Hardline’s career started with a Double Eclipse in the early ‘90s. While often compared to some of their Aquanet-fused predecessors, with early success came turmoil, egos and grunge. They’ve been reborn a few times, enduring member changes, but at its core, singer Johnny Gioeli has been the instrumental driving force burning the torch with brazen determination and an eternal passion for music, helming Hardline with a voice that’s only gotten better with time.
It began with Johnny and brother and guitarist Joey Gioeli, teaming with guitarist Neal Schon, recording Double Eclipse, touring with Van Halen and Mr. Big introducing the world to Hot Cherie.
Inner conflict put them on hiatus, as a decade passed until regrouping for their sophomore effort II coming hard and loud from opener Hold Me Down, emotional heart string puller Only a Night and the dark, murky and melodious The Gift.
After almost another decade, Leaving the End Open was released, yet Johnny was ready to close the door.
2012’s Danger Zone came from keyboardist and producer Alessandro Del Vecchio, writing songs specific for Gioeli’s vocals, reigniting interest in the band. This steadied the lineup from 2013 on with guitarist Thorsten Koehne, bassist Anna Portalupi, and drummer Francesco Jovino giving fans Fever Dreams and Hardline hope the band was back.
Cherie still gets a reaction but they have a growing catalogue of tunes that can fill any venue with raised fists, lighters and cell phone glows.
This year’s Human Nature ushers in a heavier sound with the opening space-age keyboard bite of Where will we go from Here while Take You Home puts the intimate spotlight on a piano and the power of the human voice.
The band is back, Gioelo says. “This one’s been around a few years and I’m not changing it, it’s here to stay. We’re already talking about the next record. I have a solo album coming in the summer then we’ll get started on another Hardline record. I wasn’t quite sure what the overall following was until I got on social media. I couldn’t believe the number of fans, (it) was off the charts. So, I did a little test, (in) Spain and sold it out, first shot. I said, OK, then we played in Italy and sold it out. I really learned how big this still is and its 25 years old. So why not keep it going when there’s an audience?”
They tour Switzerland in May then back to Spain, Portugal and Germany. Unfortunately, Gioelo’s still leery about the U.S. market.
The tour will be Hardline music, “It’ll be a walk through the past to present, kind of a timeline thing, the Double Eclipse songs and obviously the new tracks.” Human Nature hit the billboard 100, the first album to chart since Double Eclipse. “If we charted, we charted for a second but this one charted top 100, which is really neat and we made the Swiss charts as well.”
“It seems people still want it. Reviews are great. I let the people dictate the career. I don’t try to force anything, just go for it.”
On being labeled a ‘80s band, “We’re one of those bands that its good there’s some confusion,” he says. “We came out in the ‘90s. We’re kind of a ‘80s band, kinda not. We got a little bit of the hair look. We’re just a good hard rock, melodic band (with) a lot of musical talent.” There’s talk of putting together most of the original lineup and doing some big shows for the 25th anniversary.
They’re known for Hot Cherie but they have new signature tunes. “Again I let the people dictate it, people like my voice singing ballads, so I think Love is Gonna Take You Home, that’s gonna be the stand out tune on the album,” he says. “I just did it in Chicago and people love the tune, I think that’s one that’ll stick around for a while.”
“I said I want it stripped to voice and piano, it doesn’t need anything. You kind of wait for it (guitar solo), even I did, I keep thinking, it’ll be cool to rip right there but you know, it’s all message driven. I never forgot something so brilliantly said by Elton John, a good song is a perfect marriage of lyrics, melody and music and sometimes you don’t need anything more than that.”
Performing from age 11, his voice is God given. “All God given, the only thing different I did in California, when I lived there, same as Axl Rose does, we train before a tour.” Gioelo does it himself now which means, waking up early and vocally training, different hours of the day. “You trained (whether) sick, exhausted (or) drunk. Getting the voice ready makes a big difference. I didn’t know I knew how to sing.” He did theater from age eight then started playing professionally at 11. “I had to make a decision at 11, continue acting or migrate to music and when I saw way more chicks in music, bye-bye theater.”
Despite common belief, they didn’t write Hot Cherie, they re-wrote it. Originally written by Danny Spanos, Slaughter’s Dana Strum gave them the song when they were in Brunette. “He said, if we remade this, it’ll be a hit, we listened.”
“I got out of the fast pace of California to come East, the best move I ever made. I had so much stuff. It’s cool to have some fun shit. What we need is peace and quiet and our stress level down. I had big toys, a yacht, an airplane, a helicopter, four houses, cars, and restaurant and with all that comes a pile of maintenance bills. You don’t buy the yacht if you can’t afford the gas. One day my mother-in-law said ‘you need to simplify.’” He sold everything and moved to Connecticut.
Frontiers Records is his home. “We’re all family, all Italian. I feel sort of an allegiance to them because it was Serafino (Perugino), the owner that begged for a Hardline record.”
After some hounding he gave in. “I’m grateful. I didn’t realize how many fans there are. I’m really blown away. I get mail and emails from Iraq, Portugal, Russia, Czech Republic, I can’t believe the fans, all over the place. I’m putting a show together in Lisbon, Portugal. I’m proud of Frontiers and that’s who I’m sticking with. That’s my company.”
He’s met big names and toured with big names. Hardline’s been with Van Halen, Roger Daltrey and Queen among others.
“We played Wembly with Mr. Big, my wife, girlfriend at the time, said “Oh my god, look at that guy, he thinks he’s Roger Daltrey,” I look over, that is Roger Daltrey. A few years later on an airplane flying from L.A. to England, I was talking to him, he wrote an autograph “I am Roger Daltrey.” It was the coolest thing.”
“We were good dudes on the road, we worked really hard. We didn’t play around. If we weren’t doing shows, meet and greets or radio we were moving (and if) we weren’t doing that, we were sleeping. We had a lot of fun. We just wanted to get on the damn stage, we couldn’t wait.”
On fan interaction, “The stories I love (are) where you affect someone musically.” It’s not about selling records or making millions, “It’s about how my music is affecting someone, hopefully in a good way. Those are the kind of fan interactions I love.” Fans have said they avoided suicide from songs like In This Moment saying I don’t need to do this to myself. “That’s the interaction I love.”
He’ll retire when the fans say so. “I retired at 39.” Three months later his wife said, find something to do. “I’ll keep doing it until people say stop. I enjoy making music. It’s the equivalent of a painter starting with a blank canvas and what they see in their mind. It’s the same with music. It’s (an) amazing process to build something and have it sound the way you envisioned. I love (it) and the camaraderie with the band. This process isn’t stressful anymore; you work all your life to get the record deal. I had very big deals (with) MCA/Universal. That was the most stressful time of my life. Our A&R guy called me. ‘Johnny, write two new hit songs in the next two weeks.’ You know what a great song is. That’s where Hands of Time came from, staring at an empty page. That’s what I used to do when it was forced. I used to sit in the studio and crumple a lot of paper.”
“When the idea hits you for a particular melody, riff or lyric that’s when you write it.”
Closing words to the Screamer fans, “Let me thank all the readers, you could be the best singer, drummer, guitar player in the world, without fan support, I’m nothing, I become nothing. I want people to know that I have the utmost respect and gratitude to the fans of this music, so thank you everyone.”