I have crossed paths with this modern-day minstrel once or twice in the course of my Parkdale peregrinations. Often the uninitiated will inquire: Who is this Johnny, and what makes him so awesome?
Hearsay and rumour swirls round the man, so I'll stick to my firsthand experiences.
I auditioned for the drum chair in a precursor to the GOODTONES band,
and was turned away not simply for my lack of experience,
but for my methods of learning and communicating about music.
You see, JA is a different kind of dude.
He doesn't say: -This song is in 4/4 with a little funk in the kick drum pattern.
He says: -The drums in the verse are green, and the chorus is purple with splashes of yellow.
Ever the producer, and most likely a synaesthete, he snagged Dawn Lewis from TINA SUNSHINE,
who could get on this vibe, and I went back to Not My Dog to play half-kit on jam nights,
practiced using all four limbs to make beats, while imagining what colors JA might say the music had. Awesome?
One time JA got me out of jail.
His bassist and I were despondantly besotted (read: drunk on vodka)
following BRIGITTE's farewell performance at a College st house party,
and in the course of our aimless exit ran afoul of the weekend last call College st rush hour.
The authorities soon arrived, our belligerence earning us a night's incarceration,
and a potential moving traffic violation.
I could swear we were just two inebriates with a boombox running low on batteries,
but the TPS defined us as a threat to the orderly function of streetcars and taxicabs.
I raved and ranted through my captivity, while the bass-man sat on his stash.
JA quickly got wind of our predicament via Stacey Kitanya, then front(wo)man of the DUST BUNNIES.
His timely call to the division night-desk Sergeant shrewdly elicited such information his sharp legal mind required to put drunk-tank-sized holes in our pending charges,
and effect our release immediately upon shift change the next morning.
He brought us beer and entreated us to behave.
A couple years later, I shared a rehearsal space with
MOOSEBLOOD, WE ARE FRENCH, and the GOODTONES.
Arriving at the space one night, seeking solace with the mice and empties,
I found JA had already laid claim to the room's only couch. It was then and there decided that we would find an apartment together and establish a home studio/ bohemian refuge, like Gaugin and Van Gogh.
I won the coin toss and first dibs on the larger, more seductive of the two bedrooms,
and our living room became a place of socio-musical experiments, looped traffic sounds and Stravinsky collages. Every morning we would smoke on our back porch,
discussing the vicissitudes of the food and beverage industry,
and defend our growing stash of empties from the fearless local squirrels.
-One day, he told me -we will return these beer and liquor bottles, and we will have riches for a great feast.
He didn't always say much, but he was always thinking big.
Then we went on tour in the Steam whistle keg delivery van,
with RETRO RADIO and a few other bands whose names and sounds I have long since repressed.
From the kick-off at the Garrison, to Sarnia, Windsor, and London,
we persevered like seasoned road warriors, offering our last half-tab to all the merry pranksters in our party.
It was not until returning to the safety of our own apartment
that the trauma of the touring lifestyle took its toll on our fragile egos.
A fire was set, the ritual began.
A flat of beer scored from the van fueled the strange
and highly toxic melting of all available talismans of our indentured servitude
and the senseless dating scene to which we had returned from the horrible freedom of the touring life.
As noxious fumes loomed in our kitchen, we turned a video camera towards our polyphenol crucible,
nodding in silent agreement that one day we would be able to look back
on this act of transcendental arson with some kind of nostalgic perspective.
As we melted yet another compact disc, and burned the last of our respective love letters,
JA coughed, breaking the hallucinatory silence.
-I don't think it's a good thing for us to live together anymore.
If these tales are insufficient to assure you of JA's legendary status,
go see the man himself at the TO Lounge this Friday night.