An Interview with Johnny Kelly of Quiet Riot

All images courtesy of Johnny Kelly


By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

All images courtesy of Johnny Kelly

Recently, I caught up with hard-hitting drummer, Johnny Kelly of Quiet Riot, Kill Devil Hill, Danzig, and Silvertomb. Among other things, we touch on Johnny’s origins, early influences, his work with his many other bands, joining Quiet Riot, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Quiet Riot, the link to their webpage is here. Once you’ve checked that out, dig into this interview with Johnny. Cheers.

Andrew:
Johnny, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Johnny:
I’ve been doing ok all things considered. Last year, Quiet Riot did some shows sporadically. I basically kept busy working on new music with my other bands, Silvertomb and Kill Devil Hill. I’ve also been busy giving drum lessons remotely. I’ve been trying to do more session work as well. My shameless plug. [Laughs]. So, if you hear of anyone needing drum tracks, direct them my way! I’ve been doing some things around the house. I help my wife with fostering dogs. She works with a dog rescue here in the Dallas area.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on drums?

Johnny:
I was always in music as far back as I can remember. If you had to pinpoint one specific event, it was when my father brought home KISSAlive! After that, I wanted to play drums.  

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences?

Johnny:
I would have to say it was Peter Criss. Shortly after that, it was John Bonham and Bill Ward. There were others along the way, but that’s where it started.

All images courtesy of Johnny Kelly

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events. Take me through how you became a member of Quiet Riot. 

Johnny:
I’ll try to make this short. [Laughs]. I’ve been playing in Hookers & Blow with Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi for a few years. I knew Frankie [Banali] was sick. Quiet Riot was going to be playing in Dallas where I live, so since I was going to be there anyway, I offered to help Frankie with things knowing he wasn’t 100% healthwise. Not expecting anything to come of it, I had mentioned to Alex if they ever needed help, I would cover for Frankie. Alex called me two days before that Dallas show, and asked, “Could you cover for Frankie?” After that, when Frankie couldn’t make a show, I would do it for him. Before Frankie had passed away, he said, “I want Quiet Riot to continue on, and I want you to be the drummer to replace me.”

Andrew:
The word is that Quiet Riot has a new album set for release. Is there any truth to that?

Johnny:
Honestly, I don’t know all that much about it. It’s not that I’m being kept in the dark about it or anything like that. There’s been so much going on since Rudy [Sarzo] came back. We’ve mainly focused on getting the band back on the road. I know that there are some drum tracks Frankie had done throughout the years that were saved. That stuff is still being gone through. We’ll have to see what’s there and what comes of it. 

Andrew:
Fair enough. How about the touring side of things. What can you tell us regarding upcoming shows?

Johnny:
Since the spring of this year, it’s been very busy. We’ve been doing a lot of shows, both on our own and part of the Live To Rock tour with Winger, Warrant, and Skid Row. It’s been great getting back out and playing again after a very long two-plus years!

All images courtesy of Johnny Kelly

Andrew:
Many people have been critical of the current lineup despite its talent. What would you say to those people?

Johnny:
I try not to pay too much attention to that. There are people like that also when it comes to Danzig and even with Type O Negative. Quiet Riot has a great legacy, and we’re out there celebrating it with people.  That’s all that really matters to me.

Andrew:
With Rudy Sarzo back in the band, Quiet Riot’s Rhythm section is nothing short of formidable. Speak about working with Rudy, and what intangibles he brings to the band.

Johnny:
I appreciate that, but that really is about Rudy. I am still in shock that I play in a band with him! He’s seen and done it all, yet he still manages to be one the nicest people you will ever meet. His playing is absolutely amazing. He brings great energy and experience to Quiet Riot. I’m amazed at how much energy he has. I ask him a lot of questions about Tommy Aldrige! I feel bad for him now that he’s stuck with me. [Laughs].

Andrew;
Replacing Frankie Banali is no easy task. How do you go about preserving the legacy, while still pushing the band forward?

Johnny:
You don’t replace a player like Frankie. His playing really does stand out on every song the band recorded. He pushed it to another level in his live performances too! Frankie was a big influence of mine growing up, and I like to think that I’m doing an OK job of carrying on the Quiet Riot legacy. I think having respect for what he’s done is most important. From there, I try my best to bring that forward while still being myself.  

All images courtesy of Johnny Kelly

Andrew:
You’re also a member of Danzig. Is there anything new to report there? It’s been a few years since the band’s last album.
 

Johnny:
Danzig just did a short run in the states last month. Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I wasn’t able to do it with them. I don’t think there’s much going on for the rest of the year. Glenn has been pretty busy with his movie projects. There has been some talk about some possible fly dates. There haven’t been any discussions about working on new music. Hopefully, we’ll do something soon.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next on your docket, Johnny?

Johnny:
Quiet Riot has a lot of shows on the schedule this year. I can’t recall being home for that long my entire career. While I’ve enjoyed being home, I’m looking forward to getting back out and playing as much as possible!

All images courtesy of Johnny Kelly

Interested in learning more about Quiet Riot? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Inspired by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Lester Bangs, and Eddie Trunk, coupled with an immense passion for music, and a disposition for writing, freelance journalist Andrew Daly moved to found VWMusic in 2019. Over time, VWMusic has grown into a bustling music outlet harboring a staff who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles, interviews, and more. In addition to running VWMusic, Andrew is also an accomplished freelance journalist, currently writing for Copper Magazine, as well as a drummer, and lover of all things guitar.
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