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Interview with Johnny Hickman
January 2009 - by Mister Bill

Johnny HickmanI am a fan of Cracker - and already pumped to see their upcoming CRACKER UNPLUGGED performance at the High Noon Saloon on Thursday February 5, 2009... So you can imagine how thrilled I was to interview co-founder and lead guitarist Johnny Hickman. Here's what he had to say:

Tell me a little about this acoustic tour. Just you and David? Touching any unique areas of your catalog? Any new material in the repertoire?
Cracker fans seem to really appreciate hearing our songs performed this way. We've only been doing these duo shows for a few years and we don't do them very often so there's always a special kind of intimacy and electricity.

Speaking of electricity, I should point out that the duo shows are only half acoustic because I play my electric guitar and David plays acoustic. As in Cracker we don't use a set list so anything can happen. I'm sure we will do a few songs from the new album and probably some rare ones from the past as well.

Does an acoustic tour have special meaning or value to you and David?
Yes. It really gets us to the heart of the songs and to the heart of Cracker in a way. Cracker's sound is largely based on the conversation between David's lyrics and my guitar playing and these shows really focus on that aspect.

I'm your age, and so I truly appreciate your "experienced professionalism." Thirty years is a long time in rock & roll like dog years! What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Thank you. Experienced, yes - but only as professional as is necessary I will say. We come from the school of thought where if you take it TOO seriously it stops being fun. We do know how to put on a good show either with the band or just the two of us. I don't think I would go back and change too many things other than perhaps only being involved with strong women who can handle being with a man who is gone a lot of the time.

How much time are you spending on the road these days? Do you have any wisdom to share with new break-out bands out about surviving the road?
We spend probably a little less than half of our time on the road now which is much less than we used to. We still really enjoy it but we have kids we need to see as much as possible too. To be a touring musician you have to really want to be. It's not an easy life. Be ready to lose friends and be very lonely sometimes. I wouldn't trade it for anything though. I've been all over the world and gotten paid to do what I love. You won't get much complaining from this man. I am lucky as hell and I know it. My advice to new bands on the road is keep your eye on your equipment and remember to respect your audience. They pay your bills.

I really loved Greenland and look forward to your upcoming release Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey. Sounds optimistic and hopeful. Anything you can tell us about it?
It's an optimistic title yes, but true to form there is always a healthy dose of sarcasm and irony in what we do. We can't help it. It's just us. The political climate I'm sure has crept in there a bit although not overtly so yes, it's got very happy hopeful moments too. We love to make people laugh and think. That's sort of where we come from.

How about your side projects? What's new there?
Well Cracker is job #1 right now with the new album coming out soon but we always have things on the back burner too. I know David plans to release a solo album at some point and I'm slowly working on another one as well. My friend Jim Dalton and I are writing new Hickman Dalton Gang songs too. That's my country side project. We have one record out there already. David is always looking for good new bands to produce too. David and I are both music 24/7 kinds of guys.

What drew you to the guitar? Who were your inspirations and influences as an emerging musician?
The Beatles first, then the Kinks and The Rolling Stones got me started as a little kid. I started playing guitar when I was seven. Very badly! I can't really do much else so I stuck with it. Jimmy Page was a big influence but also surf and country players.

What music are you listening to these days that excites you?
I found Fleet Foxes last year and I'm still listening nonstop to them. Stunning record. I also really like Graham Coxon formerly of Blur. Great, raw guitar player and a great songwriter. Very English, very funny.

What question do you wish that I asked? And what is your answer?
Q) What do you call a lead guitarist without a girlfriend?
A) Homeless!

Here's my preview of Cracker's Nov 2007 appearance at the High Noon

Here are a few songs that were recorded at this show. Enjoy!

FYI - "Big Dipper" is one of my 5-star favorite songs - and this is a really nice performance..
Thanks to MMR friend - Tom S. - for recording this!



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