Enemy Eyes – Cultivating New HistorySunday, 27th November 2022
Vocalist Johnny Gioeli has been involved in one hundred records now with the release of this latest band Enemy Eyes. Grateful for the opportunity to showcase a newer side to his voice and songwriting, History’s Hand is their debut album – chock full of strong melodies and hooks, put through the lens of Euro metal and modern North American hard rock/metal influences. Grabbing stellar support from musicians who have ties with Annihilator, Bonfire, Edge of Forever, Jorn, and Silent Force among others, it’s a record that showcases another multi-dimensional angle that many followers will appreciate.
We reached out to Johnny via Zoom, and he was very engaging during this conversation. You’ll learn more behind the development of the band, the authentic approach to songwriting, memories surrounding Hardline and special times meeting other icons in the business, his love of flying and rescuing dogs, thoughts on why melodic metal/ hard rock is bigger in other parts of the world versus the US, plus tons of future plans to look forward to.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the formation of Enemy Eyes your latest band, and where you wanted to go stylistically as far as the songwriting/musicians surrounding this outfit?
Johnny Gioeli: Enemy Eyes was sort of cultivated between the record company and Alessandro Del Vecchio and myself. I’ve always felt that there is a piece of my music career – this commemorates album number one hundred to me which is mind blowing – I’ve always wanted to do something heavy. It’s not stylistically as acceptable for Frontiers, they are known as a more 80’s kind of label. But knowing their belief in me, and wanting to create this album, their support made this happen. It was a year ago when we were having this discussion, and Serafino the head of the label wanted me to fulfill this. It was by far the most creative and fun experience I’ve had in a real long time making an album. And there are a couple of reasons for it.
What you hear in History’s Hand, lyrically and melodically, was from the paper to the microphone. There was no writing and then I’m going to sing it and then I’m going to check it. As I wrote, I recorded, what you hear is the original takes of the original thoughts to the microphone. It made this an artistic and spontaneous experience. What were we going for? Nothing that we defined. We didn’t say, let’s make it sound like Breaking Benjamin, or Five Figure Death Punch, or Architects. Let’s make something heavy, but true to ourselves. You will always hear melody out of me – from Hardline at thirty years. It is who I am, but heavy we wanted. Lyrically, in depth and creative, I think we created that too.
We made this album within a matter of a few months, and we were completely done. Alessandro and I are sort of the Steven Tyler/Joe Perry combination. The chemistry works well together. Getting Marcos and Fabio, they were cherry-picked. We wanted certain guys for their certain talents that we knew were going to work on this album. We didn’t hold auditions; we knew who we wanted. It was a pretty easy part of the process. Once those guys heard the songs, the rough music, the lyrics weren’t written at that point, they wanted to do this.
Dead Rhetoric: History’s Hand is the debut album – discuss the songwriting and recording process for this effort, what did you enjoy most regarding this work and were there any challenges, obstacles, or surprises that came up during the recording?
Gioeli: No surprises. We spent a good amount of time mixing the album because I wanted it to hold that dynamic, 80’s/90’s feel. I didn’t want it too electronic or weird, mainstream. We spent a lot of time mixing and repairing little things like that. Everything was straightforward. Our process has always been, I’m inspired by music. When I hear a piece of music, I get lyrically inspired. I don’t know how it happens, I don’t question it, I just do it. Everything that I returned back, we ended up keeping. Everyone thought it was perfect. It was a fluid and simple process to make the album. We had a challenge of making the mix sound unique. It’s a great combination of Euro metal with a little old school rock and cool lyrical content. So far so good.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it an easy process to figure out which songs you wanted to premiere to provide a preview into the album?
Gioeli: Yeah, it was very difficult. I don’t know if you’ve seen “History’s Hand”, the video as of yet. We wanted to pick a song that had the most unique essence or flavor to it. It has these breakdown parts, it has this metal thing, this melodic thing, and a cool storyline with every second that goes by becomes our history. We knew that with Enemy Eyes we wanted a more visual approach to everything. Like the live show we are preparing for 2024, not 2023. It’s going to be a theatrical, visual experience. It’s not going to be four guys who get up on stage and just sing, we sweat and say good night. We want you to feel this visual show and say ‘wow’. I’ve never done it before, that’s what I want to do and will do.
Dead Rhetoric: You choose to combine a love of European melodic metal with some modern influences across North American, UK, and European lines for Enemy Eyes. What aspects of these genres do you feel suit you best, and do you think this brings about different nuances or aspects of your vocal abilities in the process?
Gioeli: Hmm. Good question. For me, I don’t really think that deeply into it. This album has allowed me to be 100% free vocally. If I felt like a section of a song needed to have a blood curdling scream, I did it. If I felt it called for melody, I did it. It’s the freedom within the songs that made it such a great experience vocally. When you said the word modern, I love bands like Pop Evil, some of the digital trickery that enhances a song, but doesn’t fix a song. I’m an old school recording guy, if I sing something incorrectly, I re-sing it. I don’t fix it with a computer. But I love the freedom to have a more modern approach to metal. It’s combining that genre I love, melodic music, my old school Ronnie James Dio days, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Rainbow, The Scorpions, all those influences and put a modern spin to it technically and singing. It just worked; I think.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across with the lyrical content for this album? Is it a challenge this deep into your career to keep things fresh and vibrant as far as the lyrics and vocal melodies?
Gioeli: Lyrically, with music, it should be this way. It’s a case-by-case basis. I’m driven by music – if you pass me a piece of music, it gives me an emotional feeling, and which then ties to lyrics. I let the music drive the lyrics. Songs like “Preying on Your Weakness”, the heavy parts made me feel a certain way, something was coming over me, something was attacking me. And so that’s art – I use that music to drive the lyrics. I don’t need to see a situation like looking at the leaf falling from a tree, I’m going to write a song about it.
Dead Rhetoric: When you look at the vast recording/touring that you’ve been able to do in your career, what are some of the special standout moments that will live forever in your memory banks – personal highlights where you knew you were connecting and making an impact with your work?
Gioeli: Woah. The memories are vast, if you can imagine doing one hundred albums. But I would have to say the early years of my professional career with Hardline, especially Double Eclipse which is known as such a classic album even today, I remember it coming together. It’s odd to explain, you make these demos back in the day, go into the recording studio, and lay down all these tracks. And then you sit with your mixing guy and producer, and it starts to become a song. You realize – doing this I was sitting on the couch with Deen Castronovo and Tony Phillips was mixing Double Eclipse, instantly things became a song – and we realized it’s an album now. Before that it’s individual instruments that come out on tracks, but when it turns into a song, it’s an experience that’s hard to explain.
We have memories of incredible recording studios and meeting incredible stars and people. Meeting people like B.B. King because you are now at a different level, when you are in the company of those people. I have a funny story of when we played Wembley Arena, Hardline played there with Extreme years ago. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, hit me and said, ‘look at that guy over there, he thinks he is Roger Daltrey’. And I said, ‘honey- that is Roger Daltrey’. We have great memories backstage with Brian May. We would need hours to talk about all the great memories.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the acceptance of melodic hard rock, AOR, melodic metal in most parts of the globe versus the struggle to make headway in North America in these styles? What do you think are some of the barriers that cause artists to not make headway compared to South America, Europe, and the Far East for example?
Gioeli: I don’t know if I have an exact answer. But I can tell you that, the European communities for example have a narrower platform for listening to music. I can remember when they didn’t even know what Spotify was. Now they have that. The European community is more dedicated maybe is the word. They are dedicated to a single style of music – that’s why there are festivals that will have 100,000 people of metal or hard rock followers. In America, we have so many different means to listen to music, I think that we expand more and can be more distracted to not be as focused on one type of music.
I don’t know what the answer is, but the fans are so dedicated. Bulgaria for example, I just did a solo show there and I had 8,000 people there. They are still there wearing AC/DC, Van Halen, The Scorpions shirts. It’s still very new to them because their technology was not as quick as ours for all these platforms where they can hear music on Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Sirius XM. They don’t have satellite radio in Europe. I know that the following is there, and we don’t have a lot of radio support here in America. I remember back in the 1990’s, you had 300-400 radio stations just dedicated to rock and roll. Now there is all different styles.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it a challenge for you as an older artist to keep up with these new promotional means and platforms via social media and technology at people’s disposal?
Gioeli: Yeah. I’m so far behind. I’m the first to admit I’m a techno idiot. I have a wonderful assistant that helps me with the social stuff because I want to focus on the music. I don’t want to focus on likes, hearts, views – I want to focus on music! And in today’s world, all of that matters. I’m so glad I’m at the tail end of my career. I can not keep up.
Dead Rhetoric: What motivates you to keep going forward as a musician and an artist? Are there specific things on your bucket list that you still have left to achieve that you haven’t as of yet?
Gioeli: Yes, Enemy Eyes is one for sure, and the theatrical show is another. After that, I don’t have a plan and I live spontaneously through music. One thing I always love about our technology is the collaborations I can create with this box. I can reach out to anyone anywhere. I have plenty more relationships to form, musicians to work with. I love that fact that I can connect with someone around the world and create music with that person. Back in the day – 80’s or 90’s – if you were in many bands, you were frowned upon, as a band hopper. Today it’s about making music, making people happy, creating and the art. Whether you are from India, Japan, Germany – wherever – if I can make music with you, I’m going to do it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think is hard for the average fan to understand about some of the decisions – business or otherwise – that you as a musician have to make in today’s scene?
Gioeli: I would be hopeful that fans are not thinking that deeply beyond the song, to be honest with you. Again, I hope they aren’t thinking about the business. My objective has always been to create something for myself first, in the hopes it inspires or changes or makes someone feel a certain way. That to me is the payoff in music. I hope the fans don’t view the success of the art by the number of views or likes that it has because that’s not on the musician. We don’t quite know how to get the music all out there to be visible. All we know is that we created something, and we hope that you like it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think would surprise people to learn about Johnny Gioeli the person away from what they know about you as a musician?
Gioeli: Oh, okay – you want me to divulge some personal information here. Let’s see – many people don’t know that I’m a pilot, I fly airplanes. And I am an avid dog lover, I rescue dogs with the plane. Dogs from kill shelters, I rescue them and deliver them. I’m extremely sensitive. If Mickey Mouse stubs his toe, I may cry. I’m one of those guys, watch a movie and cry. That’s enough personal stuff right there, mister! (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have about the world that we are living in, coming out of this global pandemic?
Gioeli: I’m concerned every day for the world. I feel like, I’m not going to get political because I’m not a political guy, but I see what’s on the surface and I see us trending towards self-need rather than world need. There is more value in helping your neighbor than yelling at your neighbor. People are becoming so self-entitled that they think they deserve things and should have things. Really when we have enough, we have everything we need because we tend to forget the things that are so important. I relate this to, did you ever run your pinky toe into a chair? You bruise that toe, put it in your shoes, it hurts all day, but you realize how important that toe is when it’s not hurt. It’s the little shit that we are forgetting how grateful we need to be. People forget how much they really have when they think they don’t have it.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for promotion, touring, and recording between Enemy Eyes, Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell, or any other endeavors over the next twelve to eighteen months?
Gioeli: (laughs). I’m a busy guy. Next month in December I start on a new Axel Rudi Pell ballads album. January, I start writing and production for a Hardline album. While preparing the Enemy Eyes live show that will happen in 2024. I have gaming events for Crush 40, my gaming music which is such a beautiful part of my life. I have many live tours, Axel Rudi Pell tour, solo shows around the world. I am busy straight through into 2024, and then around 2025 I may spend a little more time fishing. We’ll see.