Ultimate Classic Rock caught up with LYNYRD SKYNYRD vocalist Johnny Van Zant in South Dakota recently where the band was set to take to the stage to entertain the motorcycle loving masses at the annual Sturgis Rally. Johnny spoke about the band’s latest release ‘Last Of A Dyin’ Breed’, which was released as a Classic Rock fanpack on Monday. The album was also released digitally via iTunes on Monday, with the Roadrunner physical release coming out on the 17th of Sept. Check out some extracts from the interview below:
After a successful run with the last album, it seems like you guys had a simple goal to make a record that sounded like 100% Lynyrd Skynyrd — nothing more, nothing less this time out. Where did you guys start with this one?
Oh man, well, we started right after (2009′s) ‘God & Guns,’ we started writing and we had a ton of songs. When we finally decided to do it, we actually started in February of this year and ended up doing it in March really, pretty much. We used Bob Marlette, who has worked with Shinedown and a bunch of different bands, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, etc.
We just went in and hit and pulled it up and said okay, great! Because the last album ‘God & Guns’ that we did, we had lost Billy [Powell] and [bassist] Ean [Evans] during the making of that record. This album man, we said okay, let’s go have some fun and let’s knock this thing out like the old days and have a good time doing it. And we really did, man. Hey, the proof’s in the pudding, I guess that’s the way you would say and hey, if the fans love it…..you know, we love it. But sometimes, if the fans love it, that’s where it’s all happening at. That’s your end goal anyway, is to make the fans happy.
What songs are you excited to play live from this record?
‘Last of a Dyin’ Breed.’ It’s really cool. [Live,] we’ve been letting [guitarist Gary] Rossington go out, since he starts it off with the slide thing. He was in the studio just warming up, playing some slide on that particular song and I was in the break room and I came running in and I said “dude, we need to put that at the beginning of it,” you know, because that’s a Gary Rossington thing. So he just did a few tracks like that and the last one, we said “okay, that’s it,” that’s the song, you know? [Laughs]
We’re playing ‘One Day At A Time’ and a song called ‘Good Teacher’ that’s a lot of fun to play live. So we’ve started out with those three and we’re getting ready to work up ‘Mississippi Blood’ and ‘Homegrown’’ and I don’t know if we’ll do one of the ballads yet. But there’s a song on there called ‘Start Livin’ Life Again’ that I’d love to just break down and set up some chairs and just sing it to the audience. It’s still a work in progress [as far as additional songs that might be featured from the new album], but we’re working at it.
You mentioned ‘Homegrown,’ which is one of two songs back to back on the new album which really hit me for different reasons. What struck me about ‘Homegrown’ is that it is very much a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, but there are elements that also sound very current, like a Seether or Theory of a Deadman song that you might hear on the radio. Were there particular things influencing where you went with that one?
You know man, it’s ironic that you said Seether, because we actually wrote with Shaun (Seether lead singer / guitarist Shaun Morgan) and we’ve got a song called ‘Sad Song’ [which was recorded during the sessions for the new album]. The thing about Lynyrd Skynyrd is that we go over to Europe and we play these heavy metal festivals – we just did Hellfest in France and to be honest with you, I didn’t even know the band before us, but the guy was like [Van Zant imitates “Cookie Monster” heavy metal vocals of the singer] [Laughs] And I’m looking at the audience going “how the hell are we going to fit into this?”
[But then] we went out and had a killer gig. And you know, one of our best friends is John 5 and that’s how we met Bob Marlette and another good friend, Rob Zombie. Everybody in Lynyrd Skynyrd loves different styles of music and our minds are very open when it comes to writing our songs and making the band true to what the band is, but also stepping out and doing something current.
When we got down to that song, the little effect on the voice, it was kind of like “hey, that’s cool – that sounds current, let’s do it, let’s step out.” So there’s a line [with that effect], “I can’t forget how she tastes on my lips/ she’s as good as it gets” and you know, we’re having fun with it. And again, we’re in touch with a lot of the newer bands. Two of my favorite bands, Blackberry Smoke and Black Stone Cherry, I just think both of those bands are a good new progressive kind of Southern Rock, that’s a little different than us but still has a rootsy thing going on. So we’re pretty much in touch with a lot of different things.
Can you tell us a little bit more about ‘Sad Song,’ the song you wrote with Shaun?
It’s not on the regular album – we’re doing it as a bonus track, because we wanted to really….you know, a lot of times people give sh-tty songs as bonus tracks. And our tracks that we have to do for different corporations like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy or whatever — each one of them wants a bonus track and something that’s not on the actual CD. We think our bonus tracks are pretty kick ass, so we said “hey, let’s give ‘Sad Song’ as one of the bonus tracks.” Shaun’s just a great guy, man. We sat down and wrote with him and he’s a very intelligent guy, if you ever really talk to him. He’s very intellectual and a very cool guy. I really enjoyed writing with him and I hope to do it again.
Get ‘Last Of A Dyin’ Breed‘ here via iTunes: http://smarturl.it/LynyrdSkynyrdLOADB
Get your Classic Rock Lynyrd Skynyrd Fanpack here: http://smarturl.it/LynyrdSkynyrdFanpack