Do it for Johnny!
As an artist at Fireseed Arts we spend a good deal of our time reclaiming, re-purposing, recycling materials to create art. Up-cycling if you will, basically taking one thing that is no longer used as said thing and creating some new function for it. One of the projects I spearheaded was an instrument-making program. It started with a guitar I made for myself from a former kitchen countertop, a piece of lightning struck walnut from a friends tree, and scraps from local shops and my grandmothers sewing kit. I liked doing it so we did it some more eventually creating a bass from a wine crate, a drum set from an old vent shaft and cookie tins, a xylophone made from fences and floorboards, a hang drum from propane tanks, amps from old radios, etc…until we had enough instruments for a good jam. The idea of a band flowed from the instruments.
Fellow Fireseed Arts founder Dan Balter and myself were humorously discussing the process of naming bands and I blurted out that we should start a band around the instruments called Johnny Fireseed, based on our mutual respect for Johnny Appleseed. The Junkyard Dogs came moments later as an idea to make Johnny an invisible muse, and the humble Junkyard dogs are his mouthpieces. Keep in mind we were still only joking at this point, but then something happened. We had gigs. Paying gigs!
I don’t recall exactly how this happened but we must have been joking to people about this idea of a band around the re-purposed instruments and someone took it seriously and now we had to also. This is a good problem to have, but if you’ve ever worked with artists and musicians then you know it’s a little like herding cats. The essence of creativity is using what’s around you and luckily we had plenty to work with. While building the xylophones we had the help of a group of music students from U Mass Lowell. After work we would take a break and jam on the instruments and one of the students caught my ear, a drummer, but not just any drummer, a purple haired, young female with infectious smile who kicks butt on the drums kind of drummer. Awesome, but we still needed a bass player. Now keep in mind that good bass players are perhaps the most coveted players on the scene. Not as easy to secure as guitar players or drummers for that matter. I had to draw on my experience leading a Latin band for the past decade or so to call on some talent. One of the bass subs I used with my band Los Sugar Kings is a super fast learner, makes his own charts for his subs, and has a goofball sense of humor that we enjoy. Mr. John Wiesner has filled the bass chair.
So who is Johnny Fireseed? We may not be able to answer that just yet, but in the meantime, we just do it for Johnny.