“I’ll supply my own cocaine, blowjobs and fur coats. I have no desire to be uber-mega-famous. I just want to earn as much money as a semi-skilled factory worker and feed myself off the back of what I do best.”
Johnny Kowalski is a humble onstage eccentric, a visionary of free cakes (or at least for his Sexy Weirdo Army) and a rough and ready vocalist for the gypsy-carnival-punk sextet Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos. His delirious rasp and frantic front man swagger has been distinguishing the Sexy Weirdos brand of twenty first century happy-manic klezmer for over three years, and with the release of their new album Kill The Beast on May 7 2014, Voodoo caught up with the mutton-chopped man to talk about music, latex-based special effects and fire breathing jugglers.
“If money wasn’t an issue we’d have free cakes for everyone because free cakes are cool,” Johnny valiantly proclaims. “We’d also add a krunk load of brass and woodwind to our live shows and a couple of additional vocalists. Instead of fancy light shows I’d get a load of circus performers – jugglers, fire breathers, clowns and stuff that would best fit the happy chaos of our live shows. We’ve already had an aerial silks performer who’d love to do our live shows but the venues we play don’t have high enough ceilings! She’s in the Something Wonderful Video”
Throughout 2014 the group has been recording their second album Kill The Beast under a new line-up featuring Chris Yates on bass guitar and Ellie Chambers on trombone. “These two members have definitely helped our sound evolve since Victory For The Monsters. Ellie came into the band last summer when we had a shortage of members, I’ve always loved her band The Mistakings and she was a regular at our Birmingham gigs so she seems like a natural fit.” Johnny recollects. “We’ve also had Chris’s father David Yates record tuba on the album. The last time he recorded was on The Clash’s Sandinista!” Johnny continues “Johnjo (violinist) has also put an ungodly amount of time tightening up the string and brass arrangements so this album is punchier, sleeker and less ramshackle”
Their debut Victory For The Monsters was independently recorded and released in October 2012 and can be streamed here for free. “I had the title for Victory For The Monsters before we were even a band so choosing the name Kill The Beast was a result of months of brainstorming and bickering. I’m excited about every track on the album but I’m most excited about the title track because it features some guest vocals from Call Me Unique.” Jonny continues, “As well as our trademark drunken-adventure-tales the album references more in-depth subjects such as the occultist Aleister Crowley, the New Testament and the William Butler Yeats poem The Second Coming.” You can preview Kill The Beast’s tracks Nailbiter, Tequila Song, and The Good Shark here.
“I think the Nailbiter video is going to be the most disturbing yet,” Johnny predicts. “According to the directors the theme is ‘Alice in Wonderland meets Donnie Darko’. There’s going to be some animation, latex-based special effects, as well as the usual Sexy Weirdo tomfoolery.”
Johnny has previously expressed a distaste towards those who crowd-source as a way to fund their projects. Kill The Beast, however, was fortunate enough to get a substantial donation from an anonymous source. “For album number three we might not be so lucky so I might have to eat my words and you’ll see us start a crowd sourcing campaign.” Johnny reflects “It’s not that I’m totally against crowd-sourcing I just can’t get my head around the idea of asking people for money for something we haven’t created yet. It also takes a lot of energy to work too. For me there are more pressing matters to attend to like booking and playing gigs, writing, arranging, recording, maintaining an online presence etc. Those are the areas I’d rather see the band’s energy going into.”
It’s refreshing to see such a grassroots and independent group of musicians thriving in their element and Johnny refuses to take any of it for granted. “I feel very privileged to be a part of this band, our ultimate goal is to protect and develop the many good and special things that have gotten us this far.” Johnny continues “I’ve been gigging in bands for about fourteen years so it’s impossible for me to imagine life without music. Even if that sweet sweet moolah never comes I’ll have a lifetime of great memories and a larger and richer network of friends than I could ever deserve, as well as the pure joy of making that tuneful racket. These things make ‘wealthier’ modern lifestyles look pretty empty from where I’m standing”.
The Sexy Weirdo mobile takes their 2014 tour to France, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic and includes “the coolest small bar in the word, ‘Stoned’ in Leipzig Germany.” Johnny resumes “We’re excited about the whole tour but we’ve made some very good friends in the Czech Republic and we get to play our first non English festival – Nah Jednom Brehu. Happy Days!”