German Producer-composer JJ Whitefield Unleashes "Ghanaian Afro-Rock" JOHNNY! 45x3 Bundle with Eric Owusu, Henry Taylor, Tomi Simatupang & Bernd Oezsevim (Now-Again)
"'Johnny" was our band internal call for "dude," "bro," etc... our sound guy Jochen started, at one point, calling everyone "Johnny" and this spread to the point that everybody was called "Johnny" by everyone in the crew... [it] was easy, you didn't have to remember names... also, there is a similarity to the West African habit of using the name "Charley" for "dude,'" Poets of Rhythm/Whitefield Brothers mastermind JJ Whitefield wrote within an email concerning his latest eclectic musical output, JOHNNY! Billed by Now-Again as "Ghanaian Afro-Rock from German producer/composer JJ Whitefield and an international cast of top-shelf musicians," JOHNNY! consists of Johnny (Henry) Taylor on vocals/keys, Johnny (Eric) Owusu on vocals/percussion, Johnny (JJ) Whitefield on guitar, Johnny (Tomi) Simatupang on bass, Johnny (Bernd) Oezsevim on drums, and Karl Hector helming production duties. "[Whitefield] first started exploring African rhythms with The Whitefield Brothers in the late 90's, continuing in the 2000's with Karl Hector & The Malcouns. He’s been instrumental in launching Ghanaian Afro Beat/Funk legend Ebo Taylor's international career, decades after the maestro recorded the landmark albums that have inspired thousands. Whitefield recorded two new studio albums with Taylor and toured in his band between 2009 and 2013, where he met Taylor’s son Henry and percussionist/singer Eric Owusu." JOHNNY! & Karl Hector are currently finishing up a proper full-length for Now-Again.
Johnny Whitefield said the group's influences come from two angles: first, a recent 4-year stint as tenor guitar player in Henry's father Ebo Taylor's band playing Afrobeat and Highlife-stylized music. Whitefield called it a "wonderful experience" playing with Ebo, Henry & Eric, having formed a close kinship easily transcending that of most touring band mates; at that time, the three young musicians already had the urge to continue making music after the Ebo years and in December 2012, JJ Whitefield decided to quit Ebo Taylor's band to start working on a Zamrock-centric project presented to him by Now-Again Records founder Egon. Together, Egon & JJ Whitefield re-issued, re-mastered, an properly released a big chunk of the classic sought-after 70's Zambian Rock LP's. Whitefield worked alongside Zamrock legends Jagari Chanda and Rikki Ililonga, a process which fueled his interest in "merging African rhythms with heavy Fuzzy Rock sounds, et voila: JOHNNY! got his style.” Last Wednesday, October 26th, Now-Again suddenly unleashed JOHNNY!'s 45x3 bundle (or single 7-inch) debut containing "Ago," "I'm Gone," "Only Love," and their companion instrumentals in a limited edition of 1000 die-cut dress jacket and re-sealable "Japanese-style" sleeves; upon my first listen, I almost instantly picked up notes of Thin Lizzy, Death, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Paul Simon's Graceland, Music from Saharan Cellphones, Madlib + Mamao's cross-continental Sujinho album, Stevie Wonder, Seu Jorge, and even Iggy & The Stooges' brand of sleazy Fuzz Rock.