Johnny Depp used music to escape 'nightmare' childhood

A picture of Johnny Depp at the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour
Johnny Depp at the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour (Image credit: Getty)

Johnny Depp has revealed how learning to play the guitar offered an escape from the “nightmare” of his abusive upbringing.

The guitarist and Hollywood star was a special guest at the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour in Tokyo and he gave a frank, in-depth interview to Classic Rock about his career in the movies, his role as a guitarist in rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires and his traumatic childhood.

Asked how he first came to pick up a guitar, Depp says: “I was about 12 years old in the backseat and we were driving down the sort of main boulevard in this little town we lived, and there was a little local concert going on in the parking lot of the grocery store.

“We got stuck at a stop light and there was a band playing. I remember the name of the band, actually, they were called Rocklin Channel.”

After convincing his mother to buy him “a shitty little Decca guitar for 25 bucks, and some little blue Plush amp that sounded like… it was just trash,” the young Depp began a lifelong love affair with music.

He adds: “I found a way to escape all the, sort of, nightmare home stuff, you know? It was a pretty radical – a pretty unpredictable – household that I lived in. You never knew what was going to be coming next. It might be an ashtray thrown at your head. Or a shoe.”

Depp says the violence came mostly from his mother, but adds: “My dad was good with the belt. But those were different days. They did what they knew best.

“But when I found guitar, from that moment on, like, I don’t have any memory whatsoever of puberty. None. Because I just literally locked myself in my bedroom and paid attention to the records, and I learned stuff.”

The full interview with Depp can be read in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which is available now in print and via TeamRock+.

As well as a look back at the best of the world of rock from 2016, issue 231 also features a full account of the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour show in Tokyo.

Johnny Depp Is Just Killing Time Until His Band Gets Back Together

Stef wrote close to 5,000 stories during his time as assistant online news editor and later as online news editor between 2014-2016. An accomplished reporter and journalist, Stef has written extensively for a number of UK newspapers and also played bass with UK rock favourites Logan. His favourite bands are Pixies and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Stef left the world of rock'n'roll news behind when he moved to his beloved Canada in 2016, but he started on his next 5000 stories in 2022.