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Were do I start……first let me start by saying I’m white, not a racist, never killed anyone, never been shot, I write my own songs and I don’t have an entourage. It’s just me.
I was born in Tiverton RI and grew up most of my life just outside of Boston Massachusetts. I’ve lived in so many different cities back east that I can’t really say I’m from one town in particular, but I did grow up mostly in Fall River, Ma in an area called the flint. In high School I listened to a lot of early hip hop bands like Grandmaster flash, Run DMC, Fat Boys, LL Cool J and Kurtis Blow to name a few. I grew up in an interesting time of music. I was fortunate enough to grow up on some great Hip Hop before I made the switch to Heavy Metal. When I say Heavy Metal, I’m talking about bands like Coney Hatch, Kick Axe, Rough Cutt, Queensryche and Icon to name a few. Strange isn’t it. Although I’ve been influenced by a lot of new bands, I would say that those early years of music are what made me what I am today, and I’ll never forget it. When the hair bands, or grunge for that matter, ruled the air waves, I was already on my own journey. It wasn’t until I heard a song called “The Nookie” that I really even started listening to the radio. By that time, I had already spent the last 5 years of my life singing in a rock band touring up and down the east coast. I remember the summer when “The Nookie” blew up on the radio like it was yesterday. I was living in this little room in Providence, RI. It was actually a 5 by 8 closet inside the rehearsal building of the band I was singing for. I had everything I needed, a bed to sleep on and my 16 track studio. While all my old friends from high school were either married or still in college…. I was locked up in a little tomb in the middle of the city writing music and preparing myself for what I had to do next. Get the fuck out of Rhode Island before it killed me, and believe me it almost did. But before I could leave, I would have to walk away from the band that had been like a family to me and walk away from everything we had fought so hard to achieve. I’ll never forget that day.
I pulled into LA at 3.00 in the morning and slept at The Days Inn on Ventura Blvd. I remember laying out a map on my bed in the morning and thinking “I’m fucked” because I had no money and no idea where I was. To make a long story short, I survived and after a long hard year of writing and being turned down by every person in the industry, I caught my first break. I was offered a drum teching job working for Tommy Lee of Motley Crue. This was perfect, I get to see the world, party, get paid, party and pass out my demos all over the country! Did I mention “AND PARTY” Nice. That was fun, but when the tour ended, I seemed to be right back where I started. I guess Tommy got wind of my demo and liked it enough to contact me about him producing some of my songs in his studio in Malibu. That was nice of him. Which brings me to the reason I call myself the White Devil.
The story goes “During those recording sessions with T Lee, my touring money was running out and the only thing that was gonna keep me in LA, and off the streets for that matter, was this new demo. I was calling it something else at the time. But even Tommy Lee’s credits couldn’t save me, no one would touch it. Everyone turned me down. I had been turned down before, but this time I was taking it personal. On the last day of the T Lee sessions I met this guy at Tommy’s house. Some young looking white kid. Turns out he was a writer for rolling stone and he was writing Tommy’s biography at the time. After a lot of drinking, A LOT OF DRINKING…….we were all talking about hip hop artists that this guy had interviewed for rolling stone. He mentioned that a lot of the black artist would refer to him as White Devil. The second I heard him say that word…..It was done. After all, if no one in this industry is gonna give me a chance “I thought” fuck them, I’ll just call myself what everyone is gonna call me anyway.
That week was quite an interesting week for the newly proclaimed White Devil. So now I have nowhere to live, that’s a long story in itself, no money and my only car is just about dead. Dark times, especially considering a week ago I was partying at T Lee’s house. So what do I do? ……….Check this out. A good friend of mine wants to wreck his beamer to collect the insurance money and he knows I need some cash to escape from LA……………. so he buys some beat up 76 Cutlass Supreme for $400.00 to smash into the beamer. After all, we needed something heavy to make sure the beamer would totally get wasted on impact and if you know anything about cars, a 76 Cutlass Supreme is HEAVY. When the sun goes down, we both drive out to the middle of nowhere deep in the Valley of LA. He parks the beamer and I strap into the Cutlass, it’s like a scene out of some movie, I get the Cutlass up to about 70 miles an hour, in reverse so we don't wreck the engine of the cutlass, and the rest is history. Ditch the Cutlass in a friends garage, yes it still ran, collect my doe and that’s what it took to get back to Boston to start writing the first White Devil tracks. That whole thing happened in one day. I often think about how lucky I am that the gas tank didn’t blow up. Nice!
As you can imagine, it was difficult getting my songs played on the radio with a name like White Devil. But somehow I did it. Upon signing with Virgin Records, I was told from the legal department that White Devil was trademarked and could not be used as my name. So where did “Vel Crowe Johnson” come from you might ask. Good question. It was a nickname for a friend of mine that I toured with. Great guy, but everyone on the tour would bust his balls because he was always bumming smokes from you, steeling beers from other bands on the tour, hitting on your chic or secretly buying drinks on your open tab. They even went as far as secretly putting up 100’s of wanted flyers in the clubs before he arrived that read “BEWARE of VEL CROWE JOHNSON” with a nice snap shot of him drunk on his ass from the night before. He’s not really that bad, but we had some laughs at his expense. I thought it was a perfect name for me.