I had the opportunity to interview lead vocalist, John Albert Bonnel. Formerly known as Johnny Peebucks, he is the only original, founding member remaining in one of the most beloved, respected and legendary American punk bands, Swingin’ Utters. This San Francisco based band formed in 1987. Bonnel is also is the lead vocalist of Filthy Thieving Bastards and Druglords of The Avenues. I want to thank John for talking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: Who came up with the name for Swingin Utters? It’s a great band name so, I assume that there must also be a great story attached to it.
John Albert Bonnel: My good friend owned a pet cat, who had large utters from nursing. Johnny Peebucks and The Swinging Utters was our first band name.. We shortened it because every time we played a show, it was either misspelled or wrong. We hate the name but glad some people like it because now, we’re stuck with it.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: Who were some of the bands that inspired you guys before you became a band?
John Albert Bonnel: We (Swinging Utters ) started out as a cover band in Santa Cruz, Ca. We played stuff from The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks, Cock Sparrer, Sham 69, The Replacements, etc. We’re influenced by influenced by infinite music and we try to inject that into our music.
Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: Many bands aspire to “get signed.” But, there are very few that actually do. Can you describe the feelings you had, when you knew that was going to happen for Swingin’ Utters? What were your goals back then for the band?
John Albert Bonnel: It was a proud moment for the band. Our goal was to tour and put out new material and FAT made that happen with independent spirit and support. It really fueled our passion for originality and artistic freedom.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: You have experienced two completely different versions of the music business / industry. Can you describe for our readers what that transition was like?
John Albert Bonnel: The music business / industry is lame. I rarely pay attention to it. The true transitions were more about balancing family, jobs and music without collapsing. Nothing has changed in the way I create and or work with love and passion.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: What is the most memorable performance that you have ever had with the Utters?
John Albert Bonnel: In Eugene, Oregon at WOW Hall. I lost my voice for that show and people from the audience came up and sang songs that they knew. Everything about that show was perfect.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: How do you prepare for an extensive tour? What advice would you give to bands who are going out on the road for the first time? Does touring get any easier the more you do it?
John Albert Bonnel: I always prepare by not preparing. What I mean is, I don’t worry about what needs to be packed or get done. I meditate, eat vegan and eat lots of raw ginger, whenever I’m touring. It has gotten easier as I’ve gotten older. I never took care of myself when I was younger. It was a nightmare of drunken blackouts and mental breakdowns. I was mean and ignorant and I wish I had figured it out sooner than later.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: Has your process of songwriting changed over the years? Or has it remained the same?
John Albert Bonnel: Songwriting has changed for me. I’m learning how to play guitar by instinct, with no theory. I used to write songs on Kevin’s bass and Darius would make sense of it for me. Now, I collaborate with different band members, play my version of guitar and I’m the most prolific I’ve ever been in creating music.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: Where are some of your favorite places to tour and why?
John Albert Bonnel: I think the Pacific Northwest is my favorite in terms of climate and conversation. But, the South shows have a certain hospitality that is not found anywhere else.
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: What can we expect from Swingin’ Utters in 2020? Is there anything that you have not done with the Utters that you’d like to achieve?
John Albert Bonnel: New music, touring and art
Ash Andersen Rock-n-Roll.biz: What advice would you give to young musicians, who are starting a band?
John Albert Bonnel: Don’t expect to make a living off music. But, it if does happen, grab hold and be grateful.
To find out more about Swinging Utters go to:
This is an online store personally run by John Albert Bonnel.
Interview by Ash Andersen