If you’ve picked up the latest issue of Rhythm (issue 171, on sale now, featuring U2’s Larry Mullen Jr on the cover) you will have noticed our exclusive interview with the Lostprophets’ new drummer, Luke Johnson. We met up with Luke before the band played a headline gig at the London Forum last month and we got so much great stuff that we thought we’d share the rest of the interview with you here. Check it out…
Hi Luke, give us a little background about yourself?
“I started playing drums when I was five – not properly ’cos I was too small to reach the pedals – but I used to beat the crap out of the sofa with a pair of sticks I got given by the drummer from the Wonderstuff [Luke’s dad used to manage them], as well as pots and pans. My folks eventually got tired of repairing the sofa so they bought me a snare drum and soon after I got a second hand drum kit. They soon got sick of me whacking them, so they got me drum lessons up until the age of 12.
“All my life I’ve been around music. I’d go to shows and soundcheck the drums for the Wonderstuff and get to play kits on these big stages during soundcheck and hearing the sound of a drumkit through a PA I thought, ‘Man I really want to do this!’”
What about when you were at school?
“All I really cared about was being in a rock band and playing drums. My first ever band was called Eye Candy, with some friends, and we played social clubs and local venues to friends and family. I then went to college, joined a band called Harpies which was like my first real serious band. I played with them for three years, and we got shows with bands like sIkth, got radio airplay and stuff, and that gave me my first real exposure to the gig scene. We didn’t do any major touring though and so I hadn’t really quenched my thirst for that. I left them and joined Little Hell, which is when I went on my first real UK tour. We did 8 or 9 shows supporting Placebo and 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, and it was on that tour that I got spotted by the Amen guys. They asked me to join but I hadn’t been in Little Hell that long, but unfortunately not long after Little Hell broke up so that’s how I got into Amen. In between all these gigs I’ve learnt guitar and been a guitar tech as well as being a tour manager for bands – generally living life in the music industry.”
How long did you stay with Amen?
“I did about two years in Amen, moved to America, had money in my pocket, I was about 20 at the time and though it was a cool adventure. After a few tours with Amen people could see how dysfunctional the band was and that got the better of me and I left with nothing lined-up – I just couldn’t handle the way things were going and it wasn’t a reflection of where I wanted to be in my career. I formed Beat Union with old friends and that’s probably the biggest mission that I’ve been part of in my entire life. I used all the contacts I had gathered to get us out there. John Feldman picked us up and produced us, introduced us to a lot of limelight in the States and from that we were able to land a small independent record deal, tour America and live out of dreams for a year – doing the whole of Warped tour was brutal, but it was one of the most amazing things I’ve done to date.
“I count touring with cool bands like Flogging Molly, Bedouin Sound Clash and Jackson United among my proudest moments, like joining a huge band like Lostprophets. But that album took a lot of year to come out and it was never actually released in England! We lived our dreams for a year in the States then came back to a closed-down record label and it all seemed to be for nothing. We threw the towel in, in January 2009 and it was a huge wake-up call to me, as I ended up back in the spare room at my parents house again. I was more determined than ever to figure my s**t out."
So, you got the gig, but are you an official member of Lostprophets?
“They included me on their Kerrang! Cover shoot and on some of their videos, and they have gone out of their way to welcome me. After Reading/Leeds they were like, ‘Welcome to Lostprophets.’ I’m so excited to be a part of this, and unless I get fired, I’m pretty sure I’m solid in the band.
“After shows I get kids coming up to me and saying, ‘You’re not leaving the band soon are you?’ which is really flattering because I think Ilan is one of the sickest rock drummers for his age, and Mike Chiplin was also an amazing drummer, and when I was young loads of people wanted to play drums like him. So realistically I’m sitting in the seat of two very well respected drummers. I hope that the kids are happy with my drums and with my style. Mike Chiplin has a very distinct, visual style, and I credit myself with having something similar.”
Have you recorded anything with the band yet?
“I haven’t recorded anything with them yet, but potentially we’re going to do a Specials cover or a Madness cover for a 50 Years of Dr Marten’s project, which will tie in with loads of other cool bands who are also involved. Even though The Betrayed isn’t out until January, people are starting to think about getting on the road in January and start writing stuff then so that the next album doesn’t creep up on us as a surprise. I’m definitely looking forward to getting in there and working with Stu [‘Prophets bassist and producer].”
How much of new album The Betrayed have you been playing live?
“We’re not playing too much of the new album live because no-one owns it yet, but the few songs we have been playing sound awesome. ‘Next Stop Atro City’ has some really tasty drums – it’s fast – and that’s a hell of a lot of fun to play, but the problem I find with that song is that I’m an excitable drummer and when the adrenaline gets the better of me I play a fast song even faster! It almost turns into blast beats! ‘Destroy, Destroy’ is another fun song to play and the kids seem to be digging that one.”
The Betrayed is out in January 2010