From being a founding member of grindcore punk legends Falafel Mafia, to litigating on behalf of world-renowned metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, Johnny has had an incredibly diverse and unusual career in music. As a teen when Johnny was a budding guitarist, he was taken under the wing of Juilliard graduate Neil Horlick in the early 1980’s. Johnny’s prized 1976 Les Paul Custom came from Neil.
“My time working with Neil was a major and invaluable influence in my development as a musician, producer and engineer. He told me that I was at a stage in which I should make a choice between ‘digging in’ as a guitarist or as a vocalist as I was talented at both but I should deeply study one of those instruments. I chose the guitar.”
After studying jazz theory with Professor Chris Parker at SUNY Orange, Johnny moved to New York City and became an in-demand sessions and guest guitarist, particularly when something unusual and heavy was in order. Johnny did sessions work for the goth-folk band Backworld, live shows with underground music collective Verge, alt-Broadway production company The Tiny Mythic Theater in their play productions Lizzie Borden among many others.
Johnny also formed and led the progressive rock band Ricky Methylene Blue as the band's lead guitarist, vocalist and composer. Described as "an experimental jazz band playing punk," RMB's original line-up released a single in the late 1980's for Prescott Records "Rooms For Abe Lincoln." RMB's classic line-up of Jim Gregware on drums, Danny Lapedis on sax and Chris Smith on bass released the concept album "Rooms for Abraham Lincoln" for EZCD in Japan in 2000. The album is a hallucinatory collage of recordings of street people, random phone messages and kick-ass progressive rock performances. Its centerpiece song, "A Room With Abe Lincoln" often left audiences in awe of the song's dark power.
However, as a musician, Johnny is best known for his molten hot bass playing for Falafel Mafia (and hence the name ‘Johnny Human Torch’). Johnny’s time with Falafel led him to play multiple times on stage at every major rock venue in New York City at the time – CBGB’s, Limelight, The Ritz, Roseland, etc., and rubbed elbows with Motorhead, GWAR and Ace Frehley. All the while, Johnny returned to school and obtained his law degree and became a litigator, specializing in intellectual property and entertainment law.
“Ironically, having to play live on stage helped in my time getting through law school and being a litigator. First, playing an instrument, doing backup vocals and the stage banter in between songs immediately removes stage fright from public speaking. Second, the late and long hours of playing live, night after night certainly helped with the all-nighters litigators have to do on big cases.”
As an associate at Abelman Frayne & Schwab, Johnny represented music publishing empire Acuff-Rose Music and other corporate institutions in media. He took this experience forward into his own practice representing the family members in a trademark dispute involving The Flamingos band name and Yngwie Malmsteen in a precedent-defining royalty dispute, among other notable cases.
All the while, Johnny remained active in creating and mixing music. So much so that he was asked to join the music and music production departments at CUNY-Queensborough as an adjunct instructor.
Johnny is also doing sound track work and composing music cues and themes. Johnny was instrumental in working with Arrow Films for the premiere remastered release of the 1980's cult classic "Blood Rage," taking the lead in interviewing legendary actress Louise Lasser and composing & performing the music for its trailer.
“I cut my engineering chops very early on with both professional open-reel multi-tracks and semi-pro cassette mini-studio racks and saw first hand the introduction of ADAT’s, MIDI, Pro Tools and the modern DAW. The changes in the way anyone who works in the production of music within my lifetime have been profound and revolutionary.
For the artist or band, the universal accessibility to professional tools is easier than ever. And not just in music production…there have been profound changes in the business paradigm as well. Promotional and distributional aspects of the industry are barely recognizable from even 10 years ago. It’s quite exciting actually because the artist can be who they are musically, find their audience and keep 100% of their earnings.
But to get where you want to be requires knowing and effectively executing activities in a variety of areas. This is where Black Magic comes in. Hassan and I have different but very complimentary professional experiences and skill sets and between us, we have pretty much everything covered when working with artists, bands, labels, film companies and anyone else in need of music and audio services.
We offer a top quality recording and mixing signal path and processing tools at reasonable prices. Most music productions do not need a 64 analog channel SSL mixing desk but we have 32 analog channels of SSL quality available. But we also know that gear does not make a record much less a hit record – it’s all in the quality of the song and performance. Our basic philosophy is that a record should be fun or interesting to listen to and that the goal of a mix is to present the song and performance in their best light, both technically and aesthetically. We want our clients to love their projects once complete.”