David Johnson and Fake Zappa (Jason T. Ingram)
SEATTLE, WA & PORTLAND, OR – WINTER 2019 – Two artists from the Pacific Northwest have come together to collaborate on “In Search of Love and Music: A Tribute to Joni Mitchell”. David Johnson and Jason T. Ingram (a.k.a. Fake Zappa) met in 2012 when Jason was visiting family around the Seattle area. They immediately connected over a shared passion for songwriting and audio production. David, a singer-songwriter with a flare for folk and pop, and Jason, a fellow singer-songwriter, artist, hyper-creative multi-instrumentalist and former music teacher, combined their unique skills and perspectives on this project. Both of them share a deep love for the immensely influential nature of Joni’s work, and it is that love that inspired the pursuit of the tribute.
The songs were recorded both in Corbett, OR (Latourell Falls on the Columbia Gorge) and mostly at a remote club in Sultan, WA, near Monroe. The selections come from Mitchell’s classic albums Clouds, Blue, Court and Spark, and Hejira. Jason utilized his digital programming prowess to bring fresh, new approaches to several of the songs, intending to bring Joni’s music to younger listeners that may not be familiar with her work. The album begins with a bubbly, electronic take on the upbeat “Carey”, followed by a stark and provocative trap and hip-hop inspired version of “Black Crow”, from which the album title came. Also offering more traditional takes on the material such as “Roses Blue”, “Car on a Hill”, “Furry Sings The Blues” and “The Last Time I Saw Richard”; David and Jason send a nod to the songs that have impacted them most. The album concludes with a solo a cappella version of “River” sung over the sounds of city traffic, recreating the environment which Joni was seemingly seeking to escape in the original song.
There are a couple noteworthy aspects of this endeavor. Both artists deal with mental illness and are able to cope and heal through making and playing music; as well as following their dreams as professional artists. They supported each other carefully through the process of creating the album and continue to do so through continued communication. Recorded throughout 2018, that year was a very trying time for both artists, and a massive project like this was instrumental in their recovery. Both artists are also gay, which when considered in regard to some of the selections, brings a particularly idiosyncratic and gender-bending twist to the romantic stories within the songs themselves.
Jason was homeless during the production of the album, living in a 21 foot motorhome because his home studio suffered a devastating fire in March of that year; and having to tackle all the post-production and most of the overdubs in the RV. Not everyone was supportive of their efforts, including a visit from local law enforcement and a series of very discouraging events. Included on the album: jazz horn player Joel Riddell and violinist Heidi Beth Sadler of Chasing Ebenezer; capturing overdubs in Sherwood and Portland, Oregon. Most of the album was recorded and mixed at nudist clubs around the northwest. David played some guitar and keyboard and sang all the lead vocals, while Jason recorded all the background vocals and the remaining instruments. Because of the studio fire, most of the album featured virtual instruments, which was unusual for both of these artists. As there was no access to instruments like an electric bass and electric guitar, whatever was currently available was used for the album like woodwinds that were lent and donated, and even a few “junk” instruments.
Fake Zappa is planning on producing a “musical tracing” version of Paprika Plains from Joni’s Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter album, among his current projects publishing alternative meditation music, and his edgy comic work and activism. Musical Tracing is an audio production method of recording additional audio that matches the artist’s recording, then when mixed, the original song is muted leaving all new audio that exactly matches the form, rhythm and tempo. Jason has used this technique for his band, from a Cluster/Brian Eno recording, The Shins, and Peter Gabriel era Genesis as well as two songs on In Search of Love and Music: Car on a Hill and Furry Sings the Blues. On those two tracks, David sang in unison with Joni, although the pitch of her voice was processed lower to fit Johnson’s tenor vocal range. Ingram uses the name “Fake Zappa” to identify himself as a multimedia artist, and mimic aspects of Frank Zappa’s diverse career, his business model, activism and even his appearance; as well as an emphasis on current culture, news and politics as we hear the word “Fake” too much these days. Unpopular in the United States, listeners from the UK, including former Soft Machine lead singer, Robert Wyatt, have been encouraging and appreciating Jason’s music as he continues to struggle to break out of obscurity. Ingram has produced albums for himself and others around the US and has been featured on community radio, online stations and streaming media for several years.
Johnson also has a background in the studio, with three full-length solo albums that are categorized as “alternative folk” as well as his folk-rock and fusion styles and music videos. He sings about everything from abusive relationships, religious and faith issues, and even gay sex, among other taboo subjects. He has performed around the Pacific Northwest including an appearance with ambient progressive rock project Dialectic Flowers, and a comic set with Jason at a gay big-men’s event in SeaTac. David has been featured in various interviews, articles and events, and has tackled subjects like conversion therapy, HIV and mental illness. One of the few male artists to tastefully interpret Joni’s challenging music, Johnson has been performing her songs for years, accompanying himself with his acoustic guitar and even keyboard. Mostly self-taught, David has an unusual natural talent and a notable vocal range in addition to his experiments with alternate guitar tunings. Ingram likes to call him “a gay Joni Mitchell” for more than just his musical talent: David’s work is inspired and with a similar freedom and nuttiness that certain artists that have been “touched” with a gift to go beyond conventional creativity.
David currently lives in Mill Creek, Everett, north of Seattle where he was raised, focusing on his entertainment career and mental health. Jason is back in his (newly rebuilt) little house in Milwaukie, Oregon, just south of Portland (where he was born) with his partner; aspiring to leave the northwest and pursue more opportunities to produce more digital media as he also speaks out concerning his background as a conversion therapy survivor and raising awareness about other forms of harmful mental health practices.
In Search of Love and Music has been featured on Joni’s site at the following link: JoniMitchell.com
Sunday Driver Productions sundaydriverproductions.com