The legendary ska band will play The Queen on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Whether the gang is in a hot tub with water pistols, or cheesin’ while waving their middle fingers -- Reel Big Fish is all about not taking themselves seriously.
A contributor to Reel Big Fish’s upbeat vibe is trumpeter Johnny Christianson, better known as “Johnny Christmas.” The swirly mustached man is all smiles on stage, waving his trumpet in the air like he just doesn’t care.
A ska band from the early ‘90s, Reel Big Fish goes hard on the road, playing over 200 shows per year.
Johnny Christmas and his band of brothers will gig at The Queen in Wilmington on Oct. 23. The band will bring their new single “You Can’t Have All of Me,” off their upcoming album titled “Life Sucks… Let’s Dance!”
The project is slated for release Dec. 21.
Where does your nickname Christmas come from?
When I got in the band in 2004, there was a lot of personal turmoil in the band. Frankly, Aaron [Barrett] didn’t think the band would last. He thought that “Cheer Up” would be the last Reel Big Fish record, because that’s more of a pop-rock record; and he thought everybody was going to hate it. We had some people who were really unhappy in the band that didn’t want to be here. Some of those people left.
I came in here and it’s something I wanted to do all my life. I always wanted to be like Eddie Van Halen with a trumpet in my hand. I wanted to be a rock star and, particularly, be a virtuoso trumpet player, but who played popular music that people actually wanted to listen to. I got to do that and I was so excited.
I had many jobs. I worked at UPS. I was a motorcycle mechanic. I worked for a janitor a little while. I had lots of terrible jobs and I didn’t want to do them anymore. Coming in the band, I was so excited. It kind of improved everybody’s mood, so they said “being around you is like Christmas Day.” So they started calling me Christmas. It stuck.
Your fan base is a mix of college-aged people, and middle-aged folks. How’d that happen?
I think there’s a group of people that’ve been with us since the beginning, and that’ve enjoyed the band when we were on the radio in the late ‘90s. Those people have gone away and had kids. Eventually they’ll say, “Ah man, I want to have fun at a show. I don’t want to sit down and cry. I want to come to a show and dance and smile, raise my fist in the air and say the ‘F’ word.” So they come back around and they bring their kids, which blows me away.
What was it like playing the Vans Warped Tour this past summer for the last time?
The tour is great. It was really a lot of fun to go out there and meet all the kids every day, and play for these great crowds. The tour is also terrible. You’re surrounded by people 24/7. There’s no chance to really get any quiet, because you’re surrounded by 100 other bands. You’re surrounded by 15,000 to 25,000 fans everyday. There’s no chance for alone time on that tour, and that’s really hard on me. For me in particular, I like to read a book and have some quiet and chill out for a little while.
Even after it’s all over, you go back to where the buses are and there’s 100 generators all going on at the same time, all buzzing. Then there’s bands playing all day. It’s a lot of noise, and I realize that takes its toll on me. But the show is awesome. The people are awesome. Kevin Lyman did such a great job putting the festival on for almost 25 years. I’m a little sad to see it go.
Aside from a good book, what are two essentials you need on the road?
Flushable wipes. I also take a journal out with me and make notes about what’s going on in my life. This goes back to me being by myself and writing. It’s really important for me to process some things and get it on paper, because when you keep things in your head, they go places where you don’t want them to.
Do you plan to do anything with your journal?
I would like to write a book for my daughter. She’s 5. I’d like to give her Johnny Christmas’ punk-rock guide to living life. We’ll see if I can make that work and put some coherent thoughts together that actually make sense. I think it’d be neat for a kid.
Is it true you bought your daughter a little motorcycle that she hasn’t ridden yet?
She still hasn’t ridden it yet. My nephew has a daughter who’s the same age as Olivia. So I took it out with them and we tried to get both his daughter and mine [on the motorcycle],and they both cried. They didn’t want anything to do with it. My nephew’s son, who was 3 at the time, we asked him if he wanted to ride and he was like, “Yeah!” So we took him around and the girls played with dirt and stuff. But I’ll keep working on it. I wanted to do some neat, outdoorsy things with my daughter, instead of her being stuck in the house.
As a motorcycle enthusiast, if you could afford any bike, which would it be?
A KTM (2010) 990 Adventure bike. It’s a twin cylinder and you can ride it on or off road. I think that would be so much fun because I could go camping on the motorcycle, set up tents and see this beautiful country of ours.