For Raw 25, Newsweek caught up with the man responsible for much of the music fans (at least fans who’ve been watching WWE since their Attitude Era peak at the turn of the century) think of when they think of the Monday night institution.
Jim Johnston wrote the themes for Undertaker, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation X and many others. He also left the company last Fall in a decision which was rumored to not have been mutually agreed upon.
He spoke to his exit in the interview, and his answer supports those reports - but also seems like he was ready to go:
“My last few years with WWE were sadly filled with a lot of politics. It was disappointing because I didn’t think I could contribute in the way I would have preferred. It was probably best I’m no longer there.
... I was not happy with where things were going musically in the company and I wasn’t contributing in the way I wanted to. So when Vince [McMahon] gave me the leaving orders, that was probably the best thing for us both.”
In talking more about “where things were going musically in the company”, Johnston insists his critique of the current music being produced by CFO$ (the duo of John Paul Alicastro and Michael Conrad Lauri) isn’t influenced by his departure, or personal animosity towards his replacements. But he’s really not a fan, and he doesn’t think their tunes are helping create stars like his did:
“I’m not working with them so I don’t know what their directives are. All I can react to is what I’m hearing. I’m sure they’re talented guys. But what’s being produced just feels too homogenous. It’s just music that plays—it doesn’t feel like each guy is really themed. All the women have a dance music kind of thing. And it’s lots and lots of loud sound effects.
What makes me the worst is not anything that happened to me, or any negativity towards those composers...I feel bad for the talent trying to build careers for themselves when I just don’t feel they’re being served well enough to become stars. Before “Stone Cold” was “Stone Cold” he was The Ringmaster. The Ringmaster’s theme was something I wrote for him. The music can make such a difference in the person and how they perform. That same guy who was dead-in-the-water as The Ringmaster, a couple of tweaks, different music, different attitude, and he becomes one of the most popular people in the history of the genre.
I’m wondering who is working currently at WWE who is an absolute superstar but, who, because they’re wrapped in a homogenous piece of clothing, they’re stuck and can’t break out? I would hope they would try to really brand each guy and each woman as an individual.”
Check out the whole interview here for a lot more from Johnston on his work with WWE, most of which is positive!
And let us know your take on his review of WWE’s current music scene - is there something to his criticism, or is this just sour grapes?