About Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes
Formed in 2001, the legend of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes is a noble tale of friends, funk and fortitude. It is the coagulation of classically trained musicians breaking the confines of the genre in a most likely musical haven; New Orleans. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes has been known to boldly impress their audiences with more than music, which sometimes involves the removal of clothes, bizarre costumes and the coercion of certain audience members to partake in odd antics. The band 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. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes is a collective, an ensemble, a six person phone booth in which mild mannered classical guy Clark Kent goes in and Johnny The Wild Superman comes out. And come to think of it, that also involves costumes and the dumping of garments.
It was the 2005 Hurricane Katrina baptism that solidified the wild alter egos in Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes into a seriously cohesive unit of musicians. Sketch redefined the word dedicated when the mega hurricane caught the group in mid tour in Colorado during the fateful August of 2005. Johnny Sketch could not get back to New Orleans and continued the tour unswervingly, serving up New Orleans funk stew to anyone who would listen. And listen they did and responded with free housing, bumped up guarantees and purchases of merchandise over and beyond the band’s expectations. Finally arriving home Johnny Sketch was met with an onslaught of simple survival and one huge objective; to not only manage each day with limited resources, but to keep the band together, rehearsed and on the road. Not easy when lost of residencies and loss of possessions and even dissolved relationships were eating at the mental wheels of forward momentum. But the Sketchy crew not only survived the upheaval around them, but also developed a new more focused view of themselves and the music they play. “After the storm,” sax player Tommy Occhito (J. Hitman) says, “You truly acknowledged what is essential. We all developed a truer appreciation for life and our musical paths.”
With the release of a new cd expected in early 2008 and another full-fledged national tour beginning in January 08, Johnny Sketch again is on the cusp of a busy and productive year. “We had a few goals after Katrina,” explains Johnny Sketch himself, “Let’s start working on new material. Let’s keep this band together. We intend to make this a career. There’s nothing bigger or more fun or more gratifying than all of us playing music all together.” To that testament, JSDN tours the US regularly and intends to leave no stone unturned!
Marc Paradis (guitar, electric cello, lead vocals) IS Johnny Sketch. Named during a California trip to visit a brother by a strange hippy chick who dunked his head under ten days of constantly using the word sketch and sketchy, Johnny was destined to purge himself of earthly bonds and become the impetus of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. The intimitable front persona remembers Roy Orbison, Bolero and Frankie Valli as a childhood musical background. Sketch’s father was in the marine corps and music seemed to provide him with solidarity in a constantly shifting world. His fourth grade elementary school in Kansas offered string classes and Johnny found the cello and believed his life would be about classical cello performance. “The classical world is really competitive. There are not many jobs and a whole lot of people who want them. You can’t be into being healthy and see sunlight when playing classical music.” Remembers Sketch bleakly. His family moved to Louisiana and his mom bought him an acoustic guitar, sensing a “darkness” in her young son. Sketch attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts as a senior. He also drove from his home to New Orleans for private cello lessons and “delivered pizzaŠit’s the hardest I’ve ever worked for music education.” He graduated from Loyola with a degree in classical cello performance with other members of what would mercifully become his release from classical music- Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. “It was too easy to be in this band..” Sketch reflects,” Each member is integral. Each member is a friend. What we do together is what we do best.”
Dave Pomerleau (bass & backing vocals) a.k.a. Busta Gnutt, readily admits to ,”..never thinking of doing anything else,” but playing music.. Mr. Gnutt was fascinated by a childhood friend who played guitar. “He could sound just like the songs on cds and I was hooked. I wanted to do that too.” However, Mr. Gnutt admits not being able to distinguish bass from guitar during his youth, a disease that was successfully treated by a more than slight obsession with the Beatles and ultimately cured by all that is sacred in rock, WEEN.
Mr. Gnutt played with Irish folkers and heavy rockers after graduating from classical studies at Loyola University in New Orleans but found his life’s fulfillment in Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. He has studied bass under Peter Harris, Dave Anderson, Dale Cortello and Allen Nisbit and is currently teaching students from 5 to 40 years old. “I feed off live energy,” Mr. Gnutt insists, “and I cannot do any sort of structure which makes this band perfect for me.” Mr Gnutt also claims to be able to play any Beatles song including the b sides. We don’t doubt him for a second.
Andre Bohren (drums & backing vocals) is Dirty Johnny. Literally born on the road in an airstream trailer, it is only right Sir Dirty should end up many years later most at home with wheels under his feet. Son of blues legend, Andre Bohren, Sir Dirty remembers quite vividly a nine year old Andre watching La Bamba and being forever changed. “I learned about the proponents of showmanship, about choreography, about putting on a show.” Sir Dirty recalls. After years of traveling with his father, the Bohrens eventually moved to New Orleans to a home stocked with musical atmosphere and instruments including piano, drums and guitars, all of which Sir Dirty had access to and eventually excelled at all. He attended Loyola in the classical piano studies program but dropped out when Mr. Gnutt and Johnny Sketch coerced him into a battle of the bands in 2001. To compensate for lack of material, each member dressed in costume. Sir Dirty ended up playing drums as a firefighter strung with Christmas lights and the rest, as they say, is rock history. “Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes is a radical rebellious response to being classically trained.” Sir Dirty is quick to point out, “but we steal as much from Beethoven as we borrow from The Meters.”
Tommy Occhiuto (tenor sax & flute) is Johnny Hitman. An excellent public school band program and a deep desire to one up his flutist sister, turned twelve year old Tommy into a saxy Dirty Note. Aspiring to be a world class skateboardist upon entering college, Captain Hitman found his destiny changed upon the theft of his beloved skateboard. “I had to find something else to occupy my time and I still had my saxophone from school.” At Loyola Captain Hitman was lucky to be mentored in jazz by John Ellis from the Charlie Hunter Band. “He really introduced me to music in general, like different ways of thinking and the whole organic approach to being a musician.” He is the first band member to study jazz at Loyola instead of classical music and insists on breaking his bands reliance on classical music scales by bringing jazz theory and improv to the Sketchy smorgasboard. Captain Hitman regards his bandmates as brothers and equates being tight friends to being a tight cohesive band. “It makes it real easy to communicate musically on stage because we know and like each other.”
Omar Ramirez (trumpet & flügelhorn) is Johnny Rico. He calls his time in Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, “the most intense relationship I’ve ever had.” Ramirez cut his teeth playing trumpet in salsa bands eventually ending up in fourteen of them at once. “It was a language thing,” Ramirez points out, “I could speak Spanish. I could communicate through language as well as through music. So I ended up in a lot of bands.” Ramirez graduated from Loyola with a degree in musical composition and never intended to pursue trumpet. “I wanted to write music for plays and be a freelance composer, but I could not get by the issues of being coached in composition by less knowledgeable people.” The frustration of working with directors and people communicating with him in “non-musical terms” to get a musical result took its toll to the extreme advantage of the Dirty Notes. Rico joined the band in October 2005. “I try to not have a ‘worst part’ of anything,” he confesses when asked about traveling life, “I’m happy going to new places and meeting new people and just playing music.” In one band and not fourteen.
Andre Mouton (baritone & alto sax) is Johnny Rockit, the newest of The Dirty Notes. Andre was immersed in the wild abandon musical free for all of Johnny Sketch when he joined the band on stage at the April 2006 French Quarter FestivalŠ.after one rehearsal. “I knew Tommy and I really looked up to him and somehow I ended up in this great band.” Master Rocket professes to a serious study of saxophonics in the sixth grade in Mississippi. His brothers played sax and there was “an alto sax just lying around all the time.” It wasn’t until he attended college at Loyola, Master Rockit truly realized his sax destiny. He graduated with a double major in jazz and English. “Music is more your own when you discover it a bit later in life,” prophecies Master Rockit, “You have to practice more but you appreciate being able to play more.” When asked about his Johnny moniker, Rockit recalls a trip to the Florida keys in which he was admittedly “spaced out the whole time.” Master Rockit loves the “transitory life” of the road and uses his English major to journal observations as the band treks the globe. One might carefully consider what they say and do, as Master Rockit may use it as writing fodder.