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The Chaz Interviews - July, 2003
by Chaz and the MP3.com artists

It was the summer of 2003 and MP3.com's active message board community was heating up as well -- with flame wars. Along came Chaz Fanaro, looking to cut through the negative noise. He began to interview many of the musical artists who pitched a tent on the popular indie music forum. Others pitched in with questions of their own. July of 2003 could have turned ugly, but thanks to the interviews blanketing the forum, it became a home for insight and mutual respect. The forums were wiped clean by Vivendi in December, 2003. The interviews live on.

AxellaJ

AXELLA JOHANNESSON
Artist description
It's only in the past couple of years I've gotten into recording my solo stuff, and unless otherwise noted, I do it all myself.

Music Style
Blues to Pop to Hard Rock to Heavy Metal

Musical Influences
Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Led Zepplin, Grace Slick, John Lee Hooker, The Animals, Steve Marriott, Bessie Smith, Scott Weiland, Joe Jackson, Greg Lake, etc.

Similar Artists
Myself.

Artist History
Born in New York City and moving to Long Island at age 5, I grew up in Suburbia, listening to my parents' old records. Theirs was a wildly varied assortment, consisting of 60's Pop and R&B, to The Beatles, The Animals, John Lee Hooker, and even Hank Williams, Trini Lopez and Glenn Miller! At my grandparents' houses, I'd hear "Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons", "The Mills Brothers", and Nat "King" Cole... I took up guitar at age 13, and two years later began singing with a band. We played some less-than-stellar venues in our various lineups. I now live in Australia, where I've really gotten into recording my solo stuff, and currently sing in a Traralgon-based band called 440 ("FourForty").

Group Members
Axella Sheryl Johannesson

Instruments
One Yamaha APX4 A/E Guitar, One Jackson bass, One brand X drum kit, & Yamaha SY35 keyboard synth.

Albums
Mama Never Told You About Me

Press Reviews
"Review: Sheryl Johannesson's unique voice makes her stick out next to strumming waifs-with-guitars. In fact, her husky vocals sound more than appropriate next to the psychedelia-tinged, guitar-heavy songs about pub life, break-ups and depression. Truly beautiful in an understated way." (Listen.com) "Very honest and heartfelt. With pounding bass and drums, husky vocals, a subtle sense of humour and a intelligently weary understanding of the 'slings and arrows' of life. An important counterpoint to the somewhat dubious current popularity of 'bimbo'style pop production house diva's- this Rough and Ready vocal style hints at, perhaps, one too many late nights and drinkin' early mornings at various saloons in the antipodes.Sublime in the styles of Marianne Faithful and Patti Smith." "Very deep, contemporary, soulful. Music from the heart."

Location
Traralgon, Victoria - Australia

Chaz the Spaz
Hi AJ, as many members of this community know, you have brought the personal side of your life to this board, can you tell us what you have been up to lately? Musically and personally?

Axella J.
Hi Chaz,
Lately I've been working at a TV station here in Australia. Not only does it keep me from begging on the streets, but I actually like it.
Musically, there are a lot of irons in the fire at the moment...
Some time ago, I had the idea of recording a CD of my versions of 60's pop classics. When I floated the idea, I didn't receive much encouragement.
But then I recorded my cover of "My Guy" and it's stayed in the top ten of its genre for a year or so now - so much for the nay-sayers!
So I'm going forward with the project, full steam ahead.
That is not to say I'm going to neglect "my" music. Quite the contrary.

Chaz the Spaz
That sounds great! TV and music carreer in high gear. I'm glad things are going well for you. DJ days are over now.

Axella J.
Yup, no more DJing, or getting hit by stray punches, or getting hit upon by drunks.
I've got a 12-string guitar coming in tomorrow, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
Still in a cover band, but it's getting tough out there for playing live music. More and more places are employing DJs or acoustic duos or karaoke acts because they cost less.
So, we are making a TV commercial.

one blue nine
Doing anything glamorous at the station, Axella?

Axella J.
Well, not really very glamourous... I work doing "traffic", which means I am responsible for putting commercials on the air.
However, on August 29, I am going for a course in Video Production, so that instead of just booking them to air, I can actually make those annoying commercials.
Since I've been at the station, I've been on the news - when they need vision of, say, someone surfing the net, they'll come in and ask me to surf a particular web site, while a cameraman gets me doing it. I've never watched it, however.
One day last week, the news people needed a 'romantic couple' and wanted me to walk along looking romantic with the station manager. I said no......
Overall, it's great fun working in that environment. I used to work for a video production company a few years ago (it went out of business) and I'm really happy to be back in it again.
I can't believe my good luck!

manicd-
Axella what brought you to Australia and how long have you been there?
Also some of my favorite bands have come from Australia...Split Enz and anything the Finn Brothers have been involved with, Midnight Oil, and others....would you say there is a good music scene in Australia now and who should we all be looking out for?

Axella J.
#1:
Love. I met an Aussie, and as I worked for an airline, I got to come here free of charge a lot. Eventually, I decided to stay.
We are no longer together, though we remain close. But I've grown to love the lifestyle here, and decided to stay. I've been here for 12 years now.
#2:
The Australian press is always crapping on about Kylie Minogue, but I can't say I'm really a fan (I'm not much into pop music).
If I were, there's a chick named Delta Goodrem who can REALLY sing, and who writes her own songs. I think she's been picked up by a US label, so you should be hearing from her in the next year or so.
Then there's "The Vines", who are already on their way to self-destruct.
A lot of our actors have made it over there - Hugh Jackman, and Eric Bana (who's "The Hulk").
BTW, most of us think the Crocodile Hunter is a bozo, and hope Americans don't take him as a 'typical Aussie'.

Chaz the Spaz
What new music plans do you have?

Axella J.
Well, my secret ambition is to put together a blues/swing/jive band - the bigger, the better! I want to do some of that jumpin' jive stuff from the 40's.
That is not to say, however, that I intend to abandon rock.

Axella J.
Oh, and I got my new 12-string today, so I want to do some folkey stuff as well.

7mama
congratulations, maybe that will inspire me to pick my guitar back up...have been on the keyboards too long now thanks for all the great info!!!!!!!!!!!

Axella J.
I'm just starting to get into keyboards, in fits and starts.
My problem is my short attention span. Or maybe that's not really it - I just want to learn everything and as a consequence, I don't learn enough about anything specifically. It gets frustrating...

Chaz the Spaz
Is kangaroo on the menu in restaurants in Austrailia?

Axella J.
Yes, it is in some restaurants.
It is not really eaten by the general population, and is almost a 'delicacy'. Those who've eaten it tend to be the more adventurous diners.
Australians eating kangaroo is rather like Americans eating Bald Eagles.

Chaz the Spaz
I guess they both taste like chicken too.

Axella J.
Well, I don't think so... It's a red meat, so it's probably kind of gamey, like deer.
Some people here like rabbit. Now, THAT tastes like chicken (or so I'm told!).

Chaz the Spaz
What influenced your decision to take up guitar at 13?

Axella J.
Well, I'd played a few different instruments in the school band, but never stuck with one for more than a year.
Then one day, I was listening to radio and "Lola" by the Kinks came onů Those first four bars did it. I decided that I was going to get a guitar.
It was a Sears catalog special, came with a tutorial booklet and record (the first song I ever learned to play was in that tutorial, "Red River Valley").

This was taken the first day it arrived. Notice I am using a drapery cord for a strap! And it goes across the strings, too!

Chaz the Spaz
Yeah, and what chord is that you're playin' ???

Axella J.
Don't you KNOW? It's an H-sharp9flat7augmented5diminished6th!!! (For those unfamiliar with that chord, it's in the key of W).

philos60
AxellaJ was one of the first artists I discovered with "My Guy" on mp3.com...last year maybe in June 2002. I was sooo fascinated that I did the first gif animation (now a little bit updated).

Axella J.
Aw, you probably thought I made that up!
I still love that gif!

Chaz the Spaz
What is your goal and what are you planning for your music?

Axella J.
My grand goal? Hmm, I never really thought of one.
Being 'signed' is pretty much out of the question at this point and from here on... So I guess it's to make music that I (and others, hopefully) can enjoy.
The first song I put up here in '99 was only to save me the expense of mailing discs overseas to my relatives. It never, ever occured to me that anyone else would be interested in what I did. But I started getting fan mails, and that blew me away.
I am not terribly prolific. I write when inspired and record when I have the time. But now I am working in TV, which is a very hectic (and draining) environment, so more often than not, I come home completely exhausted.
It is still my goal to do a CD of 60's covers. Finding that stash of old records in the garage when I was a kid in the '70s, had a huge impact upon me. I have sung those songs all my life.
"My Guy" is still in the top ten of its genre a year down the track, so I think my 60's project may have a chance (if I don't screw the songs up!).

Chaz the Spaz
Practice makes perfect, do you practice?

Axella J.
Yeah, but haphazardly (I'm not the most disciplined person out there).
My ex-boyfriend was invited to a motivational seminar thing and asked me tonight if I'd be interested in going. But I said no because I'm too lazy.

Chaz the Spaz
Australia was on the news today. It seems that those koala bears are not only cuddly they are quite amorous, resulting in overpopulation. This gives a whole new meaning to 'down under'. What is going to happen to those lovable creatures?

Axella J.
Well, animal husbandry is not exactly my area of expertise.
One thing I can tell you is that koalas (not bears, but marsupials like kangaroos) are NOT cuddly. In wildlife fundraising ads, people see a celebrity (such as Olivia Newton John) holding and petting a koala like a puppy, and get the erroneous impression that they are docile creatures.
They are, in fact, a wild animal, and if approached, will more likely attempt to tear a person to shreds with their sharp claws, rather than cuddle them. They are (understandably) quite defensive.
It is difficult for them, because their natural habitat is shrinking as man's grows.
Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves, and the more forest area that is lost to new housing estates, the less there is for them to eat. Thus, some are starving to death.

Chaz the Spaz
It's Summer here in New Jersey, is it really Winter in Australia?

Axella
Yeah, the seasons here are opposite to the northern hemisphere.
What sucks, though, is that it's not cold enough to snow, but cold enough to be annoying. That is because winter clothing here is simply not warm enough.
I've heard people say here, "It's not that cold that you really need heavy clothing" but that's cold comfort (no pun) when you have to be outside and the wind blows through your crappy non-water-or-windproof jacket or coat.
Oh, and it usually rains a lot in winter, too, though this year we're experiencing a drought. Rained a lot today, however. Hailed, even.

MORE INTERVIEWS WITH CHAZ

  -- Rick Munarriz

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