Los Angeles-based rock band, Dirty Honey, have recently announced their first headline tour, kicking off in Phoenix, AZ on Monday, November 4, and will see the band performing in nine western U.S. towns, closing out their tour on November 22 at the famed Troubadour in Los Angeles. Their headline tour is preceded as main support for the two final dates of Guns N’ Roses’ “Not In This Lifetime Tour,” for Friday and Saturday, November 1 & 2 at Colosseum At Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To purchase tickets, click here.
Having recently released their third track, “When I’m Gone,” which has landed the third spot at rock radio, the track is from their self-titled, self-released, five song digital and now vinyl only EP, which has received nearly five million streams. The EP includes an additional single “Break You” featured on vinyl. The band is also the only new and unsigned artist to debut in Rock Radio’s Top 5 in 2019, and Dirty Honey’s year keeps getting better and stronger.
We had a fun and insightful conversation with Dirty Honey guitarist, John Notto, about his early days of guitar playing and pretend concerts, who his greatest influences are and who he enjoys to emulate, the other instruments he plays, and that one time he compared his guitar playing to that of Johnny Depp of the nineties.
Growing up, you’d give pretend concerts in front of your family. How did that shape your love of guitar and music, per se?
John Notto: Those didn’t really involve guitar, but I think, really, how those shaped it was I just always wanted to be in the center of the attention. Not necessarily the lead person, but if there’s energy in a room, I’ve always wanted to be the center of it and that is a great example of…We would just throw these concerts for the neighborhood, so to speak, and we would just play our favorite songs and we would dance to them and we weren’t even choreographed. It just really proved that we needed to be in front of people getting attention.
When was your first introduction to guitar?
John: The first guitar I had was actually from my dad’s friend. Actually, it’s a guy in my dad’s employ. My dad had his own little personal woodworking shop and he had one guy helping him and he had this pretty unplayable Telecaster copy, but it was seventies cream yellow and I mostly air-guitared on that because it was so hard to play. And then my mom took me to a store and we traded it in for a Epiphone Strat copy that was red and white, which I still have, actually.
Nice, nice. So that was your first love of the guitar.
John: Yeah. The red and white one was the one that I poured all my practicing into, for sure.
You have a variety of influences with your guitar music and guitar playing, but out of all of them, who’s the number one guitarist you always divert back to that influences you the most?
John: Well, the first guitarist, for sure, is Jimmy Page. The first, “I wish I was him. I wish I had been him.” I emulated how he moved on stage, the way he took attention on stage, and the way he left it for Robert, just that whole thing. It would be him. It would be him because the other people are either just drastically different influences that I picked up later or guys who just really took pointers from him. Not Joe Perry as much, but Slash. I think Slash kind of occupies the stage in the same way Jimmy Page did, that kind of mysterious; the opposite of Eddie [Van Halen]. Eddie was smiling and showing off and had that whole swag that he developed.
You also play drums and bass along with guitar. How do each of these give you creative satisfaction?
John: Well, I just always wished I was a drummer. I don’t consider myself very good, but I’m definitely good enough to make the demos and that’s a lot of fun for me. On the stuff that I submit to the band, I go in and do the whole thing and it’s just an awesome growth for me. It’s cool to write a riff and then play drums to it and then go, oh, this kind of blows from the drummer’s perspective. It’s crazy. From the writing perspective, good practice is to play along with AC/DC because the first thing anyone says about AC/DC’s drumming and bass, it’s like people feel bad for them because it’s so simple and boring. But when you’re playing drums to riffs that are that effective and good, it’s like the beat just flies out of you because they just fill all the gaps, and so you learn how to write a riff from a 360 angle, I think.
That makes sense. I like how you compared your guitar playing to Johnny Depp of the nineties. I thought that was hilarious because, as you know, Johnny Depp is a major guitar player in Hollywood Vampires and not a lot of people know that. What did you mean by that, when you said that?
John: I’m not actually sure where and when I said that, but I just loved his work from that time period and it’s so vastly different, yet it always seems like that role is the role for him, when he was doing it. And I feel that way especially in the studio. I approached it that way. In the studio, it’s like, okay, we got this riff, we have this riff, maybe we should just use guitars. So I don’t stick to like, this is my guitar, this is what I do. We try to make it all fit under the umbrella that’s the sound of one album. But, when you dive in closely, for example, on the record, we use different guitars for a lot of the songs. I always follow the muse of the song, rather than like, well I’m John Notto and I play Les Paul and this is how I do it. So the opposite of Angus Young, who I totally respect, and I love that he found one thing and was able to just keep doing that, and have it always feel fresh, that’s awesome. That might have been what I meant.
You guys are gearing up for a tour as well, with some festival dates. What do you like the most about touring? What do you get out of it?
John: Just generally speaking, I like passing through life as a spectator. It’s kind of relieving to not be in the weeds, so to speak. You know, when you’re in your town, you know where everything is and you’re mostly focused on your problems and things you’ve got to do. But when you’re on tour you’re sort of free of all that. You can just imagine things the whole time. And everything becomes a tourist attraction, like the coffee shop or the town center. It’s all neat. But the biggest plus is the 30 minutes of us playing and then meeting the fans after. It’s just been incredible. It’s been better than we all expected.
Has there been a place that you guys have performed at, enjoyed the sound and the room, and were taken aback with it in a good way?
John: So in the Ryman was amazing. Just walking around those dressing rooms and, you know, just being on that stage. I’ll admit I didn’t even really know about the Ryman beforehand, but everyone was like, wow, you’re getting to play the Ryman, and I looked it up and I was like, oh wow. And just the way the audience is set up in it too, it kind of rises up quickly, so that everyone is kind of right there in your face. It’s kind of a party. It’s cool.
I have two more questions for you, and these are my fun favorites that I like to include. Who was your first concert, and who has been your favorite since?
John: My first concert was Phish, actually. I’m from Maine, it’s very big up there. Yeah, my first concert was Phish. My favorite concert since then…Man, I’m such a musician, it’s like I never actually go to concerts. It’s so lame. Well, actually, my girlfriend took me to Queen on my birthday at the Hollywood Bowl. Queen was a huge influence. Brian May was a huge influence, although I don’t know that that’s necessarily obvious in Dirty Honey. He’s just one of the best and most original musicians ever. I will reveal to you, they came out and they just started with “Hammer to Fall” riffs. I was laughing and crying at the same time, on my birthday. My girlfriend surprised me. I looked at her, I was like, “I’m crying, I don’t care.” And she’s like, “Good,” and I was like, “Aghh” I think it was just a guitar player’s tears, too, because it was just the tone, it was so him, it was so the thing. I was like, I’m right here, I just can’t beat this. It was a thrill. It was personal. It was a high point, for sure.
Which five artists, or albums, would you not want to live without?
John: Led Zeppelin II was the record I found in my Mom’s collection that made me start playing guitar. Transferring my love of music from doing lip syncing concerts for my neighbors to actually trying to play guitar. Let’s see, Led Zeppelin II. I would say, oh man this is so hard. Well, Appetite for Destruction. Couldn’t live without that record. A recent record that really, really blew me away was Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky. That’s a lyric appreciation that I never had until recently. I really really really love that. Back in Black, that’s just such a kick ass record. That’s perfect music. I could go on. And it’s a lesson in simplicity. It’s so great. It’s just amazing. Ohhhh, Animals and The Dark Side by Pink Floyd.