My first encounter with Alain Johannes was back in 1999. I rushed over to the record store to get my hands on Chris Cornell‘s first solo album, ‘Euphoria Morning’. Reading the liner notes I discovered the two people that were in charge of the production and writing process together with Cornell. In those exact moments, listening to the album and reading the notes – I already knew that this is going to be one of my favorite albums of all time. It still is.
Only on YouTab: Play ‘Can’t Change Me’ by Chris Cornell with the Chords & Lyrics in perfect sync. Guitars, background vocals and production by Alain Johannes.
Alain Johannes and Natasha Schneider were a loving, insanely talented couple. They started their musical adventure together as ‘Eleven‘ (First named and performed as ‘Walk The Moon’). A hard rocking, dark yet very optimistic group together with Chili Peppers (and later Pearl Jam) man, Jack Irons on Drums. Johannes went to high school together with the Red Hot Chili Peppers crew. He actually fronted a band called ‘What is This’, with Flea, the great late Hillel Slovak and Irons on board.
Since first discovering Johannes till the day I fell for everything he was and still doing, He was always in the back of my head somewhere. Playing guitar, writing songs, engineering and producing with his friends from ‘Queens Of The Stone Age‘, ‘Them Crooked Vultures‘, Mark Lanegan and many more. Although loving all of his creations, I didn’t get down to the core of it. So how is it that Johannes is involved in all this great music but his face is not familiar like the rest of daily rock stars? I figured because he is a very humble man, he’s less worried about flashes. In his music and Interviews you can clearly understand how much the creation of music is his number one thing, how much he loves it.
With the coming of Spotify, I was able (like everybody else) to reach lots more of music material I couldn’t in the past. It was finally the time to dive into Eleven’s catalog and it hit me right it the gut. Making me feel better about life, accepting and embracing it.
It is not an easy task explaining why Johannes’ and Schneider’s rock and roll is larger than life. Johannes’ vocals, his writing, Schneider’s keyboard playing and incredible voice, the dynamics between the two – It all comes down to one spot, full of love. You can clearly hear it: listen to songs like ‘Learning To Be’, ‘Simple Kiss’ (In which you will understand how Johannes is responsible for all the musical direction in Cornell’s ‘Euphoria Morning’), ‘Rainbow’s End’, ‘You’re My Diamond’, ‘Burning Your Bed’ and many more. Let it take over your body and mind.
You would not believe this: Click the video to go in depth with the history of Alain Johannes in the rock world.
Released in 2003, ‘Howling Book’ was the last full length LP Johannes and Schneider put out together. On July 2nd 2008, Natasha Schneider died from cancer. She was 52 years old. Knowing that, every note and word she had written and performed gets a new meaning. It’s tragic and heartbreaking, but because of Johannes – also very encouraging.
In 2010, Johannes released ‘Spark’, an 8 song musical adventure played on his cigar box guitar and dedicated to Schneider. The last song on the album is called ‘Unfinished Plan’. When the chorus enters – your body melts and your heart races. But you come out of it feeling very much alive. With a sweet and heavy melody, Johannes sings to Schneider: ‘Oh you were not afraid of letting go. Than I am not afraid of letting go’.
Last winter Johannes released his second solo album, the beautiful “Fragments and Wholes, Vol. 1″. Just in the middle, there is a song called ‘Pebble Tears’. Once again Johannes uses sadness to forward life and well being. In one minute and 27 seconds, Johannes drops you to the floor. Sadness, happiness, death & love – it’s all there. ‘The clouds in her eyes’, he sings, ‘Will storm through his heart again’, perfectly performing the lyrics to affect any life that is listening on the other side. Go ahead, play it. It will throw you too.
Learning To Be: How I Fell In Love With Alain Johannes