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Nothing More 7Interview with

Johnny Hawkins (singer) from Nothing More

Alternative Rock band NOTHING MORE is certainly on top of everyone’s list of proper surprises in case they watched their show at Rock am Ring 2018 on Saturday afternoon. The energy levels the quartet from San Antonio, Texas - and especially the charismatic singer Johnny Hawkins - exude are in a class of their own. Therefore, our journalist Christian Beyermann was very happy to get the chance to meet a visibly relaxed Johnny an hour after his gig in the hermetically sealed artist area at Rock am Ring.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: First of all thanks for having us and giving us the chance for this interview. So for how long will you be in Europe this time? I read you have plenty of gigs coming up over here?
Johnny Hawkins [JH]: A little over a month, like a month and a few days. Yeah, it’s packed.

RoD: That’s quite a stretch being away from friends and family. I read that you guys are also opening up for GUNS N’ ROSES and VOLBEAT in Spain in Madrid in July?
JH: Yeah, that must be highlight of this tour I think!

RoD: So, some say, GUNS N’ ROSES fans tend to be a little bit difficult, so is there anything you expect in that regard?
JH: (laughs) You know I’ve actually never been to a GUNS N’ ROSES or wait… I take that back - I saw them at a festival that we were playing at, but it was not the original line-up. It was Axl Rose and just another band, so I do not consider that GUNS N’ ROSES. So, I’ve never seen the real GUNS N’ ROSES or experienced that, so I have no expectations, I am just goin’ in there, and we’re gonna kick that crowd in the face with all we’ve got…

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RoD: With all that amazing energy of your show - by the way, congratulations for your gig here at Rock am Ring, your show was amazing. I have been to one of your club shows in Cologne last year…
JH: Oh, nice! You were at that one! That was our last show of the tour!

RoD: Yes, exactly, and it was also awesome to watch you guys there, so my question is: Do you have any preference of playing festivals versus club shows?
JH: Yeah, I personally like club shows because it feels more comfortable. With festivals you have so little time to get all your gear on stage, and a lot of times there is technical problems, or… it is just very quick. And then the people are very far away - So I feel kind of disconnected a little bit, I just have to kinda go through the motions a little bit like we do at a club. But at a club I feel it way more, I feel the people, their reaction.

RoD: You get some feedback, right…
JH: Yeah, I can hear them, see the whites in their eyes… So that’s me personally. But festivals are… I like festivals, I like everything else about a festival, minus the show. So I think I would go for club.

RoD: So did you go to festivals in your “previous” life? With the full package like camping and stuff?
JH: I don’t think I ever camped at a festival. Honestly, the only time we ever camped was when we played Download in the UK. That was because of logistical reasons, like - the time we needed to be at the festival was so early. But that was a bad idea. I did not sleep very well, and there was a lot of drunk people around me, keeping me up all night, so I will never do that again. But this was the only time I’ve done it.

RoD: So you got a first-hand experience of what it is like out there (on the festival campgrounds…
JH: Yeah, a little taste. It would have been fun if I wasn’t performing the next morning, so I could go like (makes drinking motion)…

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RoD: So, back to your musical roots: Do you miss being a drummer?
JH: I used to a lot, when I first made the transition, and every once in a while, I will, but - now that I’ve gotten way more comfortable with singing - I really enjoy it. It was that transition period for about two years, where I thought I was a better drummer than a singer. And usually you enjoy the things you do well in life. I mean if you are doing something poorly, it’s not mentally a very fun experience, and so - after a few years once I really go into my stride - then I haven’t really looked back. And I have those drums up front. So I still get to hit those drums, so I never let go completely - but I like singing now.

RoD: And when it comes to the song creation process, how does that work for you? Do you have those drum patterns in your head, or are you starting off with the melodies or lyrics? Or is it just a mix of everything?
JH: A lot of it used to start in a garage, and I would be on drums with Mark and Dan on base and guitar, and we would write a lot of music first, and we would put those ideas kind of away, and then we would go to another room, where I would just put on my singer hat and would just work on melodies and lyrics. And then we would start pairing the ideas. Because I could not really do them both at the same time, I couldn’t give it 100%, so that was a little laborious. So it was kind of difficult to do it that way. So once we got Ben (drummer), it would really free me up to just focus on the vocals. I could make comments, suggestions, and ideas on the drums without having to jump back and forth. So that’s how we do it now.

RoD: So you guys recorded a lot of your albums at home in your own studio…
JH: All of them we have recorded mostly at my studio which is a home studio. We have gotten the drums in a real studio because it is logistically too difficult. And you need a big room, because we like that rock sound. But yeah, ever since the ‘Fear not Fleeting’ I have produced most of the songs on the record.

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RoD: I read on your Instagram feed that you are currently outfitting a new studio?
JH: Yup, I moved to another state with my lady, and she’s from there, and I’m gone so much, so she kind of has some roots there and some family, and it made more sense for her to stay and me to move to her, so I have a whole new place now, and I worked for a good two months designing and rebuilding and getting parts and supplies to fit that exact room. So it’s about 70% done. And I haven’t had the time to finish it, because I have been on tour so much. So I was home for like a week or two. And I get like two things done and then I have to leave again. So it’s getting there. I really, really love it. It’s really exciting.

RoD: So does that kind of explain why you perform barefoot on stage, and Mark wearing socks on stage - like this home feeling, do you want to have that on stage also?
JH: (laughs) Yeah, I have always… the ‘No shirt, barefoot’ has been me since I was a kid. That is the most comfortable version of me, and then as I got older I was like - on stage I want to be me, if like I was at home, so that’s how I always walked around. And then, when I was a kid my grandmother told me that my head was always in the clouds. She was like: ‘You are always up here (motions to the sky) in the ether, and you need to be grounded’. So she was like: “Take your shoes off, feel the ground, be conscious, contact” - it is almost electrical. Like ever since then I started doing that and then I noticed that having my shoes off, it felt better to me. Because I like to jump around and go a little wild. And if there is something wet on the ground I can feel it with my feet immediately, and I know to be cautious. If there is an edge I can feel it with my toes without having to look, so I can keep my eyes on the audience. Same thing when I jump up on the drums, I just feel more stable, more balanced, more like a cat. Whereas with my shoes on, I feel more clunky.

RoD: So during your gig today, I for the first time saw you doing this amazing stunt, being catapulted into the air, while standing on the scorpion tail. That was really electrifying to see. However, you left out the base solo part, where you strap the base guitar onto the Scorpion. Any particular reason why you did not do that today?
JH: Yeah, we did not have a lot of time, and we wanted to play more songs for the people to hear. We have also done that for years in the States, so maybe over here it is still a little newer, but we kind of outdated it for a little while. When we have a longer set we will fit those kind of things back in. On festivals it is a little tough, we have to make hard choices.

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RoD: So, when you look into the future. With you outfitting a new studio, is there any timeline in your head for some new material?
JH: Yeah, we have talked about starting - like officially starting some time in like next spring. So I am stowing away some ideas right now, as is Mark and Dan. Like we always have some ideas on the backburner. But officially working together in the same room and bringing those ideas to the table, that will be probably next spring, next summer, something like that.

RoD: And where do you plan to do that? In your new home, or back in Texas?
JH: Mark and Dan live in San Antonio and I will be flying to them for like a week, and then we will work together in person. And then I will fly back and then we will work on things mobile. So there is like a lot of programming, creative work I do on the computer, or re-amping guitar tones or lyric work and melody work. I can do a lot of that mobile, and then skype of facetime each other. So yeah, we’ll do like a week together, a week or two apart, week together, so there will be some flights and things like that…

RoD: So that is some next level song development right there. So do you listen to your own music once in a while? Or do you tend to avoid that altogether?
JH: Once we finish a record, I listen for about a month. I really listen to it a lot, because there was so much work that went into it, that if I feel I can’t enjoy it, you know, why am I making it, you know? So I enjoy our music. But then after that I move on, and I do not listen to it that much after that. But it is fun to appreciate the years’ worth of work and sweat and tears you put into it. So yeah, I enjoy it. So I have always said that if you don’t enjoy it, then stop making it. Start making something you enjoy.

RoD: Fair enough, so you don’t have to change the station when some of your songs come on?
JH: It’s only funny when other people are around. I am like “Aaargh - I feel weird listening to my music.” But when I am by myself, I will listen sometimes.

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RoD: So, what were your past musical influences? So in your profile it stated something like TOOL and that direction… So is there something you still listen to today?
JH: Yeah, TOOL is a big one. Then a band called EMERY, a band called DREDG, BLINDSIDE, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE… I am trying to think, I have listened to a lot of bands over the years, and those were the kinds of... And MUSE! So the fact that they are playing today is really fucking awesome for us. So I saw them live when I was younger, before we started touring, and I was really inspired by them. So I am excited to see them tonight for a little bit…

RoD: So for our female readership: What is your nutritional and workout secret for looking so ripped? So being on tour and keeping up a workout routine is probably very difficult, right?
JH: It is very difficult while on the road. Most of my exercise is done when I am home. And then when I am on the road, it is more like maintenance and trying to stay as healthy as possible. But most of it is like just honestly just staying really active. Just burning a lot all the time. For me, when we are on the road, jumping around on stage I burn a lot of calories and singing surprisingly works your core a lot. And when I am home, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an awesome, very motivating workout, because you are combating someone else. So that is very motivating to stay incredibly active. But then again, nothing super-fancy, some basic weight training. There is no super-secret. I think the most important thing is when going into a workout or a live show giving it everything you got. And you don’t really know what you have to give until you have been in a situation where you have been pushed really hard. And then you really know where your limit is. And when I was younger it was wrestling that did it for me. The wrestling in high school, the hardest sport, the hardest thing I have ever done in life actually, because our coach was a mad man. And it was just mentally difficult and physically difficult, and everything else in life is easier than that. It prepared me for life, so I really think that for where I am at now mentally and physically, that trained me.

RoD: So, thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions. So enjoy the European leg of your tour. All the best for your future and I hope we will see you soon in Germany on tour.
JH: Yes we will. We will be back a lot. We love it here. Thanks for having me. See you next time.

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The pictures were done during the band’s show at Rock am Ring just before the interview. Photographer: Elena Arens

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