Sit Down Series: Johnny Na$hinal of Electric Six

Following up on my recent interview with Da Ve of Electric Six, I also interviewed Johnny Na$hinal, the band’s guitarist in Providence, RI on the day of the band’s show at Fete. Johnny and I discussed all things Electric Six, past and present, in a fun and insightful interview.

Alex Obert: So with the recent and successful Kickstarter fund for Mimicry and Memories, what would you say is your favorite pledge prize?

Johnny Na$hinal: I think the ten minute back rub was a good idea.

Alex Obert: How were these pledge prizes decided upon?

Johnny Na$hinal: Everybody just kind of pulled ideas. Everything from the jackets from Mustang to the drum lesson from Percussion World. I didn’t contribute much. (laughs) I contributed the jacket. I like my jacket, it was hard to get rid of.

Alex Obert: With the band’s upcoming release, Human Zoo, what was your reaction to The Afterlife, referred to on the site as “one of the greatest things the band has ever done”?

Johnny Na$hinal: You’re bringing that news to me because I haven’t seen that on the website yet. I’ll have to go check it out. That’s funny. It’s a good song, it’s a closer. The whole thing is more of a concise rock album than Mustang, it’s more of a controlled sound. Mustang was little wild. This one is little tighter, a little more Talking Heads esque production.

Alex Obert: Do you have a feeling as to which songs will be playing live off of the album?

Johnny Na$hinal: Yeah, there’s a song called Horseshit, it’s a poppy kind of jam. It’ll go good live, we’ve actually been rehearsing that one. And also, Karate Lips It’s a Def Leppard-esque anthem that features some vocals donated by Facebook followers. I had the idea to get the listener involved with the recording process and have people submit snippets of the lyrics (as to not give away too much about the song) and then I assembled them using the latest digital technology. It’s really ground breaking and in my opinion, it’s a guaranteed hit live because of the fan involvement. I literally finished mixing the record three days before we went on tour, so I just needed to step away from it for a minute. It’s a little too much of everything at once to decide what we’re gonna do in September.

Alex Obert: When you have a new tour and a new album, how do you decide which songs to add in and which songs to take out?

Johnny Na$hinal: It’s depending on the sentiment of the band and how they go over live, I think we usually have a pretty good grasp on what’s good live and what’s more studio based. There’s a lot of songs that we reinterpret a bit by stripping them down, that’s the thing, the studio tends to be more layers and more things going on. We have to tear it down to a live setting.

Alex Obert: And it seems to be that the three hits off of Fire are generally a lock on the setlist.

Johnny Na$hinal: Yeah, sort of a requirement.

Alex Obert: Speaking of which, I’d love to go over some Electric Six songs of the past and get your thoughts on them in regards to the writing, recording, and your general opinion. The first one is Rock & Roll Evacuation.

Johnny Na$hinal: I had very little to do with that song, I think I just came in for a solo. That was a strange time, I didn’t feel very connected to the recording process. I would literally get a snippet of the song where I would come in for the recording part. I had no idea what the beginning or the end of the song was. It was a very isolated approach. But I like the song and I enjoyed playing it when I did. But yeah, the recording process I wasn’t really involved with.

Alex Obert: The Band In Hell.

Johnny Na$hinal: I don’t even think I contributed anything studio wise to that song, so that would have been The Colonel.

Alex Obert: Pink Flamingos.

Johnny Na$hinal: That was an older song that got brought in. Most of the recordings consist of demos of the songs and Dick and whoever the producer may be work on those songs the most. And then other members come in as the songs are fleshed out and people have ideas, a lot of the songs I did come up with ideas for. The demos had everything that needed to be there, so anything I would’ve done would have been kind of superfluous.

Alex Obert: Dance Pattern.

Johnny Na$hinal: It’s a great song to play live. It’s fun. I like doing the backup vocals. The guitar parts I do are moreso keyboard parts that I’m just doubling. It’s a nice challenge.

Alex Obert: Dirty Ball.

I was just thinking about that song, we haven’t played it in a long time. It’s okay, but I feel some songs are stronger.

Alex Obert: Jimmy Carter.

Johnny Na$hinal: It’s a great song. When someone breaks a string, Dick will grab the guitar without a broken string and play it, it’s like an intermission for everyone but Dick and Tait.  And I’m all for intermission.

Alex Obert: Regarding your solo project, what are the influences behind Black Suit, White Suit?

Johnny Na$hinal: I like psychedelic music a lot. It’s songs that maybe would’ve been Electric Six demos at some point with more of a sixties psychedelic influence.

Alex Obert: What led you to doing that?

Johnny Na$hinal: I had a pile of songs that I liked that didn’t make it to Electric Six albums.

Alex Obert: We were talking about Electric Six demos and all that, I’ve noticed on YouTube that there’s two versions of Gay Bar. One is the album version off of Fire and one is more raw and missing a section. What’s that about?

Johnny Na$hinal: It might’ve been The Wildbunch version. I think that’s probably what it was, a recording from the earlier version of the band.

Alex Obert: What do you feel separates Dick Valentine from other frontmen?

His charm and charisma. He blurs the lines between humor and seriousness, a lot of people can’t get a read on it.

Alex Obert: What’s your relationship like with him after all these years?

Johnny Na$hinal: We’re great pals. I don’t have the interest in sports that he does. (laughs) But other than that, we share a lot in common.

Alex Obert: And you feel comfortable going up to him with music for Electric Six songs?

Johnny Na$hinal: Oh yeah, the ideas we bounce off each other are pretty well accepted by us.

Alex Obert: So how has Da Ve been for the past couple years since joining the band?

Johnny Na$hinal: He’s great, he’s a good contributor. He’s a good driver and a good partier.

Alex Obert: Does he compliment your style?

Johnny Na$hinal: I think so, yeah.

Alex Obert: What was the process like of him learning all the songs?

Johnny Na$hinal: Well in the beginning, he was filling in for The Colonel. The Colonel was still a member at that time. Colonel gave Da Ve a run-through on what parts he does because he would do different approaches live. He does it a little differently live than in the studio. So he showed Da Ve what he was doing and since then, Da Ve pretty much learns the new songs on the setlist on his own. If he wants advice, I give him advice and vice a versa.

Alex Obert: Last year, the band released a live DVD. How was that show set up? What was it like the day of the show at the venue?

Johnny Na$hinal: That was a pretty exciting hometown show because we had film crews everywhere. They were taking part in the backstage filming of all this. It was cool. There were a lot of GoPros on the drums and on the stage. There were a lot of handhelds on the balcony and in the crowd.

Alex Obert: Did you notice a lot of hometown supporters in the crowd that night?

Johnny Na$hinal: Yeah, and a lot of people from out of town came in as well.

Alex Obert: Have you seen Electric Six songs performed at karaoke?

Johnny Na$hinal: Oh yeah, I’ve seen people do them. It’s always entertaining, not too far from the originals.

Alex Obert: Why do you do what you do, being a guitarist for Electric Six?

Johnny Na$hinal: It’s all I know how to do. I started when I was really young and I had a stupid dream that I was gonna be a musician for a living. I went to college, then I dropped out of college. I just continued for twenty years, not making any money with it, working at retail stores and working at record stores. I finally got a break and I love it. I like touring. I like recording. At this point, I like being home and recording more so than the touring end of it. Most bands that have toured for ten years tend to be in a tour bus. We’re in a van and cram four guys in a hotel room. I give ourselves credit, we do rough it pretty well. I don’t think Arctic Monkeys or someone would probably still be doing it if they were touring in a van, hauling their own equipment and all that. But it gives us exercise too, so that’s okay.

Alex Obert: What would you say are three of Electric Six’s signature venues?

Johnny Na$hinal: O2 Academy Islington in London, Middle East in Cambridge, and Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit. I’ve seen hundreds of concerts at Saint Andrew’s and that’s where the live DVD was filmed.

SPEED ROUND

Alex Obert: Favorite Electric Six song title?

Johnny Na$hinal: Pulling The Plug On The Party.

Alex Obert: Favorite song to play live?

Johnny Na$hinal: Pulling The Plug On The Party.

Alex Obert: Favorite Electric Six album cover?

Johnny Na$hinal: Flashy.

Alex Obert: Album aside from Fire that you would want to play in its entirety on a tour?

Johnny Na$hinal: Heartbeats and Brainwaves.

Alex Obert: Favorite Electric Six music video?

Johnny Na$hinal: Psychic Visions. I quite enjoy that.

Alex Obert: Favorite piece of Electric Six merchandise?

Johnny Na$hinal: I don’t own this, but I think actually The Colonel has one, it’s a Pewter coffee mug embossed with the Electric Six logo. Bootleg merchandise he got in Mexico City.

Alex Obert: The Electric Six song that you recommend readers start with?

Johnny Na$hinal: I would say Dance Commander because that’s the song that attracted me to the band before I was even in it. I always liked Dance Commander.

Alex Obert: So with an upcoming album (Human Zoo) and tour, what are the dates on that?

Johnny Na$hinal: The album comes out on October 15th. The album cover is done. I did the layout and Dick was in touch with the artist. I met him in New York and he did this weird installment art. Dick and him spoke and he’s actually a fan of the band, so he did a cover for us. It’s really cool. Touring this year is sporadic, around the state and in parts of Canada and overseas in the winter.

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