20 Questions: Calvin Johnson of K Records and Selector Dub Narcotic

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
Calvin Johnson, photo by Red Williamson

Calvin Johnson, photo by Red Williamson

You may know of Calvin Johnson as the owner of the venerable K Records. Or perhaps you know of him because of your decades-long fandom of Beat Happening, Dub Narcotic Sound System, or one of Johnson’s many other musical projects.

Now you may come to know him as “Selector Dub Narcotic,” Johnson’s alias for his newest electronic dance/synth/funk project. His debut album as Selector Dub Narcotic, entitled This Party Is Just Getting Started, was released on September 16, 2016 via — who else? — K.

In the midst of a West Coast tour — and just prior to shipping off to the United Kingdom for a slew of shows — Johnson took the time to playfully play 20 Questions With Verbicide.

Ever bought anything from a late-night infomercial?

I really need to. Thanks for the reminder.

Did you prefer life prior to the internet and cell phones and social media, or do you think we’re better for it?

Life in the Old Testament was hott — fire, brimstone, and a deliciously vengeful God. People with beards parting the sea, turning into pillars of salt; it was raining toads around here. The New Testament is fairly namby-pamby “love thy neighbor turn the other cheek accept into your heart do unto others goodie two shoes” style baloney. The choice is obvious.

Apples or bananas?

Apples are a fruit of the gods introduced to civilization by the ancient Syrians who developed such delectable varieties as Rome, Winesap, and Gravenstein to provide sustenance for their people, while simultaneously raising poetry, ceramics, and philosophy to a standard that started down the road to the disciplines we know them as today. The banana is a phallic symbol of American expansionism and corporate oppression, wrested from noble Central American high cultures and used to prop up totalitarian regimes who enslave their own populace for the enrichment of corporate overlords. The choice is obvious.

Where is your ideal vacation spot?

Sandusky, Ohio — no wait, Coffeyville, Kansas.

Death by the iron maiden, or death by chocolate?

Death by chocolate would be no disgrace.

Sherry and Lambchop or Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Moose — which duo would make a superior commander-in-chief/VP combo?

This query draws from reputable sources, but presents the wrong options. Mr. Green Jeans in a Jimmy Carter-style sweater would make a most valiant and trusted president, while the Dancing Bear as president of the Senate could easily bend both parties to his bidding while maintaining strong ties with the independent membership.

Butter or margarine?

A member of Some Velvet Sidewalk, a combo hailing from Eugene, Oregon who released several albums on K, once said this about the differences between Olympia, Washington and Eugene: “In Olympia, people live in apartments, not houses; take baths, not showers; eat butter, not margarine; and keep their garbage in the closet.” Truer words were never spoken.

What is your favorite video game?

Pong II: Electric Boogaloo.

Have you ever had a part in a film?

Thank you for asking this question. If you view the motion picture American Nutria directed by Matt McCormick, I played the part of “The Narrator.”


If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

The Astronauts.

What is your favorite restaurant to eat at while on tour?

Lagomarcino’s in Moline, Illinois. They make their own ice cream, soda pop, and chocolate.

What kind of car was your first car?

A red and white 1965 Ford Falcon van. It threw a rod in New York State three weeks into a national tour.

What type of car do you drive now?

No automobile. I ride a bicycle manufactured by Detroit Bikes.

Scooby-Doo or The Flintstones?

The question everyone always asks is “The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” but this was not always the case. As a child, the question was “The Beatles or The Monkees?”

The Monkees starred in a live-action half-hour comedy show that was lively, hip, and shot at odd angles; they were always bouncing around and riding unusual vehicles, like scooters and miniature bicycles. It had a swingin’ theme song and they were prone to saying fun, wacky things. The Monkees often wore logging hats, and one of them did so incessantly.

The Beatles had a Saturday morning cartoon show animated in a dreary style. They never seemed to do anything except stand around mumbling incoherently in an undecipherable accent. The choice is obvious.

Ever been sprayed with champagne? Ever had a cooler full of Gatorade dumped on your head? Ever had a beer bottle smashed across your jaw?

No. The closest I came to this was seeing the band Starz open for Aerosmith, Jeff Beck & Jan Hammer, and Rick Derringer at the Kingdome. They ended their show by spraying champagne all over the stage. It seemed very contrived and sad.

What’s your favorite comic book?

Little Lulu.

What is one new skill you’d like to acquire in the next year?

Playing the trumpet.

Glasses or contacts?

Why must we choose just one? Let’s live a little. I’ve always preferred to swing from both vines.

How many tattoos do you have?

One: a life-sized tattoo (white ink) of my face, on my face.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists?


How do you take your coffee?

Cowboy coffee: a scoop of grounds in a frying pan with some eggshells, bring it almost to boil, then serve strained through your bandana.

What song really hits you in the feels and makes you cry?

“Malachi” by Mecca Normal.

Favorite thing about being on tour? Least favorite thing?

I enjoy eating pears; the sinks at many venues do not have hot water, making it difficult to shave. This is a serious problem for many artists, we’ve often commiserated about it.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Barbara Feldon, Agent 99 on Get Smart!

Scuba diving or hang-gliding?

Please elaborate.

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