11 Quick Ones with… BROWNBAG JOHNSON, GRAVEYARD BBQ – March 2017
By Shane Pinnegar
1. Who the hell IS Brownbag Johnson?
The BBQ Nation calls me the “KING OF SLING”! I’m the slide guitarist, singer, songwriter, and creator of GRAVEYARD BBQ. I consider myself to be a modern day Heavy Metal Bluesman.
2. What got you into music – do you recall the moment you realised you wanted to be a musician?
I grew up with a sister who was 10 years older than me. She introduced me to Rock ‘n Roll and the lifestyle at a very young age! I had my first beer when I was 3 or 4, my first cigarette when I was about 6, and clearly remember a certain smell of ‘something’ that was being smoked frequently while she was babysitting me with her friends over. Her record player was a continuous rotation of Classic Rock – Van Halen, Ozzy, Sabbath, Skynyrd, Motley Crue, AC/DC, etc… this was also the same time that MTV was KING, which had a major impact on me. I was born in 1981, so imagine a 5 year old at home sponging on MTV all day long – everything from The Beastie Boys’ Fight For Your Right To Party, to Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite music videos were embedded into my DNA and set me on the path at a very young age. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realised I wanted to be a musician… I think I was just born to BBQ. It’s Destiny!
3. Who are your top five influences?
That’s a tough question, man. I’m influenced by so many different bands, guitar players, and styles of music. I could literally rattle off a Top 5 in so many different genres which all make me who I am as an artist, but if we’re talkin’ just rock or metal bands, I would have to say:
BLACK SABBATH & OZZY – Tony Iommi taught me everything about the Riffffffffff. Randy Rhoads was just pure magic. Diary Of A Madman is a masterpiece.
AC/DC – Bon Scott wrote the Bible for Sex, Booze, & Rock ‘n Roll. As for the Brothers Young… you can feel the electricity rattling through their strings, rippin’ through their Marshall stacks, and coming outta yer speakers. HIGH VOLTAGE ROCK ‘n ROLL! Bon Scott era AC/DC is the Greatest Rock ‘n Roll band & singer of all time!
PANTERA – My all-time favorite metal band. I saw ’em for the first time when I was 14 years old on the Great Southern Trendkill tour and it changed me forever. I loved everything they stood for. Phil screaming “The Trend is Dead!!!!” spoke to the inner rage I had and made me wanna join in on flying the flag of metal and flip the bird to anything against it. Dime is my favorite guitarist ever, and obviously is a huge influence. I wouldn’t be who I am today as a musician without him. CFH FOR LIFE!
METALLICA – Although they’re not as important to me today as they were in yesteryears, they still serve as my gateway band into metal, and became my first musical obsession when I started playing guitar when I was 13. My first few years playing guitar were spent in my bedroom skipping school and learning every riff and lick I could off their first five albums.
CLUTCH – I fucking LOVE Clutch. They’re another one of those bands for me, that I literally dig their entire catalogue: every album, every song, and they’re just so awesome live, so groovin’. They make ya wanna dance! I think they’re the greatest modern day rock band, and also by far the most underrated band out there. It blows my mind that they somehow haven’t gained the notoriety they deserve amongst other contemporaries who don’t come close to matching up to their badassness. My advice to you all is “LISTEN TO CLUTCH GODAMMMMMN IT!” You’ll thank me later.
Also, I have to say that the 1986 movie, Crossroads is a HUGE influence on Brownbag Johnson and the overall theme of Graveyard BBQ. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean. Blues–meets-metal with the Devil behind it all!! It’s an epic ’80s gem!
4. Who is one collaborator you’d love to work with?
I got a few! I got a gut feelin’ that George Thorogood & Brownbag Johnson could write the most rippin’ dual slide guitar drinking song of all time! If I was scoring for film, I could lay down some serious mojo n’ swagger for a blues jam with Samuel L Jackson! I’m seeing him in full character from Black Snake Moan for the verses then switchin’ straight to Jules from Pulp Fiction for the choruses, which would also be the name of the song – “MUTHAFUCKA!” And, last but not least, I’d love to write Ozzy’s next solo record. Nothing against Zakk or Gus G, but OZZY, if yer reading this, I’M YER MAN – just sayin’!
5. How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard Graveyard BBQ?
I call my sound & style, ‘DIRTCORE’: Its basically blues-based, Southern-fried hard rock/heavy metal with monster riffs, shit kickin’ licks, and a country/cowboy/western vibe. The key ingredient which makes it original and unique is the slide guitar which is featured on every song. The sound is very American – unique, soulful, ballsy as fuck, and FUN – something very much absent in today’s music, which I absolutely pride myself on.
6. How did your sound develop?
My roots are rock & metal, but I’ve always been intrigued by the blues and the whole culture and mythology behind it. When I was in my early 20’s I took a slide guitar class – at, of all places, Berklee College of Music in Boston – that completely blew my mind and changed my musical direction forever. I was totally hooked on the blues and the slide! [It was] such a pivotal moment for me. I only went for a couple of semesters before I dropped out and ended up joining the legendary hardcore thrash band, M.O.D. (Method of Destruction, with Billy Milano) as a touring guitarist, but that’s a completely different story in itself. During this time was when I formed Graveyard BBQ with some hometown buds and that’s where my journey as Brownbag Johnson began… I’ve always been a music fan first and foremost, and I really set out from the get go to create something that I would be a fan of. And that’s still my approach today. I create and write stuff that I would wanna hear and tell all of my friends about. I’m a DIY guy to the core and that attitude and way of going about things is absolutely instrumental in my approach on the guitar, and in developing my own sound and style. One of my biggest pet peeves is musicians who mimic other musician’s sounds and styles to the point where they’re blatantly ripping off whatever that one thing is. I can’t fucking stand that. It’s beyond lame. I mean… everybody has influences, obviously, and we all borrow things from one another: that’s music. But at the end of the day, you are your own individual self, with unique life experiences and musical talents, different from every other person on the planet. Dare to be original and unique and create your own niche. There’s already too many followers and posers in this world. BE YOURSELF.
7. You’ve had a helluva journey, from having a track featured on the original Guitar Hero game, through to now, and you summarised your journey in an amazing comic strip last year. Can you tell us a little more about that?
The comic strip is called “A Guitar Hero’s Journey… The Legend of the King of Sling, Brownbag Johnson” and is something that I collaborated on with an amazing comic book artist from NYC, Ian Miller.
I wanted to do something really unique and special to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the original Guitar Hero video game which we (Graveyard BBQ) won the 1st ever “Be A Guitar Hero” contest to have our song, Cheat On The Church featured as the only song from an unsigned band on the game’s legendary soundtrack and compilation of bands/artists. That was a big deal for the band at the time and still is one of my proudest accomplishments. It exposed us to a world-wide fan base and propelled us from a lil’ local band from our small hometown of Waltham, Massachusetts (outside of Boston) to the next level. So the wheels started turning in the ole’ creamskull… and I thought, how fucking cool would it be to a) record and re-release an updated, beefed up reboot of Cheat On The Church, and b) to visually tell the story of that experience along with my journey as a whole since I started the BBQ, thru the medium of a comic strip – since my life is pretty much a comic strip in itself! [laughs]
It’s a mix of Graveyard BBQ & Brownbag Johnson mythology, combined with actual real-life experiences that I’ve endured on “The Road That Lies Ahead”…….. the real question being, which panels are myth – and which are real! You’ll just have to check it out for yourself!
8. What’s the best thing about being a musician?
There’s nothing like kickin’ ass live, leaving it all on the stage, and winning over that audience. Especially if it’s the headlining bands audience, haha. And, on the other side of the spectrum, I’m in love with the creative process from start to finish – taking a simple idea or riff and turning it into something epic. It’s very rewarding and humbling to have people like yourself all the way across the world, who know the band and genuinely dig the music. I’ve been a musician for so long and have invested everything and dedicated my entire life into it. You can say I’ve “Made My Bones”. My journey has been full of ups n’ downs – way more downs than ups – but at the end of the day, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. No matter what, ya gotta believe in yourself, and keep following “The Road That Lies Ahead.”
9. If you weren’t a musican, what would be your dream job?
Something that includes making a lot of money, since music hasn’t been able to provide that just yet!
10. If you were the ruler of the world, what would be my first order?
We’re living in such a complex, fucked up, ass-fucking-backwards, nonsensical period of time. I would just tell the world what I’ve already been saying to those who know me: Fuck everybody and everything that doesn’t matter or make a positive difference in your everyday life. We can’t control stuff like politics, or what others say or do. All you can control is YOU. Therefore, focus on YOU, and those closest to YOU, and making YOUR life the best it can possibly be. Lemmy coined it best: “LIVE TO WIN.”
11. What, to you, is The Meaning Of Life?
To never stop following the dream. When I’m dead and gone I want my tombstone to read; “Here lies The King of Sling, Brownbag Johnson…….. Forever “Going for the Gusto” on “The Road That Lies Ahead”” Both Going For The Gusto & The Road That Lies Ahead are Graveyard BBQ songs. Check em’ out! Hopefully they can provide yallz with some meaning & inspiration!
Thanks for yer support Shane & 100% ROCK MAGAZINE! Keep spreading the word – and keep on BBQ’n!!!
ALL HAIL THE BBQ NATION – “IF YOU AIN’T WITH US, YER AGAINST US!”
Read our review of Graveyard BBQ’s The Raw, The Rippin’ & The Righteous EP;
Filed Under: Interviews
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE