Interview: RockNRoll John
If The Beatles and The Offspring collided in F1 cars, the result of that big bang would be Rock N Roll John. JUICE first caught the speed rock quartet at the recent Global Battle of the Bands at Planet Hollywood. They came in third, but to us, they’re vintage gold.
RNRJ’s latest song ‘Rock N Roll Tak Kan Mati’ clearly defines what they’re about. Frontman/lead guitarist/vocalist Adam’s biggest fear is that “people (especially the kids) might one day forget the great legends of rock”. As such, RNRJ is truly a champion of old-school rock and at nearly 6ft in height, Adam seems like a suitable defender against this harbinger.
Back in the day, Adam and his brothers, Alif (drums) and Hafiz (bass) were brought up on a staple of classics. Rock was pretty much a family affair with their dad being in a band called The Gipsy’s Grave which was influenced by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Their grandmother, who lived in KL, introduced them to The Beatles. She would later be immortalised on RNRJ’s album cover.
With a little coaching from dad, the boys formed their band. Friend Dzul joined them on rhythm guitar. They covered their favourite artists – The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Offspring, Nirvana and Metallica – eventually fusing old with new to write their own songs. The informality and urgency of rock is apparent not only in their music, but the way they approach their instruments. Both Adam and Hafiz are left-handed but play right-handed instruments, not bothering to reconfigure them to make them more playable.
Despite all its F1 fame, Sepang, where they live was (and still is, according to Adam) a terrible place for an aspiring rock band. A weekend gig here would either be a rock kapak or a pop yeah yeah band playing at a kenduri kahwin.
RNRJ landed their first gig at a Battle of the Bands competition organised by UKM. Playing originals they swept 4 out of 5 categories including Best Band. After that, they were banned from playing at UKM, most likely due to instigation by the second runner-up (boo!).
RNRJ played their first KL gig at Paul’s Place, the launching pad for many underground bands in the early 2000s. Strangely, the crowds who were mostly metalheads, punks, indie-kids, hipsters and whatever-the-trend was at that time, were really into RNRJ. It seems good ol’ Rock N Roll never ages.
In 2007, RNRJ released their debut album From Time To Time. It was recorded loud, dirty and fast. Of the 11 songs on the album, the stand-out has to be the ballad ‘Dinda Pergi… Kanda Mati’, reputably the closest any band has gotten to sounding like P. Ramlee without being a parody.
RNRJ came in 4th at ROTTW Soundstage 2007 and played as a guest band last year. They also performed at FlyFM’s Campur Chart Goes Live and are claiming the airwaves with TV and radio appearances. However, life in a band is tough; they recently travelled down to Melaka to play a “paying” gig, only to be paid RM7 per person when the curtains came down. But that’s the nature of rock n roll. Says Adam, “Rock n roll is everything. Ups and downs. It’s never a smooth ride…” J
RNRJ’s sophomore album is scheduled for release later this year. In the meantime, don’t hit the brakes ’til you’re at www.myspace.com/rnrjohn.
A caricature of how the band will look like in 30 years by Adam…