Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes
Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes rocks the house all the time every time! This classically trained New Orleans-based band delivers a smorgasbord of musical genres every time they hit the stage. JSDN defy easy categorization, their irreverent funk is cut with rock riffs, a Gypsy/Klezmer flare, a Latin tinge courtesy of a hard hitting horn section, and a sense of humor. JSDN is a collection of carefully crafted alter egos, mystical musicians hesitant to share their personal selves but collectively ready to funk beyond the call of duty. The ensemble features Johnny Sketch (Marc Paradis) on guitar, electric cello, and lead vocals; Busta Gnutt (Dave Pomerleau) on bass and backing vocals; Dirty Johnny (Andre Bohren) on drums and backing vocals; and Johnny Rico (Omar Ramirez) on trumpet and flugelhorn: Johnny Come Lately (Brad Walker) on Saxophones.
With a live show that is as carefully crafted as their musical arrangements, JSDN want the audience to have FUN; carrying them from a calm, funky groove to a full blown frenzy at the drop of a hat. In New Orleans, and across the country JSDN have developed a loyal following of die-hard fans. Formed in 2001, JSDN have grown up together and as a band. That experience and cohesiveness is evident in every note they play.
How Music Has Impacted Marc's Life:
How did Marc Paradis become Johnny Sketch?
We started the band in 2001 for a battle of the bands, and it was a half-joke idea really. And once we decided we were going to do the gig, we realized we needed to have a name, and we didn't have one. We didn't have a band, obviously, so I was tasked with coming up with a name. It wasn't my job, but I did it anyway. So I decided that I was going to have a band that was like Johnny something and the something somethings. You know, I like those bands. Bill Haley and the Comets and stuff like that. At the time, there weren't a lot of bands doing that. Like there's been research back in 2001, there was nobody doing that at all. It was like the Hives and the Strokes. I had just come from California, and this girl I knew was real into the term sketchy, and I just thought Johnny Sketch was a funny idea. That was like a funny character. Like a sleaze ball that you can't trust. And we needed a name quick, so that's the best I could come up with. That's pretty much it.
What music influenced you the most growing up and what impact does it have on the music you create today?
I studied classical music my whole life pretty heavily, so that's got to have a lot of influence on my perspective on stuff. I grew up listening to what my folks listened to, a lot of Oldies, Rock-n-Roll, Roy Orbison, Beach Boys, stuff like that. And I knew all that stuff back and front. I just knew all the lyrics to all those old songs. That probably had a big influence on me, and just the radio. I was a child of pop music so I listened to the radio. I would come home from orchestra rehearsal and just listen to B97 or whatever, you know. So if you smash those two things together …..
Touching on classical music, the whole core of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, being Andre Bohren, David Pomerleau, and yourself are all classically trained musicians. Can you talk about the positive effects of studying classical music and how it relates to your songwriting?
Theory. Having a knowledge of theory is really helpful no matter what kind of music you want to play, I think. For writing the horn parts and working out harmonies and just having an understanding of how it works and being able to write it down if need be and having that musical language, you know, any kind of music you play it helps out. I also really think that it instilled in us probably a little bit more discipline than a lot of bands have as far as when we're in rehearsal, we try to get a lot done. We try to be pretty efficient. I mean we're not that strict. It's not like when we were in college we were really hard nosing that stuff with string quartet orchestra rehearsals and whatnot, but there's a certain amount of discipline and to seeing it seriously knowing that it's a craft, and you have to work at it, and the theory thing helps for sure. Everyone should know some theory if they're doing music.
What does the creative process look like for Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes when it comes to writing songs?
There are different things. I've written songs in their entirety. Andre has written songs. What more often happens is I'll bring in an idea, a small idea and it will get the ball rolling and then we'll kind of hash it out, or Dave will bring in an idea to get the ball rolling. Then we’ll all hash it out and then it turns into whatever it turns into. That's become the norm lately. It used to be more often that, in the beginning, I did a lot of at least starting things. Harry and I did a lot of that in the early days. But now it's cool. It's gotten to a point where everybody is bringing stuff in, and we work on it together. We just got to see it through. We attack until it's done. And it's nice to get contributions like — Dave is writing stuff, which he didn’t for years. And now he's coming with ideas and Dre is coming with ideas. It's cool, man. It's nice to like spread it around a little bit, you know. Get different takes on stuff. Just add a little bit more dynamics.
How does it make you feel to know that the music your band creates brings so many people together to have a good time?
It's awesome. And that's the whole point. That's what we've been working at all these 14 1/2 years. It's what we want to do more than anything. I'm not in this to get rich. I don't think anybody in our band thinks that's going to happen. It's a hard thing to do because you do have to kind of let go of some comforts that you can have if you had a different job, but what you just described is the payoff, you know. That's like the currency is the people showing up and giving us their energy and sharing a moment with us. I love that. That's why we do it. There's really no other reason to do it. I love playing, and I love having a good crowd to work with.
So aside from being the thunderous front man of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, you are also a member of the world's most dangerous band, Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers, as well as an Abba Cover Band. Can you discuss what intrigues you about these other projects?
Well, Johnny Sketch is like the band I want to be in, as far as we can pretty much do whatever we want. And we have a framework. We have kind of become a dance band, so we can't just stand there and play a bunch of like — you know, headbanging Rock-n-Roll or like shoe gazing and psychedelic shit. We have an obligation to our crowd to do that, but other than that, it's pretty wide open. We can do whatever we want, and I love that music. That's kind of like the core of me, I guess, but then like the Danger Dangers, I love playing rock music, and I love freaking out and playing just Rock-n-Roll. It's not clever. I mean, some of it is very clever, but a lot of it is just blood and guts Rock-n-Roll, and it's fun. Just go out and thrash. And Rory is the front man for that so that gives me a cool opportunity just to be in a band. You know, I'm just hanging out as the guitar player. I sing a little bit, but it's definitely her show. And I like that I'm not as thunderous as I am in Johnny Sketch, I guess you could say. And then the ABBA thing, like I said, I'm a student of pop music. I love it. I don't have any apologies for how much I like pop music. I love Iggy Pop and David Bowie and Sonic Youth just as much as I love Abba and Kelly Clarkson. Those bands rule, and I get something out of it, and being able to be in a band that's just straight ahead doing really distilled pop music is great. It's very satisfying to me. It's something I don't get to do that often. I mean Dre said the first time he came and saw the Abba Band, he's like, "Man, watching you sing those wide open major harmonies, all those pop tunes, I was like I knew you had found your home."
What would life without music look like for Marc Paradis?
I think about that every once in a while, and there probably will be a time in my life when music isn't a professional focus. I don't know that I'll always want to do that, but then, again, I may end up teaching or something. There's a lot of ways you can make music a lifetime project. If it wasn't in my life at all, I think I'd probably be doing carpentry or something. I dig that. I like making stuff. You know, like making songs is cool. I like woodworking. I mean, I don't have enough time to be really good at it, but it's something I enjoy. I mean, you know, it's somehow very closely related in my brain to music, you know. Like I have an idea of what I want to do and I know the nuts and bolts on how to do it. And there are techniques involved in creating that. It's just satisfying to look at something you made at the end of the day. Like if I go to a really good rehearsal, and I leave feeling like we put together a great new song, that's exciting. And I'd have to do something like that. I don't think I could ever go and push pencils for somebody. And I hate putting on a suit. I just don't want to do it. Nobody wants me serving them food. It's like my job options are limited.
If you could single out one greatest moment in your musical career, what would it be?
Well, performance-wise, I think the first Jazz Fest we played. We were supposed to play in 2004, and it got rained out, so we didn't get to play at all. And that was like THE killer of all killers. We were so pumped up. And we flew in — like all my relatives flew in. I had ten people sleep at my house. We woke up in the morning, and they cancelled the whole day. So the next year, we finally got to play, and it was a big deal, and they threw us a bone and put us on — it was like us and then Galactic and the Dave Matthews Band, so it was a huge crowd. I think 35 or 40,000 people. And it was — you know like we waited our whole lives to do that gig, and it was really, great to do that, man. I'll never forget that day. That was really, really incredible.
I know you only asked for one but another moment stands out. It's not a performance thing, but I remember doing a gig in Florida not long ago, maybe a year ago, and we were at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, and George Porter, Jr. played before us. No, he was going on after. It was some kind of like a Super Jam thing and we played before. And he hadn't really heard our band before. He knew who we were. He knew me. He knew the guys in the band, but like he never really listened to our show. And he was kind of forced to because he was stuck in the club and he sat and listened to the whole set and he came up after. We were standing around, and I saw George bee line across the room and people were trying to get to him saying "Hey George," and he was like, “Hold on I got to do something.” He came straight to me and he goes, "Man, I got to apologize. I didn't know what your band was about. Like I just thought you were — " You know, and what he didn't say — because he's a gentleman and a sweetheart — was like I thought you were another Loyola white-boy funk band. And he was like — he's like, "Man, you’re cello playing was crazy, and ya'll are funky as hell." It was just such a heartfelt compliment, and he even went out of his way to apologize for misjudging us and assuming things about us. That meant the world to me. That was like the best compliment I ever got because he didn't have to tell me that. He could have just been like, "Hey, cool show." That kind of blew my mind. That was a good one. I waited a long time for that moment.