My name is Peter and I’m the guy with a band called Johnny Stranger. I started the project back in 2005 in Washington State, where I grew up. The whole idea behind the project was to make progressive rock albums that each had a unique theme. I made two records in WA before moving the project to Boston, where I recorded two more albums. In 2010, I moved to Los Angeles and sort of put the project on hiatus. I say ‘sort of’ because I never stopped writing Johnny Stranger songs. So now, nearly 10 years later, I’ve got multiple albums written and waiting to go. ‘Valkyrie’ (our upcoming record) is the first of many.
How did you get your start in music?
I come from a very musical family. My earliest memories are of touring around with my parents as they promoted an album they had made together. Around age 13, I started teaching myself how to use my dad’s recording equipment. I was inspired by bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, Steely Dan… a lot of progressive-leaning rock bands. I became obsessed with making records. I’m still just as obsessed today.
You’ve had a 10-year hiatus. What’s kept you away from music for so long?
There was a 10-year break for Johnny Stranger, but I never left music. After I moved to Los Angeles, I tried my hand at other music-related projects. I focused a lot on Polaris Rose (my other band with my girlfriend Maddie), which just put out another album recently. In addition, I got involved in music for sync (tv/film/commercial). I learned a lot working with many incredibly talented producers here in LA, but I was missing that special expressive feeling I get from Johnny Stranger. It was a serious bummer.
Luckily, I never stopped writing Johnny Stranger songs. Now, I have that huge catalogue of songs all sorted into albums that I’m gonna be chipping away over the next decade or so. It’s a big project but it feels right.
How has the band evolved since you last made music together?
I look at the first 4 albums as laying the foundation. They establish the idea that each of our albums is a different theme and they show the different shades of the songwriting. This next record – “Valkyrie” – is a rocker. We always had a lot of dynamic music… this is on the heavier side of that. I’ve also learned a lot about production over the last 10 years and I get to bring all that I’ve learned to these new recordings.
You have a new single out called, “P Is For Pompeii”. What can you tell us about this song?
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“P is for Pompeii” was inspired by Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’. The verses are from the point-of-the-view of the abusive mother, while the choruses are from Carrie’s perspective. Really, I’m talking about overcoming that sort of abuse… when someone tries to assert themselves over you and accuses you having no value, but you muster that internal strength to stand up for yourself and push back. I realized rather recently that this story connected with me so much because it mirrored my own struggles with depression and my fight to overcome those demons.
You also have a new album out called, “Valkyrie”. What can audiences expect from this set of songs?
The album is about power and combating the forces that seek to control us. To reflect the theme, the music is heavy and dynamic. There’s a splash of humor in there too, like every Johnny Stranger album. It’s meant to be a ‘hello’ to Johnny Stranger again. I took down the old records years ago (I’ll be rereleasing eventually) so ‘Valkyrie’ will be the first record a lot of people will hear. To that end, it’s pretty straight-forward, I think. It’s meant to have an immediate impact.
Do you have any tour dates coming up? What the experience like at one of your live shows?
We’re mostly playing out in the Los Angeles area right now, but we are formulating a tour to coincide with the release of the full album. We have good friends and fans up in WA that we want to get back to. Over the years, we’ve gotten much more into making our shows as much of an experience as we can. We perform with a lot of energy but we also use video and lights to create a more rounded experience. We want people to have a great time and to have the themes translate to an audience that may not know the songs well.
What advice would you have for aspiring singers/songwriters?
Do what you love. Don’t write pop music because you think it’ll ‘make you famous’. Write what’s in your heart. Chances are, it’s that very material that is the most special and unique.
What’s your life like outside of music?
What life? Haha. I still do a lot of work with sync and helping my girlfriend Maddie with Shark Attack (our label services company). I also write books… sci-fi/fantasy novels. All things that keep me busy and creative.
Let the readers know where to find you online.
You can find Johnny Stranger on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Also, listen to us on Spotify and Apple Music.