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John Diva & The Rocket Of Love's John Diva: "Rock and Roll is a term used by too many people, who fucking don’t know what they’re talking about…"

Interview with John Diva from John Diva & The Rocket Of Love
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 31 December 2020, 11:12 AM

Living the life, gulping every day bit by bit and making the best of it. Whether there are hardships or not, there is always an angle, a measure of positivity that can be deemed as everlasting. Bringing it out colorfully, with a sense of humor and the right kind of chops, there are John Diva & The Rockets Of Love. Passing by the old cliché's, taking examples from the past but knowing how to make good use of them in the now, the US Hard Rock / Heavy Metal is in a constant process of evolution. Sailing with their new album, "American Amadeus", past virtues are receiving a wicked kind of light and the music is everywhere. Steinmetal had the pleasure to talk with vocalist and founder, John Diva, in a rather interesting conversation about life's craziness, good times, partying, the new album and more…  

Hello John, it is amazing to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing kind sir?

Well, thanks for being so noble, I am flattered. I indeed am doing fine, even though I miss the road, the parties, the Rock and Roll.

With you being quite active in the last several years with The Rockets Of Love, I can only assume that this pandemic really took you back a few steps when it comes to the sensations of the stages? How have you been coping with the situation?

It’s true, the current situation is particularly heavy for everybody in the entertainment industry. I feel bad for all the technicians, roadies, club owners, bands – and for all those who appreciate a real live RNR experience. I miss the stage, the fans, the people I meet on tour. I’m a gypsy, I’m not made to be domesticated. What I did throughout the last months? First: drinking a lot. After a while though I took advantage of the situation; I’m working out like a maniac, I’m crazily in shape. And I’ve been starting to write new songs; crazy, huh? Actually I should be on tour right now, promoting AMERICAN AMADEUS.

I have heard various versions throughout the last couple of days regarding when we are expected to have our culture back, the live shows, the clubs, parties, everything. Some say next year, meaning 2022, and some even argue that festivals would begin operating in Summer 2021. Both sound surreal to be honest, what are your thoughts about this?

It’s crazy to realize how fast everything can be lost. It feels like years ago, even though we finished our tour “MAMA SAID ROCK IS DEAD” only one year ago. It’s surreal. No one who grew up in the golden west within the last 50 years ever experienced such a situation. I’m an optimist though: maybe this will teach us to appreciate all that we have lost a lot more when it’s coming back. And there’s no doubt: RNR will be back. And we will party all together like there is no tomorrow, and no tomorrow, and no tomorrow….

A crude mistake on my account that I haven’t taken the time to listen to your debut, “Mama Said Rock Is Dead”, thankfully, I made it clear to myself that I have to have several sessions with your new, “American Amadeus”. Why Amadeus in particular and not a different famous composer like… I don’t know… Beethoven? Are you a fan?

Well, Mozart was a grown up child, a playful man, a playboy and Peter Pan, a bonvivant, an outlaw. A pop star and a genius. Somebody who fired all of his guns at once and who died much too young. Somehow: a real Rock and Roller. On some crazy “Eyes Wide Shot” party I mixed my outfit with an Amadeus-hairstyle and some sexy lady from South America called me “American Amadeus” (In a big fat beautiful Latin accent, of course). This directly got my fantasy going and I instantly knew, that this would be a great title for the upcoming album.

Coming to think of it, right after I watched the “American Amadeus”, as if set on automatic, I watched the old Falco video “Rock Me Amadeus”, of the late Johann Hölzel, which I haven’t watched since I was a kid, and that was 30 years or something. Would you say that you came in with a modern version of that classic Austrian Pop / Rock song?

Of course this is an important reference and somehow an homage to Falco and his song, that was visionary at his time. He mixed his attitude with Rock and Roll and funny Austrian Rap. It was a quest to be original and to aim for the unknown. This always was the secret to make it big. Be brave, do something no one would ever dare. To this, I – as a person – can totally contribute. Playing RNR the style we’re playing it in 2020 – you need quite some self-esteem to do this. We love what we do: push the borders, be extravagant – and of course we know where we come from. We pay respect to our ancestors. Still, AMERICAN AMADEUS is a song unheard. Only me and the Rockets could have done it.

To be honest, I have been interviewing various Metal artists mostly, with darker features than the overall feel of “American Amadeus”, let’s say that you are the cheery one of the latest pack that I have the pleasure to interview lately. When you listen to “American Amadeus”, what is that positivity for you personally? What do you believe that this record overly channels?

Well, I’m happy to have had the pleasure to cheer you up. And of course, in these dark times, this is something that can’t be underestimated. But of course, we did that album before COVID happened. I always have been somebody in search of glamour. Life should be more than average. This is what I want for my life and I will not back down on this one. John Diva is about fun and our shows are more of a party than just a concert. Live is too important to be taken seriously. In times, where all the good and liberating achievements of the western world are in question and politics take a bad turn to populism, Rock music as well becomes a rebellious act and an important force – times are over when Rock was dead and old. It’s not enough for me to serve nostalgia. I want Rock Music to matter again – BIG TIME. I wouldn’t say, that THE ROCKETS are a political band, but I can assure you: on my shows everybody is welcome and you can act out your fantasies. If you want to try out your girlfriend’s clothes, be my guest. If you just want to have a great time with your buddies, drink beer and watch the beautiful girls in the front row, that’s fine too: just be respectful and we all going to have a great time.

Would you say that “American Amadeus” has that measure of escapism from what has been going on worldwide with the pandemic?

Of course. Music and especially Rock and Metal always were great soundtracks for escapism. I’m such an escaper myself and there is nothing I would prefer more than being the host for a bunch of freaks to escape together from a world which seems to be out of control. And maybe we find some basic understanding for each other in RNR. I’m a romantic. People who love to rock might have a different point of view, but if they feel the power of one of our Shows, they hardly can be assholes.

The Rockets Of Love on “American Amadeus” reminded me a bit of what happened to American Glam / Hair Metal bands in their periods between the early to mid 90s. It is true that most of them succumbed to Grunge or simply faded, yet my point is that the new record states strictly that you aren’t sticking to your guns and a change has already begun.  I have to ask, if the formula worked on “Mama Said Rock Is Dead”, why change it or perhaps keep it for maybe one more record?

We work intuitively. The songs on American Amadeus are the essence of round about 30 ideas that three songwriters (JJ Love, Snake Rocket and me) had for this album. However, it was clear to us that we wanted to push it to the extremes. Harder and faster songs on the one hand, on the other hand a pure acoustic song as well as an unusual instrumentation with banjo, pedal steel and an orchestra. I think this album is a more musical - we composed without censoring ourselves by a rigid concept.

 “American Amadeus” took you guys further on, somewhat away from Glam Metal pink and blazon gold and onto a mixture of friendly meets heavy. How did this direction change contribute to the band’s progress in your view?

MAMA SAID was a farewell and a salute to the good old days. To a time that I would place in the mid-eighties. This time we went deep down to connect with our roots, in the seventies – and combined the continental rock from England (Lizzy, Purple, Sabbath etc.) with the Californian variety of this music. The best of two worlds: American pop culture plus European high culture equal American Amadeus. This album has put the band in the center, we are on the way to make Glam Rock contemporary for the future.

Were those approaches of various Rock and Metal pathways on the songs generated by mood swings, times and places that you were or it just felt right?

I’m like a Jo-Jo, I bounce from one high to the next. Same with my ideas. I read a book, see a painting, a Graffiti, a slogan – and it bursts into melody. I must be a pain in the ass for any producer – a hyperactive grown-up child who is the boss. Still, I’m a total team worker. Picture me like a fast-talking tornado in the studio – Michael Voss and my band mates must be high score Buddhists. Thanks, Guys.

While attempting to be rather diverse in comparison to the debut, what forms of challenges did you have while making the record?

Well, we are all grown men with quite a history of music and taste. The whole band is a zodiac nightmare – JJ, Remmie and Lee are Aries, Snake and I are Twins. Imagine this energy. It’s a mixture between a birthday party at McDonalds on booze and a Mixed Martial Arts finale. We try hard to integrate this energy and our different musical biographies. Of course, in the end it’s just 12 Songs that will make it, but we gave every song a fair shot. But believe me: the biggest challenge in this band is to be in this band. We fight and sometimes we hardly talk, because there is too much ego power. Next day we say: “Fuck it” and party like teenagers. And we are always able to bring this energy to the stage.

I am in a bit of a contradiction with myself, the sound of the album is clean, but it also felt very natural, taking on the 70s and 80s with finesse. Who produced and engineered the album? What is your appreciation of the end result?

The Album would probably sound different if we would have recorded the basic tracks live. But if it comes to the production, we really trust Michael – and we wanted to make it sound big. In this sense we also wanted to have the possibility to intervene in the arrangement again - and to develop the songs during the production. “Champagne on Mars”, as an example, was created entirely in the studio, we discarded the original idea and it turned out to be a terrific song with a great seventies feeling. That would not have been possible if we had recorded everything live. In this respect, the album was created “on the way” and with a lot of freedom to be spontaneous. I’m very happy with the result – and concerning the Seventies: checkout “Star of Rock”, it’s a bonus on the Vinyl. Let me know what you think.

Certainly the album’s sticky note is the self-titled, “American Amadeus”. Whether naughty or flashy, it is high octane Rock N’ Roll, with a praise to the past. How did you come up with this song? Had it already been eyeballed right from the get go for a swift success?

Forgive the self-praise, but we felt from the beginning that this song was incredibly special – no other band in the world would write a song like it. As I mentioned, the title flew to me at a wild, hypersexual costume party where I met my two ex-girlfriends. I immediately knew what kind of lyrics I wanted to write and that it would be full of associations and superlatives. Snake, on the other hand wrote the music and when he played the playback for me for the first time, I was thrilled and moved. This song is a sign of our blind understanding. It comes from the fact that we are the same generation, that we know what we mean when we talk about things: that we really understand each other. That's a wonderful gift and the very requirement for creativity. I'm very grateful that we have a unique artistic understanding of each other in this band.

With the Mad Max extraordinaire, Michael Voss, you wrote the beautiful Atmospheric AORish “Champagne On Mars”. I could just live on that fine lead guitar riff. How was it to work with Voss once again on this one?

See, I already mentioned this song as a perfect example for Michael’s excellent work. I had this line, Snake really got stuck on. First he delivered a Whitesnakish boogie-riff, but this didn’t fit the flair of it. I don’t remember what happened first: the great keyboard-hook, which takes you back to the seventies and reminds me of some unknown Supertramp song – or this beautiful, dreamy guitar riff – somehow it all happened so fast, like it was waiting for us to happen. Michael is an exceptionally smooth and respectful co-writer with a strong and fast creative power. He always puts your idea first – this is very respectful and supporting. He’s a great musician and he understands the Diva-concept a 100%.

The album’s odd sod, yet also a special kind of song, displaying the band’s multifaceted personality is no other than “Karmageddon”. Other than the old video game that I remembered from my teenage years, it is no doubt creative songwriting, enough to surprise folks. What is your take on this track?

It started with the playful wording “Karmageddon”. I wanted to write a power-ballad with all the heaviness it needs. This is the moment when all the lying and trying is coming to an end. Judgement day, no more playing around. This is the feeling I wanted to come across. A lot of broken wings, broken hearts and untold stories culminate here – it is a very personal song. I wanted to drown in keyboards and find catharsis in a riff driven heavy chorus. To pick up the speed and go double time in the end with JJ. going crazy – that was Michael’s idea.

 “This Is Rock N’ Roll” for some reason had me thinking of Kiss’s “God Gave Rock N’ Roll To You” but the Michael Voss driven singing brought me back down. The saying Rock N’ Roll isn’t just a saying nowadays right; it has more content in your view?

It’s a big motivation for a performer to try and write an anthem every stadium could sing along to. We grew up with bands like Queen and others, who performed what we nowadays would call “Stadium Rock”. If I had you thinking of Kiss, that’s not too bad, mission accomplished. Rock and Roll is a term used by too many people, who fucking don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s just a word, if it doesn’t mean anything to you personally. I’m sure that you and everybody who reads this, exactly knows, what RNR means to them. We all remember that very moment, when it hit us hard for the very first time – and we remember all the moments when it saved our lives, of at least our night. This is an homage to the way of music and the way of life that units us. I owe this kind of music a lot. This is a prayer of appreciation and gratitude.

Since there are no tours, at least for the moment, have you thought upon doing live stream shows? What are your thoughts about that?

Check out our website and social media next month. The album will be released on the 15th of January and we try to setup an online event. We would love to share the positive energy of this release will all our fans and friends – and those who are new to the game. But of course in the end there is only one way to rock: do it live! We will be back on the street as soon as we can. Check out the European dates online. Happy to see you there!

John, it was a privilege, I am thankful for the music and the fact that you got me off, even for just a little bit, off the heavier forms of Metal. Well done record sir, please keep them coming. Cheers.

My very pleasure. Thanks for listening without prejudice.


 



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