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. (Though the front page of this site features a blog about books, records, recording technology. history, politics, dhamma practice and whatever else I feel like writing about.) So if you’re here cuz you like art-rock, trip hop, lo fi indie tapes, and sounds generally “Out” etc. – or if you’re curious about though unfamiliar with those things – read on.
Musically, I’m most known for having released a bunch of records in the ’90s under my own name and as half of a duo called the Folk Implosion that I co-founded with Lou Barlow in 1993 and left in 2000. 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 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.
I did not release anything from 2000 – 2013 after FI broke up. After getting established in teaching, 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. 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. The album received 9/10 stars in the December issue of 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 on the big box websites that shall remain nameless.
Most recently, I put out an instrumental record called Gnawing On the Bone on CD in the summer of 2019 on Inundation Records, with digital download via Bandcamp. In an Essential New Music review, Magnet magazine said “Gnawing On The Bone is Davis’ guitar record, but the album’s title also says something about his compositional approach. He’ll play a phrase, then take it from another angle, then layer it and mull it over some more. He can pick out a tune, but the same stop/start dynamics that show up in his songs often win out over melodic elaboration. And while he sticks to acoustic guitar, he uses overdubbing, delays and a good old-fashioned slide to expand its sonic footprint. There’s plenty to chew on here.” The project features a cover photo of a moa bone by New Zealand experimental musician Alastair Galbraith, who I had the pleasure of hand delivering a copy to when we played Dunedin in July.
I’ve also enjoyed putting out side projects and compilation tracks via contemporary lo-fi labels such as Unread Records and Almost Halloween Time Records. I’m not usually a fan of tribute compilations, but AHT put out a Shrimper tribute comp I participated in this year called Imaginary Donkeys that I’m quite fond of and can recommend.
I’m currently working on finalizing cover art and mastering for an LP that I recorded in July ’19 with longtime friend and Shrimper Records collaborator Dennis Callaci, and for a compilation of early solo material that has not previously been available in the digital realm. Once those projects are done, I’ll be getting back to the last stages of recording an LP with the Cicadas that has been slowly evolving over the last few years. You can check out more details about those projects on the Upcoming Projects page of this website.
You can check for information about upcoming tours and performances in the Shows and Events page of the site. Our general pattern is to do some tours 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. With COVID-19, however, touring is unlikely until 2021.
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 have a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Lesley University. I have practiced Vipassana or Insight meditation since 1986.
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John H. Davis