(established 2006; last updated 10/31/17)
Music-related Quotes About Johnny
- "He plays guitar like he
paints. Wild & colors everywhere you wouldn't have thought
belonged...So we sat at my typewriter and not knowing a single thing
about him or him, me, we wrote [No Shadow]...That's the first time we
ever played it and right out of the typewriter. In fact that's him
singing with me in the end. His voice is so beautiful. That song fell
right into our arms. What a memory...There's nothing better than
sitting and writing songs with Johnny and I couldn't help but think
about that magical day today."
- “Let me introduce Johnny Depp. What an honor to be on the same stage as you.”
- Kris Kristofferson, Glastonbury Festival, June 2017
- "@JohnnyDepp can play!"
- Steve Van Zandt, Twitter, September 2015
- "He's an artist. [Depp]
embodies all of what art should be. He studies his craft, he grew up
with great rock n' roll and he came to L.A. to be a musician. He plays
great, and he obviously looks the part."
- "I've had some cool band mates over the years but never thought
I'd be in a band with this guy . He's the real deal and the coolest
- Matt Sorum, Twitter, September 2015
- 'The biggest
surprise is that Johnny’s probably one of the best guitar players that
I know. I mean, no doubt. I’m tellin’ ya, he just,
when I’ve mentioned to people that, first I very rarely mention it,
that I know him, and we’re buddies and stuff. The next thing is
like, he loves music, he loves guitars, he’s a great guitar player, and
if you don’t believe me, watch Chocolat. That’s really him playing and he’s doing stuff that I only dream about doing."
- Joe Perry, Periscope interview, September 11, 2015
- "I've been a fan of his acting for a long time. I remember
seeing him in the movie 'Chocolat', where he plays the gypsy guitar
player. I was really impressed. You could tell that he was really
playing guitar versus cutting back and forth to a musician. In the
movie, he plays a lot of Django Reinhardt stuff. I didn't know him at
the time, but remember telling myself that someday I have to get a
guitar lesson off him if I meet him since I don't know any of that type
- "[Our friendship] started off mostly because he’s a
stone cold bluesman. He loves the blues; it’s in his blood. He
loves to play guitar and talk guitars and good music and is a really
creative guy. He’s a painter, an all-around just really creative
guy. Needless to say, he’s really intelligent and well-read;
he’s an older man. We have a lot in common as far as the
music goes. It’s one of those things where you bump into people
and you feel like you’ve known them your whole life. He’s
one of those people. We’re both big fans of each other. When
we’re hanging out, we’re just hanging, listening to John
- Joe Perry, Haute Living interview, September 24, 2014
- "It was so inspiring living out there in L.A. and rubbing
elbows with so many musicians. Johnny Depp was one of them. I have to
rate him as a first-class musician. As great as an actor as he is, he's
also right there as a musician. I guess the acting thing outweighed the
music thing way back when, but he's a musician through and through."
- Joe Perry, Artist Direct interview, September 14, 2012
- "There are actors who can act, musicians who play, then
the rare breed of artists who bring passion to their art.
are the ones who go deep into the darkness, they avoid the obvious and
explore the unknown. They work in the back room of the soul,
that takes guts. Johnny is a gusty actor, a gutsy musician, a
gutsy artist with passion. We admire his artistic courage and
are honored to present him with the 2012 Generation Award."
- Joe Perry, MTV Movie Awards, June 3, 2012
- [On Joe Perry's collapse at the Coney Island Hollywood Vampires show] "Johnny
[Depp] took over on lead guitar and so did Tommy Henriksen, who plays
guitar in my band," he says. "They just took all of his guitar parts
and split 'em up. The show went on and it sounded great. It was great
to hear that Johnny could jump in and fill in for all those lead parts."
- "He never overplays. He plays a tasty lick and then he gets out
and that's what a good guitar player should play like. He plays a lot
like Brian Jones. I would say that would be the closest guy, or Ronnie
Wood. You'll hear a lick of about five or six notes not a whole bunch
of notes, the way that Keith Richards would play. He would just play
five or six notes that were just in the right spot. George Harrison was
a master at that. George Harrison would play just exactly the right
notes and get out, whereas a lot of guitar players they just don't know
when to stop. They want to show off how good they are. Johnny's one of
the guitar players that says, "Judge how good I am by what I play not
by how much I play."
- Alice Cooper, AL.com, August 2016
- "Well, you know, the nice thing about it, and this is something
that people should know about Johnny. One night we had 60 people and
one of the girls had brain cancer. They brought her in on a stretcher.
Johnny, myself and Joe. Johnny spent an hour with her, just whispering
in her ear, and her talking, she could barely talk. We were almost late
for the show. He wouldn’t leave. And we finally got back on stage and
did it. And after the show, he spent another half hour with her.
That is just really, … I mean, that told me something about him.
- "We see each other a lot. He's become a close friend
and collaborator. We've done a lot of recording together recently. He
is really a very talented and cool guy. Johnny is a guy who doesn't
have to do anything; he does things because he wants to do them. It's
not about his ego... [during Dark Shadows filming] I was on set talking
to him, both of us in full makeup, and we talked about music. We
were in London about to do a club gig at the 100 Club and I said he
should join us. He did. He came up and jammed some classic covers with
us. He blew us away... Johnny has this old school rock & roll
feel in his playing. It is very choosy and thoughtful. He gets in
and out and avoids overplaying, which a lot of players should learn
from. He's also not a stage hog, which surprised me at first. He's
happy being up there and enjoying the music, but he never makes it
about him. What I really love about Johnny is that when he does
music, it is for fun and because he loves music. He was
a musician first, so I think it is really close to his heart."
- “He’s a great player, he’s a
guitar player. He’s as good as anyone in any band.
could put him in any band, from Guns N Roses to Foo Fighters to our
band. He could play any kind of rock ’n’ roll he
I’ve told him if this whole acting thing fizzles out, be in a
band. That’s how he started anyways. He had his own band in
Kentucky and come out to LA not as an actor but a guitar
- “I always say to him, ‘If you really
want to go
out on tour, let me know and you can come with us.’ I
wouldn’t be surprised if he did.”
- "I'd work with him again, I mean, the
guy is a valid guitar player, we told him anytime he wants to come up
and play, feel free. We've always given that kind of
any great guitar player, like Brian May. He's in the same place as
Brian May or Slash. He's a great guitarist."
Cooper, BANG showbiz June 2011
- "[Ryan Adams] was calling him 'J. Diggle.' 'My buddy
J. Diggle is going to come by and play a guitar solo on this record.
He's a really good player.' But he would never say, 'My friend Johnny
Depp, who is a fucking big actor.' That's just not Ryan. So when Johnny
Depp walked through the door one day, I was like, 'Oh... that's J.
Diggle.' He was awesome, gracious and kind — one of those dudes
that cruises in with sunglasses and a hat on and sits, plays and
complements the song."
- "He came in and was like, 'I love this song.' It was pretty
cool. I try not to think of that having any more merit than like a fan
walking up to you on the street and saying, 'Oh, my God, I love that
song,' but it's still pretty fucking cool to have somebody like Johnny
Depp go, 'I'm so honored to play on it.' I was like, what the fuck are
you talking about? You're high."
- Butch Walker, on Johnny playing on 21+, Rolling Stone, February 2015
- "'Hollywood Affair' is very
nice; it's a beautiful piece of music." [Johnny wrote the music to this
Iggy Pop song; Iggy wrote the lyrics]
- "He's a very sensitive guitarist, he has a really nice
intonation, attack and a really nice sense of music."
- "Johnny Depp sat in with dad and I tonight...he's a great
player! He's got soul."
- Lukas Nelson, via Facebook,
about his dad Willie Nelson's Rodeo show in Austin, March 2014
- "Johnny Depp is the coolest guy on the planet, a great guy
and a great player."
- "...we did a song together, and afterward, he said, 'Man,
it's so cool to do a song with Marilyn Manson!' I said, 'Shut the fuck
up! What's cooler is doing a song with Johnny Depp? You fucking
Manson, Westword.com, 2012
- "If you don't recognize my personal friend ... my personal
savior, my personal guitar hero ... Johnny Depp!"
Manson, Revolver Golden Gods Awards April 11, 2012
- "Johnny Depp is a rock star in the world of movies."
- Steven Tyler, MTV Movie Awards, June 3, 2012
- “When we are done
recording, I go up to Johnny’s house and I play him stuff and
ask if it is any good. He gives me [honest feedback]. Johnny
great musician and many people don’t know that, he plays
guitar, he knows his music.”
Tyler, ultimateclassicrock.com, May 11, 2012
- "He's legitimately great on guitar."
- Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, MTV Movie Awards, June 3,
- "He's a really good guitar player."
- Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, MTV Movie Awards, June
- "In 1999, we (with Johnny,
Iggy Pop, and Chrissie Hynde) performed a cabaret show in Paris, doing
songs by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone.
played guitar. That was such an exciting night. To have my
alongside me made it even more special. Definitely one of the
highlights of my career."
- Vanessa Paradis, Now Magazine UK, published May 20, 2012
- "It's getting to be a running gag. He's like the Alfred Hitchcock of my videos. And he's good!"
- Paul McCartney, on Johnny's participation in several of his recent videos, Rolling Stone, July 2014
- "I blame Johnny Depp because he had just given me this
little cigar box guitar that I was wildly excited to play.”
- Paul McCartney, backstage at the Grammy Awards, January
2014, on winning the award for Best Rock Song with former Nirvana
members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear for Cut Me Some Slack
- "Also, I must just point out
also that Johnny is really playing the guitar solo (in the video for My
Valentine). That's him playing. The boy is good.”
McCartney, to Vanity Fair, April 14, 2012
an extraordinary painter, he's a great
musician, he's a great actor - he's a renaissance man in the greatest
way… [And] he is one of the most real people you will ever
- Angelina Jolie, Australian interview January 2011
- "There is an old Stella acoustic guitar that he
cannot resist picking up and strumming quietly. Johnny is
12-hours shifts. The day begins in the makeup trailer, long
before the morning rush hour. Downtime is divided between press calls,
stacks of pictures to sign, scripts to read, and family
responsibilities- ever present and ever embraced. There is also the
occasional hour of stolen sleep, often with his guitar resting on his
- Patti Smith,
- "I love working with Johnny and... he's a nut.
nut. But at the same time, a very discerning nut.
great musician, actually. He's a good guitar player… has an
incredible collection of guitars that goes from the 15th century, I
mean, we're talking like, '56 Fenders, here. We're
talking… there are some in there, but uh, he loves his
and this is one of the reasons that we first got to know each other and
Richards, BBC interview 2010
probably better than he thinks. I'm probably not as good as he thinks."
- Keith Richards, on Johnny as a guitarist, 2007
- "He's got one of the
best guitar collections, very eclectic."
- "He's an
astute mind... he's a good musician, and he's got a great guitar
collection... which I've got my eye on... Arrrrrrrrrrr..."
- Keith Richards, Easter Egg on
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl, 2003
- "Unloveable was just really easy. Johnny came to
you just have this massive fear because even though you know him you
think,’Is he going to be good?’ because
coming in for a few hours and I’m not sure I’d be
do it. He’s quite shy and unassuming, but he came in and it
- ""He's a very good guitarist."
Tilbrook, 2009 (in spite of Johnny not playing guitar on Glenn's album,
Glenn did make this remark)
- "I think
Johnny’s wonderful too — he’s a great
guitar player by the way."
- "He is a
great actor and a great guitar player too. We played together.
He really heavied it up. His guitar playing releases all of his rage
and frustration. We did one song together, but forgot to record it. But
it sounded like an atom bomb going off!"
Johnny is going to be on it, but he's not just on there to get his name
on the cover; he's there because he's actually a great guitarist.
Johnny played on The Snake, and this record is going to be a bit more
punky in a similar way."
MacGowan in 2004, on plans for Johnny to participate in a still as yet
unrecorded new solo album
- "It's going
to be quite
rocky in some parts. Johnny Depp is going to be playing some guitar
again because he's a great guitarist."
- "As it
works out, he's
actually one of the best guitarists I've ever seen. He's really, really
good. He doesn't actually think he's any good, but he's a fine
guitarist. That's why we got him to play the slide guitar solo on Fade
In/Out on the last album, 'cos I couldn't play it. Afterwards,
everybody...we were rehearsing for the tour: it took me about 6 months
to work it out, what he was actually playing."
Gallagher, on Fade In/Out
first part of 'Fade In/Fade Out' was recorded in a little fucking shack
on the beach. We were drunk one night [in the Caribbean], and I
borrowed his slide guitar and tried to play this solo, and it was
absolutely dreadful. So he sat down and played it and got it in one
take. He's actually a really good guitar player."
- "He just
perfectly. He just... He plays from his heart, you know. He wasn't
really into the 'technique' of playing the guitar. He was just more
into the 'feel' of it."
Witkin, on Johnny joining The Kids
- "I'm a
songwriter, not a guitar
player's guitarist. Johnny can actually play guitar better than
I can, but he didn't want to feature it at all and be the
actor-turned-rock-star for the evening."
Carter, on P's 1993 debut at SXSW
- "The time [Johnny] was in the band was very important to me
as a songwriter, as he was really a riff driven player and solid as a
rock, so he helped shape what the band was to become. We got along
great and worked really well together and he flat out loved to play
which was good for everybody. He left on the best of terms and we
remained friends for quite sometime."
- Bobby Durango of the Rock City Angels, 2009
- "Johnny Depp was given
the lead roll
[sic] on a new Police drama, "21 Jump Street", and decided to pursue
his acting career, (a good choice actually), fulfilling his obligations
to the band before taking the trip to Vancouver where the show was
being filmed. His playing helped the band dynamically as well as
leaving a strong foundation for the new drummer, Ringo Jukes, to find
his fit. He also trained his replacement, Doug Banks [sic], so all was
in place for the recording of their first major label album."
City Angels Bio from NashvilleRock.net, 2009
Depp was an extremely talented musician and songwriter. He was really
good at coming up with compelling riffs which could then be used as a
song signature or an ascending or descending guitar line that a song
could be written around."
- "We played
a bunch of shows with
johnny in 86 and 87 in los angeles. before and after he got the gig on
21 jump street. he's a really good guitar player and i remember he
learned our set of 12 songs in one rehearsal."
- Andy Panik of the Rock City
Johnny Depp...he was in a rival
band in South Florida at the time called the Kids...and they were a
little bit more new wave than we were...they weren't a hard core punk
rock band like we were...he ahh...him and I had kind of a competition
going...we were always after the same women...and we had a certain
little rivalry going at that time. But we were still friends and...
then years later...we met in Los Angeles after the band had moved to LA
and he was acting but he wasn't in a band. He had just finished doing
"Nightmare on Elm Street" and he was interested in playing again...well
one thing led to another and he started playing in the band and he was
an incredible rhythm guitar player...he's a good songwriter as well.
People have no idea...he's got many hidden talents...of course he's a
great actor...but he...I loved playing with him..."
- "Well, we
had so many guitar players
that he just seemed like another one of the guys in the band. What I do
remember sticking out about that guy was we have a song called
“Pitbull” that’s got all this real dark,
type feedback during the verses, and I just remember the second or
third time we played with him, I looked over and he was bending the
neck of the guitar, doing some real outside shit, and that was only the
second rehearsal. So I decided then that he was a pretty solid guitar
player. Initially when they told me he was an actor, I didn’t
even want to see the guy. I was like, 'Oh, a fucking
actor.' When you live in LA, you get sick of those bastards. I
didn’t buy into him at all, but after two rehearsals, he
impressed me. He only played about 5 or 6 shows with us, though, and
then he had to go to Canada. The reason that he was in the band in the
first place is because of the Florida connection – he knew
other guys from back there, where he had a band called the Kids.
He was good guy,
though. He was
really a musician that fell into the acting thing. In a way, I feel
kinda bad for him, because I don’t think he could ever go
into music and be accepted as a real musician. The Rock City Angels was
probably the last real band he was in, and I remember him being
frustrated about the whole acting thing. He needed the money, though,
because we were all broke."
Jukes of the Rock City Angels
[Mellencamp] had what so many artists
have, and it's an intangible. But it's
very obvious. Some people call it charisma; some people call it star
power. Whatever it is, it's a drive that some people possess. When we
were very young, making the 'John Cougar'* record in Miami, Johnny Depp
was a resident of Miami and a fledgling rock star, or so he thought.
His mom would drop him by the studio in the evenings, and he would hang
out with us. He was about 16 and he had a band called the Kidz. Johnny
Depp had the same thing John Mellencamp had. It was a drive, a talent
that was going to be realized -- whether it was in music, acting or
art. Somehow that was going to come through."
- Mike Wanchic of John
- *The John Cougar record was released in
Johnny did not join The Kids until late 1980. Mike may have
thinking of a later record, or else may have seen Johnny in a band
prior to The Kids.
- "That is
more important than how good an actor he is. Acting, who cares?
Everyone could be an actor."
- Emir Kusterica, saying he knew
Depp had something when he heard him play guitar
physique is his greatest asset. It's almost a teenager's body, those
delicate hands, a musician's handshake, and this puerile streak in him.
You look at him sometimes and think, 'How old are you?'"
words, loves music, loves art. An artist in all aspects of life."
- "I don't
know, but if Johnny
Depp's band was involved, I would lie down and let him put his foot on
my chest. I'd roll over. I'd be his stalker."
whether the literary rock band the Rock Bottom Remainders could beat
Keanu Reeves' Dogstar or Russell Crowe's The Ordinary Fear Of God in a
battle of the bands
Quotes about Johnny's singing voice:
- "He offered to sing in
voice. I knew Johnny was in a band. I remember hearing a
but I think we were just too far along. I don't know, maybe I made the
Waters, 2007, on the possibility of Johnny doing his own vocals in
Johnny's singing was dubbed by rockabilly legend James
had heard Johnny's voice. Millions of dollars, committed on an
assumption. We all said to one another, 'Johnny is a smart guy. He
would never put himself in this position if he didn't think he could do
it. He must be able to sing.' But nobody could prove that!"
Zanuck, co-producer of Sweeney Todd, 2007
- "I was
like, 'Do you want the
good news or the bad news?' He goes, 'Well, give me the bad news.' And
I said 'The Bad news is you're going to have to do this."
- Bruce Witkin, 2007, on assessing
Johnny's ability to do the role of Sweeney Todd.
- "I figured
he'd have a light
baritone. You can hear it in his speaking voice. I love him as
actor, and always have. Put those things together, I didn't hesitate
for one second."
Sondheim, on Johnny as Sweeney Todd, 2007
- ''There are
very few people who can act and sing at the same time. He's
going to bring
something completely natural, sinister and heartfelt to the part-his
voice is great and he’s such a great friendly guy. I love
- Laura Michelle Kelly, 2007
- "Johnny's singing voice is very
- Helena Bonham Carter,
- "He's fierce,
wondrous, haunted, funny, scary--and on key."
- Richard Corliss, film critic,
Time Magazine, 2008
Music-Related Quotes By
like when you're in the booth and you're playing a guitar solo, you
don't exactly know how you're going to phrase this or that. Which I
think is beautiful. That idea of chance... I've been playing a lot of
music lately. It's a real lifesaver, being able to focus on my first
love. It's freedom... And immediate—yeah, fuck, we captured
suppose that's it, capturing something... I've been writing and
recording with Ryan Adams a lot lately. Ryan is incredibly prolific and
he's just a pure soul, he's just this being... he's itching all the
time. It's like it's burning to come out of him. He's got a
handle on it. And is taking good care of himself. But what a talent,
man. I'm amazed by the fucker. And then, here and there I'm doing some
stuff with Alice [Cooper], which is really fun. Also with Marcus
Mumford, who's amazing." Chatting with Iggy Pop, Interview,
- [Asked whether he was asked to
guest with the Rolling Stones on their "50 & Counting" Tour]
"No, no I wasn't. It's one of those things I certainly wouldn't expect
an invitation to go and play with the Rolling Stones. But
the idea of even doing that... I'd melt... I'd crumble." BBC
always looking for something to aspire to. Music, since it's
my first love since the age of 12, it's not like I ever abandoned
playing, so I've always played. And played on friends' records and
stuff like that in the past. I suppose in the last couple of
years, where I guess people got hip to it, and they've invited me on
stage, or invited me to play on their album, or that kind of thing.
So it's something I plan on... yeah, I'll still keep doing it
sure, as long as somebody will have me." BBC 6Music, 2013
- [Asked "Whose phone number are
"It's incredible. I've been so lucky to play with the people
have, from playing with Keith (Richards), playing with Patti (Smith),
jamming with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper.
I feel so lucky. To ask for another would be
BBC 6Music, 2013
had] sort of a rebirth of my relationship with music. So I've been
playing more and writing more and it's led to invitations to play with
people." Christian Science Monitor, July 2013
the last year or two, music has also kind of resurfaced more in my
life, so that’s been a great escape from the things you need
escape from now and again.” New York Daily News,
- "Man, it's so cool to
do a song with Marilyn
Manson!" Westword.com, 2012
conviction, these are the only things I believe in. The ideal for me
would be to be able to act like one plays a guitar solo: left handed,
eyes shut, and
never the same way."
whether he's played music around Keith Richards] "No. I don't have
the kind of hair
that would allow me to pick up a guitar and start strumming. I've never
been that confident -- or drunk. I just couldn't do it. Unless he asked
me to. Then maybe."
- [On comparing himself as a
guitarist to Keith Richards] "I wouldn't even, like,
built up the nerve to ask [Keith], ‘What the hell is this
chord in ‘Make No
Mistake’? My ear is pretty good but it’s been years
and I could never
figure it out.’ He goes, ‘The fourth
chord.’ I said, ‘Yeah, exactly!’
He goes, ‘Yeah…’ I said,
‘Well, what is it?’ He picked up the
guitar—bang, brrmm! He showed me the chord. It was one of
that are seared in your brain for the rest of your life.”
- "The idea
of playing a guitar
anywhere near Keith Richards... it took me about 11 years before I
could touch a guitar in his presence - and that's just to pick it up
[laughs]. There are some things you just don't do. But if you're asking
whether I will play in any future film should I be given the
opportunity, then yes, I'd love to." (2011)
- [On what he could play on any
session, anytime during the recording of Warren Zevon's final album]
"Very bad guitar."
- "Since I
was 14 I have played serious
guitar. But I do not want to release a record under the name Johnny
Depp. I do not want people to buy it in the light of the name I have
built up as an actor. If I ever do release a record it will be with an
- "I could do
a Bruce Willis
thing and make a record now (1988), but it would just milk my teen-boy,
pop-idol image. I'd rather do nothing than that."
- "In my
world and in my brain, I was a
musician. You know, I get these acting gigs was basically just to...
pay the rent, you know, pay the rent, be able to eat, and buy
cigarettes, you know, that's really all it was for the first couple of
years. And, I always planned on going back into music which had been my
first love for ever and ever. And then, whatever one thing led to
another and I ended up doing it all the time."
- "When I
first started doing films,
the band was making little money. I thought of acting as a way to
finance my music habit. My whole upbringing was playing in bars and
clubs since I was 14; I still feel like I'm a musician. There's nothing
like being onstage with four or five guys with a really loud guitar and
all the adrenalin, there's nothing to compare with it."
music has always been
my first love. I use music in my work because it's the
way to an emotional place. You hear a song, and that memory
right back-- you're there... Making music is immediate, and
all about you. If you're playing guitar, the feeling comes
through-- the way you bend the note, the intensity with which you hit
the strings. With making films, although it's real emotion,
false emotion. You're lying."
always been interested in… I guess fringe may be a way of
it. The people that I've always admired in whatever the arena, whether
it's art or film, whatever, music, have always been the people who came
in from the outside, who didn't just - I prefer Daniel Johnston to
Mariah Carey. You know what I mean? Really by far; like really. A
Daniel Johnston, I admire very much. I don't know. It's the kind of
people I've always been drawn to."
- "It wasn't
like I ever kissed the guitar good-bye."
- "Me and
music. Music was always my first love. It was my first love for sure.
And still is a huge part of my life."
impossible to compare music
and acting. With music, I get to be myself, all the time.
acting, I play different characters."
- [Asked whether he wishes he had
ended up as a guitarist instead of an actor]
"Not really. Music will always be my first love.
But if I
continued to do it for a living, I don't know that I would feel the
same way about it. I'm glad that it worked out this way,
it's still as fresh as it was back then and I'm not pressured to write
hit songs. I pick up the guitar and space out and drool."
- "The joy of falling in love
with a musical instrument is that it will never go away and you won't
- "[Music is]
still my first
love as much as it ever was, since I was a little kid and first picked
up a guitar and tried to figure out how to make the thing go. Going
into acting was an odd deviation from a particular road that I was on
in my late teens, early 20s, because I had no interest, really, in it
at all. I was a musician and I was a guitarist, and that's what I
wanted to do. But because of that deviation, and because I don't do it
for a living, maybe I still have been able to maintain that kind of
innocent love for it. The weird thing is I think I approach my work the
same way I approached guitar playing- looking at a character like a
song. If you think of expression musically- it goes from wherever it
comes from inside to your fingers, and on to that fretboard, and then
on to the amplifier, through whatever. It's the same kind of thing
that's required here, with acting: What was the author's intent? What
can I add to it that maybe someone else won't add to it? It's not
necessarily a question of how many notes, but a question of what do the
notes express and what does a slight bend do." (from Vanity Fair
Quotes by Johnny about Into
am, yeah, I'm going to play the Big Bad Wolf. I'm so excited
play the Big Bad Wolf, you know. It's just, I mean it's...
kind of thing is sort of a dream come true. The only deal is, once
again it's Sondheim, who's amazing, but when you're not a crack
vocalist, I'd say... it's quite complicated stuff that he
But I'm looking forward to it." The Lone Ranger Press
Quotes by Johnny about Sweeney
- [On his days playing in rock
"Never, ever, did I ever want to sing. Singers always got too
much attention. I was always happier playing my guitar in the dark."
- "I've never
been a big-musical sort of guy."
- "How many
chances do you get at a musical about a serial killer?"
makes Sid Vicious look like the innocent paper boy."
far as my singing is concerned, I don’t want to shock anyone
I am not a singer [laughter]. I would never ever claim to be a singer
but I am willing to give it a shot, to see if it works. It is important
to try stuff. I grew up as a guitar player. I
a musician for most of my life. I am musically inclined and I am not
tone deaf. At least, not yet."
- "When Tim
asked if I'd be into
it, he said, 'Do you think you can sing?' And I said, 'Honestly, I
don't know.' I'm not tone deaf, so I knew I could stay in key to some
degree. But I didn't know if I could sustain a note, or belt one out."
- "I may sound like a strangled
- "I might be a horrible singer
but that might work for the character. You never know."
said to me early on, it was much more about the acting work than the
singing. He felt the singing was secondary to hitting the notes
emotionally. I didn't believe him. [Laughs] I think he was probably
saying that to make me feel better about what I was about to attempt."
would listen to [the score] nonstop, just constantly. Various versions.
And then just a musical version without any vocals. I saturated my
noggin with it."
just didn't see the character developing with me doing scales in front
of a piano, with a vocal teacher going, 'No, no — bring it up
from the bollocks.'"
couldn't be more foreign to me in a lot of ways, but at the same time,
I need to incorporate my own process to find it, to see where I land."
- "So here I'm challenged with
these amazing melodies of Stephen Sondheim. That was kind of a bugger
to deal with."
ended up going into a recording studio with a friend of mine and I just
sang to the tracks to find out if I could do it at all. It’s
the mating call of a rutting stag. It’s a very strange sound
far, I have not been fired, which is good. We’ll see. I hope
- [on the song, My Friends]
"That was the first song I ever sang in my life. It
was pretty weird and scary."
I was doing the demos in Los Angeles, I came home and played it for
Vanessa. That was one of the more frightening moments. You go, I'm
gonna fall flat on my face…They [Vanessa and the kids] said,
'Is that you?'"
was very helpful, because she was the initial victim. Before I sent my
first recordings to Tim, I brought them home to her and said,
I’m going to be fully embarrassed, I may as well play it for
So, I played it to her to see if I was doing the wrong thing.
was very supportive about it. She’s a very talented singer.
offered me all kinds of advice in terms of holding a note. More than
anything, she gave me confidence. Oddly, she liked my voice. That was a
miracle to me!"
the gutteral aspect of his singing voice] "Organically,
something natural in my voice that happens when you push it. And
it’s aggressive stuff. But one thing I do—that I
don’t remember hearing any of the other Sweeneys
English, oddly. [In most productions, Sweeney is played with an
American accent.] Especially that East End English. That was something
I thought I could add."
one that was probably the most challenging was 'Johanna.'
such an emotional song. And as far as I was concerned, when
Stephen Sondheim writes the note and it has to be held for this many
beats, you do it. I don't care if you're from Miramar or
or you're an ass and you don't sing. It doesn't matter.
Don't be a pussy, you fuckin' hold that note. You
cheat. You can't whisper. You can't do the William
thing. You just gotta belt it out. So I really beat
up, making sure I could hold those notes. In 'Johanna,' some
like twelve beats. That was a bugger. At one point,
very close to passing out - I got dizzy and saw black. But
what Sondheim wrote, so that's what you do."
there was anybody in terms of inspiration for my sound, it was Anthony
Newley [the Broadway vet]. And Iggy Pop, you know? Iggy’s
this very aggressive crooner. Especially in the early stuff,
there’s something about his attack that’s haunting."
- "I wouldn't ever dream of
attempting to channel David Bowie, he's a big hero of mine. If there's
a similarity, it wasn't intentional, certainly not. [But] it's a nice
- "This could be the punk-rock
Sweeney, you know. The alternative
- [on Sondheim's music]
"It's beautiful stuff to sing. I can only imagine it must be
really nice if you're a singer."
claiming that he usually never sings, in response to the prompt, "Brown
Sugar" comes on …"] "I might sing a little
harmony. I might air
guitar. Drumming. I like to drum."
claiming that he probably wouldn't have sung for anyone but Tim Burton,
Burton asks, "What if Barry Manilow asked you?"] "That's a
thing, cause that might mean duet, and if that's the case, I'm in." [A
car horn sounds in the street outside] "And there he is."
- "I think I am done with
See also the Johnny
Depp Rocks! Sweeney Todd page for more Sweeney Todd-related
- "Am I happy with my singing in Sweeney Todd?
I'm happy it's done."