Local Wire

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.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea