Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: May 31st, 2005
Johannes, Rock Eyez would like to thank you for granting us this interview. What was the first album you bought?
That was ZZ-Top´s “Afterburner” – I guess I was about 11 years old. My elder brother Chris forced me to buy the LP because he didn’t have enough money at that time to buy it…so it was my turn ;-) But in the end, I liked it very much. This was definitely my introduction to Rock Music.
What was the first concert you attended?
I was about 12 years old when my brother took me along to see Bonfire on the “Fireworks”-Tour in Walldürn / Niebelungen Halle / Germany. It was the first gig of Bonfire with Angel Schleifer on rhythm guitars and my brother carried me on his shoulders because I was too short to see anything. Great concert and awesome atmosphere, so Bonfire became one of my favourite bands.
As a child, did you collect anything?
Hmmm, let me reflect. Yes, some “Star Wars” stuff. But they were very expensive in Germany at that time so I just had a few.
What kind of kid were you in school?
I was a really calm child, always trying not to annoy the teacher. The first few years I was quite good at several subjects. But the more I grew up the worse I got. The worst thing for my school career was learning to play the electric guitar ;-) Then my whole opinion on school and learning changed and all I wanted to play was Rock ´n´ Roll! Instead of doing my homework, I played guitar ‘til midnight.
What CD is in your player right now?
Avril Lavigne`s “Under my skin,” great songs and something different from what we play with Shylock.
What was the very first band you were in?
My first band had a really stupid name and I hope you don’t mind if I won’t mention it here. We started as a pure cover band and soon found out that composing songs is much more interesting than to cover songs from famous artists. After Matthias came in the band, our style grew more and more. We wrote a lot of songs, won several newcomer festivals and played unplugged in a local TV-show.
Were you in any other bands that release any material?
We released one official CD with that band mentioned above back in 1996. The CD was called “Eye To Eye” and everybody told us that we were years too late with our style. Grunge was the future, but we never cared about any trends. One year later, we recorded another demo CD because a German Label called “Long Island Records” was interested in our material. That demo was never released.
The first time you picked up a guitar what was your dream?
Hmmmm, my dream was to cope with that instrument and one day to go out on stage to rock. Somehow, I knew that this would be the instrument I always wanted to play. I was so impressed by the sound of my overdrive, it was so cool to play in my room, and the whole neighbourhood could hear my noise ;-) I never really imagined that I could play accurate but after a while, I improved a lot.
This is your third release with Shylock. I have not heard the other two CD’s. How does the sound of your first CD “Shylock” differ from the new CD?
“Welcome To Illusion” sounds 100% more professional than our debut CD “Shylock.” The debut was just a low budget demo, not really an official record but Point Music tried to distribute it. You can hear a massive development of the band on “Welcome to Illusion,” better songwriting, better sound, and better playing skills of the members. In principle, you can’t compare these two CDs ;-)
Was Shylock the original name for the band?
Yes, Shylock is the original name of the band. It was taken from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”
When you play live, what do you ask for in your rider (What do you want in your dressing room)?
All I want is enough places to sit down and relax. And it would be fantastic if there would be something to drink (not only alcohol) and something to eat. But I don’t have any special wishes. It’s more important to have a good time and to play a good gig in front of the crowd than to have good food and drinks but a bad show.
There are so many great songs on the new CD “Welcome to Illusion.” How do you come up with song after song being that good?
That would be a question for Matthias ;-) He writes all our songs. And sometimes I don’t even know how he does it. He’s got a fantastic songwriting talent and he wrote a lot of songs during the last years. We have enough material to record three or four new records.
How long did the “Welcome to Illusion” take to record?
About two months, but we didn’t record 24 hours a day. From Monday ‘til Friday we could only record from 7 p.m. ‘til midnight and on the weekends from 2 p.m. ‘til open end ;-) Sometimes we were forced to take a break. Matthias e.g. needed about four days to sing the vocal parts of the whole record.
Are you working on new material yet?
Yes. Matthias wrote about 20 songs for a new album and right now, we are concentrating on the arrangements. Four songs are nearly finished and we plan to play one ore two new songs at the next live show. The sound is a bit different from the other releases. I can say that they sound more modern but always with the typical touch of Shylock and good choruses.
If I stuck, the name Bon Jovi on the CD the way it sounds it would be a double platinum release. What kind of feedback are you getting about “Welcome to Illusion”?
Thanx a lot for this compliment! The feedback was quite enthusiastic and “Welcome To Illusion” was three times album of the month in different magazines. All in all many people said that we improved even more and they liked the way the album rocks. Some said that 15 songs are much too much but we wanted to give the people value for money.
If you picked a favorite tune on the new release. What song would that be?
Uff, there are so many songs I like. My favourites are “Welcome to illusion,” “Revolution,” “But I like it,” “Darkness,” “Lose you” and “Middle of paradise.”
Is MTM giving “Welcome to Illusion” enough push to make this a best selling CD?
I hope so.
What guitarist do you admire?
I really admire the one and only Vito Bratta of White Lion. This guy is a hammer and if I could ever play like him, I’d play all the great melodies all day long. He knows how to build great riffs and solos and it’s so sad that he stopped playing with White Lion. In general, I like guitar players who play for the song and not for their ego. I hate solos that are 10 minutes long and don’t come to the punch line. There has to be a certain feeling of what you play and want to express.
Tell me about the recording of the song “Middle of Paradise”? (Which is one of my favorites).
That’s a really special story. “Middle of Paradise” is one of four songs on “Welcome to Illusion” that was not officially planned for the record. One day we realised that, we had to drop some songs in order to put one ore two faster songs on the CD. And so we decided to work on “Middle of Paradise.” It was magic, because we arranged the whole song in the studio. No concept, just playing the track over and over again, then we recorded it and were really happy about the choice. I love the feeling of the guitar playing right after the solo…some people told me that this guitar sounds like a Hawaiian guitar ;-)
What is your favorite guitar you own and what was the first guitar you owned?
My favourite guitar is an Ibanez J-Custom. By the way, it’s the only guitar I own that really works well ;-) The J-Custom is not the best but I’m content with it. In the studio, I use totally different guitars like a Gibson Les Paul, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster etc. These are really great guitars but much too expensive for me.
My first guitar was a Kramer Pacer Custom II. It’s still alive ;-) But now it sounds worse for my ears. I sometimes use it for the drop tuning sounds.
If I was coming to see a Shylock concert, what could I expect?
A good time and a powerful band, you can be sure that you’ll hear the first refrain of a song and then you can sing along the next choruses with us ;-)
If you had three wishes, what would they be?
- Big success with Shylock e.g. tour around the world
Does the band plan on any live dates in the US?
We would love to plan some dates in the US but right at the moment, it is impossible. Playing in the US would be a dream come true. But we don’t have any good connections in America and I guess we are much too unknown in your country. Furthermore, it’s always a question of money and promotion.
What is the most memorable moment in the history of Shylock?
Playing as support of Bonfire in Nürnberg / Hirsch. This was an awesome concert and the crowd was incredible. We sold about 56 CDs that evening and the whole thing was our biggest concert success.
Tell us what is the wildest thing that happened on tour?
Back in 2002, I broke my left pinky (little finger) right before the first of three gigs in Switzerland. During the shows, I had to drink such a lot of alcohol in order to forget the pain. At that time, I worried a lot that this could be the end of my career. But everything is fine now ;-)
What can fans look forward to from Shylock?
We are planning to record a new CD. By the way, we’re still trying to play as many shows as we can, but the whole situation became worse in Germany.
What band that has really not made an impact would you recommend for fans to listen to?
What is a typical day for Johannes away from the band?
Get up in the morning. Then drink some coffee, pack my bag and go to university. Then I usually stay there for some hours, then return and check my mails. The evenings I spend with my girlfriend watching TV and often I have to prepare some subject stuff for university.
I am going to mention a few words. Tell us what comes to mind.
Superstar - I’m not a fan of that German TV Casting-Show “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” (Germany is searching the superstar). The media is too powerful, they try to influence the crowd, and the nominees often suck.
Germany - I like to live in Germany, but I’m not proud of our shocking history.
Fans - The most important thing for a band. No fans – no band!
Favorite - Lord of the Rings (movie), playing guitar, sports, reading…
Recording - …is very hard work. But if the songs and the production are great, it feels like heaven ;-)
Woman - Betty (my girlfriend) – the one and only!
Family - One very important part of our life.
God - …I believe in him – he’s always there in good times and in bad times.
Cooking - Betty is a really good cook!
Wildest time - When I was 16 years old… I was the black sheep of the family.
Ego - ???
A day off - I need one!
Internet - Very good to get information, but I hate illegal downloads.
Fan mail - We always reply every fan mail. And it’s so important to keep in touch with your fans.
Johannes, Rock Eyez would like to thank you for your time. Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
Yes, I would like to thank you, Brian and the whole team of Rockeyez for your incredible support and I hope that I could introduce my band Shylock a little bit to the reader. It would be awesome if people in the US would find the way to our music.