Johnny Unicorn – unemployed period

I came across a picture of myself playing bass with Hugo Claudin and a trumpet player named Jon Harnum. The pictures was on Jon’s website, hopefully helping to sell copies of his book on trumpet playing. I would trust this guy, because, as I remember, he was very good. He had amazing tone, and control of his instrument.

The picture was taken during February or March of 2007. The following is my account of how I ended up in this room with this particular group of people. At the end of 2006, I was laid off from my job at a big post-production studio in Hollywood. I took it as a sign that I could spend all my time doing music. But it turned out, playing weird, original music to small crowds in bars and coffeeshops in Los Angeles does not generate enough income to pay for an $800 per month studio apartment. So I got a job with a local non-profit, as a canvasser. But the commute to the office, combined with the low pay, and a bit of depression made me realize I had to leave the great city of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, I had been invited to try out for a place in the band of former bandmate, and rhythmic brother, Jason Campbell in Minneapolis. I thought it would be great to go to Prince’s hometown, deep in the Northern heartland of the Midwest. The city was just cut-off enough to not feel intimidating, and large enough to be exciting. The gleaming towers of its skyline haunted my dreams. So, I drove across our majestic country from Los Angeles in the frightful cold of February. I arrived at 11pm, and went straight to a factory district miles away from the presumably throbbing epicenter of the city, to play some music with the band. Everyone in the band was great, but at that moment, I felt like I needed to do something different musically, so I left after two days, without ever actually setting foot in the city.

I found myself in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with no plans and no job. I was introduced to a booker/writer/socialite named Jen, who invited me out in the cold Grand Rapids night to a bar she was reviewing for a local paper. After that, she took me to the apartment of her friend Hugo, a local percussionist, and the three of us and Jon Harnum chatted. It wasn’t long before we started playing music. I don’t remember what it sounded like. All I can remember was how nice the apartment was, and how horribly cold it was outside. I remember being bummed out that Jon lived in Chicago.

Through Hugo I met and joined the End Times Orchestra.

So the event in this photograph, taken that cold and wintry Winter night, marks a turning point for me; one turning point in a great circle of turning points. I thank Jon Harnum for preserving this moment in time. I wish him good luck with his book, and I hope we cross paths in the future.

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2 responses to “Johnny Unicorn – unemployed period

  1. It was a weird time for me. I was equally excited to meet you than you were to meet Jon
    I met Jon in Baja on a trip to Mexico I never in a million years expected to see him in Grand Rapids. I had a lot of fun playing with the two of you. Sometimes I think about you when other fancy musicians come to town. You seldom have time to do these kinds of things… such is life.

  2. Just stumbled across this. Good to hear the details of your story, Johnny. That was a fun night, which is how things usually are at Hugo’s: fun, spontaneous, and always interesting. Books are doing well, new one on practice out in a few months. Hope you’re well….

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