The Man Called Johnny Normy

In my column, I rarely rely on lofty, abstract ideas such as “sources” or “facts,” but this week, I decided to take a different approach … and use them. Yes, I’m breaking the format today in order to talk about a very special musician.
His name is Johnny Normy, a Chicagoan and a self-proclaimed “one-man punk band.” Now, generally, I don’t discuss a lot of punk news or artists. Personally, I feel that a lot of punk acts today are not adding much into the broader musical discourse and are more or less irrelevant (once again, in my opinion). But the thing about Normy is that he’s just the opposite. So for this week, I interviewed the man/band and discussed, among other things, his “relevancy.”
Spin It: So, Johnny, what describes you as a musician?
Johnny: Well, you put that nicely. When you say ‘controversy …’
Spin It: I didn’t.
Johnny: When you say ‘controversy,’ I think that sums it up, you know? Sums me up. Do you know of any music that doesn’t offend someone? If there is, is that music? Is there any art that doesn’t offend anyone? No, you know? It’s all offensive. But in the same way, it’s all the same. When you look at a musician, that’s not an original musician. It’s all been done before because only the first musicians were original.
Spin It: And who were they?
Johnny: Nature. And, living in this industrialized world, it’s perfect. That’s what musicians are doing: appropriating nature. Because it’s like, fuck the cities, fuck the buildings. Fuck it, man. Music is against technology.
Spin It: And how do you respond to the critics that point out that you play an electric guitar?
Johnny: Who’s to say that something is electric or not electric? What is that anyways? I mean an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar are made of the same thing, right?
Spin It: Well, one is made of metal and plastic and involves circuits, and the other is made of mostly wood.
Johnny: Right.
Spin It: So you’ve talked about the theory behind your work, but how would you describe your sound?
Johnny: If punk was made in a cave and had electricity. If it was invented in there. I mean, it’s both isolationist and all-inclusive of everyone and everything I’ve ever experienced … I mean, have you been to Potbelly’s? Why do we have to pay for food? Don’t. Don’t.
Spin It: But what does it sound like?
Johnny: Stripping down rock to its basic element … music and lyrics. But at the same time, it’s not ‘authentic.’ I’m not trying to get that label because everything in music is just an appropriation of something that’s come before. But nothing is authentic, nothing in the world ever has been.
Spin It: Is nature authentic?
Johnny: Yes. But music is also about contradiction. I take a lot of my sound from my city, Chicago. It’s a small town but big in heart. And in the amount of people that live there. But you know stuff like Ben Weasel, The Queers … all the stuff I put in to a Ramones-esque appropriation. In short, though, it’s not about chops any more. It’s not about talent. It’s about making music take you somewhere. After shows, we just go and volunteer. The entire crowd goes with me. The venue, the album is the beginning, but it’s about where you end.
Spin It: And where do you want to end?
Johnny: I want to end racism and heteronormatives and fix the prison system. So I want to end in prison, but when I leave, it won’t be that anymore.

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