It’s been almost 20 years since I first called Johnnie Holliday on his radio show, determined to play him a demo over the phone. I was in my early twenties, a big fan of glam rock, and very very hesitant to ask this local “veteran” to listen to my band’s EP. And with good reason. It was a mess! A costly, pretentious gothic noise that he was kind enough to endure and even compliment on. Over the years, as I would see him at bars or rock out to his songs at their solo and supporting gigs, one thing remained constant: The anticipation for a new Star Star album, whose rumored release had taken almost mythic proportions in our small Athenian scene.
This long-delayed follow-up to 1992’s “The Love Drag Years” could finally terminate a troubled era for the group, that was halved in tragic ways, shortly before their relocation to Greece. But alas, this underground secret was kept in pomp and circumstance, spreading from fan to fan until the band’s social accounts revamped and loaded with exciting information, announced that new music was underway. Star Star is now rebranded as “Scream Idol” and basking in the glory they deserve. This trinity of rock ‘n roll debauchery has left its limbo and I’m asking its OG about their album “Movie Mary” and the reasons we have waited this long.
First things first, congrats on the amazing “Movie Mary”. It’s punky, raw, and energetic, and I expected nothing less! I was also really impressed with the digital campaign and the effort in promoting the release. You produced several different videos that included some great new footage, uploaded everything on streaming services, made new merch, and shared it all on social media. Is this indicative of a new era for the band? Also, tell me about the upcoming shows and how it feels to get back on stage and express yourself freely?
It’s a new era for all bands. Since print magazines are not a factor anymore, and even radio has lost most of its influence, the more strictly policed and regulated streaming and social platforms are unavoidable. This makes live shows even more vital for artists. So yeah man, we’re feeling that rush of RnR freedom as we get ready to do a string of shows through Europe and the US this year.
Johnnie guide me through the recording of the new album. I know the lineup changes couldn’t have been helpful in putting things together but I remember you working on new stuff as early as the summer of 2006 (the year of the GNR gig in Malakasa). Was that album shelved and reworked to include Jack Kennedy who’s now back on drums or is most of Movie Mary fresh material? What really happened between tracking those songs?
What happened was we got into this cycle of recording, re-recording, rewriting, redoing, etc. It just went on for years man. We were playing shows, hosting club events, and partying heavily, and we just got into this mindset that we were making the album better. We recorded a lot more songs than we put on the debut album, which we’ll release as singles later this year. We had actually tracked a whole album prior to all of this at Sierra studios, but as we developed our live show we moved away from those versions… so they never got mixed.
Friends ask me if Star Star/Scream Idol is “a Greek band”. Living here and playing gigs for such a long part of your band’s history, how do you compare the two eras (American and Greek) in terms of fan reactions and/or appreciation; There’s also been a steady local drop in popularity for rock (especially during the past decade), and now an extended pandemic period to take into account.
We see it more like the before and after eras. After the deaths of Jay and Deon, it really was a new beginning for the band. Sometimes I feel that we shoulda changed the name then. The decline of rock popularity began earlier in the US. We were lucky to be in Europe, in Athens. Weeds and I often noticed how much more alive the scene here was as compared to the States during that time. So, besides the fun of breaking out in these new scenes, it was also exciting to feel some fresh rock energy man! Rock today has strayed from its roots and the culture that influenced generations. As music conforms to the guidelines and directives of the controlled media platforms the creativity is dying. I feel sad for this generation that is discovering bands through regulated mediums. As a result, gaming is now the number one passion of young people… music is number two for the first time in history.
I hope you don’t mind talking about past stuff. While freshening up my Star Star knowledge, I came across a lot of Love Drag Years reviews where fans repeatedly mentioned that the band “came along at the wrong time” or “should have come along sooner”. 1992 was a year caught between glam and grunge and undoubtedly there was a shift in musical tastes. I know that’s a hard question and many other things were involved such as your problems with Roadrunner, but do you agree/believe that the album came about two-three years too late? What if the album were released during the glam and hair heyday, before the 80s ended?
I doubt we have much in common with 80’s hair metal bands. Roadrunner paid three hotshot mix guys to mix that album and they chose on the most commercial mix. It was a cause of fighting between the label and management. Those mixes didn’t capture our character. Roadrunner was making a move in a new direction with us. There were problems, so much so that they hired an external PR team to work with us… it wasn’t the timing of the album, or being caught between trends.
Anyone familiar with the band’s story knows that it would make for a great movie. You were “Destined to become something of real importance to the modern music world” and you I believe you did, but along the way came a good deal of misfortunes and more than one periods of hiatus. The latter one ended with a radical, surprise change in your identity, just before the new release. What brought about this change? Was it a copyright issue? Do you see the new name/band as a continuation of Star Star and if not, how is Scream Idol different?
The change from Star Star to Scream Idol felt like a natural evolution. Star Star had its time. Scream Idol seems much more pop than anything Star Star would’ve done. We’ve never tried to push the music in any direction, rather we let the music define our direction. We feel like the new character of the band shines out on this album, and reflects our new live show… and that’s a big rush as we get ready to take this rock ‘n roll show on the road man!
All through these decades, you remained true to the underground and I know that’s what many of your fans appreciate. There was however a late 80’s to early 90’s period where bands like you or other glamsters such as The Dogs D’Amour or The Electric Angels, could easily crossover to the mainstream and not “fall through the cracks of commercial stardom” as you mention in your bio. If that happened, how do you think this would have affected you as an artist (and the band overall)?
Hard to predict how things could develop under different circumstances, but based on my addictive personality some more trashy stories would’ve been written. If a little is good, more must be better! During the time period, you mentioned the music industry abandoned developing artists’ personal style. Years later the results of this strategy are evident as you listen to this year’s Grammy nominees. Savvy social media celebrities are the new rock stars, and artists are condoning censorship. The only hope is an underground revolution! Rock n Roll is always fashionable, and it just takes a bunch of bands true to RnR culture to get people partying at clubs and shows again.
Scream Idol’s incredible debut release “Movie Mary” is out now on CD and all major streaming platforms.
Buy Album/Support: https://starstar.bandcamp.com/album/movie-mary
What's Your Reaction?
A seasoned creative copywriter in Advertising, completely gaga over all things music.