Calvin Johnson is most often spoken of in relation to those with whom he has worked and whose careers he has helped further or create, whether by explicit or implicit means. Indeed, he has worked with or influenced nearly all of... [more]
Calvin Johnson is most often spoken of in relation to those with whom he has worked and whose careers he has helped further or create, whether by explicit or implicit means. Indeed, he has worked with or influenced nearly all of the largest names in indie music over the past twenty years: Beck, Kurt Cobain, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Jens Lekman. But this idea of Johnson as some musical impresario, aloofly unleashing his spawn upon the nation's college radios as if he were the Andy Warhol or Simon Cowell of the DIY set, rings falsely, although there may well be some truth to it. But Johnson's prodigiously curious career – and the remarkable flash of the names with which he has been associated – seems more likely related, quite simply, to his sincere and uncomplicated interest in pursuing that which interests him, oftentimes with those – like Atlas Sound or Beth Ditto – whom he finds interesting. The bands he has founded – among them Beat Happening, Dub Narcotic Sound System, and the Halo Benders – are now among the most cherished in the "indie rock" canon, and he has variously inspired, influenced, or otherwise taken part in many other nervously named but substantial musical trends, such as post-punk and anti-folk. His K Records has been one of the most consistently exciting and reliable since its foundation in 1982. He has a predilection for guitar- and lyric-driven music, but he frequently steps in closer to a musical mainstream: it seems as though, lost in his own thoughts, he stands on the periphery of the grander music scene, only reaching in when he spots an intriguing sight and making something new, fun, and interesting out of it.