Alain Johannes

Alain Johannes  (born Alain Johannes Moschulski; May 2, 1962) is a Chilean-American multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, whose primary instruments are guitar and drums.  He is a founding member of several bands, including the alternative rock group Eleven, and has been involved with acts such as hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Chris Cornell, Arctic Monkeys, Mark Lanegan, and the Desert Sessions, both as a musician and as a producer.  Alain Johannes is nephew of Chilean nueva ola musician Peter Rock.  He was born in Santiago de Chile.  (More from Wikipedia)

Although there is nothing about Black Russian in Wikipedia, there is a Wikipedia article about Natasha Shneider that has some information about Black RussianWikipedia as well has a write-up about the hard rock band Eleven that included Natasha Shneider and her second husband Alain Johannes.  Allmusic lists Black Russian but has no information at all about the album or the artist.  


*       *       *


Within a few more years, Serge Kapustin and Natasha Kapustin divorced, with the latter regaining her maiden name Natasha Shneider.  Most of her post-Black Russian work was with her musical partner and second husband, Alain Johannes; he is also from far away, having been born in Santiago, Chile.  Natasha Shneider was in a well regarded band called Eleven along with Johannes and top drummer Jack Irons.   


Jack Irons and Alain Johannes were part of the coterie where the band Red Hot Chili Peppers was born.  RHCP founding members Hillel Slovak (guitar) and Jack Irons (drums) were in a high school band in Los Angeles that was eventually called What Is This?, along with Alain Johannes (vocals) and Todd Strassman (bass).  (The name is taken from the reaction they noticed by many people when they heard the band).  A third founding member of RHCPMichael Balzary, better known as Flea was the bassist in What Is This? for a time, but he later joined the punk rock band Fear (and began making numerous appearances as an actor); also, Anthony Kiedis was serving as a roadie and “hype-man” for What Is This?


While What Is This? was working on their album, Alain Johannes met Natasha Shneider, and they immediately clicked musically.  She joined What Is This? shortly thereafter.  They then formed a duo called Walk the Moon – not the same band as the Cincinnati-based band Walk the Moon that formed in 2006 – and had other musical sounds besides rock on their album, Walk the Moon (1987).  Jack Irons and Chris Hutchinson evidently played on several of the tracks, but on many, they used drum machines. 


In an interview posted on ultimate-guitar.comAlain Johannes discussed the album:  “We [Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneiderbecame Walk the Moon and started to explore more of the songwriting stuff and different textures that are not usually rock band-based like synths and all that other stuff and I started playing my odd instruments.  Well, some of them not odd but the pipa [Chinese lute] or sing like a Sufi-inspired Kowali singing and Natasha would do little choirs.” 


*       *       *


The two are better known for their work with Eleven, a hard rock trio that formed in 1990 when Jack Irons (drums) joined Alain Johannes (vocals, guitar, sitar, horns) and Natasha Shneider (vocals, keyboards, bass) of Walk the Moon; this band was also a partial reunion of What Is This?.  Eleven have opened for major bands like Pearl JamSoundgardenQueens of the Stone Ageand Candlebox.  


Their opening album, Awake in a Dream (1991) was praised by Alex Henderson in Allmusic:  “Eleven was a so-called alternative rock trio of the early 1990’s that drew heavily on the psychedelic rock and soul music of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Awake in a Dream is much too guitar-oriented to have been played on a Black radio station in 1970 or 1973, and yet, enjoyable selections like ‘Before Your Eyes’, ‘All Together’ and ‘Rainbow’s End’ make it clear that singer/guitarist Alain Johannes, bassist/singer/organist Natasha Shneider and drummer Jack Irons have spent a lot of time listening to the likes of Sly and the Family StoneIke and Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder.  Shneider is also heard on the clavinet, a synthesizer that was prominent in 1970’s soul and funk but was seldom used in the urban contemporary music that followed in the 1980’s and 1990’s.”  


Of their second album ElevenAndy Hinds wrote for Allmusic:  “Anyone who lumped Eleven in with the grunge glut of the early 1990’s simply wasn’t paying attention.  Although it’s true that the trio’s excellent self-titled album (actually their second) was mixed with the guitars loud and fuzzy, the musical sophistication that distinguishes Eleven – including not only compositional prowess but sheer chops – leaves most alternative bands in the dust.  Led by the husband/wife duo of Alain Johannes (guitars and lead vocals) and Natasha Shneider (keyboards and lead vocals), their primary calling card is a pair of extraordinary voices, both of which are capable of raw intensity and soulful understatement.” 


Jack Irons left Eleven after their second album to play drums for Pearl Jam but later returned to the band.  Both Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider were involved in Jack Irons’ solo album, Attention Dimension (2004); Shneider played electric bass and piano on “Hearing it Doubled” and keyboards on Jack Irons’ cover of the Pink Floyd song “Shine on, You Crazy Diamond”. 


(April 2015/1)


*       *       *




In addition to their work with ElevenAlain Johannes and Natasha Shneider became a sought-after production team.  They set up a recording studio at their home called 11ADEleven’s entire fifth album Howling Book (2005) was recorded, produced and mixed at this studio.   


Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider worked with No Doubt on one of my favorite albums of the early 2000’sReturn of SaturnStephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic notes:  “No Doubt’s desire to expand the emotional template of new wave is the perfect match for [Gwen] Stefani’s themes – she may be writing about love, but she’s not writing adolescent love songs.  Fragments of her teenaged romantic fantasies remain, but she’s writing as a woman in her late 20’s.  She’s tired of being another ‘ex-girlfriend’ – she wants to fall in love, get married, and have a family.  It’s a subject that’s surprisingly uncommon in pop music, which would alone make Return of Saturn an interesting album.  What makes it a successful one is that the band delivers an aural equivalent of Stefani’s lyrical themes. . . .  Surprisingly, they pull it off – it’s a far stronger record than Tragic Kingdom, even if the catchiest numbers don’t have the same swagger and punch as their previous hit singles.  So be it.  With Return of SaturnNo Doubt have made a terrific, layered record that exceeds any expectations set by Tragic Kingdom.  Not only have they found their voice, they know what to do with it.” 


Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider co-produced the No Doubt cover of the Donna Summer song “Love to Love You Baby” that was included on the Zoolander soundtrack album, Zoolander (Music From The Motion Picture) (2001). 


*       *       *



Even considering that he is talking about his wife, Alain Johannes can hardly praise Natasha Shneider highly enough for her musical genius.  In an interview that features technical talk which is a little beyond me (posted on, Alain Johannes was asked about Shneider’s essentially playing bass guitar on the keyboard with her left hand while playing regular keyboards with her right:  “[P]eople would be watching us and she’d have the keyboard and I’d usually do a MIDI map of the two-and-a-half octaves and later on it became an Ovation Bass Station or the Wurlitzer.  So that would feed into a bass amp and it was onstage and it was a huge sound with that Moog Bass in her left hand.  She was so independent, she could sit in the pocket with Jack [Irons] and have a different pocket with the right hand, which was basically a second rhythm guitar and lead lines with me and then sing lead or harmonies as if there were three completely different grooves.”  


Asked about specifically not wanting a bass guitarist, Alain Johannes continued:  “Yeah, basically because her musical thinking on the bass was just so far beyond.  Her mind was like [Paul] McCartney and if you listen to her bass lines, they have this contrapuntal and second melodic thing and the tension and release she creates against the chords are masterful.  We were really into the energy of the three because Jack and I had known each other since we were 14 or 15, and Natasha and I were soulmates and at the time I was hoping lifelong partners.” 


*       *       *


In the same time period, Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider contributed to another of my favorite albums of the early 2000’sSongs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone AgeJohannes co-wrote one of the songs on the album, “Hangin’ Tree” with Josh Homme.  Alain Johannes played guitar and bass on the band’s next album, Lullabies to Paralyze (2005); he and Natasha Shneider were also in the touring band that supported the album.  Alain Johannes apparently became an official bandmember in QOTSA for the Lullabies album; as best I can figure it, he basically replaced bass guitarist Nick Oliveri (who had also been in Kyuss with Josh Homme).   


*       *       *




Additionally, Natasha Shneider played piano on theJosh Homme and Alain Johannes Backwards Remix” of a song by Unkle called “Eye for an Eyethat appears on their album Never, Never, Land (2003). 

For another Josh Homme project, Eagles of Death MetalAlain Johannes plays piano and Natasha Shneider provides vocals (both uncredited) for the song “Who’ll Kiss the Devil” on their debut album, Peace, Love & Death Metal (2004). 


*       *       *




Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider worked with Chris Cornell on his first solo album, Euphoria Morning (1999); they were also along on the band that toured to support the album.  This is the only album that Cornell made after Soundgarden broke up, and before he joined members of Rage Against the Machine in forming Audioslave


From Wikipedia:  “The album proved commercially unsuccessful although the album’s single ‘Can’t Change Me’ was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards.  He also contributed the song ‘Sunshower’ (a bonus track on the Japanese release of Euphoria Morning) to the soundtrack of the 1998 film, Great Expectations; and a reworked version of the track ‘Mission’, retitled ‘Mission 2000’, was used on the soundtrack to the 2000 film, Mission: Impossible II.” 


In 2006Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider co-produced the debut album Wires on Fire by Wires on Fire, another hard rock band in the mold of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death MetalShneider provided backing vocals on the opening track “Death to Jeff Lynn”.  


*       *       *



Thanks to the good people who contribute to the discography website Discogs, I have information on dozens of credits for Natasha Shneider that show her becoming more and more in demand as a vocalist, instrumentalist and songwriter as time went on.  Natasha Shneider shows up on even more records for her prowess on keyboards.  In addition to the many songs that have already been mentioned, she plays Moog Bass and Synthesizer on the track “WYUT” – which Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider co-wrote with Natalie Imbruglia – on her album Come to Life (2009).  


*       *       *




Many of the songs that Natasha Shneider wrote or co-wrote have also been recorded by other bands and artists over the years; I have already given numerous examples.  For the soundtrack album Spider-Man 2 (Music From and Inspired By) (2004), Jimmy Gnecco along with Brian May of Queen recorded “Someone to Die For” that was co-written by Alain JohannesNatasha Shneider and Chris Cornell.  Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider co-produced the song “Wave Goodbye” by Steadman for the soundtrack of the 2004 film New York Minute


*       *       *


Somewhat ironically, a song that was co-written by Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider called “Time for Miracles” was included in the soundtrack for the 2009 disaster film 2012, as sung by American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert.  Lambert also included this song on his album For Your Entertainment (2009). 


*       *       *


As reported on Wikipedia:  “On August 16, 2008Queens of the Stone Age performed a concert in celebration of Natasha Shneider’s life at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles.  They were joined on stage by Alain JohannesTenacious D’s Jack Black and Kyle GassMatt CameronBrody DalleJesse HughesChris Goss, and PJ Harvey, playing a variety of QOTSA and non-QOTSA songs.  Proceeds from the concert went to defray the costs associated with Natasha’s illness.” 


*       *       *




There have been several posthumous releases of music by Natasha Shneider; some have already been mentioned.  The song “Flow Like a River” (co-written by Alain JohannesNatasha Shneider and Jack Irons) was included by the Gutter Twins on their album Adorata (also released in September 2008).   


(April 2015/2)


Last edited: April 3, 2021