Interview: Calvin Johnson of Selector Dub Narcotic

Since founding the legendary independent label K Records in 1982, Calvin Johnson has recorded and released music by artists such as: Beck, Modest Mouse, Gossip, Built to Spill, and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. In addition, Johnson has contributed his distinct voice and songwriting abilities to countless music projects, including: Beat Happening, The Halo Benders, and Dub Narcotic Sound System.

Johnson’s latest project is called Selector Dub Narcotic. The first album under this moniker, This Party Is Just Getting Started, is due to be released this August. Calvin graciously took a moment to answer some questions for Surviving the Golden Age regarding Selector Dub Narcotic as well as his feelings about music streaming services, collaborating with major label recording artists, and the future of K Records.

What made you decide to release your new album This Party Is Just Getting Started as Selector Dub Narcotic rather than Dub Narcotic Sound System, the moniker you’d used in the past?

The Dub Narcotic Sound System has not played together since 2005. This Party Is Just Getting Started [KLP199] is more an album of my songs; the music was created in collaboration with Smoke M2D6 – it is a groove unlike any other.

Are there plans to release future Selector Dub Narcotic singles in K Records’ famously collectible 7″ vinyl disco plate format?

Yes, there will be a new single “Bounce It out (Bounce It on out)” due before the end of the year.

Will all the performers on the new record be included in Selector’s live shows?

No. There are many guest artists, Ashley Eriksson, Chris Sutton, Andrew Dorsett, who are too busy with their real lives to hang around waiting for the next Selector Dub Narcotic implosion.

Can K fans expect to hear songs from any of your previous projects in Selector Dub Narcotic’s live set?

No. But then, who really knows?

The “Hotter Than Hott” music video appears to be one continuous shot. Was it choreographed beforehand?

We planned out a route through King Solomon’s and down the alley. What happened after that was spontaneous.

How many takes of the video did you have to do?

Three. We used the second take.

Two summers ago, you started the Pink Elephant’s Graveyard podcast where, in addition to playing great music from the past and present, you would interview musicians and have them perform live. Do you have any plans to record and release new podcast episodes?

Thank you for listening to our podcast. It carried on for a while but it is a lot of work and I’d like to concentrate on Selector Dub Narcotic music at present.

Why was the Beat Happening compilation Look Around released on Domino Records?

They seemed amenable and we didn’t object.

Do you stay in touch with Heather and Bret? If so, what are they up to?

Bret works at the Anacortes History Museum [http://www.anacorteshistorymuseum.org/]. His most recent book is Croatian Fishing Families of Anacortes. Heather lives with her family on Vashon Island.

Is it true Beat Happening declined an invitation to perform at All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2005? If so, why?

I dunno. That was so long ago I don’t remember.

K Records’ headquarters is currently for sale. Do you plan on staying in Olympia?

As of this time, but do you have another suggestion?

Will K Records’ next headquarters house Dub Narcotic Studio?

No.

Who would be your dream artist(s) to record at Dub Narcotic?

Betty Boo

In 2014, you released a hip-hop compilation called All Your Friend’s Friends which combined samples from K’s catalog with rappers from the Northwest. Have you always been a hip-hop fan?

Only since 1981.

How do you feel about subscriber music streaming services, like Tidal and Spotify?

Sounds very convenient.

Would you ever consider collaborating with a major label artist, like Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran?

Certainly.

Will there be another Halo Benders album?

No.

Chuck Klosterman mentioned you in his essay collection Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs after having seen you on a panel at a music conference. Are you a fan of Klosterman’s work?

His work is unknown to me.

What were the last two records you bought?

Middlewav Atmos (2060 Records), Eleanor Murray Lost Songs (Antiquated Future).

Who was/is your favorite band to see live?

The Cramps, Mecca Normal, Free Whiskey, Richard Album, Xperience, Briana Marela

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