Interview with a Bass Player: Ian JohnnyX

Voice of Addiction is a Chicago-based, politically charged punk rock band that started in 2004. They have toured extensively and recently released their 4th full-length album, The Lost Art of Empathy on Wrecking Ball Productions.

The bottom end of Voice of Addiction is held down by Ian JohnnyX, who is also the singer and creative force behind the band. In this interview, we discussed the band in general, the creative/writing process, his bass playing and influences, and even a little politics.

How did Voice of Addiction get started?

I moved to Chicago in the Summer of 2002 and it kinda got started shortly after. I moved into a house with a buddy I had played with since middle school, and another one of our roommates was a drummer. We were all in school and working full-time, but we would get drunk and jam out. Eventually this would turn into the first V.o.A. line-up. We put out our first full-length in 2004 and this is when I usually state that the band started.

What first got you interesting in playing music?

I don’t really remember a time without playing music. My father wasn’t much of a sports guy, and always pushed the arts on us. Only a few years old I started taking piano lessons. I then started orchestra a year early and continued for a handful of years on Viola.

Why did you start playing bass specifically? Why not play the guitar or the drums?

While I got a drum set and a guitar only a couple of years after starting bass. I think my draw to it was the fact that it always was, especially in the pop radio of the early 90’s, very foundational, and kind of a background instrument. I was drawn to the players that brought out this instrument beyond conventional norms. After I heard “Frizzle Fry” from Primus, I decided to quit orchestra and focus on bass.

Who are some of your major influences in your bass playing?

I really like the Motown-era bass lines. They really did some cool shit. Utilized a lot of different techniques, and employed some of my favorite transitional material. James Jamerson has always been a stand out. As previously mentioned Les Claypool, Jaco.

What bands or artists influence you as a musician in general? What bands influenced you to start writing music and start a band?

Too many to list, but as far as for this band, Bad Religion, The Descendents, Dead Kennedy’s, and of course Fugazi. I have always been inspired by Fugazi’s DIY aesthetic and how they always did the band on their own terms. Never having a manager, booking agent etc. I have played music as long as I can remember so as far as when I decided to write songs I would say as long as I have been able to play an instrument and strike a chord.

What sort of practice agenda do you follow?

Half hour more days of the week than not. I always run my scales and finger techniques completely up the neck and in retrograde. Then usually something very rhythmic to work on my right fingers, something funky usually. Throw in a couple more random pieces to go through. Then repeat all the music I played but this time only doing chords through it.

What type of gear are you currently using?

Lakland, Warwick, Ampeg, Orange, SWR, Ibanez, Taylor, Mackie, Sannheiser, Randall, Fender, Alto, Pork Pie, DW,

What piece of gear is (or has been) your favorite?

For sure my cutom lakland 5 string. I use it for pretty much everything the last 4 years.

Do you prefer recording or playing live?

Both are amazing experiences, but really nothing compares to playing live. The adrenaline rush is unlike any drug. And is probably the sole reason I am not currently in therapy.

Besides, Voice of Addiction, what other musical projects have you been a participant of in the past?

I started this band in 2002 when I moved to Chicago and it has been my pet project ever since. I have been in countless jobbing and one off bands but nothing I was creatively involved in. Before I moved here I was in a ton of punk and hardcore bands in northeast Ohio: Local 29, Suburban Outcasts, No Hope for Hope, Hoodratz, Sikfux and who knows how many more I just can’t remember at the moment.

What do you think the role of a bass player in a band is?

Whatever they damn well please! I was given some advice I have always taken to heart in college. “You have to learn the rules before you know how to break them properly.” another similar quote from Miles Davis “there are no wrong notes, only wrong resolutions.”

What advice would you give novice bass players?

Even though I had played music for many years before I started playing bass. I was pretty terrible for my first year. It takes a ton of practice as does anything you want excel at in life. So don’t give up or get discouraged as learning. Patience is a virtue and results will come.

What is the writing process normally like for Voice of Addiction? Lyrics first? Music version? Jam sessions?

You never know when the inspiration will hit or what it may be. I have always kept a pen and small notebook on me in case an idea or melody or whatever pops into my head. Most often though I write the skeleton of a song with vocals and acoustic guitar. And then show it to the other dudes and build it from there. But I have also done this every which way as well.

How was the writing process (and the recording process) for the new album (The Lost Art of Empathy)?

Some of the songs I wrote a couple years ago and others I wrote not too long before we recorded. In fact seeking to replicate something we did on a previous full-length, The final acoustic song I didn’t write until a few days before we recorded it. I did this on purpose, trying to keep the writing and recording simple, true, raw and pure. Right before the studio I went through some personnel changes. But luckily my homie Dennis Tynan stepped up and filled in on drums. Ultimately though this album is a collaboration between Dan Precision (the engineer) and myself. We were the ones who spent 12 hours a day for 2 weeks working on this.

As a politically charged punk rock band, do you think the current political climate had helped or hindered your writing process? In what way(s)?

All this was done before Trump. So he did not have a direct reflection on any of the writing. But rest assured the next album will be!! But in 2016 we did 160 shows throughout North America. And I saw WAY more Trump signs than Hillary. It was not near as much of a surprise to me as most people when he won. It is a big country and people are desperate, and when people are desperate they make desperate decisions. It is a scary time to be alive, but if we don’t try to change things we will never know what the future may have for us.

What are your five favorite albums?

(in no particular order)
Fugazi – Repeater
Pixies – Surfer Rosa
Descendents – Milo Goes to College
Bad Religion – Recipe For Hate
Frank Turner – England Keep my Bones
DEVO – Something for everybody
The Clash – Give em Enough Rope
Operation Ivy – Energy
The Slackers – Peculiar

What’s in store for you in the future?

I will be holding tryouts on guitar and drums to keep this party going!

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