Im Interview: Jedidiah Johnson

Foto: David Heitur

Könnt ihr euch noch daran erinnern, als Nathan Gray drüben bei Instagram seine Meet the Rebels Reihe startete? Wer es verpasst haben sollte oder gerade überhaupt nicht weiß, wovon ich spreche: bei diesem Format unterhielt er sich mit all den Menschen, die mit ihm zusammen an seiner neuen Platte Rebel Songs arbeiteten und dieses großartige Album erst zu dem machten, was es jetzt ist.

Neben Gesprächen mit Produzent Brian McTernan, Becky Fontaine, Phillip Smith, Oise Ronsberger, Gene Priest und Derek Jones, gab es auch ein sehr ausführliches und äußerst unterhaltsames Gespräch mit seinem sehr guten Freund und unfassbar talentierten Bassisten Jedidiah Johnson, bei dem wirklich kein Auge trocken blieb. Jed überzeugte mich bei dieser Unterhaltung direkt mit seiner offenen, herzlichen Art und seinen schlagfertigen Humor, der mich oft laut auflachen ließ. Bereits in diesem Moment war mir bewusst, dass ich Jed eines Tages wegen eines Interviews anfragen werde und was soll ich sagen? Es ging schneller als gedacht und ich bin unfassbar glücklich darüber, dass er sich die nötige Zeit für die folgenden Fragen nahm. Außerdem bin ich mir ziemlich sicher, dass es nicht das letzte Mal gewesen sein wird, dass er hier bei Stayclosetoyoursoul zu Wort kommen wird.

Jed. Liebevoller Vater, Ehemann, ein großartiger Freund und ein passionierter Musiker. Ein Mensch, der vor Kreativität nur so strotzt, Ideen in den Raum wirft und so lange dran pfeilt, bis sich alles bis ins kleinste Detail harmonisch und unaufdringlich ineinander fügt und genau das kommt unfassbar gut rüber, wenn man sich kreuz und quer durch die neuen Songs hört.

Was Rebel Songs so rebellisch macht? Wie sich dieses Album seiner Meinung nach von Feral Hymns und Working Title unterscheidet? Dies und noch mehr jetzt hier für euch! Vielen vielen Dank an Jed!

+++Rebel Songs Pre Order, Tickets & Merch für das (online) Release Konzert am Freitag: Hier!+++

What do you appreciate about Nathan Gray?

I’ve always admired his sincerity and his compassion and it is certainly reflected in his music. For me, sincerty, passion and urgency are a must for great music and that is something Nathan delivers, every time.

What makes your friendship?

I think we’ve always communicated well even in spite of our differences. Going back to when I first met Nathan and we agreed on little of nothing, there were several occasions when we’d hang out all night talking or debating (mostly debating) and no matter how heated it would get, it was generally a good time.

Rebel Songs: what do you think is rebellious about these songs, about this record?

It certainly challenges the status quo, especially for the time frame when it was written. Just because the punk community embraces most of these ideals doesn’t mean that it’s pedestrian or safe. These songs don’t exist inside a bubble that can only be accessed by those who agree, it’s out there for everyone to hear and there’s a good chance that it may rub some folks the wrong way. My hope is that it might help some people challenge their thinking.

When you think back to the beginning, the original ideas, the creation process, and the recordings, who brought/contributed what over that long period of time?

Every part of writing this album early on was so organic and natural it’s really hard to go back and dilineate lines of effort or influence. It was just beautiful chaos of singular moments that came together to form a picture. Nathan would send out a 15 second clip of an idea at 2 in the afternoon saying “just came up with not sure where it’s going“ and then 5 min later Gene would send over a quick drum beat to the part Nathan sent and I’d already have had half a bass line written that some how dropped in almost perfectly and by the end of the night we’d have a whole song. It was madness like that the whole time, I could go on for an entire page with different combinations but i think you get the point.

Becky helped to keep Nathan and I in check quite a bit and redirected our focus when we were getting a little too free spirited haha.

Derek is Gene’s other half (creatively speaking of course, traditionally speaking it’s his wife Brittany but, well, yeah, you get it) and that was something that Nathan and I learned later on. We always knew Gene and Derek were best friends, played music together, worked together, hung out all the time but Gene started throwing Derek’s comments into the mix or Derek would be on the background during a Zoom meeting or phone call and we really started to see how much Derek was just as much a part of writing.

I still remember the very first time I heard Phil’s vocal contribution to a song, it was a song called “No Justice, No Peace“ that was released on the Band Camp only album called “Communique“. Nathan said he had a friend that was going to do a rap part and I was skeptical and then when I heard what he sent I was stunned by his level of talent. Aside from his ability and experience Phil is just a wonderful human to be around and has a very calming presences which is very helpful amidst chaos haha

And finally Brian, the stalwart purveyor of order and discipline within the studio haha. Brian brought order to our chaos without sucking all of the fun out of it. It was an absolute joy to work under his direction, to learn and see one of the greats. His attention to detail, his creativity and ability to hone in on nuance through all the noise it nothing short of incredible. Suffice it to say I have been spoiled and I can’t imagine working with anyone else in the future haha

What was going through your mind when Nathan came around the corner with all the different styles of music he wanted to incorporate into the album?

From the outset, there was little that was prescribed as far as style, we kind of just worked with what came along. It was very refreshing to let it flow and create without trying to fit into some preconcieved notion of “how things are done“. It was a little scary at times (but ultimately a positive growing experience) when styles came along that were outside of my comfort zone. I had played punk and Oi! for so long that the burning question in the back of my mind was “am I capable of writing outside of that or will it all just sound like I’m trying to fit a square peg in a round hole“. I’m very happy with how it all turned out and am satisfied but ulimately I think that questions will be answered by everyone who listens to the album haha

Which style were you skeptical about at first, but surprised in the end that it fit so well?

Definitely the hip hop influenced elements. To quote Brian “it’s hard to have a rap part in a rock song and not have it be the worst thing ever“. When Nathan first floated the ideas I was excited and when it started getting implemented in the demos it sounded great but in the back of my mind I worried about how people‘s preconcieved notions might get in the way. Looking back that notion just seems silly, it’s exactly what this album needs.

What was special about recording this album together with Brian McTernan? Was there anything that particularly impressed you?

Working with Brian was simply amazing. His ability to hear through all of the noise and pick out the tiniest detail was really amazing. His passion and zest for creating music is infectious.

Which song lyrics speak to you particularly from the heart?

I think the line “familiar passages and friends that I don’t recognize“ really resonated with me in light of all the turmoil in 2020 when we were writing the album.

What moments particularly got under your skin during all the work on the album? Which moments do you remember most fondly?

I have a few voice memo’s on my phone where i was in my kitchen making dinner trying to work through writing a part or coming up with an idea. All you can hear in background is the sound of 3 children under the age of 5 screaming, laughing, crying or just flat out yelling nonsense (and the occasional bark from our dog Gerty). I’m sure in the moment I was frustrated but looking back I couldn’t be happier that my family was right there with me as we created this.

What do you like most about the songs listed below? What goes through your mind when you hear them?

Capitol Stairs: This one came on fast! We had written almost 2 albums worth of material and were ready to hit the studio with everything lined up. Then 2 weeks out Nathan sends us the start of this song and something to the effect of “I know I said we were done but this feels really important“. Gene sent back some drums and I already knew what I wanted to do with the bass and damn did it pop! It ended up being the first song we recorded when we got into the studio and served as a wake up call for what we were getting ready to do. In short it kicked our ass for most of the day but we finally got it done and it’s easily one of my top favorites off the album.

Million: So very americana with a Bruce Springsteen vibe. This has been my 5 year old daughter, Lucy’s favorite song off the album and had been a regular request on car rides to school since the spring when we first recieved the final mixes.

Don’t Wait Up: The urgency and sincerity, this song is 100% Nathan to a T. There is no embelishment, no over romantacized view of a distant tragedy to make for a good song. This is genuine care, heartbreak and a desire to help impact change. Also Nathan made me change a bass line that I still don’t agree with but it’s his album and I’m here to love and support my friend haha

How is this album different from Feral Hymns and Working Title? What would you say?

As I see it, each album is a stage or step in establishing himself as a solo artist. Also topically, the albums are a journey and the music mirrors that. Nathan has said it before on IG “thank you for making this journey with me“ and that is exactly what it is, through all the grief, sorrow, pain and joy. You lay yourself bare (Feral Hymns), in that open brokeness you forge the connections (Working Title) and then you rise up together hand in hand to boldly move forward (Rebel Songs).

What were you able to take away for yourself from all this time?

I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to contribute to this album. I knew that I missed having a creative outlet for music but this experience showed me just how much I needed it. It gave me a much needed breath of fresh air and challenged me to learn and grow in many ways. I’m very excited for the future.

Some words about:

Brian: a musical mentor and now a great friend

Becky: the glue that holds this ship together and keeps it moving forward. Also a wonderful friend who always will lend an ear and provide support and advice.

Gene: an absolute confidence booster, terrific friend and a creative mad man.

Nathan Gray & the iron roses: more than just a team, it has truly become a family and one that I am enormously proud to be a part of.

Anything else you wanna add?

So excited that everyone gets to finally lay their ears on this wonderful album! Also huge shout out to the love of my life, my wife Missy, for her patience and support through it all!

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