I am a musician who used to do the music scene thing full time in my 20’s, but now works full time in public education and political organizing while moonlighting in music as much as time allows. This website is mostly focused on music, rather than on stuff I do as a teacher for Durham Public Schools and Treasurer of the Durham Association of Educators.
Musically, I’m most known for having released a bunch of records in the ’90s as half of a duo called the Folk Implosion that I co-founded with Lou Barlow in 1993 and left in 2000. I also released a series of strange solo records in those years that were quite different from what FI sounded like. I/We worked with both indie and major record labels, including Shrimper, Communion, London, Domino, Interscope, and BMG. Folk Implosion songs have been featured on various film soundtracks, (Kids, Adaptation,) soundtrack albums, (American Beauty,) and TV shows, (The People vs. OJ Simpson, NFL on Fox, 20/20, The Today Show.) We had a one-hit wonder Top 40 hit with Natural One off the Kids soundtrack, but were not formed for or motivated by pursuing that kind of thing generally. It was just one spark that flew off the wheel of 8 years of burying ourselves in the process of creative reinvention through making records.
2020 marks a mix of the old and the new:
- I released an archival 2XCD 50 track compilation of my earliest solo recordings under the title Pure Night Plus. It contains remastered versions of my first cassette, first single, and first album – all of which came out in 1993-4. It also contains another single that came out in 1995 and seven extra tracks. It was remastered by Matt Pence at The Echo Lab studio in Denton, Texas. You can pick it up from my bandcamp site, as well as from Grapefruit Record Club and Midheaven.
- Arches & Pathways, an LP that I recorded in July ’19 with longtime friend and Shrimper Records collaborator Dennis Callaci, is out on November 20th, 2020. Mixed by Scott Solter with characteristic brilliance and care, it contains some tasty tracks that rank among my favorites of things I’ve had the pleasure of working on. There is a deluxe edition with colored vinyl and hand-signed poems, one from Dennis and one from me, a different poem for each of the first 100 copies. Those who go orange deluxe get access to all 200 poems online. You can stream it thanks to the kind folks at Magnet Magazine here, now.
In between 2000 and 2020?
I did not release anything from 2000 – 2013 after I left FI. Silence…but then…
- I came back with the album Spare Parts in October of 2013 on the Shrimper label. There is a separate page with more information about this album on this website. It was co-produced in Omaha by Simon Joyner and features most of his great backing band the Ghosts, along with Laura Burhenn of Mynabirds. It also features the percussive and kit brilliance of Portland’s Jose Medeles, of Revival Drum Shop & 1939 Ensemble. Mixed by Brandon Eggleston.
- After that came an album called El Pulpo on October 20th of 2017 via Shrimper, Arbouse Recordings in France, and my own new label Inundation Records. I made the album with producer Scott Solter and a constantly morphing backing band called The Cicadas. It was a special pleasure to play with Peter Hughes of the Mountain Goats and Andrew Levi-Hiller of alhhla on that album. It received 9/10 stars from Magnet Magazine. Bandcamp chose the record as Album of the Day in late November, calling it a “really, really catchy work of non-fiction.” You can buy it on my Bandcamp page, or stream it from a spot on an apple that shall remain nameless.
- The Bandcamp page also features three albums of electronically remixed guitar improvisations that were released as small run side projects: We’ll Teach Them How to Privatize, (original cassette release on Unread Records, 2015,) Outside a Small City, (original LP release on Almost Halloween Time Records in April 2019), and Gnawing on the Bone, (original CD release on Inundation Records in July of 2019.)
What next? I’m in the kinda-late-ish stages of working an LP with the Cicadas about the 19th c. colonization of Turtle Island, now known as the United States. You can check out more details about it on the Upcoming Projects page of this website.
The Shows and Events page of the site has been dormant due to the pandemic, unfortunately. When (the USA gets its shit together and) that blockade lifts, I plan to return to our general pattern of touring when I have spring break and summer vacation, along with scattered & sporadic weekend shows during the school year when I am mostly busy with teaching and organizing.
I was born in Brattleboro, VT, grew up in Cambridge MA, and spent most of my life in Cambridge or Watertown until I moved to Durham NC in August of 2013. I got a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University in 1993 and went went back to school, reluctantly, to get a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Lesley University 20 years later, in 2012/3. I have practiced Vipassana or Insight meditation since 1986, as adopted by westerners from Thai and Burmese traditions, as well as in a few different schools of Zen that came to this country from Vietnam and Korea. I identify as a 21st century socialist and want capitalism, patriarchy, heteronormative gender roles, and the rule of the corporate duopoly to die a swift death, in order to make it possible for people I love to survive.
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John H. Davis