Editor’s Note: It was a beautiful July evening in Iowa and Johnny Christmas, trumpeter(not a trumpist, he would smack me upside the head if I called him that) sat down with Sal and I at an Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Des Moines for this rather hilarious conversation about The Beer Run Tour while talking about Donald Trump, the Vans Warped Tour going on a cruise, and beer with us! Special thanks to Mike from Earshot Media and for Sal for the work that he did(with a bit of my help) for this interview! Let’s see what Johnny Christmas has to say about these topics!
Johnny: Are these flowers real? They make for a nice centerpiece for this interview! My daughter just turned 4!
Sal: My son just turned 7.
M.T.C.: No kids here, what do you like to do when you’re not touring?
Johnny: Sometimes we like to go to the park, sometimes we like to go hiking, I live close to a mountain, and that’s where it’s nice that she enjoys getting out, walking the dog, nature, climbing hills, and getting dirty.
M.T.C.: Sounds like the mantra of Reel Big Fish in a way.
Johnny: Exactly! Getting dirty, living life, having fun.
M.T.C.: Is that what you would consider the vision of the band, having fun when you joined the band?
Johnny: The band was kind of miserable when I got into it. They had just recorded “Cheer Up”, and there were a lot of personality conflicts, and he thought that the band wouldn’t last anymore, and so he started another band called The Forces of Evil, so he started playing with that band and that’s how I got into Reel Big Fish. Being in a ska band or a rock band isn’t everybody’s dream, and sometimes it takes people awhile to realize that, a lot of those guys that weren’t happy while being out on the road, or didn’t like being a part of it, are out doing other things and being successful, so now it’s a much happier place in the Reel Big Fish camp. We definitely get along real well, we like having fun together, and playing for people, it’s the best job out there.
Sal: What got you into Reel Big Fish?
Johnny: It was through Derek, our bass player, we were a in high school band together, he played trombone, and I played trumpet, and I talked him into playing bass because I played guitar and I wanted someone to jam with, and he started playing bass, and he started playing with bands, and he would start touring with a band called Jeffrey’s Fan Club, and I would go see Jeffrey’s Fan Club while I was going to college, so Derek helped me get in the band, and Derek asked me to play in The Forces Of Evil, with Aaron Barrett, and I started doing that, and I started helping Aaron out with all of the business stuff, with t-shirts, tapes, CD’s, all of that stuff, and I was just hustling because I wanted to make a living as a musician, so work your ass off!
M.T.C.: How was The Beer Run Tour?
Johnny: It’s been great so far. We’ve had some great experiences, we played a show outside in rain, hopefully it doesn’t rain tonight, the bands have been really great, and it’s been a party this whole time.
M.T.C.: If you made us get you a six pack of beer, what kind do I get you?
Johnny: For me? I would make you get me a 24 ounce lager, I would make you get me a Belgian beer or a Belgian style. It’s really carbonated, a little fruity, it’s a little strong.
M.T.C.: Is that what you look for in a craft beer?
Johnny: It’s what I really enjoy.
M.T.C.: What does the rest of the band like?
Johnny: Aaron likes pilsners and lagers, the rest of the guys all run the gamut in terms of IPA’s, porters, and all of that, any beer that is done well and good, if it’s a good kind of beer, we’ll enjoy it.
M.T.C.: Speaking of beer, what’s the worst beer that you have ever had?
Johnny: Speaking of past experience or yesterday’s experience, I had a wedding ale at Belle’s, and it just wasn’t my style, it tasted like soap to me, and I love Bell’s beers, they had a strong sour that was to die for, this beer or wedding ale was not my favorite, I probably could use it to wash dishes. *laughs*
M.T.C.: What was the craziest moment that you have had on this tour with The Expendables, The Queers, and Tunnel Vision?
Johnny: We had one of the Tunnel Vision guys come up on stage, on the side of the stage with a girl in Columbus, Ohio, and he knocked the wire out of Aaron’s pedal board and made the guitar not work while we were on stage, and I thought our guitar tech was going to kill him. Now things are smoothed over, Tunnel Vision can no longer come on stage with us, they’re really going for it.
M.T.C.: I wonder if The Expendables is named after a movie, speaking of which, which character from The Expendables would you compare yourself to while on stage?
Johnny: I have never seen that movie!
M.T.C.: It has Jean Claude Van Damme, a lot of the older actors.
Johnny: I know Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren.
M.T.C.: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin made a cameo.
Johnny: Bruce Willis too. Anyone that can jump onto a fighter jet from an overpass, he is my ultimate hero.
M.T.C.: In August, it’s going to be the 21st Anniversary of “Turn The Radio Off”, did you imagine that you would be touring to commemorate an anniversary of the album all of these years later.
Johnny: We were in the right time and the right place. Growing up in Orange County, California, it really makes a difference having a scene where you’re feeding off of each other, and you’re emulating each other’s musical tastes and pushing each other’s boundaries. You record a record and you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know if it’s going to be a big flop, or if it’s going to be a huge success. Saying that now, being older, don’t get into the music business to make money. Do it because it’s something that you love, and if you eventually get paid, that is really, really awesome. Even with a band like us that has been around for 26 years, keeping the lights on is really hard. Everybody is seeing the tour bus, and everyone is like, “oh, you’re making millions of dollars”, no we are all barely able to pay ourselves, and to keep the lights on, food on the table, and to keep socks on my daughter’s feet. That being said, I love this, this is the best job that you could have, and I love this band. I love what this band stands for, I love that this band is a release from everybody’s day-to-day lives. There’s enough bad s*** on the news and in the media that people have to deal with, turn your phone off, turn your f****** TV off, and go out and do something, the world isn’t that bad, it’s not as bad as what the media is making it out to be. They cherry pick what is the worst in the world, so we are happy to be that ray of sunshine in your life. So you can tell all of those media people to f*** off.
M.T.C.: Do you like dealing with the media?
Johnny: No, I love it. I don’t have any problem doing it. I realize that it’s part of the job and relaying all of the info to the fans is all great, it’s not that, it’s the “looking for something to talk about all of the time”, it’s ridiculous, and you need to separate yourself from that. I have to remind myself to put your phone down and ask myself, “is it making my life better”, no, put the phone down.
M.T.C.: You see Donald Trump in the middle of the ska pit, what’s your reaction while you’re playing and notice Donald Trump?
Johnny: Oh my gosh, I think our fans would kill him. I think they would murder him. I think the band would murder him too. *laughs* He’s a piece of work, I’m really not proud that he got elected as President.
M.T.C.: Let’s say “Turn The Radio Off” was released 21 years later, would you promote it differently?
Johnny: Oh my gosh, it’s a whole different world now than it was 21 years ago. I don’t know if that record would make it through at the right place at the right time. There’s all these YouTube videos, Facebook, all of that stuff. In 1996, we were making tapes and handing them out, posting flyers at shows, and all of this stuff that nobody does anymore. It was really DIY, and it was totally a different world than it was 21 years ago.
M.T.C.: Do you think bands and artists need to go that route or just social media route?
Johnny: You gotta do both. You gotta do shows, you gotta make friends, you gotta get on shows. You gotta tour relentlessly like we have, we are on the road for six to eight months out of the year for over 20 years, and you gotta work with the tools that you have, and those social media tools are what you have, and you gotta make the best of it.
M.T.C.: Let’s say Reel Big Fish signs a contract, and under the conditions of the contract, they have to create a song with a pop diva, and it has to be the first single off of the new record, who is the diva and what song title would you have?
Johnny: We’ve always wanted to work with Gwen Stefani. We grew up in the same area, we went to the same area for school that No Doubt went to, and Derek, our bass player and myself all went to Magnolia, it was about 50 miles from each other. They’re a little older than we are, but not that much older, and she has a new husband now. That’s what the new song title would be. “She has a new husband now”. We could actually also do the song “Where Have You Been”, and make her sing it. We’ve been waiting for you Gwen! *laughs*
M.T.C.: Describe The Beer Run tour using a movie title.
Johnny: Taking Over the World One Show at a Time.
M.T.C.: You guys are playing on the Warped Tour cruise this October, have you played o a cruise before, if you have, what do you like about playing on a cruise?
Johnny: The last one I liked because I had my wife and daughter with me, and my daughter wanted to watch 311 from the jacuzzi with 15 drunk people. She was not afraid to get in a jacuzzi with all naked people. I’m going with ya. It was spending my time with my family and still working, and exposing my daughter to the world that I live in.
M.T.C.: What’s the difference between playing on a cruise as opposed to a festival or a club?
Johnny: They’re definitely more drunk on a cruise because that’s what everybody spends their time doing, and that is drinking. I can only imagine what people’s bar bills are at the end of those cruises. You just sign away and it goes towards your credit card. *laughs*
M.T.C.: Corey Taylor of Stone Sour/Slipknot recently compared Chad Kroeger of Nickelback to KFC chicken, how would Corey Taylor compare Reel Big Fish?
Johnny: We are the Toyota Corolla, we’re reliable, we are dependable, we get the job done, it’s never going to break down on you, it’s always going to be getting you to work, it’s always going to make you happy. We’re going to keep on trucking, and keep going for hundreds of millions of miles.
M.T.C.: The year is 2018, what’s in store for Reel Big Fish?
Johnny: We just did a song for a Halloween compilation, that’s going to have some other artists on it, so that’s going to be a lot of fun. It got Aaron back in the studio, and we kind of got excited about recording again. I know he has like 200 songs up in his head at all times, he is really, really talented and a great songwriter, a great musician and showman. I think he’s ready to start recording again, I think there’s going to be a Reel Big Fish record really soon.
M.T.C.: Any working titles or anything like that?
Johnny: No working titles yet, he’s getting married again, it’ll be the second marriage record. *laughs*
M.T.C.: Sal has a few questions for you.
Sal: First of all, I took my son to see 311 when he was two and a half years old, it was in Kansas City, they were with Sublime with Rome, what do you use for your mustache?
Johnny: I don’t use wax, if I use wax, it will straighten it out, I have to use hair gel, and I have to use something called Gorilla Snot, it works perfect.
Sal: I know about Gorilla Snot! What advice would you have for that high school kid that wants to follow in your footsteps and do this for a career or for a living?
Johnny: Practice! Get really, really good at your instrument, no matter who you are, learn everybody else’s songs, because that’s the way you learn how to write songs is by learning tons of other people’s songs. Put a cover band together and learn Rush, Reel Big Fish, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, if you learn all other people’s songs, that’s how you learn the craft. Don’t go into this to make money, if the money comes, that’s great, if it doesn’t, do it because you love it! Everybody sees Justin Bieber and sees his gigantic mansion and his crazy lifestyle, that is cherry picking off of the top of the cherry tree, and that’s not what we do, we’re a hard working band that tours over 200 dates a year, and we are gone from our families a lot, but it’s the best job that you can possibly have.
Sal: Any last words you have for us?
Johnny: Be good to each other, there’s enough people that are mean, nasty, motherf******, be kind to each other. Help somebody out.
Sal: Awesome man, thanks so much!
Johnny: Thank you!
And there you have it! Shout out to Johnny Christmas of Reel Big Fish for taking the time to interview with us! Reel Big Fish are on the bill for some really cool festivals as well as embarking on a tour with Anti-Flag, Mad Caddies, and Sweet Little Machine!
Check out tour dates below!
Thursday, August 10th-August 13th Behind The Mask Boomtown Ska and Punk Festival in Hampshire, United Kingdom(appearing on the main stage with The Specials, Sublime with Rome, Skindred, Slightly Stoopid, Hepcat, Hoffmaestro, Ska ‘N’ Ska, Eskorzo, Chainska Brassika, and The Ska Vengers)
Saturday, August 19th 350 Festival at Tinley Park Convention Center in Tinley Park, Illinois(appearing with Face To Face, Big Wig, The Stereo, and Lights Over Bridgeport)
Sunday, September 10th- Wayback Pointfest at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Missouri(appearing with Sublime with Rome, The Offspring, The Urge, and Goldfinger)
Saturday, September 30th- 10th Annual SanTan Brewing OktoberFest at Dr. AJ Chandler Park in Chandler, Arizona
Sunday, October 8th- Desert Oasis Music Festival at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California
Tour dates are the tour banner for the Fireball Tour featuring Reel Big Fish, Anti-Flag, Mad Caddies, and Sweet Little Machine
Reel Big Fish will also partake on the Warped At Rewind Sea Cruise from New Orleans, Louisiana to Cozumel, Mexico, check out the tour banner below!
Check out Reel Big Fish at the following locations: