Im Interview: Shane Johnson

Foto: Casandra Marie

Ich erinnere mich noch ganz genau an diesen Tag im Dezember 2020, als ich beim wunderbaren Shane Johnson wegen eines Interviews über Be Well anfragte, er direkt zusagte und meinte: „I mean, I’m just the drummer but I’m happy to try and help.“ Und dabei ist er so vieles mehr als nur der Schlagzeuger…

Es ist ein offenes Geheimnis, dass mich diese Band 2020 mit ihrem Song Confessional und dem dazugehörigen Video absolut überrannte. Während ich zum allerersten Mal auf PLAY drückte, sprang ich zwischen Sprachlosigkeit und dem kläglichen Versuch die Tränen zurückzuhalten hin und her. Ich war geflasht, beeindruckt und irgendein verirrter Funken entzündete sich so sehr in meinem Hirn, dass sich nur wenige Wochen danach langsam aber sicher die Idee entwickelte, ein Buch über diese für mich so wichtig gewordene Band, aber auch über das Leben mit psychischen Krankheiten zusammenzustellen. Wichtig war für mich zu diesem Zeitpunkt, dass ich die komplette Band dort drin vertreten haben wollte, somit landete ich eines Tages bei Shane, der nicht nur am Schlagzeug zu glänzen und zu überzeugen weiß, sondern auf der einen Seite auch ein Mensch mit einem unschlagbaren Humor ist, der seine Familie und seine Freunde abgöttisch liebt und alles für sie tun würde, der das Leben bei einem gekühlten Drink in vollen Zügen genießen und mal all die Sorgen zur Seite schieben kann, aber auf der anderen Seite besitzt er diese Ernsthaftigkeit, überdenkt etliche Dinge mehrmals und übernimmt auch mal den ruhigeren, zurückhaltenden Part in der Gruppe.

Als er mir seine Antworten nur kurze Zeit später zuschickte, war ich überwältigt, weil er so ausführlich, so ehrlich und hier und da gespickt mit seinem Humor all die Zeilen prall füllte. Shane hat dieses Händchen dafür, perfekt mit Worten zu jonglieren und all diesen getippten Sätze Leben einzuhauchen, sodass man sich des Öfteren dabei ertappt, wie man sich in seinen Zeilen verliert- und das auf die positivste und schönste Art und Weise überhaupt. Ich frage mich bis heute, warum Shane nicht öfter zum Interview gebeten wird und ich hoffe sehr, dass sich das mit der Zeit noch ändern wird, denn: zu erzählen hat er so einiges.

Eh es endlich mit dem Interview losgeht, hier noch die eine oder andere kleine Info, falls es jemand von euch verpasst haben sollte:

Die nagelneue EP Hello Sun, die so sehnsüchtig erwartet wurde, ist am 20. Mai via End Hits Records und Revelation Records erschienen und es gibt noch ein paar schöne Vinylvarianten zu erstehen, die ihr euch zum Beispiel hier bestellen könnt: EHR Shop oder RevHQ Shop

Außerdem wird es im kommenden Herbst eine Tour geben, die so leicht nicht zu übertreffen sein wird: Be Well wird sich mit Boysetsfire, Hot Water Music und Samiam die Bühnen teilen und wer sich dafür bisher noch immer kein Ticket besorgt hat, dem ist wirklich nicht mehr zu helfen! Also ran da, eh nach Wiesbaden die nächsten Städte AUSVERKAUFT vermelden!

04.10.2022 UK–London, Electric Ballroom
05.10.2022 BE–Antwerpen, Zappa
06.10.2022 NL–Amsterdam, Melkweg
07.10.2022 DE–Bochum, Ruhrcongress (verlegt von Dortmund)
08.10.2022 DE–Hannover, Swiss Life Hall
09.10.2022 DE–Berlin, Columbiahalle
10.10.2022 DE–Nürnberg, Löwensaal
11.10.2022 DE–München, Tonhalle
12.10.2022 AT–Wien, Gasometer
13.10.2022 DE–Stuttgart, LKA-Longhorn
14.10.2022 DE–Wiesbaden, Schlachthof
15.10.2022 DE–Wiesbaden, Schlachthof (AUSVERKAUFT!)

Jetzt aber! Hier für euch das Interview mit Shane Johnson! Internetherz!

When and how did you first come into contact with Be Well?

It was maybe spring of 2019 (I’m terrible with time so don’t be surprised if someone contradicts this later) and I woke up one morning to a text from Peter, who I’ve been in a half dozen bands with over the past 20 years. He said he’s been working on a new band with Mike Schleibaum and Brian McTernan, and they need a drummer. Attached were two demos, Magic and Confessional. Having just woken up I was taken a bit off guard since he hadn’t ever mentioned this project at all. The songs were cool but I wasn’t sure if I’d have the time to devout to the band. Knowing Mike and knowing Brian by reputation, I figured it would be a full time gig. Later that day (or week? who can remember?) I got a message from Mike asking if I had time to talk. I love talking to Mike. Talking to Mike will leave you both inspired and exhausted in equal measure. The dude is whirlwind of positivity, all about art and making things and seizing opportunities. He also pointed out that everyone in the band has busy lives going on and no one is trying to do 8 week tours through the midwest like we all did in our youth. So I was sold, let’s give this a shot! He sent over the demos they had. Confessional was the song that really sold me though.

What went through your mind when you were first confronted with all these heartbreaking lyrics?

Well, I heard Magic and Confessional first only minutes after waking up. The lyrics barely registered at first beyond the first couple verse lines and the beginning of the choruses. I was more paying attention to the music. It wasn’t until further down the line that I really started paying attention or sussing out what they were about. I didn’t know Brian that well yet. Everything between us up to that point had been about feeling out if this was gonna workout as a band, me learning the songs that were already written and jamming with him on new songs to finish writing the record. I didn’t know about him having been hospitalized when he was younger or any of his passed mental health struggles. I also honestly didn’t even realize at first that some of the songs were about struggling with the idea of being a parent and being responsible for someone else while you’re also struggling to keep yourself afloat. That’s when they really struck me, I could identify with all of that in a big way.

Be Well is still relatively young – how important has the band become in your life?

With this pandemic, I feel like I’m watching Be Well happen from the outside in. I’m seeing people be excited about it and people really connecting to the record but it’s not like we’re out there playing shows with people and connecting with them directly. It’s bitter sweet, really. Just like any good thing from this passed year. Nothing has been ideal for anyone. I mean, we barely even get to connect with each other at this point beyond a pretty funny band text thread and the occasional zoom meeting. So the importance of Be Well in my life at this point is pretty hypothetical. It’s something I’m looking forward to. But it’s not something I feel I actually have at the moment. Things are looking up though. Brians started writing new songs and that’s making me feel more connected again. Ideas are flowing. I’m thinking about songs. I’m really just excited to get in a room and write songs at full volume again. To actually *feel* the songs. The prospect of shows and of coming over to Europe also helps me keep my eyes on the horizon. Traveling with these dudes is so much fun. I just can’t wait.

Man, thats kind of a downer answer, huh? I think Covid life might just be hitting harder this week than normal.

I should be looking at this from the perspective that I’m a 40 yo married father of two and I still have the opportunity to play with musicians of this caliber. I mean, I’m in a band with the dudes from Darkest Hour, Fairweather, Bane, and Battery! And I really like those dudes. And I get to write and play songs that connect with people. That’s pretty amazing and not at all lost on me.

How would you describe your band mates to someone who doesn’t know them yet?

This one is gonna be hard because while they’re all VERY much individuals, they all have certain important things in common. They’re all super smart, driven, hardworking, positive, fun and funny people. The kind of people anyone would be lucky to have in their lives and the kind of person everyone should wish to have in their lives. Theres nothing any of them wouldnt do for the people they love. They all just want everyone around them to be having a good time. And they also all have endless amazing stories to tell. But okay, lets give this a shot…

Brian: One of the most supportive dudes ever. Always has a positive thing to say to you and is genuinely excited to interact with people. He can also really make someone feel good about themselves. Which is probably part of why he’s been such a successful producer, he has a great “bedside manner”. 

Aaron: I don’t want to use the word “sweet” because he’s also a smart ass, ball buster (in the best way possible of course) but the dude is one of the sweetest guys I know. Every text conversation also includes a reply from him that asks “You doing okay? How’s the family?” He’s just a genuinely nice guy. There’s a reason everyone loves him and is excited when they see him.

Mike is a walking pep talk. Everyone needs someone like him. He lives for the party but he’s also a real “rise and grind” kind of guy with a crazy work ethic. He’s also super excitable and exciting to be around but still very laid back and chill. He’s got a real “ying yang” thing going on. One thing’s for sure, no band he’s ever been in would be where they are now without him.

Peter is like a brother to me. I love this dude with all my heart. Which is probably why I’ve been in so many bands with him. He’s another “two sided” kind of guy. Silly and serious. On one hand he’s one of the funniest and most fun guys I’ve ever known but on the other he can be very level headed and rational when serious matters come up. He’s very decisive which is something I’ve never been very good at. Even after Fairweather and Olympia stopped touring I would still occasionally text him asking what he thought I should order at a restaurant because I knew he would choose better than me. Ha. But he also seems to approach much of life from an artist’s point of view as well. Besides music, he’s an amazing painter and illustrator. So he has an eye for aesthetics and narrative in just about everything. A real renaissance man.

What makes Be Well so special?

Really, i think it’s just honesty. It’s a group of people who all love music rooted in hardcore. Who love playing as hard as they can and want to share it with anyone who wants in. We play the way we play and are the people that we are. Brian’s open and unflinchingly honest lyrics being the most obvious example. 

What role does mental health play in your life? Have you ever had to deal with depression and/or anxiety/panic attacks yourself?

I definitely suffer from anxiety. I also have some depressive tendencies. Neither of which have been crippling by any measure. A lot of it has only come to light in my adult life. I’ve just been the way I am my whole life and didn’t really think anything of it. I’m terrible at seeing things in myself, it could be days before I notice I pulled a muscle or something. My wife, who is a BCBA behavioural specialist so she can’t help but “watch”, was the first to ever start pointing things out or explaining things to me. I was diagnosed with moderate ADHD when i was a teenager, so i’ve always just assumed everything that felt “off” was from that. And most of it seems to have been. I remember one day trying to explain a feeling I was feeling to my wife and she very matter of factly said “yeah, that’s anxiety”. Ha. It took 30 years before I knew what it was. I’m still not comfortable with professional help and honestly I probably self medicate more than is healthy. I know I should talk to someone, especially after this past year, but i havent gotten to that place yet. Recognizing a shortcoming doesn’t solve it.

What does The Weight and The Cost mean to you and why should people definitely listen to this record?

I think records like this are important. A lot of hardcore seems to be directed at younger people, when more often than not (or atleast it was for me) your anger and frustrations are aimed at the outside world. But when you get older a lot of frustration and anger can end up aimed at yourself and your choices. So relationship songs can’t be as cut and dry as a “my friend/lover/crush has hurt me”. Political songs shouldnt be as black and white as “the government is bad”. Hardcore kids grow up and evolve as people but they still love hardcore. So with a record like The Weight and The Cost (and others like it) the vehicle remains the same but the message can grow up with us.

What is your favorite song & why this one in particular?

This is hard. I don’t know if i can pick a song. However, I can say with certainty: the bridge of Tiny Little Pieces and the ending of Longing are my favorite moments on the record.

I love Tiny Little Pieces. I love the feel and how it nonstop drives. But it’s the bridge vocals, the way they take off and lift the song up, and how they hang a little behind the beat. That’s what gets me.

But I also love Longing. It’s a ripper but that second verse where it gets airier and quieter while still keeping the breakneck pace (I dig a hardcore song with some spaciness) feels special. And then it all comes together for that super anthemic ending. 

But to play live? Strength For Breath is my fav. It’s just so fun. Like a little sample platter of rock.

How did you experience the first shows?

They were a blur. We’d only played full band a handful of times and it had been a few years since I had played live at all. The muscle memory of setting up, preparing and mentally being ready for a show just wasn’t there. Throw into the mix that we had so many friends at those first few shows, it was a whirlwind. Probably the first time I was actually nervous to play live in more than a decade.

Anything else you wanna add?

If the last show we played before the world shut down (the release show for the 7”) is any indicator for what the future holds, then I am beyond excited for this band. That show felt so much like a community. Like I hadn’t felt in 10+ years. I’m excited to write new songs. I’m excited to play shows. And I’m beyond excited to meet new people. And to get to do it with this group of dudes is a true gift.

And thank you, Jasmin, for really taking such an interest in all of this.