04 August 2011
[ BayUndaground.com ] : What's good Johnny, introduce yourself to our readers. Tell us the basics about yourself.
[ Johnny West ] : God bless you everybody, this is Johnny West, coming right to you from Bay Area, San Francisco. Just released my first album: Johnny West "333". You can find it in every single store worldwide, to include iTunes, Amazon, mp3, you can also go to my website www.johnnywest333.com. I'm very happy and excited to be with you today.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Before we talk about your album, let's move to the past and focus on your musical heritage. Who placed music in your heart?
[ Johnny West ] :You know, I've always had a musical presence in my heart, dating back to when I was young, my mother - who raised me and my brother as a single mother - had always music around us. In fact she was one of the very first DJs out of Las Vegas, one of the first on-air personalities for females. She used to take us down to the studio in Vegas with her, while she was working, playing records. We'd listen to music all day long, so music has always been a big portion of my life from when I remember.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : So what eventually made this music to be rap?
[ Johnny West ] :Well you know, where I was raised it just so happened that I started hanging out in the areas in which rap music was popular. Afro-americans and Latinos were something like my passion hanging out with, I just seemed to get along with them better and with that came rap music. I always digged rap and though I was listening to rock with my mom, rap music was just so easy and accessible and so much fun. It was easy for people to find any type of beat to put to rap. It was inexpensive and available all the time. I was listening to rap music ever since I can remember.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Before your debut album hit the stores, could people hear you on any official releases as a guest appearance?
[ Johnny West ] :I'm pretty sure you can find me at AK-9ine's album. I'm on the "Bay Area Anthem" (from "The Struggle" album), he's in prison now, doing a 10-year, but he's always in my heart. I'm on this track with Rappin' 4-Tay and D-LO-G. I'm on some tracks with Spice 1, but he never actually released them. Maybe they'll end up one day on some compilation or something. Rappin' 4-Tay featured me on a couple of other items. I don't have the actual names, but try to Google me.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Let's focus on "333" that dropped in 2011, it's a brand new release. Please elaborate on it.
[ Johnny West ] : It's my debut album which eventually ended up 10 years to make. I started recording it in northern California, I was living with Rappin' 4-Tay at that time - in San Francisco, Bay Area. I started recording some tracks in 2000-2001. I was just doing it for fun and things started getting more hot and heated than I thought they'd actually gonna get, so I ended up rapping with 4-Tay, Suga Free, Spice 1 - one of my all-time heroes when I was growing up. I was able to record with my heroes, I was just fortunate enough to collaborate with such geniuses and get finally an album finished. It turned out to be something quite more than a hobby, because of who I've ended up collaborating with and where I'm going with it, how well it can take off. My debut album "333", sold worldwide right now, you can find it everywhere. My second album - I plan to have it finished by next year. I'm planning to do one album every year. I'm very proud of my debut. I wish some tracks were a little bit updated, because it took me so long to finally release the thing, so they sound outdated, but every song on my album means a lot to me and it is a significant part of my private, personal life. There is a story being told on every song. I'm glad it's finally out there in the market for everyone to enjoy.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : How did you hook up with 4-Tay?
[ Johnny West ] : I was at the club Ibiza in Oakland. I was fortunate enough to run into Rappin' 4-Tay, who had a room there. It was a hotel that was turned into a night club. I lined up with 4-Tay for the weekend and just hang out in his hotel room with him and his friends. We just really hit it off. From that point forward I found a very passionate side of myself that I had not let free for a long time. 4-Tay helped me find my roots again and get back to something I really enjoyed doing, which is making music. From then I was fortunate enough to collaborate with other artists simply because of connections I had with Rappin' 4-Tay. He introduced me to quite other people, including his cousin Suga Free. It just kind of inspired me to do more music all the time, because I was meeting such cool cats, so I just stuck with it, man.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : The title of your album, "333", what does it stand for?
[ Johnny West ] : 333? It's a number that's been going around for a lot on social media sites. But I started using it way long time ago. I enjoyed it, it was my lucky number. Back in the old school days we were listening to Iron Maiden and the number of the beast, 666, you know, so I figured it would be cool if I made it to 333, chop the devil in the half. 333 to me was a lot of fun, I ended up getting personal with it, thinking what's 333 to me. If you start with 0, you've got heaven. For 666 you've got hell, so 333 would be half way in-between, which would be Earth. I'm half way between heaven and hell, I'm on Earth and that's exactly where I need to be.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : I read on one of your pages that you were an executive producer for people affiliated with Alice Cooper, Smashing Pumpkins. Tell us more about your out-of-rap connections. Do they inspire you?
[ Johnny West ] : One of my songs was executive produced by Chuck Garric who's the lead bass guitarist for Alice Cooper and he opened up a studio out in Studio City next to Beverly Hills, it was named "Soundtrack West". Haha, I'm surprised I remember the name of it. I saw an ad in a newspaper saying that he opened up a studio and I thought it sounds like a cat I would really like to work with. I went down to the studio, right when they opened it up. They've got the best top notch gear, and we ended up collaborating on the song "Definition Of Position" and Chuck took over the engineering, mixing and mastering and what not. He was excited about getting to work on the track, just because it was a cool track and I was just so excited to be able to work with someone who enjoys my music. You know, coming from a rocker's standpoint, working on a rap song... haha it really made me feel good. You know, rap music getting produced by such a kick-ass rock dude as Chuck Garric, it was phenomenal. I don't have Smashing Pumpkins on my album, I have Kevin Dippold. He's my producer, he produced over half of the songs, mixed them, mastered and everything. He's the producer for Smashing Pumpkins now too. He plays guitar and does back-up vocals. He's a good dear friend of mine and I look forward to working with him on album number two. I've got a star studded cast of new people, new celebrities and featured artists. Stay tuned, I'm gonna probably be hooking up with JT The Bigga Figga, San Quinn, E-40, possibly Eminem. Keep your eyes and ears open, 'cause the second album's gonna be wonderful.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : For sure. On your debut album you mix various musical genres. Do you feel it's still rap that everybody knows or is it more than that? Who's the target of your recordings?
[ Johnny West ] : You know, that's the funny thing. The target of my recordings is me. I make stuff that I enjoy making. I enjoy doing a bit of everything. What I'm in a mood to do - that's what I'm gonna put on the album. Whether it be opera, classic, country, rock, reggae, Latino vibes, hardcore, grind. With the next album, I can't even tell you what's it gonna be filled with. Whether it will be more towards hardcore gangsta rap... I'm gonna put myself to every bit of it, it just depends on where I'm at, what I'm feeling at the time. That's what's so exciting and amazing about making music, 'cause there are no guidelines, there are no rules, so if you're gonna make music, just make music, regardless of what kind of music it is. I don't put any labels on the type of music that I'm going to make and I'll never put a label on it. If you wanna put myself in a category as far as music genre goes, I don't know where you can put me in. I know I'm labeled as "West Coast rap artist" right now, but I bet you can also find me in rock and country or alternative, whatever. I just enjoy making music. It just so happened that a lot of my first album was rap based, because I was around a lot rap folks, but there is an element of rock and country. I'm actually hoping to produce, create a lot more rock or at least live instrument based music on a second album. Just stay tuned, I don't know, it's gonna be awesome, one way or another.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : I'm glad that you mentioned the live instrument aspect. Are there live instruments on your debut album or just regular computer sounds?
[ Johnny West ] : Yeah, absolutely. If you listen to #5 "The Bottle" which is a rock song - all the instruments are live. The are live drums, piano and bass guitar. I'm using different beats and elements from all type of areas. I have a big DJ from San Francisco, his name is J Kind, J J Johnson is an amazing DJ, he makes some beats on the side. I think the second to last song on my album called "The West" is a beat produced by J Kind, which is like a techno, house, deep bass song. I'm making new beats for the majority of songs. Along with that inspiration makes me do more live tracks, with more live instruments like "Bury My Bone" or an unreleased track that I'm gonna call "Something" which is Beatles' track which I'll eventually get rights to be able to use it. I'm really excited about using live isntruments as opposed to bass machines and beat making machines and whatnot. You're gonna see a lot new live instruments on the new album.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : What do you feel about contemporary rap scene? Does it still have originality?
[ Johnny West ] : With innovators like Eminem coming out, he's doing songs with artists like Pink. He's rapping over live instruments and making it sound good. There's really a creative vibe going through the industry right now, where people just want to sound original, different and unique. And the only way to do that is by not sampling older stuff, by not using simple machines like 808's to make beats. You need to get into instruments and just see what imagination and funky, groovy, kind of soulful music you can get into. The industry is really setting an example right now, 'cause I think it's kind of lost in direction, it doesn't really know where to go right now, except to be original. And that's a great thing for the industry, the music should be unique always and with innovators like... you know, I keep throwing out Eminem, but how can you not? How can you not put him in mix of things? Everybody wants to jump on that bandwagon, black, white or different, everybody wants a piece of that action. The only way to do that is to come up with unique stuff, man. Get into love instruments, even if you have to play 8 seconds on piano, or an instrument that you don't really feel, then pick up the next one, whether it be bass guitar or a lead guitar or a tuba, you know. Jam it out for 8 seconds, record it, loop it and throw it into original mix, man. That's where the industry is at today.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Do you see these innovations in northern California music?
[ Johnny West ] : You know, I'm stuck between a rock and a hard spot right now, because I am in the Bay Area right now and I did half of my first album in the Bay Area. I had my start in southern California. The West Coast in general altogether is doing some pretty phenomenal stuff. I consider my music West Coast based, but you've also got to keep in mind that I was born in Chicago, my roots come from the central side of US. I'm incorporating East Coast, West Coast, northern and southern California music into one thing. I don't wanna say that West Coast is a pioneer or innovator, well it is, but the East Coast is doing the same thing with the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z or 50. Everybody just tries to incorporate all the beats into one unique stuff. So, innovation isn't coming from the West Coast, it's coming from all over the place, man. And that's the way you should be making music nowadays anyway. It's something for everybody to jam and listen to.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : How's the market right now? Is it hard for an up-and-coming artist to sell and be heard?
[ Johnny West ] : The market is where it needs to be at this time. You're not gonna see a single cent from record sales. Nobody's buying legit records anymore, they're downloading it for free. The real way to make money is by doing shows on big tours. I'm gonna continue to try to be involved in big tours and not focus so much on record sales, because that's not a fair way to judge the industry.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Do you really plan to release one album anually?
[ Johnny West ] : Yeah, you know, I'd like to do it anually for now, one a year, it might take a little bit longer to put one out, but it's my objective. I think that it would be foolish to wait 10 more years for another album haha. I jumped fully into the game, I've got some OG status already. I wanna keep the heat smoking, I'm gonna come out with new, hot shit all year long, I'm gonna be bangin' with the biggest dudes in the industry, whoever wants to collab, I'm definitely gonna make effort to work with. I'm gonna put out one every year man, one and a half, at least for the next 5 years. We're gonna see how everything rock & rolls from there then.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Thanks for the interview, Johnny. If you want to add anything, please feel free to do so.
[ Johnny West ] : I'm good man, I appreciate your time, I just hope that you and all fans out there appreciate where I'm coming from. I don't want the album to sound arrogant or that I'm not very humbled by the release of it, because I worked very hard on it. If you don't like one track on it, skip to the next one, 'cause you're gonna find something different. There's a little bit out there for everybody on it, whether you like rap, rock, reggae, you will enjoy it.
Check out Johnny's music here: