Interview: B.J. Lisko of Turbo Lovers
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
AC/DC. One of my first memories of really connecting with music was my dad playing me his vinyl copy of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” and it instantly grabbed me. A few years later, I wanted to start playing music, so I pretty much emulated AC/DC and then anything that sounded like AC/DC, and from there got way more into metal, punk, hardcore and a variety of other rock-based artists. A life without music sounds horrifying, so I’d rather not think about it.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Golf. Gamble on football. Drink with friends. Go see other music. I also love to interview and write about musicians, professional wrestlers, and comedians, which I’ve done for nearly 20 years as a journalist in Northeast Ohio. I currently write for Chris Jericho’s wrestling and rock website, WebIsJericho.com. Anything you enjoy is going to influence you creatively in some way. It also helps clear your mind if you’re stuck in a writing rut musically. I also need to mention, I’m pretty sure we’re the only rock band where every member is as addicted to golf as we are to music.
How long has your band been around?
Turbo Lovers started as a recording project in 2003. It started as a live band in 2006, and the current, and likely only ever lineup of this band again, is in its 10th year.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Youngstown, Ohio. A total blue-collar, working-class town. Everyone in the band works about 60 hours a week for their day jobs, which makes writing, recording, and performing music even more important. It’s our escape. It’s our passion. If you live in Youngstown, you generally have to work your ass off for everything you have. So I think the escapism in the music shines through in a lot of artists that are from here, and I also think the joy in playing shows as well, or at least it does with us. We don’t get together to have a bad time, so every show and every practice is a blast, as long as we’re awake for it.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
It’s from the Judas Priest song. It started sort of tongue-in-cheek and wasn’t really intended to be the permanent name of the band, but we got reviewed favorably in Classic Rock Magazine with that name, so we got stuck with it. That’s not to say we’re not Judas Priest fans. They’re one of my personal favorites, and the “Turbo” album is still one of my favorites. It does suck that people a lot of the time think we’re a Judas Priest cover band, especially if we’re opening for a touring tribute act, which we do fairly often.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
We’ve opened for so many national rock acts, and those are all great. But ones that stand out specifically would be opening for Jackyl and opening for KIX, both at Jergel’s in Warrendale, Pa. The Jackyl show was off the hook in terms of the response we got and also the amount of merchandise we sold after. Opening for KIX, which we’ve done twice, is just a great party. They’re such a great and fun live band, that really everybody is in such a great mood when they go to a KIX show, that it makes performing so easy. Opening for Sebastian Bach in our hometown was pretty cool, too, and he was a sweetheart of a guy to everyone after the show.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not
Jergel’s in Warrendale, Pa., because it’s like a time warp. They do all genres of music, but it’s particularly great for rock acts. All the fans still buy CDs. They still want your autograph and a picture. It’s a blast every time. There are literally hundreds of places we would like to play since we’re mostly a regional band, but the shortlist would probably include The Whiskey in L.A. and the Monsters of Rock Cruise. Is a boat a venue? It is for that week, anyway.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I mean, I could list 100 bands still going here, but I’ll keep this is as a single 4-band show: AC/DC, The Darkness, Tokyo Motor Fist, Turbo Lovers.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and
some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Do it for yourself. Please yourself, and do what you want to do first. If you’re any good at it, and sometimes even if you’re not, your enthusiasm is infectious. Also, stick to it. It’s taken us 15 years to start regularly getting on bills that we always wanted on. I basically wanted to open for bands that I would’ve paid to see, and we get to do that all the time now. Advice for my younger self? Try to relax a little more and enjoy the moments you’re in.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
We all knew one another from other bands even before the three of us were in this band. I would go back and tell us to get together sooner than we did.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
This is sort of like asking a mother to pick her favorite kid, but I’d say “Should’ve Known Better” from our new record. It sounds like a song about falling for the wrong person, and it can be interpreted that way, but it’s actually about me getting hooked on painkillers. I’m not gonna say it wasn’t fun for a while, but we all know how that story ends. Luckily I stopped before I wound up messing up anything seriously in my life, but I still wasted a lot of time on that crap.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
“Debutanted” is always great and gets mentioned often. “Rock ’n’ Roll S.O.B.” always goes over great, and we always get asked “What CD has that song on it? ‘Cause I want that one.” “Reckless Love” gets a lot of love, too, because we’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of it via comedian and “That Metal Show” co-host Jim Florentine’s podcast (it’s the theme). Comedian Doug Stanhope also played it on his podcast, it’s been on a few magazine CD compilations, too,
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
If I hear good music, it inspires me to like good songs. Writing spurts usually come after I’m really digging on a new rock record, which gets me excited to grab the guitar and write something of my own.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
We really don’t do messages. We want to be an escape for people. All the songs are basically about drinking, rocking, bad relationships, bad luck, lamenting the state of rock in the mainstream, or all of the above.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Not really, which is why we all love this band. Our drummer likes Queensryche, though, which we almost threw him out of the band for.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming.
Just a lot of shows in support of the new record, “Lettin’ It Fly!” Already this year we have support slots for Ace Frehley, Stephen Pearcy, David Ellefson’s new band The Lucid and Living Colour. So those will all be off-the-hook fun. We’ll also end up with at least three videos for the new album (two are already out - “Reasons That We Rhyme” and “Too Cocky”), and we might even do a fourth.
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Music Video - Too Cocky -
Music Video - Reasons That We Rhyme -