Yogi Lonich on New Album, Playing China & Chris Cornell

Total Croatia News

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February 13, 2020 – Croatia’s list of impressive returnee stories continues with a Croatian Californian musician who has played with the world’s greats, and is set to release his latest album. Meet Yogi Lonich. 

Yogi Lonich is a former Buckcherry, The Wallflowers and Fuel member, California born and raised artist with Croatian roots. Even though he has been awarded a prestigious Grammy nomination for “Best Hard Rock Band” and a Kerrang award for “Best Hard Rock Performance” with Buckcherry, he still says he got lucky to live in the right place at the right time.

“It’s good to have energy on the stage and project it to your audience. That’s where you want to be. You want to connect personally with whoever you’re dealing with because then something actually will happen; there will be chemistry.”

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(Yogi Lonich with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top)

You started playing guitar at the age of 12. Who had the most significant influence on your music taste?

My sister Plavka had the greatest influence on me because she was always singing, acting, dancing as a child. She was teaching me about pop music, rock, new wave… Plavka has been my biggest musical push because I probably wouldn’t be playing guitar if it wasn’t for her singing. I could say she needed a musician, and I was like: “Well, I could play the guitar.” So I kind of started with her. She has had success; she has hits with German production team Jam & Spoon and a big pop dance hit in the 90s called “Right in the night”.

If we are talking about famous rock musicians, then I’d go with Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young (AC/DC), and Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, who pushed me towards blues and jazz.

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(Yogi Lonich with Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin)

You’ve played many great concerts along with fantastic artists. Who was your favourite artist to work with?

Chris Cornell was the most fun gig I had. He was cool to us, he treated us like a band, not like he was the boss, and we were the employees. Chris expected us to come to the rehearsal, know the songs, and express them with our own creativity.

Occasionally with pop musicians, you just have to go and play exactly like the record, and they don’t want to hear any interpretation. But Chris was different; he let us express ourselves. We felt like a band on the stage. We were able to walk anywhere on the scene. It wasn’t like we had to stay in our corner and let him be the star. No, he was very open, he liked to joke around. He was a friend…

My soulmate in guitar playing is Jimi Hendrix. There is something in his spirit and in freestyle of playing that connects with my kind of playing. My second fav is Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. He was a great composer of rock riffs and soloing, but also a had a great stage persona.

Is there one concert you will never forget?

I played the Woodstock ‘99 in New York, in front of the 150 thousand people. It was great! James Brown was playing as well as Red Hot Chilli Peppers… That was a lot of fun because we were playing rock, and people were loving it. I also played with the same band Buckcherry at the Osaka Dome. There were another two bands playing, Aerosmith and Mr Big. Those are unforgettable because of the size, but I really have so much fun playing with my trio here in Zagreb. Just expressing and improvising… It’s stress-free!

You can still hear people talking about the legendary scene on the stage – when Chris Cornell shaved your head. Was that planned?

It was planned…but only on the same day. I was telling the other guitar player, Pete Thorn, that I want to get rid of my long hair. Then Pete said: “Why don’t you have Cornell shave it on stage?” And I thought: “Well… Great idea!” So during soundcheck a few hours before the show, and I asked Chris: “Hey Chris, what do you think about shaving my hair on the stage?” He just said: “Sure” and walked away. We were in New York, playing at Webster Hall, so I had to go find a beauty salon and buy a razor and extension cord. We decided to do it on the encore, at the end of the show. Right as I start soloing, I sat down and Chris began to shave my head, but it took so long! I thought it was going to take 45 seconds, but he was very dedicated, acting a professional.

(Chris Cornell shaving Yogi’s hair onstage)

After many successful collaborations, you’ve recorded a few dozen songs of your own. I believe every single one of them has a story. Which one is the most important to you?

There is a song, a Long Time Coming from my second solo album called Hesitant Poet. It’s a song about embracing change in your life and not being afraid to step into the unknown of life. It’s about not always taking the easiest path. Even if it’s something is difficult, but you feel in your heart, there’s a change you have to make so that you can evolve to the next level.

How do you maintain a busy touring lifestyle with the relaxed life you’ve become accustomed to?

My touring life is not as busy as it was when I lived in Los Angeles. Now I’m touring a few months per year, while as before I was on tour eight months or more per year. That was my schedule for a couple decades, but now I just want to enjoy, go to the coast, have coffees with friends, but I still want to play some gigs with my trio. I want to make music and release albums as well as go on tour with some prominent artists once in a while.

Some people have a problem adjusting to home life vs. tour life. It’s sometimes referred to as “post-tour blues”. Every night on tour you have people congratulating, applauding you, wanting to be your best friend. One gets used to all the benefits. Then you come home and it’s dead silent. Nobody is calling and you don’t have attention from fans. Because of this, some touring musicians become depressed. I have experienced a little bit of it, but you can always do other things to balance that, like meditation, yoga etc. It helps you stay grounded through the whole thing. I’m not taking it for granted; I’m just not taking it so seriously. I think of it as some people appreciate my music, and that’s great, but I try not to let it go into my head.


A few weeks ago, you toured China. How would you describe a day on tour in China?

When I go to China for one concert, it takes four to five days. The first day is all travel because I’m flying from Croatia to Frankfurt, then to a large city in China like Beijing, lastly I fly to the city where the concert will take place. There are always 3 to 6 hour layovers between flights where you just sit at the airport waiting for the next flight. So, it’s usually around 20 hours until I get to my hotel room. The second day is day off, just to acclimate to the time zone a little bit. The third day, we are rehearsing and sound checking which lasts about 5-6 hours. The fourth day is the show day. We usually have 30 minutes of rehearsal. After that, we just sit in the arena dressing room because of the rules that no one can leave the arena due to security checks. Sitting in our dressing room for three hours is not that glamorous. Around 7 P. M. is the concert and it lasts for two and a half hours. After the show, there is a huge banquet celebration. Around 100 people including the band, dancers, backup singers, stage technicians, managers etc. participate in the meal. Every table receives ten courses of Chinese food. We are usually extremely tired and jet-lagged after the concert, but this celebration is their tradition, and we appreciate them having us there so we participate. The last day is again, a travel day returning home, which means another 20 hours of traveling.

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(Yogi Lonich jamming with TCN’s Janja Sestak)

Along with touring, you still manage to produce songs, and a new album is on the way. Who did you work with on it? What or who inspired you for this album? When will it be released?

I produced and wrote the music myself. It will be released it on my record label Sound Assembly Music. I have a mixing engineer in Los Angeles named Kyle Mangels and mastering engineer Andrej Lončarić, who is the director of MPA (Music Production Academy) in Zagreb. The musicians who played are; drummer Marc Slutsky, John Cornell on bass, and Sharlotte Gibson singing back up on Got You Where I Want You. The album is coming out on the 17th of February.

This album was inspired by moving to Croatia and reconnecting with blues and rock influences of Jimi Hendrix, B. B. King and Led Zeppelin. My previous album was more acoustic, more pop, so now I wanted to release and album that rocks a bit. It was important for me be able to reproduce the music live on the stage with a trio. It’s not a record that has a bunch of studio tricks. This album is an honest and authentic representation who I am today as an artist.

For more about Yogi, visit his official website.

About Yogi:

As former Buckcherry, The Wallflowers and Fuel member, California born and raised artist, Yogi has a curriculum vitae which reads like an encyclopedia of musical legends. He has shared the stage and/or recorded with an impressive list of artists including: Chris Cornell, Melissa Etheridge, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Alanis Morissette, Shakira, DJ Zedd, Natasha Bedingfield, Nikka Costa, Anastacia, Five For Fighting, Bonnie Raitt, Booker T Jones, Meredith Brooks, Koshi Inaba (Japan superstar/B’z vocalist) as well as Chinese superstars, Jeff Chang, Leehom Wang and Jason Zhang.

He was also honored to play with Jimi Hendrix’s own Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame opening of the Jimi Hendrix exhibit. He’s toured in support of rock icons The Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Aerosmith, AC/DC, KISS, Lenny Kravitz, Linkin Park and Korn. This list highlights just a few of the many collaborations Yogi’s been a part of during his impressive career, which just keeps getting stronger.

Yogi Lonich talks about his new album and some forthcoming dates. 



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