The year is 2005. New Orleans-based funk outfit Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes is putting itself back together after Hurricane Katrina. I’m in my first semester of college, devouring anything and everything without a price tag. The UWF RadioLive series typically has a singer-songwriter vibe, and this band is anything but. When the band first plugs in, I’m not sure what to expect. They proceed to shatter the my musical sensibilities into a million little pieces. To this day, hundreds of concerts later, I can look back at that show and claim it vital to my evolution. They taught me that funky can be classy, and that classical elements can bring the funk, so long as it all stays full of sweat, grit, and exploration. O&A woke guitarist, electric cello and vocalist Marc Paradis from his couch to ask him how all the various influences of the band came together and how important New Orleans is to the spirit of the band.
O&A: When you were fist learning music as a kid, was classical your first choice?
Paradis: No. I grew up listening to what every kid does – the radio and whatever my parents were listening to. I got offered a chance to play cello and became interested. That was the first time I was doing anything involving classical music. I was living in Kansas at the time and they offered me a scholarship in the fourth grade – about eight years old.
O&A: How does that classical training influence your sound today?
Paradis: For musicians, whatever you study or listen to is going to be in your ears and come out in some way. We never deliberately set out to sound classical in any way, but it’s going to show up in your writing and musical choices. Being a hybrid classical-funk band wasn’t a definitive priority for us. That’s just what came out.
O&A: As you were growing up learning the cello, at what point did the funk world hit you?
Paradis: That was a result of my college roommate. We knew each other from junior year of high school in New Orleans. He was a local guy that went to see live music as much as he could. A lot of funk fusion stuff was happening at the time, and he started playing me these records. It all traces back to him.
O&A: As a guitar player, was there an initial player that jumped out at you?
Paradis: Cello was a regimented thing for me growing up. Guitar wasn’t. I just had the thing to screw around with. I didn’t learn all the Hendrix licks or go down the path that most players go down. It was an independent, figure-it-out-yourself kind of thing. If you asked me who my favorite player is now, it’d be Derek Trucks.
O&A: How do you guys stand out in such a crowded musical city like New Orleans?
Paradis: We’ve always tried to do something unique. The city doesn’t need another sraight-ahead New Orleans funk band. There are plenty of people who already do that extremely well. Out music is stuff that we like to play. People have accused us of being all over the place, but to me, that’s variety. When you come to our shows, it’s like getting a full meal. Some bands make a really great plate of fried chicken, but that’s all they get all night. We’re trying to give you some different things. I value when a band can put on a multi-faceted show.
O&A: It’s been nearly ten years since Hurricane Katrina. How did that experience affect the band?
Paradis: We were all scattered for a while, but aside from the initial experiences of getting through the storm and the aftermath directly following, I don’t know that it damaged the band. More than anything, people’s lives had to change a little bit with our living situations. Our lives were disrupted more than the band was disrupted.
Photo: Band Official