Backstage Pass Radio

S2: E8: Doug Johnson (Loverboy) - From State to State on the 88's

March 09, 2022 Backstage Pass Radio
Backstage Pass Radio
S2: E8: Doug Johnson (Loverboy) - From State to State on the 88's
Show Notes Transcript

Doug spends equal time on the road as a founding member of the iconic 80’s rock band Loverboy (providing keyboards, sax, vocals and harmonica) and at his home studio in the Vancouver area of British Columbia Canada.

His original compositions are heard around the world on TV shows, radio stations, movies and on the internet. Doug recently composed the soundtrack for the critically-acclaimed documentary “RiverBlue“.

Doug’s diverse musical capability include live performance in rock, jazz, and classical concerts. His many awards include induction in the Canadian Musical Hall of Fame, Leo Awards nominations, and ARCT Silver medal status.

Visit Doug’s website at


Doug Johnson Multi Track Mixdown MASTER

Mon, 3/7 8:32AM • 58:48


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Randy Hulsey, Doug Johnson, Adam Gordon


Randy Hulsey  00:00

Hey, you all it's Randy Hulsey here with backstage pass radio. This afternoon I've tracked down my guest to the northwest regions of British Columbia. He and his band had been writing and performing hit songs all over the world for the past 40 plus years. He has a composer with original compositions written for television, radio and the movies. He is also the keyboardist sax and harmonica player, as well as the backing vocalist of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame man Loverboy Hang on tight as we meander up to Surrey, BC and catch up with the one and only Doug Johnson when we return.


Adam Gordon  00:36

This is backstage pass radio, the podcast that's designed for the music junkie with a thirst for musical knowledge. Hi, this is Adam Gordon. And I want to thank you all for joining us today. Make sure you like subscribe and turn alerts on for this and all upcoming podcasts. And now here's your host of backstage pass radio, Randy Hulsey.


Randy Hulsey  01:05

Doug Johnson, welcome to the show all the way from Surrey British Columbia.  Welcome


Doug Johnson  01:11

Well, thank you, Randy. It's a privilege to be here, my friend.


Randy Hulsey  01:14

Yeah, thanks for joining me today and wanted to how's life for you, as we try to make our way through this nuisance of a pandemic. I know, we talked a little bit pre-show about things being a little quiet. But talk to the listeners a little bit about, you know, maybe the last year for you in the boys as it relates to the pandemic and what you have going on.


Doug Johnson  01:36

Yeah, so you know, there's obviously restrictions that have been laid out by the health authorities up here with respect to what we can and can't do, as I'm sure you're very well familiar with, we, we're all trying to comply and to get through this as quickly and with with the least amount of, you know, damage as possible. So that's been, you know, limiting our ability to get on play gigs. So just like everybody else, we're kind of hunkered at home. And, you know, you call your friends, you make yourself busy with other things, I compose music for a few TV shows up here. So that's kept me kind of occupied. I am very much looking forward to getting back out there and playing because that's always a lot of fun, and to look out in the audience and see people smiling and singing along, it's, it's two different lives. And I'm looking forward to getting back into the live playing aspect of my life, that's for


Randy Hulsey  02:40

sure, for sure, you kind of have to get back and dust the cobwebs off a little bit, for as far as live shows, and I'm sure composing at home and kind of staying active with the music, you know, inside the home there, you have those cobwebs knocked off. But it's kind of interesting. You know, we talked about live performances before we went live on the air here. And sometimes I find that when I'm down for two weeks, and I don't have a show, it's it's kind of weird to get back up on stage, even after two weeks you it's a little foreign. So you know, if you if you're going months on end, and you haven't been out touring, I could see where it's gonna take, you know, a few shows to kind of get into the routine of things.


Doug Johnson  03:22

Well, I hope it's like riding a bike, right? You kind of we've been doing this for 40 years, and it's really very much like genetically encoded into our muscle memory about how we can get up and do our thing. I fully expect that there's going to be a little bit of dusting off the cobwebs for sure when we first reconvene after almost two full years of not playing we you know, we were it was like music is interruptus March of 20 We're ready to go back out there and have another great year But as fate would have it we're basically been sitting here waiting for the go-ahead and now it looks like we're gonna be able to do that. And you know, I think what we're planning to do is have a rehearsal of sorts before our first show just to kind of see where we're at and make sure that we've got all of our muscle memory neurons firing the right order and I'm looking forward to it man it's just the way it is right come back here we're fighters Yeah, just you know, take it and go. Oh, that's too bad. This isn't right now we're going to work out until it's right again and if that's what needs to happen, so yeah, we're ready. We're up for the challenge.


Randy Hulsey  04:39

You'll have to see if you even remember where middle C is on that piano right


Doug Johnson  04:45

there. I hope not but you might have a point there


Randy Hulsey  04:48

all right. Well, where are the rest of the guys located at these days are you guys spread out through BC are they are the other guys in the band elsewhere. Talk to the listeners a little bit about the the whereabouts of the boys right now?


Doug Johnson  05:02

Sure, well, geographically, we're kind of Mike is actually my neighbor, he lives about a five minute drive from where I live, he lives in this beautiful little place called Crescent Beach right down on the water. And I'm not too far from him. Paul Dean lives across on what's called the North Shore, which is also a part of the Greater Vancouver. He's like closer to where the mountains are. So the proximity of the three of us is fairly close. Now then we stretch out to Winnipeg, where Spyder our bass player lives, so that's like halfway between Vancouver and Toronto. So he's stuck in the prairies where it's really cold right now. And then venturing even further east and down south in to North Carolina. That's where Matt lives. Okay, so we are continentally spread out,


Randy Hulsey  05:59

pretty wide continental Lee challenged really


Doug Johnson  06:03

spread out. So when we get together, we all kind of fly into a hub. Yep. And then, you know, take a commuter flight to wherever the little areas that we have to play or, or, or that sort of thing. So that's kind of where we're spread out. At this point.


Randy Hulsey  06:17

Oh, gotcha. Let's jump into the Time Machine for just a minute and Loverboy form back in 79. Do I have my date? Correct there. 79. Does that sound pretty close?


Doug Johnson  06:33

We kind of it. That's when Paul and I and Mike and Matt sort of became loosely affiliated, we were starting to think up a name for the band, we were writing a lot of material, we had a a warehouse that we would convene in that night. And we all had sort of like day jobs and things like that. So at night, we would be getting together and trying a few ideas out. And our very, very first gig as a band was with a bass player named Jim clench, who was in a band called April wine. And he came out to play with us, which ended up not working out for various reasons. But he was on the stage when we played our first show ever publicly, we opened up for kiss, okay, in 1979, it was like November the 23rd. Okay, and it was just nuts. Our manager who had a lot of connections with promoters throughout North America, was asked if we if he had a band that could open up for kiss. And so he recommended us and they just went, you know, sight unseen, let's do it and got up there and played our seven completely original songs by a completely unknown band. And we're visited upon by a great deluge of toilet rolls and sponges, things like that, that that nature, because the kiss fans were kind of not very happy that there was this band that he never heard of shorten playing songs he'd never heard for taking up half an hour of their life, before their heroes took the stage. So but we endured it, like I said, we're fighters, we stayed up there and took her punches. And that ended up getting us a lot of other gigs. And so we became kind of a local phenomenon played a lot of nightclubs, and theaters and that sort of thing. And that's how we kind of started to build momentum from, from that momentous occasion of opening up for kiss.


Randy Hulsey  08:34

Sure. Well, I was gonna say nothing like getting thrown to the wolves and opening for kiss of all bands, right? You know, probably one of the greatest allegiance of fans ever known to rock and roll, right, you know, they're hardcore. And so, so again, nothing like cutting your teeth with the best of them, right?


Doug Johnson  08:54

It's like a trial by fire. Hey,


Randy Hulsey  08:56

if these guys can handle this absolutely anywhere. Absolutely.


Doug Johnson  09:00

I don't know if that was intentional, but we survived and our manager was happy with the result. And that ended up once we got a record deal. We got on tour with all kinds of bands, because we, they knew we could play live and Sure. So that that's, that's how we settled that score.


Randy Hulsey  09:22

Like I guess there was an old adage sink or swim and there's there was nothing more true than then going out on the road with kiss for the first tour. Right? You were either gonna sink or swim. Right? So that was just a one off. Oh, that was a one off. Okay. Yeah, that wasn't a series of shows. Okay, I fall. Yeah,


Doug Johnson  09:39

there's a one off and then from there we we regrouped, got back into our little writing cave and started writing just prolifically for months on end and rehearsing the songs and jump, and then try out some bass players and some drummers and ended up with Matthew and of course, Scott Smith. And then we played in the nightclubs. And then we got a record deal, ultimately, and went into the studio with Bruce forever. Yep. That's kind of the chronology, fast and dirty chronology of that.


Randy Hulsey  10:16

Yep. Well in I think if I, if my memory serves me correctly, or my reading serves me correctly, that that show opening for kiss was kind of a last-minute thing for you guys. Right, that that wasn't something that that you had planned, like that came to you kind of at the last minute, did it not?


Doug Johnson  10:34

That's that seems to be my recollection of it, too. I think that the band that they had may have been unable to get up through some immigration kerfuffle, or whatever it is. I can remember hearing about it the day before. It wasn't like we had a week. Chris, can you guys do this tomorrow night? And our manager said, Come on. Let's get you out there. You're all you've all played live before? Surely this can't be that hard. So we're like, okay,


Randy Hulsey  11:03

okay. All right. Off, we went, Well, it's good thing you didn't say no, you know, and hindsight is always 2020. And you guys have had a heck of a run for over 40 years now. So sometime around, I guess it will, it was around 1980, you guys signed on with Columbia Records. And the debut album wound up going platinum. I had some guests on my show, Randy Jackson have a band called Zebra who actually opened for you guys in the summit. Somewhere around 1983. They had huge success with the debut album, much like you guys did. I was gonna ask you, how nerve wracking or difficult is it to have that much success on a debut record? And then have to start thinking about a sophomore effort?


Doug Johnson  11:54

Yeah, you know, there's a real psychology to that whole performance, sort of, you know, can we do this again? Can Do we have it in us to maintain this? That's always an artists dilemma. But at the end of the day, all you can do is write your best songs. And sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn't, there's absolutely no way to predict how the next effort is going to be received. Sure, oh, we had a bunch of songs that we had put together, while we were doing the first record, some of those made it onto our second record. And then we wrote another batch just to kind of to finish it off. Those other songs were written just as we wrote the other song songs with IE, you have an idea, you flesh it out, you then start kind of doing some pre production on it. And then at that time, we were working with Bruce Fairburn. So we would submit material, you know, just to get his input on it. And so that's how we kind of progressed through the creative process. But as far as you know, in terms of your question, about the pressure, that's really something that you put on yourself. Sure. I know, it feels like it's coming from the outside world, but it really it's, it's, it comes down to, yeah, it would be great to be able to do that again. But I have no way to predict it, that's going to hash all I can do is my best. Sure. And I'm going to write songs that I that start from a place of, you know, I would like to play this song live, I know it's going to it's going to share well with other people, they're going to hear it and I hope I can uplift them, or I can move them in some way. And that's the whole nature of songwriting is to move people with absolutely messages sometimes. So that's all you do, you put that out there. And sometimes you work sometimes people may or may not know about this


Randy Hulsey  13:56

short. So you almost have to, you almost have to let it just work organically, you know, if it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't but to sit and say, you know, of these 12 songs, three of them have to be hit songs. I mean, there's no way of ever knowing that, right? You just have to write the best material that you're writing at the time and hope that it resonates with the recipient of it.


Doug Johnson  14:21

That is pretty much that in a nutshell. Now, obviously, when you have a record company who is essentially like a bank, they basically loan they lend you money at a fairly high interest rate to finance your recording, and they need to recoup their money from that. So when they hear your music that you are considering to put on your second or third record, they're listening for songs that their people think is going to be commercially viable. So sure, that's just The nature of how that works. And so if you don't have anything on there, they're going to probably recommend that you go back to the drawing board and see if you can come up with something that might be in that sort of category of commercial success. So, I mean, that's just how they work. We, we didn't really ever had that we may have had a few suggestions, we may have had some songs that may have gone on too long. And they said, you know, this would be a great single, yo guys just need to kind of maybe cut that out or cut that out. So sure, we would negotiate back and forth with them and say, Yeah, you know what, you got a point, and then ultimately come up with something that we're both happy with,


Randy Hulsey  15:40

you know, well, it's it's apparent that there was huge success with get lucky the sophomore, release, the songs were on the record, were great. But how much do you How much do you think MTV played into the hands of the band's success? Because you guys were you guys were huge on MTV back in the day, like, what's your take on MTV? I've heard Mike say, you know, the cheesy videos, you know, make kind of tongue in cheek comments like that. But I have to think that I mean, this had to have boost. You guys big time. Right? Can you speak a little bit about MTV and what it did for the career back then?


Doug Johnson  16:23

Sure. Yeah, no, MTV was just a fledgling little idea. When we came on the scene, and we were part of it's kind of acceptance into the mainstream, they asked us to do lots of things for them promoting their brand. And so conversely, it helped us because they were very open to all the videos that we submitted to them to for consideration. And without exception, they played most of our videos and, and, you know, they would go by people's reaction to them, and then they would, you know, play them accordingly. So, but MTV, we had our first videos that we that we did were in a little theater in, I think it was Syracuse or Buffalo. And it was like a, an opera house. And, you know, essentially like a from the Andrew Carnegie days of theater construction. That was just one of those kinds of theaters. Yep. And we had a guy who, Arthur, I cannot remember his last name. He is sweet, sweet, elderly gentleman, who was a theatrical director. And so these this was new territory, they didn't. So we brought in these cameras, and they had this theatrical director. And all they did was we just played the song back live, and they had us pretending we were playing. Sure. And that's really all they had. And then when he took it back to the drawing board, they went, Okay, let's add in some other, you know, eye candy, because God knows we need it with this man. Oh, yes, we had our day in the


Randy Hulsey  18:00

sun. And you're here. Absolutely. And


Doug Johnson  18:03

so they target the edited, they had added in some, you know, little effects and that sort of thing. And lo and behold, they had a finished video and off, it went to the playback room. And yes, you're right, you're absolutely right. MTV was a huge part of promotion for us. Prior to that, we spent two years basically on a bus opening up for the likes of cheap trick in Kansas, and then ZZ Top and the journey. And then kind of the, in the transition between our opening gig with Kansas and into jewelry. That's when MTV really started to kind of pick up in its popularity, and we're just loving and couldn't get enough of music video. Sure. That was kind of the turnaround point for us. But before that the way you promoted yourself was you had to just get out there and just


Randy Hulsey  18:55

absolutely, you know, it just really shows Yeah, our


Doug Johnson  18:57

day consisted of in the morning, we'd go to the radio shows, and work those. And then the afternoon, we would go to record stores and people would line up, we would sit signer records. And that whole promotion basically just gave rise to our exposure as a brand as a band and people remembered us Yes. And so that's kind of how we worked it and then with with MTV, now, you've got your you've got a video that that's out there, and that's another huge way that people get to be aware of you music.


Randy Hulsey  19:35

Yeah, I was kind of thinking back as you were, as you were talking about the days of MTV, and you know, I made the comment that I had heard an interview with Mike where he said the cheesy videos, but it seems like most all of the Loverboy videos that I remember were were pretty, I guess I don't know mellows the right word, but I had an interview with fi Waibel from the tubes just Recently, and, you know, his was very, you know, the tube stuff was very, you know, cinematic and dramatic and you know, over the top and production wise and, and Loverboy is, like you said was kind of you guys play in a live version of the song with some, some different, you know, inserts here and there. So in the grand scheme of things, there was not much by way of theatrics for you guys, it was just kind of what you see is what you get kind of thing with Loverboy? Correct.


Doug Johnson  20:31

That's a really good description of it. Fiza, a good friend of ours, we have the same manager. And we've done some shows with them in the past. And I can remember when I was younger, that the tubes were kind of this alt band from San Francisco, they did all of these wild crazy things in their show. And then when the backwards completion principle or whatever, I can't wait to get the order that right, let's curl came out that was produced by David Foster, then they really came on strong, sure, with a wider audience, but they remade the theatrical web. But to your point about our videos, being cheesy or not, I mean, yeah, maybe some people might think that that's kind of what they were. But they were honest, they were just basically us playing. Probably the only kind of one that I cringed out a little bit is we had, I guess it was on get lucky. Or no, sorry, the Keep it up. We had a song called gangs in the streets. And a record company said to us, you know, we don't really have a lot. I guess they figured this out somehow that we didn't have a lot of male fans, like mostly female fans, or God knows what reason. And so the strategy was to release gangs on the streets was a tougher sounding song. Yep. And so the the video for that is us. We did it in Nashville, and we were in a back alley, and we're trying to look tough, rightly, we'd look menacingly into the camera like, hey, you know? And I can remember after the camera went by, I just broke out into laughter because that's, that's not who I am. Right? Sure. I thought, well, you know, one for the team. And let's get this song out there. And absolutely. You know, so we'll trust the wisdom of the record company. And, but that was kind of theatrical for us. Okay. playing a role. I think that might have been a theatrical moment in our in our history during that video.


Randy Hulsey  22:30

Yep. And over the years, you guys had a guess? At least nine US Top 40 hits and congrats on that success. But I wanted to ask you who, who serves as the primary lyricist for the band? Is that a contribution coming from all all five of you guys? Or is it? Is it one person that writes most of the lyrics for the band? Can you talk a little bit about that?


Doug Johnson  22:58

Yeah, so the creative songwriting process in our band usually starts with Paul. And Mike, I would say that, if you could sort of distill that whole process down into a couple of steps, it would be that Paul would have an idea, like a riff and a melody, maybe a song title. Yep. And he would go to Mike and say, Hey, I've got this idea, what what do you think, and then the two of them would sit down. And sometimes we would all be in the same room. And we would record our parts, I would say, hey, you know, what, I got a little counter melody that I can play in there. But the lyrics, I would say, a lot of that came from Mike because Mike has to own that stuff, you know, absolutely.


Randy Hulsey  23:43

From a delivery perspective.


Doug Johnson  23:47

So, so, but I think Paul also was, was, he could tap into what Mike's stream was, and so he knew how to write for Mike. In terms of a vocal delivery, he knew his range very well. He knew the kind of the, the, the area in which the content of the song was comfortable for Mike decision. Okay. And so they work together as a really good songwriting duo, I kind of brought in my, my parts, my textures and, and counter melodies and things just to kind of bring some music into, like musical glue, I guess. I'm kind of the into the, into the pastiche Yep. of our of our songwriting. But I would say, a very long answer to a short question. I'm sorry about that. No, you're good. The the short answer would be that it would be Paul and Mike would be the primary lyricists for their healing. Yeah,


Randy Hulsey  24:50

the kind of the reason I even asked that question is it and that sounds pretty typical of most bands, the the guitar player and the leads Singer do the majority of that, but be in kind of a composer kind of guy like yourself, you know, I thought I was wondering how much you offered up by way of the music. And and I think you answered it, but I was thinking maybe it might be a little bit more than normal based on a lot of the people that I talked to just because of your background.


Doug Johnson  25:24

Yeah. So I would try to kind of inject a little bit of harmonic sort of interest in the song, I don't know, if you get you want to get technical about it, I would look at a chord that was a basic, you know, 151, and I go, You know what, let's make this, let's put a flat five in there that kind of resolves on a fifth or, you know, let's put this counter melody line in there, stay out of the way the vocal. So Paul, and I, basically, we made sure that we kind of stayed out of each other's way. Or if we were in the same territory, that we would be like a mutually reinforcing kind of a chemistry between the two instruments. So I would always try to compliment but not draw too much attention to okay, you know, something that's way off in left center, just for the sake of being, you know, hey, look at me over here, I've got this really cool idea, but then it has no bearing on the song. Absolutely. That's kind of where I try to fit in as a team member of the of the creative process. Okay.


Randy Hulsey  26:32

I think it's important to point out that you guys released somewhere around eight or nine, studio records and had cells and excess of 20 million copies now that that number may be off, I don't have the exact figures. And it really doesn't even matter. But it's kind of the segue into asking you as a kid growing up and inspiring to be a musician. Is there ever a time in the beginning, when a kid like yourself says, I'm going to sell millions of records one day? Or does that just happen? In the reason I asked that? I think Steven Tyler had made the comment to his mother at a young age, if I remember correctly, in his memoir, he said, Mom, you're gonna have to put bars on these windows one day, because I'm going to be the biggest rock and roll musician on the planet. He made that comment. So I guess he had this. Maybe it was an arrogance. Maybe it was a vision. I mean, you can call it whatever you want to call it at the end of the day. But was there ever that for you? Like, did you say one of these days I'm gonna be at the top of the food chain? Or did it just happen kind of organically over time with you?


Doug Johnson  27:50

That's a really great question. Because there has to be some, you know, motive, there has to be some kind of driving force absolutely in your life, that that compels you to want to get to a point where you know, that we that we've achieved that's not that's not the calling for everybody, everybody has your own bright thing. But I would say it was a combination of several moments. When I was five, the Ed Sullivan show broadcast the first ever Beatles show. And I can remember being changed by that even at five years old. That would have been like 1962 or 1963. Yep. And it was a combination of how cool they looked. And the song, I knew, I recognized early that this was a quality song, this these were these guys are writing some amazing, original music. And I just thought, Okay, that is something to consider even at five. And so I was just starting to take piano lessons. And I very much was steeped in the traditional classical music genre and the whole catalog of Bach and Beethoven and Chopin, and, and all of those classical composers. So I got my degree in classical music, on piano, and then I didn't really think too much until a friend of mine introduced me to Emerson Lake and Palmer, which was a huge prog rock phenomenon back in the late 70s. Absolutely. And so I bought all the records. And my father bought me this combination turntable cassette, FM radio player, so what I would do is I put the records on I'd slowed down to 17 because it was sort of 33 they record them at that and I transcribed all Keith Emerson solos, okay, excuse me. And so I go off and I play them for my friends and they were all like, oh my god, man, that's amazing that you can do that because I had the tech technique from being able to play classical music to do some of the key verses, you know, is transcription. So that was kind of a fun thing to have. And then I actually went into sciences after high school. And I was thinking about taking down going down to becoming a doctor. And I did two years the sciences. And then I played music the whole time, I played casual, little restaurants and things like that, just to make a few done arrows and, and then I moved to Calgary from Vancouver when I was 20, to make some more money to pay for for my school. And that's where I kind of started to play at night, I got a I saw an ad in a local newspaper asking for a keyboard player and I responded to it and I got to get I got the gig and started playing and Paul Dean saw me in one of the bands and he said, Hey, man, we're I'm putting this new original thing together. And I'd like you to come in and help do some songwriting and, and keyboard parts. And so that's that's how that happened. But the process of going from a five year old, you know, mesmerized child watching The Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles on it. That was a turning point. And as I'm sure it was a turning point for a lot of musicians of my era. Yes. And then kind of that remaining dormant until I had all my classical training. And then I discovered prog rock, for me, which was up and yes, Genesis and mature, heavy keyboard bands, those two things sort of propelled me into what I became with Loverboy. I would say it was like, the pop sensibility with, you know, the keyboard prominence. Yes, it will. Yeah, that's,


Randy Hulsey  31:46

that's kind of interesting, because you and I sound like we're somewhat poured out of the same mold. As a young kid, I was classically trained on the piano as well. And I think I got to a point where it must have been an age thing where it was no longer cool to play the Bach and Beethoven and Chopin and that type of stuff. You're getting into the teenage years when the girls are not listening to Bach and Beethoven and Chopin, right. So I changed teachers myself and went and learn the entire Paradise Theater album from sticks on the piano, who will talk a little bit about you guys going out on tour with but you know, much like yourself, you know, the piano lessons, the classical stuff, and then you kind of morphed that into, you know, rock and roll, you're a rock and roll guy, right? Not not that you don't love that, that stuff. But, you know, it was kind of the same progression for both of us how we went from the classical to the, to the rock, and then I think probably the older we get the, the more subtle, or the more docile our, our taste of music is, and we we might gravitate back towards that classical and not as much of the, you know, fist in the air horns in the air, kind of rock and roll and money. And I still love all that stuff. But the taste is eclectic is my point. It's all over the map. Much like it sounds like yours is.


Doug Johnson  33:17

Yeah, that's a good description of what I listened to I have my on my Sirius FM programs saved I've got everything from like lithium, to symphony to CNN, to, you know, real jazz, I just flipped back and forth. And if I find something that I like that short, I go for it. But yeah, that's kind of the the nice thing about getting older, is that you really do have this incredible span of music that you appreciate. And that's a good thing. If you've lived it. You've I know you and I both having gone through the classical training know, that that lays such an important foundation sure for your subsequent development as a musician, and I can't, you know, I can't sort of reinforce that enough to a lot of young people that asked me, you know, what, what do I do? How do I start? I said, Well, you know, here's what I did. And it really, really worked for me. There are so many other paths. I mean, Paul McCartney can't read music, and he did. Okay. There are lots of incredible musicians who have never been classically trained or have never taken any lessons. They just are incredibly play by ear. ality. Yeah. And so for people that want some sort of a structured trajectory to get into the sort of music thing, I think you could not do any harm by starting out, at least with some basic classical training.


Randy Hulsey  34:52

I agree. And you said it best. Some of the greatest musicians have never taken a day of lessons on anything in their life. It's just Something that they've learned over time and hone that skill. I wanted to say that it's, it's one thing to write songs for over 40 years, but it's another to do it with the same bunch of guys, for the most part, as Loverboy has done it over the years, how have you guys maintained the cohesiveness of the same guys over the years? I mean, it's rare, you know, you had rush, of course, you have the one offs, but generally, bands don't last for 40 years, what's what's been the nucleus or What's kept you guys go on all of these years?


Doug Johnson  35:42

I think it's the complete lack of employability in any other regard in our life. I just, I think there is a magic that we all have the remaining four of us enjoy by getting up on stage and playing for people in the mean, talk about positive reinforcement. I mean, you can't really talk that you walk out there, and people know your songs, and you deliver them barely faithfully as to how they remember them. And it's just, it's, it's a great experience. So that's great incentive to keep doing what you're doing. Absolutely. We take time off to pace ourselves. We're all getting older. Two years has been a bit much, but certainly looking forward to doing it. I mean, we're like brothers, we really are, we have our separate lives. And it's not like, you know, back in, in the early 80s, when we were first starting off, we were together 24/7 for months and months and absolutely fine. And, you know, we endured that where we, we have creative differences, we have, you know, all kinds of nuances that that differentiate us as people, but we know that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And so we are happy to to remain together like this. Absolutely. So yeah, when we go out, we tour with some bands that yeah, you're right. There's like one guy, and in the cousin of the drum tech is the only guy that has a connection to the original group. And I said, Well, you know, is not to judge, it's ultimately up to the fans to decide, is this a viable, you know, setup that I want to spend money on. And every, you know, some people pay for just the experience of the songs. We did a tour with journey. And we kind of got to experience in the early days with Steve Perry, we did a whole tour with escape came out, we had get lucky. We were like, just rocking it out there. And fast forward to 2012. And we got invited to go on tour with them again. Of course, they change their singer arnelle, who's just the sweetest most humblest guy you would ever want to meet. By the way, he's just a fantastic guy. And but just this uncanny ability to sound like Steve Perry. Yes. And so the rest of the guys, I don't know if Steve wanted to go out at that point. And so they saw this guy on YouTube, and they went, Okay, let's do this. And so I don't say that. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I mean, people love the music. Absolutely. You know, a critical mass of members in the band that can make it viable, and all the power to them.


Randy Hulsey  38:36

Yeah. Well, you mentioned two albums there. And the thought of those two bands, touring together with those two albums escape and get lucky. is, I mean, it's off the charts and popularity. I mean, I was just I was I was still in high school then. But I can just remember, you know, how popular that stuff was. I mean, it was the stories of our lives back then. You know, amazing time and music for sure. Now you were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame sometime around 2009. With such greats, as you know, the Gordon Lightfoot, the Ann Marie's brush, Bryan Adams, I mean, the list goes on and on and on. What does that honor mean to you as a musician? And do you feel like for you, is that kind of the pinnacle? I know, there's been a lot of Juno Awards, which is Canada's top honor for for music. But But would you say that the the Canadian Music Hall of Fame is kind of the pinnacle or do not give much thought to that kind of thing? What are your thoughts there, Doug?


Doug Johnson  39:50

Well, thanks for that question. It was an honor. Absolutely. We were thrilled to get the nod as As my two favorite FC s or no SNL, Wayne's World, we're not worried.


Randy Hulsey  40:06

We're not worried, yes,


Doug Johnson  40:08

that's going to how we felt and, but to be among that company, was really, really just an honor. And you know, I didn't never let any of that go to my head, I try to keep it, you know, as real as possible. We, if there was an acknowledgment made, and I guess we have impacted the Canadian music scene in a, in a positive way, which some would argue. And I think that those kinds of accolades, they're, they're kind of like a, I suppose a grade that you that you get from society as a whole that, yes, we appreciate you, we appreciate what you've done. For our culture, at least a committee of people have decided that it's very flattering, and we were honored. So to put us in with Rush and Gordon Lightfoot, and, you know, Oscar Peterson and all the other people that have been inducted, it really is something that we treasure is humbling,


Randy Hulsey  41:15

I could imagine so and I don't want to Loverboy you to death. Aside from touring with Loverboy, you're also a composer and you've lent your talents to television, radio, in the movies, talk to the listeners about the side of Doug Johnson that they they may not know about, they see you as Loverboy. They see you as the keyboard player for Loverboy. Talk to us about the other side of the business and what you have going on these days as it relates to those things.


Doug Johnson  41:44

Well, thanks for that question, too. So when I'm not touring, or even sometimes when I am touring, I'm writing music for various TV shows up here in Canada, most of the ones that I do are produced in Canada. Lately, I've been doing documentaries, I've done a movie called River blue, which basically is a study of the deleterious effects of the garment industry in the third world. So you've got companies that go off to places like Bangladesh, or China or Pakistan, and they create the jeans that we buy, say, I don't know, who knows, Costco or whatever. But sadly, what's happening back home where they manufacture these products, is that the environment suffers greatly, because there's no restrictions on what goes into the environment. So you've got communities that are suffering, you know, respiratory ailments, or cancer or things like that, because these huge corporations are not responsibly disposing of a lot of the chemicals that go into. So that's what that film was about. I was asked I was I was asked to be a part of that, based on some classical music that I've written for another project. And I also toot my own horn here I have a classical record called notes to self that is very much written in the style of the classic Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, Debussy. And so the producers of the show heard that and they also heard some music that I had done on some other projects, and they said, we'd like to hire you to do the soundtrack for this. So over the years, I did, I did a film way back when with Brigitte Nielsen, and I called Chain heat to I did a bunch of TV series along the way, the latest one that I'm working on is called Northern Air Rescue. It's a reality TV show. That's about the basically the plotline is there are three women who own and operate an airline in northern Canada and they fly rescue missions to all these remote outposts. They do, you know, medical rescues, they do supply runs, they do people that need to go up there for business and so on. So anyways, it's good grist for the drama mill. And that one's in production. I've been working on music for that. I have a studio here at my home with all kinds of virtual instruments that I use to create the sounds of orchestra and guitars and all kinds of percussion instruments. And basically, it's like writing soundtrack for sure. You know, little episodes of, of TV. Absolutely. I love doing it. To Wiles away the hours when I'm not on the road is the band.


Randy Hulsey  44:41

I can imagine that does it. I'm really interested in that river blue project. I'd like to see that documentary. I think that's narrated, if I'm not mistaken by Jason Priestley, of 9021090210 fame. That's right. Am I right there?


Doug Johnson  44:59

Yeah, you He came in after I lay down all the music and he added his voice cuz he's he's kind of a environmental activist kind of a guy too. So. And then I did another movie called the last panel. And that one has been making the wall I guess the virtual film festival circuit internationally. But yeah, river Blue was a project dear to my heart certainly made me think about what I'm buying in when in fact it has an absolute what are the alternatives. As a result of that movie, a lot of companies like the gap, leave AI few others have reexamined their production modalities to improve the situation in some of these communities so that people are being exposed to these nasty chemicals.


Randy Hulsey  46:00

It was amazing to see the trailer and just see the filth that is belched into these rivers and whatnot. It's unbelievable. And I didn't realize that, what what were they say in like, 900, and some odd gallons of water it takes to make one single pair of blue jeans.


Doug Johnson  46:20

It's shocking it is I


Randy Hulsey  46:23

had no idea until I just kind of tried to do a little homework before the show. And it's like, wow, I had no idea. Like it's eye opening


Doug Johnson  46:33

for that a lot of people. You know, there's a lot of people that just, they don't have time, they are busy raising kids, they're busy, you know, trying to put food on the table. And so I think the job of a documentarian is to just provide a little bit of insight for people to look at if they have time, to maybe inform their decision making about what they're buying, because it does have an effect and learning Yes, as we evolve as a, as a as a race as a species, that it's imperative that we look out for our environment, because one of them what a mess where I'm for grandkids, yes. And I can't imagine, you know, what their life is going to be like, in 3040 years, when if sea levels continue to rise, and if you know, the level of co2 Is it remains unchecked it, it's a very scary, uncertain future not to, you know, raise any alarms about things because it has a crystal ball. But given the models that we're seeing in science, the prospects are looking a little bit scary. So whatever we can do now, to, you know, mitigate the damage, let's do it.


Randy Hulsey  47:48

I agree. And we all have that due diligence to be you know, aware. Right, and, and I think even though I haven't seen that documentary yet, I mean, just just the trailer was eye opening, just I had no idea you know, what it took, what went into the making of blue jeans, the, the, the junk that's dumped into the rivers that these kids are swimming in, you know, is


Doug Johnson  48:13

try it makes you die. If you can see the conditions of those rivers safe 3040 years ago, pristine Lily ponds, yes, the rivers flowing, etc, all the way to the bottom, and now they're covered in styrofoam and plastic containers. And all that stuff is going out into the ocean? Yes. Because, you know, we have, it's better here in North America, we are a little more conscientious about what goes out upon I mean, we have these massive landfills that we're gonna have to deal with someday, but at least that's kind of hermetically sealed for 1000 years. And you know, but we do have some control, we're reshaping, but a lot of the third world where these practices are being done, they don't have the luxury of recycling, they don't know, when they're done. They just throw it wherever. And they just go to the river and they and it goes in the river. They don't think about it, and you're running around out there, because they're looking to put a meal on their table. Yes, it's not a priority in their life. So, you know, we you can't really sit here as a first world nation and preach to people that are creating products for us. And, and in the process of doing that or maybe harming the environment. I guess that would be hypocritical to do that. So we are sure together as a world community to really tackle some of these problems. I agree. 100% off my soapbox.


Randy Hulsey  49:40

Well, I teed it up for you. It's my fault. I teed it up for you. I know I know you guys are embarking soon on a tour with sticks in REO Speedwagon starting a little later this year. Talk to the listeners a little bit about the preparation for getting out on the road. What goes into getting ready for tour through your eyes, what goes into that.


Doug Johnson  50:03

So this will be unique going out on this tour, because we haven't played for quite some time, we will be doing I think 10 or 15 shows before we actually hook up with them this year. So we'll have a few under our belt, we'll be ready to get back. I know that for the first show, we were planning to do a rehearsal the day before, and I think that one still stands. So it's like it's memory, muscle memory. Absolutely. So you get back out there and you and you do your thing. I think you have to consider that there's three bands on this bill. And we all have these pretty big libraries of music that we that we are trademark, yes. Now, being the opening act, we also have to realize that we're probably only going to be up there for 30 to 40 minutes. So it's going to be all killer, no filler, you know what I'm saying? Like, yes, put any kind of long rambling kind of, you know, esoteric, type stuff in there. You just want to play the absolute no creme de la creme of your memory and pace it properly. So there's some strategy in that. And then make sure you get off the stage in time for the other bands to get ready. And so the logistics of that will all iron themselves out, I'm sure as we as we do, but, you know, it's kind of cool. When you get to be this age. I can remember when I was a kid, I was like 2223 years old, and we were opening up for, you know, ZZ Top injury. It was tougher. It was a tougher world back then people were not as forgiving. And, you know, if you stepped on somebody's cable was like somebody came running out. And you know, like, what are you doing, man? You're moving our stuff right now. It's


Randy Hulsey  51:46

like, whatever, right? Yeah, just just fix it. It's all good. I think that's I think that's called maturity. Doug, what do you think?


Doug Johnson  51:56

Right. Yeah, like, nobody's ready to, you know, to bust bust your heart. Yeah. minor infractions. So that's that's nice to have arrived at this place in our in our career where everybody gets along


Randy Hulsey  52:10

well, and it's it's funny you know, I talk about maturity a little bit and I say that a little tongue in cheek but as a young kid, I say a young kid growing up you know, I'm listening to the lover boys, the Paul McCartney and Wings, the the stripers the boss, you know, all of these bands, right? And there was such a, a gap between the listener and the musician back then no cameras no video Don't do this. Don't do that. And now fast forward 3040 years. And I I've sat down and talked to guys like yourself fee Waibel, you know, Michael Sweet from striper. And you guys are just as down to earth as you know, like you if you thought about it back then you were you guys weren't approachable, it was just a different time. Right. And I think that a lot of that is maturity, and people grow up and they realize that, you know, things don't have to be so, so rigid, we can talk to the fans, we can talk to the people that want to hear our stories. At the end of the day, the people that listen are the guys that, that buy your music and that support your merch and that do all of these things. And it's cool that you take the time to sit down and talk to the listeners about what you have going on and whatnot. It's just it's it's changed, right? It's my point.


Doug Johnson  53:35

I think there's uh, you know, we all have this thread of humanity through us, right? We're all just people. And to your point about kind of the mystique it factor back in, you know, that. There there is that and, and to some degree, you can cultivate that. But if it's to the expense of dissing your fans of being unapproachable, I think you're doing yourself and your fans a disservice. I mean, I am who I am sure, and I'm a result of my life and my circumstances and everything else, just as everybody else on the planet. Yes, absolutely. I think we need to be able to connect with each other on on the levels that are common to all of us, right? And so I'm not better than anybody else. I we all have our strengths and weaknesses. And I happen to be born in this Caucasian body and I got curly hair, and I'm 64 years old, and I've had a great run at life and had many wonderful experiences. I'm lucky. Absolutely. I empathize. I you know, I feel for people that if they want to reach out and talk to me about things that I welcome that I've always tried to be open about, you know, my life and think there's certain parts of my life that are not, you know, Broadcast Well, I like to keep shorter and part of my absolutely discreet. But when it comes to any other things I'm you know, I'm I'm willing, I'm not, you know, I don't think I have this halo around my head that separates me from anybody else in the human race. And I'm just one of you guys want to watch everybody else so and then we're all connected man.


Randy Hulsey  55:22

Absolutely, absolutely. Doug, where can the listeners find you and your, your stuff online? If they wanted to look up, you know what you have going on musically? And maybe not even musically, but where can they find you?


Doug Johnson  55:39

Well, I have a website, it's Doug Johnson And there, you'll find a few comments that I put out over the years for various projects I've been working on, you can go I think it's, it's on Apple Music, my classical record, which is called notes to self, okay, if anybody's interested. It's also on Spotify. The river blue soundtrack is also on Spotify. The as are the movies. Now, a lot of the TV shows that I do are streamable now, and I've done a lot of work for a network called a PTM up here in Canada, so you might be able to stream it down in the United States. Okay. And a lot of the programming that I've been doing soundtrack for has to do with our freewill. We call First Nations, I believe you call them Native Americans. So we have a whole population of people that were here before we got here. And that's a whole other rabbit hole to go down. But suffice it to say that I've been working with a production couple of production companies that that their content is streamed on the AP tn network.


Randy Hulsey  56:57

Okay. Good to know. Yeah. Well, well, Doug, listen, thanks so much for joining me this afternoon and sharing your story with all the listeners, it's certainly been a treat, I want to thank Tom for getting this set up. He was very instrumental and get me in front of fee, as well. So I want to thank him for that. I wish you continued success with the solo efforts and all of the television and movie stuff that you have going on and everything. As it relates to Loverboy. I asked the listeners to follow Doug on social media. And also get out to Doug Johnson as well as Loverboy I also ask that you like, share and subscribe to the podcast. As always, you can find the show on Facebook at backstage pass radio podcast, on Instagram at backstage pass radio, Twitter at backstage pass PC, and on the website at backstage pass. You guys make sure to take care of yourselves and each other. And please continue to support your local musician and I'll see you guys right back here on the next episode of backstage pass radio.


Adam Gordon  58:12

Thanks so much for joining us. We hope you enjoy today's episode of backstage pass radio. Make sure to follow Randy on Facebook and Instagram at Randy Hulsey music and on Twitter at our Halsey music. Also make sure to like, subscribe and turn on alerts for upcoming podcasts. If you enjoyed the podcast, make sure to share the link with a friend and tell them backstage pass radio is the best show on the web for everything music. We'll see you next time right here on backstage pass radio