An interview with Duncan Wilder Johnson
about his three-CD set with Destruct-a-thon,
Kill It All Away, and spoken word:
Destruct-a-thon: Es Muerto
Kill It All Away
Duncan Wilder Johnson has a Short Guy Complex: Spoken Word IV
by Clay N. Ferno
Duncan Wilder Johnson is a hyper-motivated writer, performer, musician, and photographer. He is releasing a brand new 3-CD set this month that encompasses and celebrates his many talents. The first CD is his fourth spoken word CD, the second is his sophomore effort with his heavy metal outfit, Destruct-a-thon, and the last CD is his other band, a two piece, Kill It All Away which features special guest vocals from such notable local and national super throats Jet from Sam Black Church, Keith Smith of C60, Jonah Jenkins from Only Living Witness, and Chico of Closed Casket.
Releasing a new record is a daunting enough task. Duncan is releasing three records, all with never-heard-before material. He's outdoing himself and inspiring others in the process. Every box set has been hand assembled by the artist, as it is an unusual package. The DIY ethos is strong with this one, but the presentation is as professional as a major label production. It's a labor of love. The box looks great, and what is inside is what really counts.
I spoke with Duncan the other day, and we recorded this interview that appears as a podcast on thenoiseboard.com. The podcast includes tracks off of each record, so please download it and enjoy. Or read and listen. Whatever you want to do.
Noise : Why don't you tell us about what you called your CD set and your motivation.
Duncan : It's called Workaholica simply because I am a workaholic. It is just one of the things that defines me, and it has to do with my relationship with myself. The happier states I'm in are the states when I complete projects that I've worked on, or if I leave and go on tour. I've realized recently that I am who I am and part of the person that I am is a performer. I'm very anxious and I can't sit at home and do nothing. I'm a workaholic.
Noise : Also, you are really good at promoting your projects. That's really valuable. Do you believe that being a workaholic will lead to success?
Duncan : First of all, I already consider myself to be successful. It is not easy to be successful. My goals do not include getting signed to a big record label, though if that happened, that would be great—I could quit my day job! I just work with what makes sense. Being DIY, being independent, is a main motivation for doing this in the fist place. My heroes are Ian McKaye, Jello Biafra, Black Flag, Greg Ginn, and Henry Rollins. These are people that put up their own flyers, made their own shows, and it was them. It was, “No one is going to sign us to a label, no one is going to sign Minor Threat, so we are going to make our own seven inch and just do it.”
Noise : That is the punk ethos right there.
Duncan : That aspect of it is really important to me. You can't wait to be accepted, you get out in the street and put up your own poster. Book your own show in a basement, school, or VFW. The average human being lives 80 years. If you are just going to sit around and wait, then keep on waiting, buddy! There is also something to be said about riding the wave and let whatever happens happen, and go with the flow. What I've realized in recent years, is that letting it be can prove to be very effective.
Noise : You have a brand new spoken word CD in this set, but it is not your first.
Duncan : This is the fourth. What I consider to be the first record is the On Tour Without A Band record that you, Rich Mackin, and Tony Flackett are on. That was an effort that came out of MassArt. We made our own shows, we used any resource we could get our hands on to produce them. I was interested in hardcore, punk, and metal, making your own thing, and trying really hard. I became super frustrated working collaboratively with other people with music growing up in Upton , MA . I had heard Jim Carroll, and Jack Kerouak, and I thought of this idea for a punk rock one-man show. Although it is very funny, intelligent, individualistic, it thinks for itself, and here is punk rock, but totally stripped down. It was a challenge, and continues to be one.
Noise : When did that record come out?
Duncan : 1998. The thing about MassArt for me is that I grew up in a little town in central Mass. At MassArt, there were all of the freaky high school art room kids from all over. I felt so at home that I could just do what I wanted and it didn't matter, I wasn't going to be judged.
Noise : How have people like David Sedaris, Jim Carroll, these writers, influenced you?
Duncan : A guy like David Sedaris is eloquent, but he's really funny, and I use that as an influence. A lot of what I write about is heavy metal, hardcore, and punk rock culture. When you approach that with a good vocabulary, that instantly turns it into humor.
Noise : It's not specifically branded to punk rockers, everyone can relate to it somehow.
Duncan : The biggest problem for an audience member is to accept the fact that some guy is going to talk on stage, and to listen to him.
Noise : That's a big struggle.
Duncan : If you can just sit there for three to five minutes, usually you can get into it, and then you'll want to hear the rest of the bit.
Noise : Or buy a CD, check it out at home.
Duncan : That would be nice! Another reason I put all three of the records together is that spoken word and comedy records don't sell well. To package this with the two death rock records is giving someone more of an incentive to buy it. When people check out the records, they tend to dig it. It is funny.
Noise : Who is your favorite metal performer of all time?
Duncan : Jet from Sam Black Church who sings on the first track of the Kill It All Away record. I always wanted to do a two-piece. And I've always wanted to do a record with some of my heroes.
Noise : In Kill It All Away , you are playing guitar?
Duncan : I'm playing guitar through two amps and an octave pedal. We recorded with our bros at New Alliance. For Kill It All Away , Tim Waltner tracked it all, and Andrew Schneider mixed. Nick Z of course mastered the tracks for both of the bands. For Destruct-a-thon, the first session was done with Cokedealer, and the second session with Ethan Dussalt. The spoken word was recorded live, on tour, with a minui disc, and Ken Cmar from Wonderdrug mastered it.
Noise : How did you meet all of the fine people in Destruct-a-thon?
Duncan : Nate Linehan from AC and I moved in together, and we had some dumb, stoner, song ideas. Songs like “Nipple-Ka-Bob,” “Screaming Penis Eats the Corpse,” “Heavy Metal Mountain Movie,” just dumb stuff. We were watching TV and there was a Battle Bot marathon on, called The Destruct-a-thon. In our stoned, half-drunk minds, we found our band name. Nate's brother Sean came in and played bass. I wanted to be the singer dude, so Nate suggested Michelle “666” Morgan to play guitar because he overheard her playing Master of Puppets in her room one day. We recorded at New Alliance, and I spliced the songs into 2000's The Orange CD with some new spoken word tracks. The spoken word people didn't get the joke! We played shows for four years: Nate and Sean left the band. Eric O'Brien left the band, Eman Pacheco, and Ed Bredenberg joined up. Eventually it ended because I wanted to tour a bunch, but everyone was burnt out. So, Eman and I continued on, and formed Kill It All Away! Now Destruct-a-thon is off of our two year hiatus, if everyone is around!
Noise : Do you have a video for two Destruct-a-thon songs online?
Duncan : Yes, there are videos on youtube for “Not in Our Name” and “9 Squares.”
Noise : You shot these videos yourself, right?
Duncan : I DIY'd the daylights out of them, man!
Noise : Plug away.
Duncan : You can buy the record at Newbury Comics, and from the websites.