John Christ and I share many things in common. We both live and work near the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Our wives both work with animals. We both teach college students. Both of us love Judas Priest. John Christ is one of the greatest metal guitar players of all time….I’m….. ok… so we’ll stop with the similarities there.
I met John for lunch in suburban Baltimore. He pulled up to the restaurant and exited his car with his newest guitar in hand. It was a Taylor acoustic guitar that he and a friend had just tuned up and gotten ready for performance use later in the week. John Christ Knoll, as he’s known in academic circles was super excited to play the $4,000 handmade guitar with his students and faculty at one of his school’s recitals. He actually gave me a little impromptu acoustic version of “Mother” right there in the restaurant. Yes, I was sitting there eating lunch while being serenaded by John Christ, the man who’s images hung on my bedroom wall as a teenager growing up in New York in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Heck, he still hangs on my wall.
John, of course, is an extremely gifted musician who comes from a intensely musical family in Maryland. Knoll attended Towson University where he studied jazz guitar. He later auditioned for the band Danzig at a very young age. Knoll recalls his time at Towson fondly and is extremely active in the Baltimore music scene to this day. His latest recital was sponsored by Baltimore County’s own Coffey Music and they even had a billboard placed off the main County roads to celebrate Baltimore’s own living guitar legend.
John was so upbeat, excited and positive as he told me about his Taylor guitar and his current students. He let me examine the Taylor closely.
“It needs a good number of shows. It’s so new. It’s so stiff. It hasn’t been loved enough yet. It needs the sweat. It needs the oil from the fingers to get into it. The fretboard doesn’t have any wear on it. The frets don’t have any grooves in them yet. It’s stiff. It needs to be played. I’ve only got 75 hours before the performance and I need to practice on it for about 45 hours.”
After describing more of the specifics John and his friend had to do to the guitar to get it ready for live play he went on:
“I’m just getting to know her. I’m not sure if she’s going to be named Roxanne or Zoe yet. She started out as more of a Zoe. I’ll find out today and tomorrow so I can put it in the program. I started posting a couple of pictures on Instagram.”
Of course, if you ever have seen the Danzig I Home Video, John tells viewers how he sweated blood to get his famous guitar “Bich” which is, of course, a B.C. Rich “Rich Bich.” Knoll went on to describe the young rock guitarists he’s currently training in Maryland and the varied interests they all have. They are studying Alice in Chains, Pink Floyd and classic rock as well as classical. Christ himself is a huge student of classical music and appreciates its complexity. And while he took a break from the world of social media for a while, he’s starting to increase his profile again as his career in music instruction expands.
“The great thing about the Peabody (one of John’s schools) kids is that they’re bringing me up to the technology that they use all the time. It’s helping me get up to speed on this stuff.”
The reception to John Christ Knoll, guitar teacher, is contagiously upbeat. I’ve spoken to John on the phone a few times and it seems that every time we speak he’s in the car on the way to another lesson. As someone who went to many of Danzig’s classic lineup shows as a teenager in New York City, I, of course, had to ask about a possible return to the Danzig lineup.
So how would John feel about a Danzig reunion? And what are his feelings about the band? Says John:
“Danzig III was the record where I had the most freedom to explore tones and sounds and solos. I worked a lot of the stuff out on my own. I just came in and really went all in and battled for the guitar sounds and the guitar overdubs and went to war with the record company and with Glenn. Not that they didn’t gave great ideas but I was not going to let my stuff be edited out and sacked and mixed out of the whole album. I was at every single session the whole time.”
Danzig has announced performances of Danzig III this summer live. While there is no doubt that Danzig I – IV are metal masterpieces and up there with the best records of the late 80’s and early 90’s, Danzig III, in my mind, was always their best and really demonstrated how the band had come together musically. Knoll, without any doubt, appreciates and respects Tommy Victor and the current members of Danzig, however, he is clear that he would love to be able to go out and play songs with Danzig off those first four records. Maybe even just for a few months.
“I would still love to go out and play. Do a tour. Play those first four records. I still know all the songs… I got all the set lists from our past shows. The rig is ready. I could go out tonight. Glenn could say ‘meet me in Chicago tomorrow’ or ‘we’re playing in San Francisco tomorrow’ or tonight at midnight. I can be there. That’s how ready I am.”
Would John be willing to work with Eerie Von and Chuck Biscuits on this project in addition to Glenn?”
Says John without hesitation, “I’d be happy to work with them…. Definitely I think there’s a demand for out there.”
We’ll have Part II of our talk with John Christ next week here at Metal Insider!