Fleur the Kiwi
Solo artist and producer Johnny Lima first picked up a guitar at the age of 12 and taught himself to play. From the beginning, Lima’s music has emphasized lyrics and melody. He released his debut album in 1996 and is now in the studio working on his latest album, due out later this year. DGT&G interviewed Johnny at his recording studio, Suspect Studios, in San Jose, California.
From now until the end of time (or until too many people die for us to continue), DGT&G will be interviewing rock ‘n’ roll artists—famous, not-famous, and the vast numbers in between—and asking each the same five questions. Over time, their answers will form a repository of the heart of why people play rock music. Read on and enjoy …
DGT&G: Why do you play rock music?
Johnny Lima: You know, I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time. [Laughs] I guess it would have to be because of Kiss. I was a very young kid and saw them on TV for the first time. They looked like super heroes, and I thought, “OK, that’s cool.” My parents weren’t listening to rock music, so that was another reason why. They’re into country, and I’m like, “I’m not gonna do any country, but….” I would say the main reason why I got into rock is because of Kiss. I wanted to be just like Kiss. I couldn’t afford the cool outfits though. [Laughs]
DGT&G: What else could you see yourself doing?
JL: Besides music? I like photography. I like graphic design, so I’d still do something creative. That’s what’s important to me—as long as I’m being creative and productive, I guess. I wouldn’t want to be sitting in a cubicle for eight hours a day, that’s for sure.
DGT&G: Do you have any regrets about taking this path?
JL: Yeah, I do actually. I’ve got quite a few regrets. One of them is that I don’t feel like I put one hundred percent into it all the time. I’ve always had something to fall back on. I’ve always had a sort of a safety net. And I’ve sort of wished that I never had one, because when you’re not in that desperate moment, it’s like sink or swim. I think that’s important. You read the biographies of bands like Mötley Crüe, Poison, or any of them, they all lived in a warehouse or something. They’re all sharing a one-bedroom apartment. They’re eating Top Ramen. I never suffered, and I wish I did, because I probably would’ve gotten a lot farther. [Laughs]
DGT&G: It pushes you.
JL: Yeah, it does. When there is no urgency to it—I never, I don’t think I ever made it my first priority. I’ve always been concerned with, OK, I gotta make a living first. I guess that’s my biggest regret. But, there is nothing I can do about it now. [Laughs] Wife and kid, you know, you can’t just say, “OK, screw it! I’m just gonna go for the rock & roll dream.” [Laughs] Yeah, forty-two years old, pretending he’s fifteen.
DGT&G: So, what’s your favorite part about creating and playing rock music?
JL: I think for me it’s more what you do for other people with your music. I think that’s what’s kept me going this whole time. You know, a lot of people gauge their success by how many albums they’ve sold or how many tickets they’ve sold to a show, but I tend to gauge my success by how many lives I touch with my music. That’s to me more important than album sales, because how many people can actually say, “I’ve touched this person’s life” or “I got this person through a family death,” or something like that. Because I get a lot of those emails, and that’s what really motivates me to keep going. “Hey Johnny, thank you very much. Your music got me through my dad’s death,” or my sister’s death, or something like that. Or “I played ‘Something About You’ at my wedding.” That means a lot to me and that’s why I keep doing it.
DGT&G: If you could create your dream rock band, who would be in it?
JL: For bass guitar, I’d have to say Nikki Sixx. For drums, definitely Tommy Lee. For guitar, ooh, I would have to say—oh that’s a hard question. I would say Randy Rhoades if he was still alive.
DGT&G: You can pick whoever you want.
JL: I’m sure some of my band members are gonna go, “How come you didn’t say me, you asshole?” [Laughs]
DGT&G: Are you going to have more than one guitarist?
JL: On this one, I just want a four-piece band. I don’t even want keyboards. I want to get paid more. [Laughs] The thing about having a six-piece band is, shit, I gotta divide everything by six. Oh, we’re gonna make good money, but now, it’s—here’s your fifty bucks.” [Laughs]
DGT&G: Go buy a hamburger.