Hailing from Americaâ€™s mid west, Pigeon John is an eclectic hip hop artist who went on to cut his teeth in Inglewood, California as part of seminal crews L.A. Symphony and Brainwash.
John has also been releasing solo material for more than a decade now. Later this month, he will be returning to Australia for a run of live performances to showcase his new album, â€˜Dragon Slayerâ€™.
Forging a definitive identity was something Pigeon John evidently had to become accustomed to from a very early age. He recalls a childhood of polar opposites and contradictory discrimination. â€œI was born in Omaha, Nebraska, basically in the mid west. For me and my family even though we were mixed, there were no black people in the whole city at that time. We were the darkest kids in the neighbourhood so we would face racism on that side but got through it. I remember fighting every single day, not even by choice.
â€œAll of a sudden in fifth grade we moved to Inglewood, California and we were the whitest kids. We faced it from both sides and I think that made us like floaters in the middle but at peace with both sides. Music really focused me in the right way.â€
During this period, skateboarding and music were the primary occupations in Pigeon Johnâ€™s life. At the age of 12, he combined the two pursuits by penning his first song, â€˜Inglewood Skaterâ€™s Dreamâ€™.
After latching onto the ubiquitous presence of hip hop, he began to frequent open mic nights at The Good Life CafÃ©, famous for having nurtured other prominent West Coast acts such as Jurassic 5, The Pharcyde and Freestyle Fellowship as well as pop munchkins The Black Eyed Peas.
â€œI had my tape cassette and on one side was â€˜Boys In The Hoodâ€™, over and over again. On the other side was Human League â€˜Iâ€™m Only Humanâ€™. KDAY, before there was a rap channel of any kind, would play Madonna, Fat Boys, Beastie Boys, NWA and back to pop like Human League and Genesis. Thatâ€™s how I heard hip hop. Imagine listening to the Beastie Boys on the radio and not realising theyâ€™re white.â€
In 2001, after three years of writing and recording, Pigeon John released his debut album, â€˜Pigeon John Is Cluelessâ€™. In 2003 he followed up with â€˜Pigeon John Is Dating Your Sisterâ€™, which was succeeded by â€˜Pigeon John Sings The Bluesâ€™ in 2003. Two years later, he became associated with Lyrics Born.
â€œI got to open for Lyrics Born in 2003 and 2004. I showed him my record â€˜Pigeon John Is Dating Your Sisterâ€™ and he kinda liked it and dug my show, we just hung out. I had loved Quannum since the late â€˜90s and I loved how they were doing it by themselves. After I handed my record to Lyrics Born he approached me to sound out my enthusiasm to join Quannum Projects. They were very supportive, especially Lyrics Born in helping me put together my album â€˜Summertime Pool Partyâ€™. Touring with him in Australia was hella fun and eye-opening.â€
As far as Pigeon Johnâ€™s impressions of Australia goes, he observes similar characteristics between here and Los Angeles.
â€œAustralia really felt like a gigantic California in a lot of ways. It seems very much based on beach culture in the same way California is. Both seem to share that water-based coastal culture. I really related to that because it really does make people laidback, it calms people down. The food is great, the people are cool and obviously the musicians and MCs over there are fantastic as well. There is so much support out there, itâ€™s dope, along with beautiful cities everywhere as well.â€
Pigeon Johnâ€™s most recent effort, â€˜Dragon Slayerâ€™, signals a departure from his prior production methodology. He has jettisoned the MPC, instead choosing to record and arrange his own samples from live instrumentation.
â€œI enjoyed that side of it a lot. I tinkered with that kind of thing back in the day, working on the ASR-10, using a live bass as opposed to a sample. Eventually, I wanted to do a whole record like that and it evolved into a personal challenge. It was really born out of two things: not caring what anyone would think and listening to music with the fascinated ears of a child.â€
Pigeon John plays X&Y Bar May 22.