J.P. (JONNY PLEASURE) INTERVIEW:
May 22, 2008
Legs Up and Sledgehammer Ledge may not be household names (obviously another of rock ‘n’ roll’s cruel jokes), but that doesn’t mean their music shouldn’t be in your house. As bassist for both bands, J.P. (also known as Jonny Pleasure) got to experience and partake in the legendary hard rock scene that was happening on the Sunset Strip. Eventually the scene dried up and the 80s rock bands slowly became extinct, but J.P. has kept the dream alive by releasing a CD of Sledgehammer Ledge’s recordings (available exclusively at www.cdbaby.com and a must for fans of W.A.S.P. type rock) and as he states in this exclusive interview plans on releasing a Legs Up CD later this year.
Sleaze Roxx: Is Sledgehammer Ledge still active?
J.P.: No, I left in ’96, the band played for about a year after that. They changed the name, got other members in and got really heavy with deep growling vocals. At that point it was just Chris Childs and Jade still playing together.
Sleaze Roxx: So what have you been doing musically since the split?
J.P.: Not much at all. I have written some songs but nothings been put down on tape. I do take care of all the CD sales thru CDBaby, packing, keeping them in stock and so on. Plus since I still talk to the guys we have decided to release a Legs Up CD which should have 14-15 songs on it and you’ll be able to get that at CDBaby. Hopefully that should be out in summer of ’08.
Sleaze Roxx: How easy is using CDBaby for a band such as yours? Would you recommend other bands do everything on their own like you have?
J.P.: Real easy, back in the day when nobody had computers the only way they knew of you was to tour. Now you can sit at home and sell CDs to places you have never been. I would recommend CDBaby to anybody wanting to sell some CDs. Would I recommend other bands do everything own their own? Well there are good points and bad points to both sides. First, doing it on your own is a lot of work and you may not have the backing (someone with money) to help you get gear, record, advertise, and so on. But if you find someone who shares the same vision as the rest of the group then you’re set up pretty good and that’s how it was for us. Remember, if someone wants to do it on their own I say go for it. It is a lot more work but you stay in control. I was writing songs, driving the RV/bus, playing shows, having 18-20 hour days. I was a lot younger and it was fun, if I had to do that today I’d fall over. But I did get to see a lot of the USA that I wouldn’t have gotten to see. So be ready to work, work, work, work, and work some more.
Sleaze Roxx: Roughly how many Sledgehammer Ledge CDs have you sold through CDBaby
J.P.: We’ve done over 250 CDs.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned releasing a Legs Up CD this year, what all will it consist of?
J.P.: It should consist of 14-15 songs all from back in the Legs Up days of course. We just need to get back in the studio to go over the tapes, put things to digital, pick out what sounds good, master it, and release it.
Sleaze Roxx: Will the entire Legs Up band have input into this release, or will you do the work yourself?
J.P.: I have talked to Chris Childs (vocals), Danny Kane (guitar), and John (manager). As far as Jade (guitar) and Raychill Bitch (drums) they are going with the flow on this. For the work getting done I’ll do most of it myself but keep everyone informed on how it’s coming along.
Sleaze Roxx: How did Legs Up first come together?
J.P.: I’ve read some stories on how Legs Up was formed, all of them wrong. This is how it happened from the very beginning along with all the other people who went along and did other things.
I met Chris Childs in gym class. He was a sophomore and I was a junior in 1983 in Ohio. He was a drummer (he still is) and I was playing around with guitar (not very good). We talked about the music that we liked. I liked Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Holly, etc. and he liked AC/DC, Motley Crue, Kiss, etc. He said why don’t I listen to some of the bands he liked, because he thought I’d like them too. He was right. I totally dug them. They had everything that Berry, Elvis, and Holly had only more aggressive. A little later Chris got a gig playing in a cover band. Knowing you can’t make it playing someone else’s music he wanted to play in an all original band (not easy to find in Cleveland back in those days). He did find one, they were called Playmate. They were all Glam, the clothes, the make-up, just the whole nine yards. Later on their bass player quit and since I had changed over to bass from guitar I got the gig.
With Playmate we only played two shows together. It was the only time I was on bass and Chris was on the drums live. After those two shows we wanted our own all original band, so we quit. We wanted LOUD, RUDE, SCREAMIN’ VOCALS, CRUNCHIN GUITARS, THUNDER DRUMS, and LEATHER. We then place an ad in a local magazine called Scene Magazine. We got one call. I mean ONE CALL!!! It was from a guy who was a guitar player, his name was Bill Dane. He was a lot older than us, but had some really great riffs, so we started writing songs together.
We wrote some cool songs like, Call Girl, Drinkin’, Some Like It Hot, and several others. In the meantime we added a second guitar player, his name was Gary (I forget his last name). He was a shredder. He didn’t fit in 100%, but he was close, plus his hair was down to his ass. Still looking for a singer, we would write songs and practice with Chris singing and playing drums, Bill and Gary on the guitar, and I was on bass. Since we wanted a front man and couldn’t find a singer, Chris said screw it, he said he would sing and we would look for a drummer instead.
We found a drummer playing in another band called Risque’ (this band had Dave Brooks on vocals, later to become Slammin’ Gladys out in Hollywood), his name was Johnny Fedivich. He said he would fill in until we found a permanent drummer (Johnny Fedivich later played the part of a drummer in the movie ALMOST FAMOUS). Remember, this was when we were all still in Ohio. We came up with the name Pistol Whip. With the line up as Chris (vocals), Bill and Gary (guitars), Johnny (drums), and I was on bass.
We practiced a few times together and we were going to play our first gig at a band wars in Kent, Ohio. We played our first gig and won round one. Remember, this was with all original music that no one had heard outside the band until that night. Obviously, based on their response, we knew we had good songs. In the second round of band wars we lost to Risque’ with Johnny playing drums. He kicked ass that night for both bands. Pistol Whip played around the Cleveland area for a while then just broke up.
Chris and I made a visit to Hollywood, we didn’t think the bands out there had any better music than we had. So after a few weeks we went back to Ohio, cleaned up our demo tapes with the help of Billy Morris (who years later played guitar with Warrant) and then Chris and I moved to Hollywood.
After moving out there we hooked up with some people from Cleveland. One of them was Darren Robertson who was a guitar player (together we wrote a kick ass song called Let It Roll). Johnny Fetivich was already out there and filled in again on drums and we added a second guitar player by the name of Justin Syder from Detroit, Michigan. Before our first gig in Hollywood we changed our name to Legs Up (a name we chose from a song by Smashed Gladys from NYC). We played around Hollywood for a while and things didn’t work out with Darren and Justin so we broke up. Johnny also left, so Chris and I were back to square one again.
Since Legs Up had a small following in Hollywood, we decided to keep the name and look for new members. In the meantime a roommate named Joey Martel told us about a guy in Phoenix by the name of Jade who played guitar. I sent him a demo tape and pictures of Chris and I and he sent back his picture and said he liked the music. Jade moved to Hollywood a few weeks later to join us. Also at this time I was talking on the phone to Danny Kane who lived in Burbank California. I’d never met him face to face and he said we would all meet up when Jade got to Hollywood. Later I found out Danny was from, where else? Cleveland. We never knew him in Cleveland but found out we knew the same people.
Finally we were all in Hollywood and got together. Still lacking a drummer, I was talking to a guy from Connecticut, his name was Brett Bradshaw (yes the same Brett that is the drummer for Faster Pussycat). I sent him a demo and some pictures and he sent back his picture and said he liked the demo. On his way out to Hollywood his truck broke down in Kansas, Texas, or someplace like that, and we lost contact with him.
A couple of years later I ran into him at Ralph’s (a grocery store) in Hollywood and he said he just got the gig with Faster Pussycat. Since we lost contact with Brett after his truck broke down, we found another drummer who was a roadie for a band called Liquor Sweet who had moved out to Hollywood from Cleveland. His name was Raychill Bitch. So finally it all came together with the final members in 1989, Chris Childs (vocals), Jade and Danny Kane (guitars), Raychill Bitch (drums), and Jonny Pleasure aka JP (bass). A little later Danny said he knew a guy who wanted to manage a band and he was from where? You guessed it, Cleveland, Ohio. That’s when John Shahinian stepped into the picture. That’s how the band was formed out in Hollywood and not in Cleveland as rumor has it. Chris and I never knew of Raychill, Danny, and John even though they were from Cleveland, since we never met until we all were in Hollywood. Jades the black sheep, he was from Phoenix.
Here are a few neat facts; Dave Brooks who sang with Risque’ and beat us at band wars when Chris and I played in Pistol Whip later went to sing for Slammin’ Gladys and went on tour with Warrant, now plays in a cover band in Cleveland with Billy Morris who played for Warrant and helped us with our demo tapes years ago. Strange how that somehow all happened.
Sleaze Roxx: What was it like being in a band in Hollywood during those times?
J.P.: Awesome!!! The Strip was packed every weekend with hot chicks, lots of bands, and lots of drinking. It was just one BIG PARTY, some of the best times in my life.
Sleaze Roxx: With there being so many young bands on the Strip, how were you able to get Legs Up noticed?
J.P.: Three basic things really; good songs, great stage show, and an image that fit the style of music we did.
Sleaze Roxx: What was it about your stage show that helped you stick out from hundreds of other bands?
J.P.: We were just wild on stage, all over the place, just playing like it was the last day alive and it was real. Its how we lived, rocking hard, playing hard, and just having fun. That came across cause it wasn’t fake.
Sleaze Roxx: In that Sunset Strip scene, was there lots of camaraderie between bands or was it more throat-cutting to get an edge over someone else?
J.P.: It depended, some bands got along, some didn’t. I got along with a lot of other bands mainly cause I knew we were all in the same boat shooting for the same thing and I don’t have an ego or insecure. I even let other bands borrow my bass gear, even when we were on the road and the opening act might have had a problem. The show must go on.
Sleaze Roxx: That entire time seemed so outrageous and decadent. What were some of the wildest things you saw or were a part of during those days?
J.P.: I did a lot of drinking, I never did the drug thing, but hey, to each his own. Women were dressed in short skirts, high heels, stockings. it was great, long hair everywhere, lots of leather, lots of rock n roll, and lots of sex. I don’t remember a whole lot, I did drink a lot.
The weirdest thing I saw was a woman leap off of the Taft building at Hollywood and Vine and split her back wide open. That was the most wildest thing that I remember. I did a lot of drinking back then.
Sleaze Roxx: To my ears Legs Up and Sledgehammer Ledge have much the same sound, so why did you change the name of the band?
J.P.: Yea, they are pretty close. The main reason was we felt the name would limit us to a sleaze rock band, which is ok, but we wanted to write about other stuff and just didn’t want to write about sleaze all the time. Plus we got a little heavier in our sound and were going even heavier so the name needed to be changed to fit into where we were going.
Sleaze Roxx: Looking back, do you think the name changed helped the band or did you lose any momentum you may have created under the Legs Up name?
J.P.: Neither, people in L.A. knew who we were and anytime we went on the road people just wanted to see a band from L.A. and we knew lots of people there too. If anything helped change momentum it was that Seattle sound that did it.
Sleaze Roxx: Many people think Sledgehammer Ledge sound a lot like W.A.S.P. Would you agree with that and was that a sound you purposely tried to re-create?
J.P.: No, it was just four guys writing what we thought sounded cool, if it came out that way that’s the way it came out.
Sleaze Roxx: Of the songs you’ve recorded over the years, which ones are you most proud of and which ones make you shake your head and why?
J.P.: Well this may sound like B.S. but the fact is that any song recorded was good enough for just that. I’m not saying every song we wrote we liked, I’m just saying we didn’t record any songs we didn’t like. So we like them all, they all were different, they all capture a moment or a feeling or just flat out rocked.
Sleaze Roxx: Why did you decide to leave Sledgehammer Ledge?
J.P.: The music scene had changed, the band wanted heavier stuff and I like just good ol’ hard rock. I also wanted to do different things in my life, so after 12 years and about 6-7 years on the road it was time to move on.
Sleaze Roxx: I assume you had to find a 9 to 5 job after your music career, how hard was it to go from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to the daily grind?
J.P.: Easy, playing in a band was hard work, sex wasn’t always there, I never did the drug thing and rock ‘n’ roll was 7 days a week, 15-18 hrs a day. My life is a lot easier now, not always running around at 80 mph. I’m able to enjoy things I didn’t get to enjoy when I was with the band.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think Legs Up or Sledgehammer Ledge will ever reform to write new music or play a few live shows?
J.P.: I don’t know about the live shows maybe if someone made a song of ours popular that called for a tour that could happen, then we would write songs together again. So never say never I guess.
Sleaze Roxx: When you look back on your musical career, what are you most proud of and what was your biggest disappointment?
J.P.: I’m just proud of the fact that I was able to do what a lot of people don’t get to do, tour, have a record out that sells all over the world with 1500 CDs sold so far, there’s not much more really. Sure selling 1.5 million CDs would have been better, but at least I was able to taste some of that ‘Rock Star’ stuff on a smaller scale. I’m not disappointed, it was fun and hard work at the same time. We did our best and that’s all you can ask of someone. Five guys believing in the same thing, it was special, and we are still talking about it 15 years later, that’s pretty cool in my book.
Just a side note, thanks to all the people who bought the CD and look for the Legs Up thing soon.
Thanks to J.P. (Jonny Pleasure) and Hairglamfan for the Legs Up flyer.