Originally posted September 2009
Yogi Lonich – Anti-Complacency
Interview conducted by Sean O'Neill
When Chris Cornell burst back onto the live scene as a solo artist, two things made fans' jaws drop. One, the man has never sounded better, and two, the stunning musicians he had performing with him. Anyone present at his Astoria gig in 2007 would have known that this was probably one of the best rock bands in existence.
In the down time of Cornell's global tour, three of the band, Yogi Lonich (lead guitar), Jason Sutter (drums) and Corey McCormick (bass) began working together. This fusion of musical genius formed one of the most exciting new rock bands to emerge in recent years, ’Run Through the Desert’.
Yogi Lonich, the former Buck Cherry guitarist and a noted solo artist, in his own right has a CV that reads like the premier division of musical acts, including Kid Rock, Axl Rose, Slash, Sarah Mclachlan, Anastasia, and includes tours with The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Kiss, Korn and Lenny Kravitz.
Live, Lonich is a human fireball on guitar, in the studio a technical genius and in person, a laid back dude. Experience Lonich a little further and you will find a fierce intellect and a deeply spiritual man.
In a rare pause of touring, Yogi Lonich took time out from work on his new solo album, and his much anticipated return with 'Run Through The Desert', to share his thoughts on working with legends and his music with your very own Liberation Frequency.
Earlier in the year you released your debut album 'Break The Silence'. How do you feel about the record?
I'm very excited about it. Sonically, musically and song-wise, we hit the bullseye. It's exactly what I was going for.
I understand that the RTTD material started with a number of song ideas devised by you. Can you outline how these ideas and the writing process developed between the three of you to become the songs on the album?
The writing developed organically. As you said, I came in with half the album written already, but when we got in the rehearsal room, we tweaked arrangements and started writing together as well. Jason and Corey are very musical cats and had much to offer in the process.
Can you outline some of the themes or subjects covered on the album?
Sure. 'Break The Silence' is a literal concept for me. I'm a vipassana meditator and when I return from a 10-day silent retreat, I 'break the silence'. Beyond that, the record is about self-empowerment, taking right action and gratitude. I want it to inspire folks to feel like they're in the driver seat in life. Anti-complacency.
'Break The Silence' is self produced?
Yes, I produced and mixed the record with my partner, Francois Descamps. It was mastered by multi grammy winner, Gavin Lurssen.
Who are the bands influences?
We all have our own influences, but I'd say Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, Cream, Beatles, Black Sabbath and of course Chris Cornell would be some of the artists that inspire us.
There are a number of humorous clips on YouTube with Pete Thorn about his non-involvement in RTTD. How come he's not involved in the band?
Haha. Well, because I'm a selfish bastard! Actually, when I had the concept of Run Through The Desert a couple years ago, it was a Jimi Hendrix Experience, trio kinda thing. I wanted it to be very fluid and improvisational. It's quite easy to get things moving, i.e. booking gigs, making decisions in a trio format.
You have been working with Chris Cornell for several years now. How have you found the experience?
Chris is a cool artist to work with. He let's me play pretty much what I want. My role in the band is kinda improv and vibey, whereas Pete is more the backbone and sounds guy. I've learned so much playing with Cornell; from riffs and tunnings, to vocal techniques. He's a living legend. Glad to be here.
Chris Cornell is a legendary performer with material to match. His audiences have been hugely impressed with the sheer genius that you, Corey McMormick, Jason Sutter and Pete Thorn have performed it with. How does it feel knowing that you have had that kind of electrifying impact on his fans?
I feel blessed to have the outlet to entertain and express music. When we have a particularly inspired show, It's a very bonding experience to share that with each other. I'm glad that folks are feeling what we're doing out there. It really is about bringing something special to the audience.
What do you enjoy most about touring?
Good question. Playing this music is a perk. Significant concerts, like Live Earth bring a spiritual meaning to a concert. I feel as though I'm making an impact on a grander scale when we play these kinds of events. The other rewarding part are the experiences and people I get to meet and places I get to travel.
It must be a tremendous gear change when it stops. How do you cope with that?
It's an abrupt transition, but luckily I have good friends and family here in LA that I can turn to for support. You'd think that things would be more leisure since I'm not 'working', but actually I have far less time for writing and creativity, because my life is not taken care like it is on the road. When touring, all your meals, accommodation, transportation etc are all taken care of. When I get home, I'm responsible for myself again.
Who or what inspired you to become a musician?
I think it was when MTV first came out. I saw a Devo video. Thought they were outta sight. Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats knocked me out as well. I'd say my main influence growing up, was my sister Plavka. She's a very talented music artist that has influenced me to become a musician. Beyond the realm of music, she's got me into spirituality, yoga, and art.
You have also completed an acting role in the indie feature film 'Changeling'. What can you tell us about the film?
It was a well written indie film directed by Kevin Michael Thomas. It's about self discovery and takes place in the land of the fey. I play a 13th century immortal English poet who helps guide the protagonist through the portal into a land of goblins and bogeymen. Was awesome acting. I want to do more.
In addition to your work with Chris Cornell and RTTD you are also about to release your second solo album! What can you tell us about that?
I'm shooting for a Fall release. It's an introspective album with dark and light themes. The instrumentation is acoustic guitar and string quartet for the most part. It has the sound of the last two songs on my first album, 'Metta'.
What are your ambitions for Yogi Lonich and RTTD?
For the larger picture (beyond music), I'd like to impact the world in a way that will bring peace and compassion to the forefront of our consciousness. The blessing of music is just what comes naturally for me. I'll keep putting out recordings for the rest of my life.
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