Young 'N' Hungry Dirty Honey
Guitar World|November 2021
Dirty Honey guitarist John Notto explains why this riff-fueled Los Angeles four-piece is ready for literally anything — including the big, big, big time
By Joe Bosso

DIRTY HONEY GUITARIST

John Notto doesn’t have much use for modesty. “There was no doubt I was going to succeed as a guitarist, and I knew this band would go over,” he says. “I know that sounds bold, but for me, failure just wasn’t an option.”

Thus far, Notto has stats to back up his claims: Back in 2019, the Los Angeles-based quartet released their self-titled debut EP and became the first unsigned band to top Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs chart with their riff-o-rama knockout single, “When I’m Gone.” Soon after, they hit Number 3 on the same chart with the swaggering follow-up, “Rolling 7s.” Packing a sound that neatly blended the most exuberant elements of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and AC/DC, the band quickly found their services in high demand and were opening shows for the likes of the Who, Guns N’ Roses, Slash and Alter Bridge.

“A lot of bands would say, ‘Oh, no, we should start small,’ but we never felt like we weren’t ready,” Notto says. “The Slash dates were the first ones our manager booked for us, and that was a real sign of how much he believed in our band. I think he saw right away how far we could go, and we were right on board. So when those other tours were presented to us, it was like, ‘You want us to jump high? We can jump even higher.’ We try to outdo each task as it comes, and we rise to every occasion.” Dirty Honey came together in 2017, when Notto, a Massachusetts native who grew up in Maine, headed to L.A. in the hopes of putting together an outfit that combined his love of classic rock and funk. He hooked up with singer Marc LaBelle, and for a brief period the two played in a band called Ground Zero before they met up with bassist Justin Smolian and drummer Corey Coverstone to form Dirty Honey. From the beginning, Notto was insistent that he’d be the band’s sole guitarist, describing his role thusly: “I think of myself as a Slash or Angus if they were in the position Eddie Van Halen was in where you don’t have a rhythm guitarist to hold down the fort. I am the fort. I try to wear as many hats as possible, but it really comes down to the riffs. I want them to be as memorable as the choruses, but I want them to stand all by themselves without anybody backing me up.”

Forced off the road due to the pandemic, the band faced a unique situation for recording their full-length debut: they had an abundance of time they didn’t bargain on, but their Australian-based producer, Nick DiDia, who had helmed their winning EP, was unable to travel to L.A. So the group turned to technology, working in-person with one of DiDia’s longtime engineers, Tom Syrowski, while DiDia was beamed into the sessions via Zoom and Audiomovers’ Listento feeds.

“There was no way we were going to make this record without Nick, so this was the compromise, which really wasn’t a compromise at all,” Notto says. “With Listento, Nick got a live audio feed of everything we played in real time, and we could have actual back-and-forth conversations with him, as if we were together in the same studio. He could even interrupt us if he felt we were headed in the wrong direction. The whole thing was seamless and felt quite natural.”

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