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Belle Vernon's John Johnson rising to fame with Black Lodge

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 10:15 a.m.
Black Lodge band members, from left, are Justin Greene, Johnny Royal, Gavin Reign, Christopher Royal and Ventura XIII.
Black Lodge band members, from left, are Justin Greene, Johnny Royal, Gavin Reign, Christopher Royal and Ventura XIII.
Johnny Royal is the lead guitarist in Black Lodge.
Johnny Royal is the lead guitarist in Black Lodge.
Johnny Royal is the lead guitarist in Black Lodge.
Johnny Royal is the lead guitarist in Black Lodge.

Belle Vernon's John Johnson is finally living the rock n' roll dream.

Now known as “Johnny Royal,” Johnson's new band, Black Lodge, is climbing the charts and garnering the attention of industry VIPs.

Johnson, who moved to Hollywood in 2005, is currently on the second-leg of a national tour supporting the band's just released, self-titled, EP.

The band will perform at the Hard Rock Cafe Pittsburgh, Station Square at 8 p.m. Nov. 6. Special guests at the all ages show are Skratch and Rimbo Koss. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Johnson said he “can't wait” for the homecoming show.

“Of all our stops, this is the one I'm most excited about because I only come home once a year for Christmas,” said Johnson, a Belle Vernon Area High School graduate. “A lot of friends and family are coming, so it's going to be great.”

Johnson formed Black Lodge last year in an “untraditional way,” by first writing the songs and then hand-picking his bandmates: Gavin Reign (vocals), Christopher Royal (guitar), Ventura XIII (bass guitar), and Justin Greene (drums). Johnson is lead guitarist. The industrial rock band's music is “lush with dark vocal melodies, analog synth overtones, and haunting guitars,” according to the band's website,

Black Lodge's debut, six-song EP, was written and recorded at Johnson's studio, The Realm Creative, in Hollywood. In addition to Johnson and Reign, co-producers and co-songwriters on the EP are Jeordie “Twiggy Ramirez” White, (Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle), Lee Miles (Rise Against, Puddle of Mudd), Zach Webb, Sean Beavan and Johnny K.

The EP is available on iTunes, on the band's Facebook page or its website.

The band's video for the track “Never Clean,” can be viewed on YouTube.

Johnson said the band's popularity is growing rapidly. Black Lodge was recently featured in “Revolver” magazine.

Dave Navarro, former Jane's Addiction guitarist and reality TV show host, tweeted about the band Wednesday.

“Growing up, I would fully immerse myself into the bands that I loved: Iron Maiden, The Misfits, Marilyn Manson, Morbid Angel, NIN,” Johnson told Revolver magazine. “When I started writing this record, I wanted to create the same experience for the listener that made me fall in love with music when I was a kid: memorable songs, great videos and cool artwork. We brought all of those elements into this record and have incorporated a great deal of alchemy and the occult in our song writing process and story arch.”

Johnson said he forged relationships and contacts with top producers and industry leaders through his years working behind-the-scenes in marketing and public relations.

“I sat on the sidelines for a long time, promoting and marketing other bands, and I knew my place was on the stage,” said Johnson, the son of Lynne–Johnson Christy and Bob Christy of West Newton.

Johnson, who has dual degrees in finance and classical music from St. Vincent College, was working at New York City's World Trade Center in 2001 as a stock broker when he decided it was time for a change.

Six months before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, he quit his job to venture into the music industry. The decision not only likely saved his life, but led him on the path he'd always wanted to follow.

He hasn't looked back since.

“To be able to perform, and tour the country, it's a dream come true,” Johnson said Thursday during a tour stop in Destin, Fla. The band has been touring with the band Pop Evil, but will headline their November shows.

After their tour ends Nov. 22, the band will return to the studio to complete its first full-length album.

Johnson said the EP is the first half of the 13-song concept album, “The Diary of Tomahawk.”

Due out next year, the album tells the story of an American witch named Tomahawk and her descent through a world of the occult, alchemy and ritualistic magick.

The full album will be released as a deluxe package, including a limited edition CD/vinyl, a graphic novel, merchandise and toys, that will be available through the a pre-order campaign.

“We love being on the road, but we're also excited to get back in the studio,” he said.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724- 684-2640 or at

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