sung on the record “Contagious”, but I didn´t. They were in LA doing it and the producer was a singer too and he said “We don´t need to bring John down. I can just do the parts.” and I was like “That´s fine.”, but I was still with the band and toured through “Contagious” and then “Ten”, when Stef Burns joined the band… I had been doing it for four years and was itching to play guitar and itching to be in a band doing that instead of being the side guy, so I got a call from Greg Kihn. He´s another local guy and he said “Do you wanna play in my band?” and I said “Sure.”, so I was doing both for a while. Doing Y&T shows and Greg Kihn and then Stef Burns came in and I was kinda hoping for that spot in Y&T because they had kinda hinted around that it would happen, but Stef Burns was a superior guitar player obviously. An awesome player and he was similar looking to Joey Alves, so they got a guy that was skinny, short and had black hair and maybe no one would notice. (laughs) I´m not saying that´s the reason, I´m just joking. Y&T´s manager at the time was managing The VU with Ross Valory and Stef Burns, so the connection was there and it was great. I understood and then they broke up in ´96 or something. Phil and I lived close to each other and he wasn´t playing and I wasn´t playing and we got together and we started to play just for fun and just playing in my garage, Beatles songs and whatever we felt like doing. It sounded pretty good and I said “Wouldn´t it be fun if we called Meniketti and put Y&T back together?” and Phil said “Ah, he´ll never do that. He´s doing his solo records. Y&T is over.” And then just six months later they got a call to get back together, so it all worked out and now it´s been just great. The band´s playing more than ever in the last ten years and “Facemelter” is great. I´m so happy. I would never had thought that in 2000, that this was gonna happen and neither did Phil or Dave. They just didn´t know that there was this demand in Europe for classic rock. It keeps us busy.
Going back. The stuff you did with Eric Martin, was that the first real stuff you did?
John Nymann: Well, the Mile High band that I told you about was like a junior Y&T and we modeled ourselves after that style, we were playing around and Eric Martin was in another band called Kid Courage and we played the same bill and clubs together. The first time I saw him play and he saw our band play, we both came up to each other and said “Dude, I wish you were in my band.”. Time went on and he gave me a call and he was in LA at the time and he said “I really wanna hook up with you and put a band together.”. He joined our band and our drummer had just quit. He was kinda the lead singer and I sang lead on some songs, but he was the main singer, so it was perfect timing. We got another drummer and Eric came in and that was the start of it. We did a couple of shows as Mile High and we quickly did a little four track demo and we had the connection with Herbie Herbert from Journey and he actually handled us for a while and we opened up some shows for Journey. Just like Y&T had that connection. We´re all from San Francisco and blah, blah, blah. We brought them a tape and they signed us just based on that four track demo and said “We love it!”. It was the 80´s and trying to be modern so he said “Let´s call it Area Code 415.” and then we shortened it to 415 and that was gonna be the record when it came out and then we got sued by the record company 415 Records, which was a punk rock kinda label and since we couldn´t come up with another name and Eric wrote most of the songs, Herbie just said “Let´s just call it the Eric Martin Band.”. It was a little bit like “Whatever!”. It didn´t go over anyway. It´s a great record but we were out with Mötley Crüe on Elektra and both our albums coming out at the same time and the record company just said “Look, this is what´s happening. We´re going with the tattoos.”. We had no image, it was just jeans and t-shirts and just too soft looking and Eric Martin looked like a girl and like a girl in the wrong way, not like Mötley Crüe. (laughs) They told us straight up, “We´re dumping our money into Mötley Crüe.”. It was a bummer for us. We put six years in that band and got a lot of mileage out of it and had high powered management and ready to go. We had everything going for us and everybody thought it was gonna happen and it didn´t. But then Y&T came along and it was so fun and I still got to be in a band and travel and have a great time. (laughs)
Any plans for another Y&T album?
John Nymann: Absolutely, yeah. We just released a live album. I´m not gonna say we really planned it, but every time we come off this two month tour here in the fall, the band is really tight and solid and we play this final show at Mystic Theater and we do it every year and it´s always a great show and we´re well rehearsed by then, so we went “Why don´t we shoot a video or let´s just document it and do something?” and since we were doing that, Tom Size brought all his recording equipment to link up with the DVD, but the problem with this place is that it´s got a terrible lighting truss and it just doesn´t look good enough for a DVD, so after we saw the footage we went “Naahhh, it´s no good.”. But we started listening back to the tracks and we go “Fuck, it´s pretty hot!”, so we thought “Let´s just release this thing.” and we didn´t think much of it. It was just gonna be a underground thing, but Frontiers said “We want that record!”, so it counts as another part of our contract so we gave it to them. It made a pretty big splash so that´s good. It´s the perfect record if you´re a Y&T fan because it´s our whole show and it covers all the bases. There´s a lot of good stuff on there. But we´re definitely full of ideas and ready to go and keep playing. “Facemelter”, it was a surprise how good that turned out considering we had no ideas going into the studio. I mean, I had a few and Phil had a few, but it wasn´t like… we were under contract and Jill said to us “You have to have this record done in three months!” and so we just started and then boom after a couple of weeks, the ideas started to flow and we had more than enough.
Is that a good thing, working under pressure?
John Nymann: I´m gonna say it does in a way because other wise it´s so easy to go “Well, maybe we should redo it?”. We got to a point where we didn´t have time and “Those tracks are good enough.” And they turned out to be fine. Who knows? I can´t say for sure, but it´s like when you´re cooking. You don´t wanna over season it and all of a sudden you´re ruining it. They only thing I´d say about that record is we didn´t wanna have it over produced like in the 80´s. We wanted it to be more pure and keep it more organic. Some people were like “Why don´t you put more jizz on it?” and we were like “Why, let´s keep it raw.”. Straight ahead tones and not a bunch of echo and stuff on the vocals.
So there´s a possibility of something new next year?
John Nymann: I can´t say for sure when we´re gonna go back in there and do it, but within the next couple of years I´m sure. We have to do something.
After this tour then?
John Nymann: After this we start up in February playing in California until we go on the Monsters of Rock cruise again out of Florida in March. I think we´ll work on a tour before that, in the US and hit Chicago, New York and just work our way down to Florida.
Have you guys played Japan?
John Nymann: Yeah, we played Japan for “Facemelter” and now with the live album it´s possible that we might go back because Japan wants it to and they always wanna bring you over when you have a new product out, not necessarily a live album. They told us last time that they like the band so much, they´re not gonna be concerned with that, they would just like to bring us back. There´s demand, you know.
Was that the first time you played there?
John Nymann: No, back in the 80´s I played there with Y&T and then I went to Japan with Eric Martin when he took a break from Mr. Big. We play together all the time and we´re still good friends. I love singing with him. He´s so great! They took a little break and he did a solo album and just called me up and we did a three week tour in ´97 with 10 shows. Very easy tour, because Eric wanted to have a couple of days between each show to rest his voice and it was so easy and we got treated so well because he´s so big there. That was a lot of fun. I wasn´t even playing my guitar when Eric called. I just had put it down for a while and he went “You´re still playing, right?” and I said “Oh yeah, just give me a couple of weeks.” And I just woodshedded for a week to learn his album real well. That was so fun doing that tour. It´s so good to still be playing at my age. (laughs)
Your parents are from Norway. Are you playing there now?
John Nymann: No. I want to, but we couldn´t work it out this time.
Do you still have relatives there?
John Nymann: Oh yeah, my cousins are all there. My two brothers were born there and then my family came over in 1950 to Oakland. My dad was a merchant marine and so was his father. How it happened is, my grandfather got torpedoed outside New York in WWII on his merchant ship and it sunk and back in those days you couldn´t just go home, so he was stuck in America. He made it across America and he heard he had some relatives in Minnesota and then he heard about California and once he saw San Francisco Bay Area and saw all the shipping there, he called my dad and said “This is where you need to come.”. He bought a house there, my dad came over and the rest is history. I was born in Oakland. I went to school in Norway when I was ten. Went home to visit and stayed and started school for a while and I loved it, but “Jeg kan ikke snakke norsk.”. (laughs)
Alright! Thank you John.
John Nymann: Thank you!