One of my ALL TIME favorite singers, Johnny Gioeli’s voice grabbed me the first time I heard Hardline’s Double Eclipse record. Already a fan of Neal Schon, pals Deen Castronovo and Todd Jensen, the gritty rasp and soaring melodies Johnny pulled out on that record cemented the album in my all-time top 10 collection. Start to finish, the record is seamless and full of hits. Finding out later on about Johnny’s extensive career with so many other artists, as well as his contributions to Sega’s video game empire, and eventually learning of his humility and candor, I knew that a conversation on All Access Live was in order.
Johnny’s musical career began in the early 80s after forming the band Phaze with his older brother, Joey. The band underwent reform and he started drumming with the band Killerhit in 1983 at the age of 17. Sharing vocal duties with Joey, the four-piece act hit the East Coast club circuit with an enormous amount of success, earning enough by 1987 to purchase their own lighting rig, truck and tour bus (purchased from Jimmy Buffett).
Re-locating to Hollywood, Killerhit hooked up with Poison’s Bret Michaels. The singer gave them his former publicist Debra Rosner’s number who instantly became the band’s manager. Realizing the need for a front man, Johnny vacated the drum stool for center stage, Las Vegas native Derek Cava taking his place behind the drum kit. Soon after the band switched names to the more appropriate one Brunette. The band broke The Doors and Van Halen’s single-weekend attendance records on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood CA and became regionally successful throughout the U.S. They were signed by Capitol Records but the deal unfortunately fell through when the record company went under.
The Gioelis immediately went on to form a new and powerful hard rock band, Hardline – then brought in Journey guitarist Neal Schon as well as Todd Jensen, former bassist for David Lee Roth, and drummer Deen Castronovo, who later went on to join Journey. Hardline’s first album Double Eclipse released in 1992, and they had already been opening shows on tour with Van Halen and Mr. Big. Double Eclipse is still recognized as one of the top melodic hard rock albums of the era. Their first releases Hot Cherie and Takin’ Me Down can be heard on the FM airwaves today. As with many bands of the late 80s and early 90s, they largely disappeared for some time as the grunge music movement swept the U.S.. But in 2002 Johnny reinvigorated the band and Hardline returned with another album, “II” and at this time guitarist Neal Schon had been replaced by guitarist Josh Ramos, formerly of The Storm.
Since 1998, Johnny has also been the vocalist for the Axel Rudi Pell band. Axel Rudi Pell is a German guitar player who began in a German band called Steeler. These days Axel’s band tours in Europe, drawing in faithful fans and performing at the Wacken Open Air festival on a yearly basis. They will be attending the 2009 Wacken Open Air, the 20th anniversary of the festival. Albums that Johnny has appeared on include: Oceans of Time (1998), The Ballads II, The Masquerade Ball (2000)(one of his favorites), Shadow Zone, Knights Live (DVD), Kings and Queens, The Ballads III, Mystica, Diamonds Unlocked, and Tales of the Crown (2008).
Johnny has also been working for some time with video game composer and musician Jun Senoue and has delivered his vocals in the Sons Of Angels CD, Thrill Of The Feel, released in 2000. He is currently in the band Crush 40, where he sang several songs in recent Sonic the Hedgehog games, such as the theme tune Sonic Heroes, a bright, melodic song and in contrast What I’m Made Of, a distinctly dark, energetic hard rock song with metal sensibilities for the final struggle of the game. He was also the vocalist for the songs Open Your Heart, the main theme of Sonic Adventure (Though it was originally recorded with a different vocalist), Live and Learn, the main theme of Sonic Adventure 2, I Am… All Of Me, the main theme of Shadow the Hedgehog, and Never Turn Back, the ending theme from the same game. His latest work with Senoue is a cover of Runblebee’s Seven Rings in Hand, which was featured exclusively on the currently japan-only CD True Blue: The Best of Sonic the Hedgehog. He also wrote the chorus lyrics for the Sonic the Hedgehog Next-Gen game main theme “His World”. As well as writing the chorus for the main theme (Performed by Matty Lewis and Ali Tabatabaee), he also recorded a version of the song with Crush 40 (featured as a bonus track on the games official soundtrack).