I crashed Johnny and the Razorblades‘ practice on Monday to talk to them about their recent album, upcoming show, and so. much. more.
Johnny and the Razorblades are:
JR: Johnny Razor – Guitar Player and Vocal
DR: Danny Razor – Bass Player
GP2: Guitar Player #2 (aka Chaz)
MR: Mike Razor – Drums
Q: How would you describe the sound of Johnny and the Razorblades?
DR: We always go with 50s punk.
JR: Yeah, like 50s punk with… Iʻll never forget this, these two different descriptions weʻve gotten that really work out. Somebody said “The Beach Boys meet Rancid” and somebody else told us “Johnny Thunders beating up the Bay City Rollers.” So I really like both of those descriptions, but Iʻm a huge Johnny Thunders fan and a big Beach Boys and Bay City Rollers fan. I like Rancid, but theyʻve got like three good records.
DR: One of my friends was trying to insult me once and said we sounded like the Beach Boys, and Iʻm like, “That’s a fucking amazing compliment, thank you!” And they were very mad that I was happy about that.
Q: How long has the band been around?
JR: Late 2006.
GP2: And I hopped on… 2014.
JR: So the drummer (Mike) and I have been playing in bands since we were in high school together. In 2006 we started out, same songs and all that, but we went by The Mondellos, which was the fat little kid from Leave It To Beaver who’s always starting shit. Eventually we went to Johnny and the Razorblades, we tried to find something that would fit our name with our sound. It was just me, him (Mike), and another guy on bass, and eventually we were like, “We could really benefit from a second guitar player.” So we start auditioning for bass players, found Dan through MySpace .
DR: I responded to a MySpace classified that said, “Looking for bass player. Must know notes.” And I thought, “I know notes! Why not?”
JR: Basically, when he auditioned, it got to the point where we didnʻt even really care if he could play, because… so, weʻre all big wrestling nerds. We love WWE and all that stuff. And weʻre like, “Okay, so we wear pink and black on stage.” And heʻs like, “Whoa, what, like Bret Hart?” And that was it.
Q: How did Guitar Player 2 get added in?
GP2: We actually worked together in an office job…
GP2: And it was a charity case, ʻcause Iʻm a little bit of an idiot . But, yeah, we started working together, and one day you (Johnny) were talking about an acoustic guitar, and I was like, “Oh man, I have this brand!” and we started talking about guitars and one thing led to another, and he ended up inviting me to one of their practices to check it out and I tried to play along as best as I could, but it didnʻt really work out all that well, so I donʻt know why they kept inviting me back, but eventually it just became a regular thing. Then Dan looked at me and was like, “Hey, we’re playing a show in two weeks, are you good for it?” and I was like, “Wait, Iʻm in the band?” So, thatʻs sort of how that came to be.
Q: Speaking of record releases, I saw that you put out a record, Sticky Sweet Romance, in November 2016. What was it like recording that? And how was it received?
JR: I can say we are international selling artists. Spain and Australia. We opened for The Living End at The Rex Theater. That worked almost as our record release show, because it was like, “Weʻre not going to do anything bigger than this,” so we put it out that day and sold a bunch of records. And, I guess, the guys in The Living End liked us a lot, and they told people in Australia and people there bought our record. And some guy who owns a record store in Madrid liked our record and he was like, “Can I get five copies sent over to my record store and sell it?”
DR: We sold like 10 internationally… but it’s still international!
JR: But yeah, it was awesome, and recording it wise… he (Dan) hates this record for the fact that weʻve recorded it probably around six or seven times.
GP2: Iʻve only recorded it twice, so
DR: When I joined the band and I was seven, we were recording this
Q: So I guess that’s the benefit of having your own studio, you can do it until youʻre happy?
DR: Well, he didnʻt have that yet… we went through everybody else, then we had to wait for him to learn how to do it, then he did it once, then did it again. And eventually we were like, “Weʻre not doing this anymore!”
JR: Yeah, so right now, we got that, we finished it, and then we have two more records on deck.
Q: So that was your first record?
JR: First record period. There are tons out there with demos, they were recorded for the record but we put them out as demos because they didnʻt sound like what we wanted. But thereʻs tons of people who are like, “Hey man, I still have that demo from six, seven years ago!” Itʻs great seeing where we’re at now, as far as it goes.
Q: So tell me about your two upcoming albums.
JR: As far as sound goes, theyʻre very much… I donʻt want to say stylistically theyʻre the same, but you can see where we were, as far as putting stuff out. The first record, I was listening to a lot of The Exploding Hearts, Devil Dogs, Paul Collins Beat, things like that. And the second record, I got really much more into the garage punk stuff at the time, still a lot of power pop influence. Third record, I just kept going more and more into the same stuff, but we started playing with more and more punk bands. So thereʻs a bit of, “Man, we gotta fit in with these punk bands!” so weʻre trying to get some more punk stuff.
DR: We kept getting told we were a country band. And then we went to play with country bands, and theyʻre like, “What the fuck is this?” So we didnʻt fit anywhere.
JR: In 2008, and this is no joke, we actually were contacted by Universal to be a country band. Like they wanted us to drop how we were doing it and do it more in a country sound. We… no. At first, it was awesome, we were like, “This is gonna be great!” But they didnʻt tell us they wanted us to do country. They just came, and we played for them, and like, “This is really good, this is great stuff. What do you think about slowing this down and weʻll get you guys a steel guitar player?” And Iʻm like, “What?!” And it was a pretty, uh, substantial offer. Just not what we were looking to do at the time. So weʻre like, “Oh, weʻll find somebody else.” And that never happened. And now Iʻve got kids and Iʻm like, “Man, I really wish we had done that!”
Q: Did it take some soul searching and deliberation, or did you say no right away?
JR: It took some… like, Mike and I looked at each other, “What do you think?” But it was just, no. I mean, I felt bad at the time, but it wasnʻt like Green Day or The Ramones, or anybody who signed to a major label and was like, “Okay, weʻre still going to play our stuff.” No, this was like, they want us to be Bret Michaels or Hootie and the Blowfish, like turn into country–no that’s not us. So, thatʻs what happened with that… but we have a cool song about it. On our third record, thereʻs a song called “Buried Alive” thatʻs literally about that timeframe.
Q: So how did it come about that you have two albumsʻ worth of stuff?
DR: Eventually I was such a dick about the first album, we just kept writing and writing. Eventually we had to cap it and like, “Let’s just get the first album out, we have 20 other songs.”
JR: Iʻm a stickler for records being 10 songs and no more than 10 songs. And I guess thatʻs just because my favorite records are just 10 songs. Front to back, theyʻre all good songs. So, thatʻs how I looked at it, and they sometimes agreed, sometimes they didnʻt. A lot of times they didnʻt.
DR: Disagreeing for me is capping it at 12 songs. But for John, thatʻs just way too much.
JR: After the first stuff was done and recorded, we still kept writing more songs, it never stops. Like we just keep going and going and going. And thatʻs why we have that many now. We actually have more than that, that’s just what we have recorded. We have other ones that aren’t recorded too.
Q: So when can we expect to hear these albums?
GP2: Definitely before 2026, thatʻs the goal.
JR: Itʻs hard, because we donʻt have… this is going to sound ridiculous, since we doing everything here, but we just donʻt have the time. Itʻs not that we donʻt have the time. I donʻt have the time. Iʻm recording other bands, we all work regular jobs, so that makes it a little bit more difficult.
DR: Weʻre trying to get the second one out before the end of the year.
Q: Looking more short term, on Saturday the 24th you have a show with Cynimatics, Upon Rocket, and Mama’s Madness at The Rex Theater. You had teased on Facebook that there were going to be some surprises. Can you comment on that?
JR: Weʻre going to be doing some cover songs, include one that we donʻt cover hardly ever. And one that weʻve never covered. In fact, up until this night weʻve never played it.
DR: And we have a new song weʻre going to be debuting.
JR: The show was put together by one of our friends, he has a production company called Wake Up On Fire. He asked us if we wanted to do a headlining show at the Rex, and weʻre like, “Yeah, sounds like fun!” We didnʻt really get a say in what bands were picked, so I was glad to see the Cynimatics were put on it, those guys are good. The other two bands, Iʻm not really all that familiar with, so I canʻt really comment on them. Weʻre doing a longer set than we normally do. Most of the time, weʻll play a half hour, at the most. We have over an hour on Saturday, so weʻll be playing our first record in its entirey, which was asked for specifically. And then a bunch of other stuff in between.
Q: Since youʻve been around for so long, is there any advice you wish youʻd had when you were starting out?
DR: Looking like a band.
JR: Oh yeah, yeah, thatʻs a big one. Looking like a band. You had commented on my first, the Biters. Do they look like a band? They have awesome haircuts, and all kinds of stuff like that, they look like they play rock and roll. Most bands in this area, and this isnʻt a knock or anything, but they just go on stage in jeans and t-shirts, and they say, “Hey, weʻre going to play some music, come look at us.” We played with The CRY!, and theyʻre one of my favorite bands that have recently come out, and that was one of their critiques of us, like, “You guys are up there on stage, you guys are great, but youʻre wearing jeans and a t-shirt, itʻs not really doing much for your image.” And thatʻs really what it came down to, like, theyʻre kinda right.
When we first started, we did… me and the drummer, we used to be super skinny, and we wore tight white denim jeans and pink neckerchiefs, and all kinds of crazy pink, white, and black type of stuff. And we looked like we were in a band, and then at one point we were like, “Fuck this, weʻre tired of it.” And we kind of lost that… itʻs like name-brand recognition, almost. “Did you see that band with the white denim and everything?” “Oh yeah, Johnny and the Razorblades.” And now, it was like, “Hey, who was that band on Saturday, the one with the guy with the shaved head and cargo shorts?” It was every band. So, that was the biggest thing… get yourself an image. Elvis Costello has Buddy Holly glasses, and why are they called Buddy Holly glasses? Right there. I wish that starting out early we would have kept on doing it.
DR: We all have our own distinct colors. Guitar Player #2 over there is green, Johnny is white, Iʻm pink, and our drummer is the blue one.
Q: So why do they keep referring to you as Guitar Player #2?
GP2: Itʻs sort of a consistent initiation, like Iʻm not quite in the band, so Iʻm that replaceable guitar player. And it gives me an air of anonymity that I kinda like. Itʻs almost like Iʻm on the Internet and I get to troll them as much as possible.
DR: And we like “That Thing You Do“… the bass player is called T. B. Player, so heʻs called Guitar Player #2.
Q: What would be a dream lineup for a show?
GP2: I think weʻve talked about this a couple times, The Danzas and The Legendary Hucklebucks, doing a small venue show with those two bands. We seem to have this ongoing Facebook friendship with The Danzas, where we always share each otherʻs stuff but never play together, and weʻve played tons of shows with the Hucklebucks and theyʻre amazing.
JR: Honestly, aside from playing with Green Day, which quickly revokes my punk card, weʻve played with Wyldlife and weʻve played with The CRY!, but I would love to play on a four band bill of The CRY!, Wyldlife, and Biters on the same night. I donʻt even care if weʻre playing at that point, I just want to see that show! But yeah, I would love to open with those guys.
DR: Itʻs hard, we have a lot of friends around. I always have fun playing with The Jasons, those are cool dudes. Super Fun Time Awesome Party Band, you canʻt go wrong there. The Hucklebucks. Tedʻs Ted, you canʻt… nobody can touch Ted as far as the show he puts on.
JR: Honestly, if there was like a Mt. Rushmore in Pittsburgh, there would be Ted, Todd Cheat, and I donʻt who else, maybe Donnie Iris.
MR: Grushecky, I guess, I dunno.
JR: Maybe Grushecky, I donʻt know if heʻs quite as cool as those other three guys.
MR: Thereʻs this band called The Fags that nobody really knows, but I would love to play with them. I donʻt know much about them, he (Johnny) showed me their first album and I loved it, and I listen to it all the time, itʻs one of my top five favorite albums.
MR: As far as national bands to play with, them, Sugarcult, The Pink Spiders… locally, Crooked Cobras, Bottle Rat, Mickey and the Snake Oil Boys, The Cheats, Torn Apart Hearts, if you could throw all those bands on one bill, itʻd be a big bill, but it would be fun.
GP2: Weʻll have a festival!
MR: Yeah, I wanna play a big festival, a three-day festival. So, yeah, thatʻd be cool.
Q: Do you have any good show stories?
DR: We played a cancer benefit in Uniontown, and this is one of those shows where they were telling us weʻre country, we should go play country. So we start playing and weʻre getting heckled the whole time. Itʻs a cancer benefit! And weʻre getting heckled! And this guy starts saying, “Play Little Brown Jug!” And weʻre like, “Are you fucking serious, dude?” And he starts singing, and heʻs singing “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
JR: We did play Little Brown Jug, the actual polka. We did play Little Brown Jug.
DR: So we told him, if you come up on stage and sing it, weʻll play Gimme Three Steps. So we start playing, weʻre just half-assing it, we donʻt really know how to play it, and heʻs sings into an unplugged microphone for a full verse and chorus before he realizes it, and then walks off the stage. And then later, his wife came up to me after weʻre done playing. She had what I would describe as “some teeth,” and she comes up and hugs me, says Iʻm sorry, and then sticks her tongue in my ear. And I immediately found them, because they were outside, and Iʻm like, “I want to go home. I want to go home right now.”
MR: Oh, and ditto on The Hucklebucks. I forgot to mention them. I didnʻt want to leave them out, theyʻre our friends too and theyʻre awesome. I realized I didnʻt say their name and itʻs just been brewing.
DR: There was one more show I wanted to mention. We were playing some bar in Newcastle, and itʻs one of those types of bar where no one is really there to hear music, theyʻre just kind of there and you happen to be playing. So weʻre playing and nobody gives a shit and John kind of panics and heʻs like, “We can play anything! What do you guys want to hear?”
JR: By the way, I have bad anxiety. And when I start to panic, you notice immediately. Like, itʻs bad. But, continue. DR: So he yells out that we can play anything, and some guy yells, “Queensrÿche!” And weʻre like, “We canʻt play that!” So it was downhill from there.
JR: Stipulation: we must know what the songs are
MR: I guess also The Show too, we played with them constantly. Theyʻre not even a band anymore, but if we had a big bill, theyʻd be on there.
Q: Since the site is called Punksburgh, we like to ask a bunch of Pittsburgh related questions… and this ties a bit into the dream show question, but if you had to pick maybe five of your favorite local bands, who would they be?
MR: Super Fun Timeʻs gotta be on there, easily.
DR: Hucklebucks gotta be on there.
JR: Itʻs hard, because when I record stuff…
DR: Can we just combine Aaron Zeman bands? ʻcause heʻs in a bunch, and theyʻre all great.
JR: Okay, so weʻre gonna squash Aaron Zeman bands, Bill Jasper bands, Todd Porter bands, theyʻre all gonna be combined.
GP2: And the Hucklebucks and Super Fun Time Awesome Party Band. Thatʻs five right there.
DR: With a special mention to The Danzas.
MR: I hate naming bands, I always forget some.
JR: Itʻs hard to limit to five. Me personally, if I had to limit to five, SFTAPB, theyʻre always a fun time, always, always, always. We used to play with them when they were Jesus and the Drunken Apostles and Johnny Douchebag and the Flaring Menstrual Cramps. Iʻm also a big fan of Thunder Vest. The Hucklebucks for sure.
MR: Iʻm gonna throw out bands that donʻt exist anymore that we loved to play with, so maybe if someone reads this theyʻll look them up or remember them. Pool, Three Sides Short, The Dream Intended, Down The Hatch, F Bomb.
JR: F Bomb and Guilt Ridden and all that, theyʻre in Crash Academy now.
MR: Yes, and Crash Academy. Thatʻs another band that would be on the bill, the festival . This week long event.
JR: Oh, Evad & The Ominous Squad would be in my top 5.
DR: No Me Gusta.
MR: Actually, most of those bands I mentioned, their members are in other bands now.
JR: Okay, so, he mentioned No Me Gusta. I want to go on record, because Randall and Chunk from Super Fun Time Awesome Party Band keep saying that No Me Gusta is us. Theyʻre starting this rumor. It is completely untrue. Johnny and the Razorblades has four people, No Me Gusta has three. It cannot possibly be us.
GP2: Thereʻs no way.
MR: Itʻs simple math.
JR: The Homisides are great too, I love The Homisides. And Jim, Jimʻs been in every band in Pittsburgh ever. He was the drummer for The Cheats for awhile, he was in Aus-Rotten, the guy is a legend. Actually, thatʻs who my fourth person on Mt. Rushmore for Pittsburgh would be.
Q: Whatʻs your favorite venue to play in?
JR: I used to love The Smiling Moose, until they moved everything upstairs. I hate carrying equipment up the steps.
MR: I always liked Howlers.
GP2: Weʻve played a lot of our shows there.
JR: I love Howlers, I used to love Excuses, but I havenʻt seen a lot of shows there recently.
MR: Howlers or The Rex. The Pub was really fun, but we never really played there that often.
DR: The Fallout Shelter is always really cool.
JR: Okay, going back a couple questions, for the show stories… we played at Club Cafe back in 2007 and we were banned for life from playing there. It was us, F Bomb, and The Dream Intended. And John from F Bomb was running across the tables, kicking glasses and stuff, and all three of us were never welcome back to Club Cafe. And when the band The CRY! came to Pittsburgh, they literally lifted the ban for us to open for The CRY! there. It was great.
MR: We also got banned from Penn State McKeesport.
JR: We were starting a fight with the sound guy. My dadʻs a character, but he tried to beat up the sound guy at Penn State McKeesport.
GP2: Just couldnʻt get those levels right.
JR: But to actually answer your other question, Howlers.
Q: What are some your favorite local businesses or artists? Not necessarily directly music related.
JR: Ink Division is amazing. Thatʻs who we got all of our t-shirts through. Ryan, whoʻs in the Bastard Bearded Irishmen and Dead Batteries, and I played with him in The Gimme 5, we do all sorts of stuff with Ink Division. Love them. Micarelli Music in Uniontown. Best guitar store, hands down, in the area.
MR: Jim Relja from there is the best guitarist in Pittsburgh. Hands down, quote me on that.
JR: You know this is businesses, right? Talk about Jimʻs luthier skills, how heʻs the best person to fix guitars.
MR: Heʻs that too, but heʻs just an awesome guitarist. I just had to throw it out there. It has to be known.
GP2: Not music related– Iʻm a big foodie, so, Burgatory is a local Pittsburgh chain that Iʻm evangelical for.
JR: Oh, what is it, Doce Taqueria in South Side… hands down best tacos ever.
DR: For anyone in the Moon area, he was my guitar teacher when I first started, Roger Cegelski. He started me playing, when I was coming to audition for them, he was like, “This is what theyʻre going to do…” and when I came in, it was exactly what they did.
MR: Chris Belin has a traveling drum school. He was my drum teacher. Great guy, great drummer. Awesome teacher, he plays in a bunch of different local bands too.
JR: Whatʻs it like to have a teacher?
GP2: Martyzsongs on YouTube, that was my teacher
Q: To finish it off, somewhat of a contentious question, what is your favorite local pizza?
JR: You wanna start a fight?
GP2: That is a tough one. I have a power ranking right now, and itʻs Vincentʻs Pizza Park…
JR: Youʻre wrong
GP2: Mineoʻs, and then when Iʻm in the mood for it, Fiori’s is the go to, but thereʻs a new place that popped up called Caliente, and they donʻt really deliver, but they won a whole bunch of competitions in Vegas, theyʻre fantastic.
JR: Mineo’s is the tops. Absolute tops. A lot of people donʻt realize that Aiello’s and Fiori’s, they all stem from Mineo’s, so they can try to like it, but theyʻre just second and third rate Mineo’s. And everyone likes Vincentʻs, but Vincentʻs is just awful pizza.
GP2: Youʻre just wrong.
DR: My favorite used to be Hometown Pizza, but they eventually closed. Right now my favorite is Juliano’s, Mineo’s is number two. And they get knocked down because they donʻt deliver. Thatʻs bullshit. Iʻm not driving to Squirrel Hill for this.
JR: The one in Mt. Lebanon delivers, okay?
MR: For years, it was Italian Village Pizza in Century III mall. Not just any one, it has to be that one. And then, yeah, it just closed down recently, *tear*. But then once I ate at Fiori’s for the first time, I was like, whoa, thatʻs some shit right there.
JR: Third rate.
MR: And Vincentʻs, even though he says it sucks, I think thatʻs great too. And Caliente is great. Theyʻre all tied for first. Mineo’s, Mineo’s isnʻt as good as everyone says it is. Quote me on it, throw that down. If heʻs gonna talk about Vincentʻs, Iʻm gonna… nah, I like Mineo’s and Aiello’s, and the whole Squirrel Hill entourage of pizza places. Theyʻre all good. Iʻve just never had it fresh in the store, Iʻve always had it, like, somebody brought it here. So I need to go there and eat it in person.
JR: Thatʻs because you donʻt buy records with us! You gotta go to Jerryʻs, buy your records, eat some pizza, and youʻre good to go.
GP2: When it comeʻs to Vincentʻs, though, my uncle had the best quote. He says, “Itʻs the only pizza that will give you a hangover,” and I think itʻs the absolute truth. You have two slices and you feel like you just worked out.
Q: Any final non-pizza related thoughts?
JR: Weʻre playing the 24th. Everybody come out and have a good time. If you decide not to go to that show, go to Morgantown and see Super Fun Time Awesome Party Band and Orvill Rex. Either one, you canʻt go wrong. Pick up our record if you havenʻt, itʻs on Bandcamp, itʻs on all that other digital bullshit, streaming, Spotify. Or you can just buy a hard copy off of us, only $5.
MR: And buy a t-shirt