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Neil Johnson

Interview with Neil Johnson from Neil Johnson
by Chiara Pellegrini at 05 February 2006, 5:12 PM

Dedicated to all the Manowar fans, an exclusive interview with Neil Johnson, director of the entire Hell On Earth saga and many other video clips for the only Warriors Of The World. Neil shared with us funny memories from the making of Manowar's latest DVD Hell On Earth Part IV and a few details from living the life on tour with Manowar. Neil is also finishing the first Rhapsody Live DVD. This is our personal gift to all the Manowar and Rhapsody fans all over the world. Enjoy it!

I read in your bio that you were born in the UK. How come? Your family has origin there?

Most of my family comes from the North of England. They are all blonde haired and blue-eyed. They are the direct descendents of the Vikings who came across from Denmark to settle in Jorvik (now called York) in the high North in Yorkshire. I have brown hair and brown eyes! One of my grandfathers was half Italian, so I have the Italian blood flowing through my veins. I remember when I was four years old, Italian women would come up to me and speak Italian. I still feel home with Italian people for this reason, which is why I am surrounded by them today.

Why did you move to Australia?

England is a cold and miserable place. My father wanted to live in the warmth and by the ocean in a paradise. He is a true Viking explorer. He is also a Ship Captain and pilots cruise ships in Asia, which is close to Australia. Like him, the ocean is in my blood.

Where do you live now?

I have an apartment on the beach in Australia, a small apartment in New York and office in L.A. But I spend most of my time in Europe, where I feel most at home.

How many video clips have you directed during your career

When I did a count 5 years ago, it was 380. By now I think it is 450. I did my first one when I was 17, I am now 38.

How did get involved with Manowar?

I was a Manowar fan since 1992 and always wanted to work for them. My friend Steve Ravic who does music videos in Melbourne had some contact with them and recommended me to them. I was very excited and started work on the Fire And Blood DVD. I didn’t really like the first DVD and wanted to do something different, it took a while and when Fire And Blood came out, the sales doubled. I have worked with the band since 1999. We are all still friends. That says a lot about the personality of the guys!

Who had the idea for the chapter The Set Up on Hell On Earth Part IV, and most of all about the funny story inside?

That was all Joey’s idea. I had my suspicions that it was a setup but went along with it. The thing is, we were told to be like typical Manowar representatives, so I was play-acting a lot for the camera. I am not really like that. But, I do have an ego, and like to look my best at all times. The whole segment was put together by one of our brilliant editors, Emmett Calinan, as was the segment on me, showing me being a whore all over the world. I had no choice in this.

Can you tell us a funny story concerning you and the band?

There are hundreds. One time when we almost split our sides with laughter was when Joey De Maio and I were making a small bonus piece for Hell On earth Part III. If you go to the bonus page of the 2nd DVD and leave it there for 30 seconds, a small documentary appears on the historical accuracy of Manowar. It all started when I was with Joey and we were watching the Gloves Of Metal music video. I questioned him as to what the exact time period this took place in? Let’s be honest, it is not historically accurate!!! You can see the underwear of one of the cavemen. So we decided to build a documentary around this. I did the voice over, and my alter ego, John Neilson did the British voice over. We were laughing all the way. I have met people who actually think this is a real historical exposition.

The other funny moment is when Joey and I were doing the commentary track for the bonus stuff on Hell On Earth Part IV . The phone rings and the voice of one of our former employees was on the answering machine. We left that in the commentary. There is a lot of humor also hidden on Hell On Earth Part IV. If you go to disc 2, go to the first Behind The Scenes menu page, navigate down the DVD page until the M in Manowar highlights. Press enter and you get a new menu page including some bloopers. These are some of the funniest moments captured on tape.

Which was your best work with the band?

The thing I am most proud of is doing the Warriors Of The World music video. We had a very small budget compared to most things these days, yet we won the award forBest Music Video in Hammer Magazine in Germany. The hardship paid off. Watch the ‘making of’ on Hell On Earth Part III and see what went on!!!

What about the Earthshake Fest experience?

That was such a big time for me. I was so excited to see all the band members on stage at once. I am friends with Ross \[The Boss] and Donny and very good friends with Dave Shankle and Rhino. They are all cool people, but to see them rehearsing together brought tears to my eyes. It was an amazing thing to see. This was a huge undertaking, like nothing Manowar has ever done before. It was all on Joey’s shoulders and he did an amazing job pulling it all together. For me, it was huge because we have 32 high definition cameras.

To date, this was the largest Heavy Metal coverage ever done in Europe on high definition. Wait till you see the DVD. Everything was perfect. It is an amazing coverage and will be a more amazing DVD. I am so proud to be associated with this. I have already cut together the Rhapsody coverage at Earthshaker. It blows all over most live Metal DVDs that have come out in the past year. The Manowar one will be even better. I start cutting this really soon.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I actually still listen to Manowar and Rhapsody, even though I work with them. I also listen to Blind Guardian, Edguy, Bathory, Slayer, Angra, Shaman, Cradle Of Filth, Kate Bush, Abba, Ayreon, Arch Enemy, Carcass, Freedom Call,  Kreator,  Iron maiden, U2, Madonna, Moonspel, Domine, Duran Duran and anything else catchy and well written.

Do you like Heavy Metal?

Yes, yes, yes! When driving around the beach area in my convertible, I always have something loud blaring out. I have blown the speakers in my BMW twice…This ain’t easy! BMW use high quality components.

Are you a Manowar fan?

They were my favorite band since 1992. When I recorded an album in 1995, (kind of a Black Metal crossed with Manowar thing), I put  Hail Manowar at the top of the liner notes. I even dedicated a song to them which is called A Conquering Force. You can download part of the music video for this at my website ( A record company in the U.S. is about to put out a 55 minute DVD of all of the music videos I have performed in. Details will be on my website soon.

What’s your favorite band?

Manowar and Rhapsody. Don’t ask me to choose which one!!! This is the honest truth!

On the Hell On Earth Pt IV DVD, you appear with many girls, but you have a girl or a wife? If yes then wasn’t she jealous?

 No wife or girlfriend. It is my dream to have a wife soon. If you look closely, I make the girls kiss me on the cheek. The whole segment is a big joke. Those who really know me, know I am not a whore. I tried being a whore for 3 months once, and although I had many girlfriends, I was not happy. The best is to be with one person, and in love, and stay with that person. I am not like most men. I have lived both sides of the fence and I would rather have one perfect woman, than many half-perfect women. I love having sex but only when I am in love. Mindless sex is boring.

Do you have any children: sons/daughters?

I have one daughter aged 12. My ex-wife remarried and now has 2 more children. We are all good friends and I am like the 6th member of the family. I am very close to my daughter.

Your favorite movie director?

David Lynch, because he is an amazing artist that touches you on a sub-conscious level. Eraserhead is still an amazing film. I am also a big fan of Steven Spielberg. His latest films are very mature and deep.

Your favorite actor?

 Gary Oldman, because he looks different in every film. I also love Richard Burton but he is no longer with us.

Your favorite actress?

 Kate Blanchett. Watch the film Elizabeth and you will see what I mean… Truly remarkable.

Your favorite Manowar song?

 The Glory of Achillies. It is such a rebellious work of art.

Your favorite Rhapsody Song?

I cannot say yet, because it is not released yet. It is on the next album and is a ballad. I don’t know the name. Otherwise I really like the Village Of Dwarves. That brings the best memories to me.

Would you tell us about your next projects?

I have just finished my third Feature film called Continuum. It is a big Sci-Fi epic film. I am hoping we will have a premiere at Cannes this year. It cost $3,000,000. I will soon start writing the next 3 films. I am also finishing off the first Rhapsody Live DVD. Then there is Hell On Earth Part V and a few other Manowar projects which I cannot discuss. Plus I intend to fall in love with someone from Italy, Germany or France and enter into a long term relationship. I want to make a home with someone.


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