THE link between Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet and former Perth musician Mark Lizotte, aka Diesel, probably doesn’t seem obvious at first (though I’m sure he’s broken plenty of hearts over time).
However, while talking to the 45-year-old Sydneysider and father of two, The Bard’s famed passage, spoken by his young heroine – ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ – sprung to mind.
Highlighting the irrelevancy of a label, it perfectly applies to Lizotte who has been publicly known as Johnny Diesel for most of his career, despite having no direct connection to the moniker.
So, where did the title come from? It was the nickname of bassist John Dalzell from Lizotte’s former band, Johnny Diesel & the Injectors (‘86 to ’91), famous for tracks Tip of my Tongue and Cry in Shame.
“As soon as we did a gig under the name Johnny Diesel & the Injectors, people thought I was Johnny Diesel because I was in the middle of the stage,” Lizotte said.
“It’s something I’ll never get used to because it’s not my name. I just inherited it because I couldn’t go through a world explaining to every single person: ‘By the way, that’s not really my name.’
“Going by the title Diesel – as I do now – is fine because it’s not a Christian name.”
Lizotte made one record – Soul Lost Companion in 1991 – under his real name but not because he wanted to reclaim his identity; rather, his label in the US worried about the Diesel clothing connection.
“Why is anyone called whatever, anyway?” he asked.
“I think every artist has got some kind of fictitious name. Even Elvis Costello has one album which he made by the name Declan McManus, which is his real name.”
With new album Under the Influence – featuring favourite tracks from artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Al Green – and 25 years’ music industry experience to his name, Lizotte looks back fondly on a successful career, some of which was spent in Perth gigging at adored local hotspots .
Over the years, the music man has learned to shed some of those early hang-ups like mustering adrenalin for playing in the studio as opposed to the stage.
“I can’t imagine doing anything that doesn’t involve music. I almost feel like I have no control over it,” he said.
“I know I still have a lot to learn. I never feel like it’s a degree I have achieved and that’s it. I don’t think I’ll ever be finished learning my craft.”
Diesel performs at Charles Hotel, North Perth on July 13.