Born against: Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson

Seattle, Washington, 1992: The city becomes the music capital of the country with the explosion of grunge, as bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots saturate the airwaves.

If that story was on cassette tape, Calvin Johnson would hit "rewind" so everybody could get the full scoop. See, Johnson was spinning knobs and making mix tapes in his Olympia studio, Dub Narcotic, even before he founded K Records in 1982 (six years before Seattle's Sub Pop label appeared and snatched up a fledgling Nirvana). As a producer, he's recorded such innovative acts as Mirah, Thee Headcoats, Modest Mouse, The Gossip, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (which included a song called "Calvin" on its Johnson-produced ACME album). As a performer, Johnson's rocked the mic with acts Beat Happening and Dub Narcotic Sound System; he even made an appearance on Beck's One Foot in the Grave CD. In short, Johnson was "alternative" before the phrase was coined and dropped into the pockets of the music industry. And he remains anti-establishment, referring to the record label he founded as "a library card for the culturally deadpan." Not even Seattle can argue with that.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >