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interview with johnny lee middleton

from Dutch Savatage Fanclub magazine summer 1998
by Michelle van Dijk
translated by: Patrick van der Horst

What's your current condition?

Johnny: Hungover. We arrived here yesterday and we drank all the German beer we could get!

Just some personal questions:




A wife,a dog and two cats

City and State?

St. Petersburg, Florida

Favorite food?


Favorite color?

Purple, that's the color of passion.

What's your favorite animal?

Jeff Plate! No just kidding, I like dogs and cats. But dogs the most, because you can't learn a cat something.

What's your favorite Sava-album and song?

I think 'The Hall...' It was a difficult time. It was quite a work to get the album together. We slept on the ground and ate peanutbutter-sandwiches. We invested all our money in that album. My favorite song would be 'Believe' because that means something.

Do you believe?

I went to a Christian school, so I'm familiar with the Bible, but I don't go to church and I only pray in bad times

Do you believe in life after death?

Oh yeah, I believe soules come together on a certain time.

What's your definition of happiness?

To be able to do what you want to do and make a living out of that. You really don't need that much money, just enough to eat, have a house and to drive a car. And...., the opportunity to go fishing. Don't ask to much, because it might happen to you.

Who taught you the most?

I think the guys in the band. We've learned a lot of life and being with people together.

What was the age you started playing bass?

When I was 14. I started with a trumpet in a jazz-band in school. When I found out that you could get more girls by playing bass in stead of trumpet, I changed from instrument. I have had a good musicteacher in school, who taught me after school to play a lot of different instruments.I started with drums, till I drove my parents crazy. Then they gave me a trumpet, that till I got to know how to handle it, sounded like a car-horn. This drove my parents more crazy, so I was only allowed to practice when they weren't home. I wanted to be the drummer in the schoolband, but there were about 40 kids who wanted that. That were too many and that's why my teacher gave me a hobo. I tried it for a couple of weeks, but you've got to blow so hard, I changed it for a trumpetand afterwards to bass. But I also play sax, waldhorn, clarinet and try everything that I can get a grip on.

What interessests you in playing bass?

I like the vibes that it causes, you can feel it. I tried guitars but they are so thin, I want to feel the sound! The bass is one of the most important instruments, it's the foundation of all. You've got to keep it simple. They are the players, you're the support.

What music did you listened to when you were a kid?

Country & Western, because my father did! When I got a bit older I started to listen to pop. I have an older sister, who had a few LP's of Kiss and Lynyrd Skynyrd. After I heard 'Rock and Roll Over' of Kiss I turned. I thought:" Who are they? I don't know this!!" She dated a guy who listened to Black Sabbath-"We sold our souls to Rock 'n Roll" That's it.

What was the first record you bought?

I don't know exactly, Thin Lizzy or REO Speedwagon. I think REO's "You Get What You Pay For", that's a great record.

And first concert?

Blue Oyster Cult in Bebop deLuxe. I was 14, went to Christian school and was caught making a joint in the parc. They scared the hell out of us, I was terrified, they didn't arrested us, but let's go to see the show. After the show I knew I wanted to be a bass-guitarist. That's was cool.

What are your influences?

Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Phill Lynnot (Thin Lizzy), Geddy Lee (Rush), Chris Squire (Yes), John Entwistle (The Who) and Paul Mc Cartney (The Beatles). Everyone a bit, I don't listen to one specifically.

Wich albums do you take on tour?

None, the least you want to hear on tour is MUSIC.

And wich album would you miss most when you're on a deserted island?

Abbey Road - The Beatles

Is plaing in Sava your profession or do you have a job on the side?

I'm musician by profession, but I have a company back home together with my dad. When I'm home (about 6 months per year!) I'm in charge and my dad can go golfing!!

The first album you recorded with Sava was 'Fight For The Rock', did you do any other bands besides your schoolband?

My schoolband was called Maraya, after that I played with some older kids in a band called Victim. After that in No Thanks, but we broke up before our first gig. I played for 2 weeks in a other band, when an other 'No Thanks'-member and I were asked for a band, who owned a PA, truck and had a few gigs in the south of the US. I played with this band for about 2,5 till 3 years. Then Doc. Wacholz asked me to join Savatage. I asked how much they could pay me. The answer was they all had a job on the side. Music was my job, so I rejected. Savatage did 'Fight For The Rock' and afterwards they asked me again! I was fed up with those guys, because they were just some drugdealers. We had been in some scary situations. We transported a lot of cocaine and sold it in the bars. I became afraid and wanted out. Six months after I left and joined Savatage, they were arrested! I used a lot, because back then it was cool, but I never have dealed. Now I don't do drugs anymore, I have seen what it did to my friends. I don't want that to happen to me. I have seen people lose everything they owned! Everything!

Do you write or compose yourself?

Most of the times Jon has an idea and everybody works around it. I helped writing for 'The Wake..' a third of all the songs. We've dropped the halve of all the songs, wich caused to have just one song on the CD to have my credits. The others are in the archive and can come in hand an other time maybe. Paul writes most of the lyrics, but everybody can change it for the better, if they want to. We did some own stuff with the 'bar'-band, but that was really crap! Back then we thought we were great, but I found a tape from '83 and listened to it again. It was really the worse you'll ever hear.

It sounds as if Sava-songs contain messages. Why?

That's because of Paul, he's very intelligent. He brings up the ideas and we do something with those! On a concept-album the lyrics must have something to tell of the story. The next album won't be concept, by the way! I also think all music has a secret message. Sometimes things you don't like, like some of those new bands: something like "Fuck Satan - Jesus Die" The heavy stuff, I don't get it, it doesn't sound intelligent to me.

What if there someone in the band disagrees?

We vote by raising our hands. Nobody gets angry when his idea is being voted out! We usually begin with 40 songs and just 10 will fit on the CD.

Do you also do other projects?

Only TSO, which recording was ended at the end of last month. It will be released in October. Another Christmas-CD written by Jon, Paul and Bob Kinkel. I only play bass in TSO- Al also on one song, because I was already back home! I love TSO because it is so orchestral. Normally we don't write the music down, but you have to think with TSO, back to school, think how you have to read music! We meet a lot of interessting people, like Broadway-stars. These people are real stars, thousands of people see them perform everynight! Adn then they are next to you drinking a cola. I also do all of the Fanclub-stuff in the US and help my dad. And I usually work in or about the house, rightnow I'm busy with the backyard.

What do you like: clubs or festivals?

I like the clubs more!

Which part does Criss play in your life?

He is still my buddy and I think a lot of him. He still visits me in my dreams I miss him but I know I will see him again!