German neo-prog band Johnny Bob have been around for a several years, steadily putting out new music ever since 2017. The band’s genesis harks back to the influences of iconic acts like Jethro Tull, Marillion, and Genesis. In an exclusive interview with Carsten Díaz, one of the founding members, we delve into the band’s origins, inspirations, and the evolution of their sound.
Carsten shares his musical roots, recounting the early days when his school band attempted to embrace the intricate layers of prog rock—a venture that faced inevitable hurdles. However, the allure of the genre persisted through the years, with a particular fondness for the timeless works of Jethro Tull, Marillion (with a Fish-era exception), and Genesis. His journey through an “angry young man” phase with punk and indie influences forms a fascinating backdrop to Johnny Bob‘s eclectic musical palette.
Jörg Purfürst, Carsten’s brother and a vital force within the band, unfolds his musical saga that commenced with the Beatles‘ “Revolver.” Forever a Beatle and never a Rolling Stone, Jörg’s journey led him to the enchanting realm of progressive rock through the visionary artistry of Roger Dean. The pivotal moment, discovering Yes, became a catalyst that fundamentally transformed his musical trajectory. From experimenting with electro DJing in his twenties to exploring diverse band projects and styles, Jörg ultimately found his way back to his enduring love—progressive rock.
In this interview, we are introduced to the world of Johnny Bob‘s, where influences from the past converge with contemporary expressions, forging a path that echoes the essence of neo-prog. Join us as Carsten Díaz and Jörg Purfürst share insights into the band’s evolution, the impact of their musical influences, and the ongoing exploration of progressive rock that continues to shape their sonic landscape. Johnny Bob are featured on our “Progstravaganza: Harmony in Complexity” compilation.
Let’s dive into the featured track on the compilation. Can you share the inspiration or story behind “Shallow the Nykr”?
Carsten: A modern fairy tale. The Sea People take revenge on humanity for poisoning their habitat. I’m the only Johnny Bob member who does not live in Hamburg but in the coastal area of Kiel. Living in-between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea a lot of inspiration comes from the myths and nature of that region as far as music and lyrics are concerned.
Walk us through your creative process. How do you typically approach writing and composing music? What was your creative process like for your new album “The Glass Hotel Tapes” in comparison to your previous efforts?
Carsten: First there was the story of Sofie Conrad, her mysterious disappearance and the legacy of tape recordings and text fragments. We became aware of this through a note on a cigarette pack in the backstage area. Generally speaking I write the lyrics for our songs. As far as the music is concerned, I’m the classic songwriter, Jörg is more of an experimentalist, instrumentalist and producer.
Jörg: Musically, the five of us were able to work on this album together as a band for the first time. We were rehearsing and there was time to work on song fragments on those dates, either. Ideas from the keyboarder and guitarist were also taken up and further arranged.
Who or what are your major influences in progressive rock? How do they impact your own musical style?
Carsten: The influence of Genesis cannot be ignored. Apart from that, it’s all a wild mix that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with prog.
Jörg: Speaking of prog: Yes, Camel, Marillion – and so many other.
What challenges have you faced as an artist in the scene, and how have you overcome them?
Carsten: Booking concerts has become extremely difficult since Covid. Many organisers have to see how they survive, so there is hardly any room for lesser-known bands. The scene is becoming more and more commercialised, unfortunately.
How do you see the scene evolving, and what role do you believe your music plays in that evolution?
Carsten: I understand Johnny Bob as a homage to the 70s and 80s. Personally I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. On the other hand, due to our different musical socialisation, which includes genres such as punk, electro and indie in addition to prog, we have a nice mix to offer, which, thanks to our supporters, has also brought us respectable success.
Share with us some of the most memorable moments in your musical journey so far.
Carsten: We were invited but never played the “Night of the Prog” Festival. At that time we had two albums out but unfortunately no band. That was the most memorable moment that has never happened.
Do you have a personal favorite among your own compositions? If so, which one and why?
Carsten: As far as Johnny Bob is concerned, there is no specific song. So far we recorded 5 albums and an ep and I am proud of every one of those.
Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re working on?
Carsten: We are currently working on another concept. We don’t know yet whether it will be an album, a double album or an EP compilation. Just this much: Those first musical fragments and songs already sound very promising to me and I think we are about to reach our personal peak as a band with these recordings.
What does it mean to you to be a part of our compilation? How has the experience been for you?
Carsten: Being part of an “Eclipsed” compilation with the song “Fjodor & The Watergiant” was our key to (modest) success. It was a great experience reaching a new audience with hose first two albums and now a bit later we hope for another “push” with your compilation (and I’m sure this will happen!).
Is there a message you’d like to convey to your fans who will be discovering your music through this compilation?
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or not, who would it be?
If you had to pick one instrument (besides your primary one) to master, what would it be?
Jörg : Flute.
What’s your all-time favorite progressive rock album, and why? One album that you always return to.
Carsten: The Lamb lies down on Broadway (Genesis).
Jörg: Difficult – perhaps “Close to the Edge” (Yes) – or “Trick of a Tail” (Genesis)?
Are there non-musical influences that find their way into your music? (e.g., literature, art, science)
Carsten: Definitely, but I can’t think of any at the moment.
Any final thoughts or reflections you’d like to share with our audience?
Carsten: Some of you live in a free world. Make sure that you and your world remain free. Take responsibility and aside with all that important stuff which makes you happy keep supporting your favorite music.
Where can our audience find more about you and your music?