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Enter Yogi's World, Where Everything Glitters with Rock Stars

A photo of Yogi with the crowd
Photo by David Ungar

Only a few artists today can claim the distinction of collaborating with legendary names in rock history while maintaining a stellar solo career. Yogi Lonich is one of those very few. A former member of The Wallflowers, Fuel, and Buckcherry, he shared the stage and recorded with 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, Jeff Chang, Leehom Wang, and Jason Zhang. When the Jimi Hendrix exhibit opened at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he jammed with the iconic former members of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mitch Mitchell and Tony Cox. Yogi also toured the world in support of legendary bands such as The Rolling Stones, ACDC, Robert Plant, Kiss, Lenny Kravitz, Linkin Park, and Korn. His band Buckcherry was nominated for a Grammy and a Kerrang for Best Hard Rock Band and Best Hard Rock Performance, respectively.

As a solo artist, Yogi released three critically acclaimed albums, Metta, which won him the Los Angeles Music Award for Best Independent Pop Artist; Hesitant Poet, and Rebirth, which won him a Status Award for Best Pop Rock and Urban for electric and acoustic guitar. He also formed a psychedelic band called Run Through The Dessert and recorded the album Break The Silence, which will be released in March under Kinetik. For this project, Yogi enlisted some familiar faces.

"I created the band Run Through The Desert while touring with Chris Cornell," Yogi said. "I enlisted musicians Corey McCormick (bass) and Jason Sutter (drums) from Chris's touring band. We always jammed at sound checks and had a great vibe. They were the natural choice when I decided to record the album."

Yogi is not new to production music. His sophomore album, Hesitant Poet, contained songs featured in various TV shows and feature films. While he is open to licensing his songs for sync, he doesn't write specifically for that end.

"I'm open to writing for TV and film, but it's not necessarily a pursuit," Yogi said. "If I happen to write something that resonates with music supervisors and I land a license, all the better!"

In Break The Silence, Yogi has a number of tracks that would be perfect for sync. Among them are: Thrown to The Wolves and Grecian Moon.

"The former is a kickass groovy rock tune with cool harmony. It's energetic and great for action scenes," Yogi said. "In contrast, Grecian Moon is a vibey rock ballad that builds from a sparse vocal and guitar intro, developing into a heavy rockin' riff by the end."

As a songwriter, Yogi admitted that he mainly relied upon inspiration at the beginning of his songwriting career. But then he decided to make a change. A change that helped him hone and master his craft even further.

"I shifted my process towards on-demand. I'm trying to be more prolific and write every day without overthinking," Yogi said. "It's not always good, but I feel it's better for me to focus on quantity than quality at this time. I'm shooting for my music to be more unadulterated and authentic."

He records and produces his songs at his personal studio, set up for a full band. His process involves recording a scratch guitar and vocal first and then adding drums, bass, keys, and other instruments. Then he re-records the final guitar and vocals takes.

Surprisingly, Yogi is not much of a gearhead for a multi-instrumentalist composer and producer. He prefers Gibson, Fender, and Gibson instruments, and that's all.

"I use simple tools," Yogi said.

Yogi was born and raised in San Jose, California, and moved to Los Angeles in high school and practically spent most of his adult life in the city. For the last seven years, however, he has spent most of his time in Europe. While detached from the LA scene, Yogi still recognizes the significant shifts in the scene where he developed his career. One meaningful change is the migration of musicians from LA to other music cities like Nashville and Austin. Whether this is good or bad for Hollywood, only time will tell. But regarding big-picture changes in the industry itself, Yogi believes the rise of tech has leveled the playing field for all players.

"In the 90s, bands used to get signed by a record label, and the label did their best to 'break' the band. Today the playing field is more level, with YouTube being the yardstick for measuring the popularity of an artist," Yogi said. "When an artist reaches a high number of views, then labels become interested and swoop in to intercept artists' careers. I think it's fine this way. I learn about incredible new artists all the time."

While the changes are generally favorable, there's still room for improvement.

"I would like to hear less of the same playlists on the radio. DJs and program directors should take more chances with new music…get out of their comfort zones," Yogi added.

Having collaborated with rock n roll A-listers, Yogi has plenty of stories to tell. He fondly recalls a time in South America, when he became close to a certain guy who moves like Jagger.

"I was with an artist opening shows for the Rolling Stones in South America in the late 90s and was able to get chummy with Mick Jagger," Yogi said. "Although I didn't formerly work for Mick, I did get to party and jam with him in his hotel room with a couple friends. Mick is a friendly, intelligent, and cordial host. He's very hands-on with the Rolling Stones business, which I found inspiring. To say it was a highlight of my career would be an understatement."

But some of his most poignant memories come from his time with his good friend and collaborator Chris Cornell, whose death shocked him and the whole world.

Yogi with the late Chris Cornell. Photo by Sean Smith

"Chris was great. We had a few good years playing together. He treated his band with respect. His voice was incredible. I was so stoked to join forces with him," Yogi said. "His passing was a shock. It didn't make sense to a lot of us who worked with him. He loved his life and family and was inspired musically."

Yogi recalls a time on stage during one of their tours, revealing the great frontman's fun and silly side.

"Chris had a punk rock streak that sometimes came out on stage. I have a 50-foot spiral guitar cable that I would enjoy wrapping around Chris' legs just to screw with him," Yogi said. "So one time, I had my eyes closed during one of my guitar solos, and I suddenly could no longer hear myself. I checked my battery back and in-ear monitors, which were fine, but I did find that my cable was dangling from my guitar. Chris has taken the mic stand and sliced clean through my guitar cable with the heavy round base of the stand. It was hilarious. It was his way of getting back at me for my antics. We were like brothers on stage. Always fun but still maintains a high quality of music."

Yogi archived so much in his career that he can rest on his laurels. However, his pioneering spirit propels him to try and conquer new genres and learn new things.

"I love jazz, blues, R&B, electronic, chill hop, drum, and bass. British pop/rock. I'm a huge fan of soulful music and improvisational music. I also love programming and electronic sounds I've never heard before," Yogi said. "Music is getting deeper as I continue to grow as a person and musician. My ears keep expanding and are becoming more perceptive. I'm still inspired musically. I'm concentrating on playing and recording drums mostly these days."

Yogi Lonich is one of the few remaining artists today that still adheres to the classic rock n roll adage of doing things for the love of it. And this is what he imparts to aspiring artists who want to do well in this challenging business. There is no other reason but love. Art, for art's sake.

"The best advice I can give is to play music for the love of it, nothing else," Yogi said. "Do it because there's nothing else you'd rather be doing. Then you will never fail. The reward is in making the music. The more practical advice would be to become excellent at your craft, record it, network, play live often, have a great vibe, live in a big music city, and be in the right place and right time."

Check out the official Break The Silence music video by Run Through the Desert

Break the Silence launches March 5th under Kinetik


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