Former WWE theme song composer Jim Johnston recently appeared on the Total Engagement podcast on MLW Radio. In Part 2 of his conversation with host Matt Koon, Johnston spoke about his WWE departure, his final meeting with Vince McMahon and the possibility of creating entrance themes for All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
Here are some highlights. Audio embed of the interview is available at the bottom of the article.
His Departure from WWE:
Jim Johnston was released by WWE in late 2017. After working with the company since the 1980’s, WWE did not utilize his services much towards the end of his run. He admits he was very unhappy that he wasn’t getting a chance to create great music towards the end, even though he was still getting a steady pay check.
“I don’t want a job where I don’t have to work,” he said. “There wasn’t ever a millisecond where I thought, ‘Wow, isn’t this great? I’m really not doing that much music, but they’re continuing to pay me! Oh my God, what a great deal!’ It was awful. I hate that. I hated that feeling. I’ve got handcuffs on, I can’t contribute and I eventually told Vince that as well. I said, ‘this is not right.’ I also told him at the time is like, ‘hey, if you’re unhappy with me, fire me. Fire me right now. You can fire me right now. I’m taking the pressure off. Go ahead. Fire me.’ Because that’s not the way I roll. I don’t like that.”
Johnston says he went through a range of emotions just before his release. “All the usual suspects: sadness, fear, hey, I felt all of them and bitterness, certainly anger because there was just a lot of lies and lying’s not a good thing.”
Composing Music For Faces Compared To Heels
Johnston gave some unique insight regarding his process as it relates to creating music for heroes and villains.
“I think music for bad guys always comes down to, ‘Do you believe how great I am? Can you believe it?’ And Mr. Perfect was a really strong character and he played it really well. He was charismatically bad and he really exuded that when he came out you know with the hands up in the air and that was his vibe: ‘You know, c’mon now…it’s a little hard to believe, how great I am, isn’t it? I mean, it’s hard for me to believe, for God’s sake!’ It’s like a monumental conchairto to himself whereas music for good guys is more a celebration for everyone. It’s more coming out and going out to the crowd. It’s almost like this is what the crowd feels about you and how much we love you and how much we’re supporting you and bad guys I think it comes more from it’s all about them. So it’s how they see themselves.”
He elaborated by saying it was an “utterly subconscious” feeling that allowed him to take the personality and ‘spirit’ of a performer and translate that into music that reflects them.
“It’s magical,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I attribute it a lot to sort of a spiritual thing which maybe works for me, but maybe anyone who’s lucky enough to have any sort of a gift like this maybe to keep your sanity you need some way to explain it to yourself or something it’s like ‘how does that work?’
Johnston continued, “I cannot pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano without having a new idea. I just can’t. It’s not possible, it’s never happened. It’s never, ever happened. It’s purely a visceral thing for me. I just get a feel for a character and I just think about it or I get an idea about it, you know, a lyric hook idea in the shower and then I’ll know that that’s it.”
Working For All Elite Wrestling (AEW)
Jim Johnston does not follow pro wrestling closely anymore, but even he is picking up the buzz from All Elite Wrestling (AEW). He made his first non-WWE wresting appearance last year at Starrcast during All In weekend. He believes WWE is currently vulnerable and has fallen into a place of weakness. He seems to think AEW has a shot at competing with WWE.
When asked directly if he’d interested in speaking with Tony Khan and Cody Rhodes about writing music for AEW, he replied, “Sure, absolutely. Give me a call.”
Jim Johnston will be appearing at Starrcast II during Double or Nothing Weekend in Las Vegas in May. Visit Starrcast.com for details.
(H/T to WrestleZone for the transcribed quotes)