John Munnerlyn, a.k.a. Johnny Mojo, is one of the most special people I know.
Now, for any of Johnny’s and my mutual friends who may have just read that line, this post is already over because they are literally busting a gut laughing out loud so hard that their drink is shooting out their nose…
But, I am serious, so for those of you who are not in this particular group of friends, I am happy that you will be able to read on.
Johnny is one of those guys who is kind of like a mad scientist. He generally speaks slowly and deliberately, and doesn’t stop speaking until he has finished sharing his entire thought on a subject. Which is not to say that he is particularly long-winded, just that, like my dear father, he is a man of great intellect and talent, and has definitive, unique and well-thought-out positions on most subjects he bothers to talk about. There is no small talk with Johnny Mojo, and there are no five minute check-in phone calls either. It’s almost as if he’s from a different time, a different era… and it’s very, very cool.
Also like my father, Johnny is a gifted musician. He can play a number of instruments well. In fact, this Merle Travis-inspired fingerpicking guitar specialist made himself good enough on drums to actually play in a band with a few of us a while back, and play well. Just did it. No drama, no learning curve, and no ego issues with others playing guitar in the band that he could have smoked with one wing tied behind his back. But, as good as he is, music not his profession, it is his hobby: his main axe is art.
Have you ever noticed that the bottom/underside of a manufactured skateboard usually has custom artwork on it? For example, a given pro skateboarder like, say, Stevie Caballero will be signed to an endorsement deal with a given skateboard manufacturer, like, say Santa Cruz Skateboards (not actually, in this case, but just an example using two of my faves). When the deal is made, the company asks the skateboarder what he’d like his model to feel like (how long, wide, concave, etc) and look like. Once the skater sits down with the company’s graphic artist, they come up with a design and the artist draws or paints it, silkscreens get created and when the board is manufactured, it ends up looking something like these (which happen to be from from Beer Run Skateboards):
Beer Run Skateboards
Well, Johnny does that (and very well, of course… say, are you sensing a theme here yet?). In fact, he is one of the world’s foremost and pioneering skateboard graphic artists. His designs are featured in books and museums devoted to skate culture all over the world. Here he is with a few of them:
Johnny Mojo SkateArt
The bottom of skateboards are just one of Mojo’s canvases, however. His work goes well beyond the skateboard world and has been seen on at least a dozen record and CD covers, on canvas and wood framed fine art pieces and even on the backsplash of a kitchen stove!
I thought it might be fun to highlight three of Johnny’s latest projects, so let’s take a look:
1) Built To Grind – 25 Years Of Hardcore Skateboarding: Johnny worked hard on the graphic layout of this entire book! 316 pages of maddeningly meticulous Mojo perfectionism for your education and delight. If you are interested in the history of skateboarding, and particularly that of Independent Trucks, this book is a must-have.
2) American Sideshow: This is Johnny’s new brand, and it is already looking like it will be a huge hit. Clothes, stickers and, thankfully, an inspired new collection of skate decks that bring back the classic feel of the ’80’s and early ’90s. His website will be coming soon, so make a point of checking it out. Of course, all the really cool kids here in Santa Cruz already have their first-issue t-shirts ; )
American Sideshow - Mojo's new brand
And now, a personal favorite and shameless plug for Johnny’s fantastic new CD release:
3) John Munnerlyn & Lee Jeffriess – Guitars In Perspective: So remember back a few paragraphs ago when I was mentioning Johnny’s Travis-styled fingerpicking guitar? Well, this CD captures some of his finest work yet. And, to make it even better, he recruited world-class lap and pedal steel player Lee Jeffriess from Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys to play with him. They added a few more good session musicians to the mix and recorded a fine album of Western Swing originals, mostly penned by Mojo, but also with a few Jeffriess compositions rounding out what I believe is a very listenable and enjoyable collection. It is so good and universally accessible that I would readily recommend it to people who don’t typically like this kind of thing. The early word is that HBO got hip and has already licensed a few of the tracks for use in their film and TV productions, so you may hear this CD soon enough whether you realize it or not.
The “shameless plug” part? Well, I had the difficult task… and pleasure, truth be told … of mastering this CD with and for Johnny. We did it in my home recording studio on the very laptop I am typing this post on now. How amazing is that? The idea that you can run a decent mastering studio (full recording studio, really) on a laptop in this day and age is a small miracle, particularly to those of us who grew up paying $40/hr. to record at eight track studios running costly Ampex pancakes through Studer tape machines!
Anyway, we used Ableton Live software (the compressors and equalizers got a good workout) to master with, as well as a Studiomaster mixing board and the amazing Adam P11A studio monitors to make it happen. And, while I’m plugging away, I’d like to remind you that if you are a potential wedding, corporate or sports music client of Sound In Motion, you can hire our studio recording, editing and voice-over services to create unique audio and video that will memorably enhance and personalize your event – just ask your salesperson!
Here’s the finished CD (can you guess who did the cover art?):
Guitars In Perspective - outside front & back
Guitars In Perspective - inside artwork
If you’d like to listen to a sample of some snippets, click here. If you like it and want to buy one, click here.
So that’s my friend Johnny.
Now, you know him a little bit too : )