In late 2018, Damon Johnson ended a six-year spell with Black Star Riders, the group the Nashville-based guitarist had co-founded from the ashes of Thin Lizzy. Previously the leader of Brother Cane, Johnson has also played with Alice Cooper and John Waite.
Having played such a big part in the writing of the first three Black Star Riders albums, what made you leave?
The short answer is that once again I was ready to tell my stories and to take my place behind the microphone. It was a great ride with BSR, but along the way I had got the bug to do my own thing again.
What did you take away from the experience of working with longterm survivors like Scott Gorham and Alice Cooper?
The confidence they both gave to me served as rocket fuel. Sharing the stage with a legend like Alice, and then getting to write songs with him, was like a lightning bolt. Scott Gorham was on my Mount Rushmore of guitarists to be in a band with, and to have done that was completely mind-blowing.
Apart from one ballad, the Get Ready album Battle Lessons is an up-tempo, very hummable hard rock album – just what we need in these grim times.
I agree with you. I’m hoping that this record could bring a lot of joy and celebration. When I played the demos to my friend and producer Nick Raskulinecz [Foo Fighters, Rush and Black Star Riders] I was thrilled by his excitement.
Presumably it was made in lockdown?
It was done in batches of three songs, the first of which was ready pre-COVID. The fact that Nick was due to make a record with Evanescence was another challenge, but we got around that. To me the album still sounds like one continual body of work.
What is the song Can’t Clap Any Louder about?
It’s a humorous take on some of my far more famous friends and their social media postings. I refuse to name names, but I always get a chuckle of seeing their photos with the latest expensive car. One of my buddies from a very famous band posts these collections of Nike shoes – enough to fill a department store. The song is about me applauding from the sidelines.
Which of the tracks on the album are you most proud of?
I wrote Shadow Country after reading a truly incredible book of the same name. It really spoke to me, man. I have been in so many bands, and I’ve struggled not for success but for artistic fulfilment. That’s something I have finally found.
With touring on hold, what happens next for you? Do you plunge straight into another album?
Honestly, as an independent artist there is no other path to take. But the way I feel right now…
Being a cottage industry is fine, as long as it’s a happy one?
I couldn’t have put it any better. My wife and I are going to lick a lot of stamps over the coming months, but that’s great.