John Fishell
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John Fishell

Alexandria, Virginia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2000 | SELF

Alexandria, Virginia, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2000
Band Rock Hard Rock




"John Fishell - Douse of Singles"

"I don't like writing about myself" says John Fishell, a seasonal singer/songwriter and professor of sorts, currently working upon what will be his first debut album. Upon its release John has recently released not one but two singles "Stand By", and "Vampyr", a preview as it were of his new album release.

For someone who says they don't like writing about themselves in terms of social media networking, he sure can write his work in the ways of music creativity, as this inventive hard rocker, has got quite the melodic creativity as well as arrangement in his form that other genres of hard rock, rock, tend to lack in the genre.

"Stand By", is described as a hard rocking track that nods to the greats like the Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, and even Queen status. Lyrics revolving around a failing relationship dealing with the difficulties of air travel? Yes indeed air travel relationship difficulties for those whom cannot deal with traveling in the air. Most likely this track entails in which not only air traveling but the ordeal that comes with it, is what the lyrical concept is somewhat saying at least. If not that then perhaps it deals with the likes of a relationship in a loving sense. In any case it is a true blue rock track, that packs in those powerful hard rock kicks that all rock n' roll needs.

"Vampyr", details about love, like many artists and bands material tend to lean towards at one point or another. As this track depicts an ex-girlfriend, it being one rowdy messing track of riffs, solos, and tons of angst throughout it. Lots of energy as well, it is just chalk full of such momentum that it builds up the music to become thrilling, a true rock n' roll source of material, that really rocks out. As for its lyrical appeal, it does revolve around an ex-girlfriend but has an in-depth look into the vampire life as well sort of at least. It pokes at it, showing off the no reflection aspect of the vampire, they only being up at night time, while the rest of the material shows off how ex's both males and females can be downright ugly and dirty on the inside and outside. This relationship being one that John Fishell just had enough with altogether, can all be heard within this track alone.

When it comes down to both of these tracks, they are a real glimpse into what can be expected upon this upcoming release. They are hard rock tunes, with a rock n' roll vibe, with lots of energy thrown in for good measure. John Fishell is a man of creativeness with more work to pave the way for more music. -

"Unsigned Spotlight - John Fishell"

Unsigned Spotlight: John Fishell
For starters, what bands were you a part of prior? How long has this band been around?

"I’ve been in a few bands before, and no one will have ever heard of them. I’ve engineered and produced a number of albums for others in many different genres ranging from classical to rock to jazz to “World” music. For some reason, some well-known jazz guys like me, and I’ve been able to work with David Liebman, Joe Lovano, Billy Hart, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Mike Stern, John Abercrombie, and so on."

"I’ve been playing my original music with various backup bands since I was 15, but starting around 2002 in Nashville everything became much more serious. My current band lineup (Jess Gaze - bass and JR Viers - drums) have been with me for a few years now. They put in a ton of work on the songs, which require a fair amount of music-memory and execution. Brian McRae, who helped me record drums on many of the songs, jumps in occasionally."

What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?

Lyrics rarely come easily for me. As far as lyrical material, I just try not to repeat myself. In my mind, songwriting is about saying something familiar in a unique way, or saying something unique in a familiar way. I guess it’s probably a good idea to use clever rhymes (but not TOO clever). I like to take the perspective of someone else. On the upcoming record, I have an angry song about an ex called “Vampyr” because she just sucks.

I have a song from the perspective of a serial killer/stalker that also uses lines from “Casablanca” called “Here’s Looking at You”. “Burn” started as a wedding song, but I thought it might be an interesting twist to portray someone who is unsure and a bit sad about the whole thing. The lyrics on the single “Stand By” merge a failing relationship with a bad air travel experience. Just about every songwriter has a sensitive ballad called “Butterfly” so I have one of those too.

What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?

I wear my influences on my sleeve. Inspiration certainly comes from the “staples”: Beatles, Zeppelin, Queen - interesting because THOSE bands had such varied influences. I could list many other groups that inspire me - Cheap Trick, Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, a guy named Butch Walker. I also dig into obscure bands such as Jellyfish, Owsley, Bleu, Earth to Andy, and Crack the Sky. I spent my childhood listening to 70s “light rock” such as the Eagles, Seals and Crofts, America, and James Taylor. My mom played Roberta Flack and Judy Collins LPs all the time. I lost my mind over KISS when I was very young.

Then there was AC/DC followed by 80s rock (Def Leppard, Great-White-Lion-Snake, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and all the silly “hair bands”). I should admit I secretly loved 80s pop from Bryan Adams to the Go Gos. I never liked Metallica or Madonna. I loved the Police. I nerded out to Rush. I still hate what I call “english-deep-voice-guy synth pop” and I loved the Cars and Tears for Fears. I never understood Kraftwerk, Violent Femmes, or anything that Rolling Stone magazine writers thought was cool. Please understand I’m not commenting on what is “good” and what is “bad” here, just what I personally liked and what I think may have informed me.

Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?

The Beatles and KISS. KISS was my first concert ever and I was actually knocked off of my seat from volume, fire, and explosions. I never stopped listening to The Beatles. At some point, I saw a re-run of their first Ed Sullivan performance and thought “I’d like to make people scream and cry too”. My first band was with my friends - we had badminton rackets with cardboard cutouts in the shape of guitars taped on them.

The drummer set up a bunch of Tide boxes to beat on. Then, from an LP player, we played “Destroyer” followed by “Meet the Beatles” and jumped around while pretending to play and sing. Of course, we couldn’t jump around TOO much because the LP would skip. We “performed” like that in front of our elementary school for our first “concert”. Everything was downhill from there because ACTUALLY playing in a band completely sucks in comparison!

What do you do to prepare for a show? Any flexing, exercises, ect …

I’m in what I call the “bush leagues” of rock, so I have to run around and do a bunch of things before a show. I’m usually stressing about a “run-and-gun”-style setup. I’m typically already physically tired from the drive, load-in, and setup, and the intense weeks of individual and band rehearsal, and then any last-minute music or technical additions. Waahh and boo hoo for the musician who gets to play his own music on his own terms! I actually do try to over-drink long before show day so that I have a chance of still being hydrated by the end of the show. Rock-making is hard work! Fun, though. I really should flex and exercise in general. Perhaps some “deep knee rock squats” as Tenacious D says. Paul McCartney is doing something right in regard to show preparations - he is 75 years old, plays for 3 straight hours night after night and I’ve never seen him drink a sip of water during a show. I should do whatever he is doing. I really hate all vegetables, though.

What has been the biggest highlight of your musical career so far?

I’ve had a few affirmations from some of my heroes: David Liebman played on one of my recordings and just recently said I was a “good cat”. Dick Brewer, my childhood piano teacher, told me that I was one of his best students. Tony Lopacinski, Kevin Murphy, and Andy Waldeck (form Earth to Andy) have performed my music with me. I once did an open-mic night in Nashville and went on right after Mindy Smith and right before surprise guest Keith Urban … quite the humble John sandwich filled with self-loathing and feeling insignificant! I know those things may not sound like memorable highlights to anyone else, but they keep me going.

If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?

I’d like to do a nice tour (with busses and drivers!) with a crappy middle-aged band who would be popular enough to draw an audience, but not TOO popular and not overly talented … so that I have a chance of holding my own! Seriously, if I’m being honest, I would want to go out with a band or artist that would kick my ass (not very difficult) and who might also take a little time out of their own stressful tour schedule and personal lives to help me develop. I want to hear all the great stories too. How about a slot opening for living legend Robert Plant? He seems like he would be perfect.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Streaming is a really great deal for the consumer. Downloads are a bit better for artists and still a great deal for the consumer. Of course please go and buy your Taylor Swift and Metallica stuff, and don’t forget about all the “dinos” out there (Eagles, Yes, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Steely Dan, etc.) … but also, if possible, please consider helping us “little guys” and just see if you can get into what we are doing, too! Thanks! -

"John Fishell - Featured Musician"

“It started with a kiss,” sang Aerosmith, Hot Chocolate and The Killers in various songs. Sometimes it starts with a kiss and sometimes it starts with Kiss.

For John Fishell, IPFW’s director of music technology, it started with Kiss.

“I was a little kid and I was over at my friends house,” he said. “It was grade school. Somehow I was introduced to Kiss and we were all losing our minds.

“That was my first concert with the explosions and the blood and the volume and the craziness,” Fishell said. “And I just thought, ‘That is it.’”

Fishell has dedicated decades’ worth of his professional life to education but on some level, it’s still all about Kiss.

And Queen and the Seattle sound of the early 90s.

And the Beatles, of course (whatever else an aspiring musician is listening to, he always seems to be listening to the Beatles).

Fishell is preparing to release his first album, a collection of hard rock that touches upon all these influences.

Sample songs can be accessed on Fishell’s Soundcloud page.

He has produced and performed on other people’s albums, but this will be his “first all-Fishell collection.”

“My friends tend to roll their eyes at me when I tell them I’m finally putting the Fishell record together, since I’ve been saying that for years,” he said.

Playing music has always been a part of Fishell’s life, but teaching music is what has carried him across the globe.

His first band, when he was a boy growing up in the Washington D.C. area, involved guitars fashioned out of badminton rackets and ad hoc drums jury-rigged from giant laundry detergent boxes.

Fishell eventually graduated to piano lessons and a $29 guitar.

To this day, he has never taken a guitar lesson.

“If anybody who knows what they’re doing watches me play guitar,” he said, “I mean, I have the worst guitar technique. I’m sure people who know what they’re doing look at me like, “Oh my god. This guy has taken no lessons.’”

Fishell went on to study music in college and spent the entire time regretting having quit piano lessons in his teens.

“I was the worst pianist my entire college career,” he said. “Somehow, I made it through.”

Fishell said he was asked three times by university staffers to give up being a music major.

“They sat down with me and said, ‘You know, you’re not going to make it,’” he said. “I just thought, “Oh man. If I don’t make this, I’m going to be a plumber.’ So I sort of doubled down on the practicing.”

After he earned his bachelor’s degree, Fishell moved to L.A. where he briefly tried to break into the music business.

“It was an ill-informed, ill-conceived decision,” he said. “My dad was often in Los Angeles for his work, and he flew out there with me after trying to tell me it would never work. I’m not sure my mom even knew what I was doing. I just naively thought I would be living in a Great White/White Snake/White Lion video when I arrived.”

Fishell said he instead encountered there many “bloated, strung-out ghosts” who had tasted success a long time ago and were desperate for more of it.

“I’m not sure how a place so sunny could be so dark,” he said.

Fishell said he’s been beneficiary of many last-minute cosmic and earthly rescues in his life. An unexpected offer to go on to grad school (with tuition waiver and stipend) rescued him from L.A.

“I didn’t understand that one doesn’t just walk out of college with a music degree and start making records for people. Or for yourself,” he said. “It was very clear that I was not going to survive that situation.”

Fishell’s career as a music educator started at Alabama State University.

His next stop was an exotic and improbable one: the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa.

“That was ’94, the year Mandela got elected,” Fishell said. “I’d applied through an ad. They came over and interviewed me in New York. I didn’t hear from them for a while, and then they sent me an honest-to-God telegram. I thought that was something that only happened in film noir movies.

“They moved me, my dog and my stuff over,” he said. “They even moved my trashcan over.”

Remnants of apartheid system were still very much in place when Fishell arrived. The university branch where he taught was set up expressly and exclusively for the Indian population of the country.

“A mile and a half down the road was the nice white university,” he said. “They had resources that weren’t available to us and I thought, ‘Oh, this is not going to be good.’”

Apartheid may have been yet another “bloated, strung-out ghost” encountered by Fishell, but he said that most of the people and institutions he encountered were working hard to put that ugly policy into the nation’s past.

“There were a lot of things that were really cool,” he said. “I miss the people. I miss the food. I was the healthiest I have ever been, maybe because the food didn’t have all the preservatives that our food does.”

Fishell said he had to leave because he sensed that the university was on shaky ground.

“In a lot of ways I wish I was still there,” he said, “but I perceived that the university was going to fold. And it eventually did.”

After his South Africa stint, Fishell taught at schools in Virginia, Tennessee and Denver, Colorado.

He taught briefly at American University in Washington, D.C. and then spent six years at Ball State.

He arrived at IPFW two years ago.

The school formerly known as IPFW was renamed Purdue University Fort Wayne last spring, after Purdue and IU decided to split control of the Fort Wayne campus.

These moves raised concerns about the future of music education at the campus.

But Fishell said his department intends to become the Purdue School of Music and “grow significantly.”

“I created, with support of our administration, department chair, and music faculty, three new degree programs that are based in popular music studies,” he said. “A recording/production degree, songwriting/performance degree and a music industry studies degree. We are moving these proposals forward.”

With everything that has been going on at the university, Fishell has been forced to delay the release of the CD several times.

He is shooting for December now.

He already hosted an album-less album release party back in August, so he is not sure yet what he’ll do to commemorate the actual release.

Even though his ambitions and satisfactions have evolved considerably over the years, Fishell said he still dreams of “fame and fortune.”

He believes that hunger is what keeps people making music.

“Honestly, if you don’t have at least a bit of megalomania – a burning desire to take over the world and the feeling that your music is better than everyone else’s – I’m not sure you can really conjure the energy to do it,” he said.

Fishell’s primary goal at this point is related to those aforementioned “cosmic and earthy rescues.” He calls them “dei ex machina,” those moments in the opera when all seems lost and a plot device saves the day.

Fishell hopes to one day substantively thank all those living and breathing dei ex machina who have saved so many of his days over the years.

“Really, the best case scenario would be that I’m able to pay everyone back, with interest, for all of their time, energy, and support,” he said. “I’d like to be able to do that through this music and future music. That would be fantastic. Right now, I owe everyone a lot.” - Whatzup

"Music Technology Director Rocking in the Spotlight"

IPFW's Director of Music Technology, John Fishell enjoys every aspect of music, from recording, engineering, and producing it -- to teaching those skills to his students.

Now he's taking center stage in the Rhinehart Recital Hall to present a full-on amplified rock show featuring his own pop/rock originals.

WBOI's Julia Meek met with Fishell to discuss how his musical passions drive his multi-faceted profession. - WBOI

"Sweetwater Involves PFW Students in Rock Concert Experience"

One of the most exciting aspects of Sweetwater’s collaboration with Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) is giving the students real-world opportunities to participate in music performances, music synthesis, music technology, and music industry events.

In February 2020, for example, over 120 PFW students worked with a full-blown Pink Floyd tribute band called Pink Droyd to create a unique concert experience at Fort Wayne’s historic Embassy Theatre. We enlisted 60 PFW University singers and 40 members of the PFW Symphonic Wind Ensemble, plus seven students in the Music Synthesis class and three PFW background singers, to perform Pink Floyd’s entire Dark Side of the Moon album along with the five members of Pink Droyd. They also performed in two encore songs: “On the Turning Away” and “Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2.”

Students of the PFW Concert Event Promotions course took care of the online ads, news stories, and photography as well as creating the event posters and monitoring ticket sales. PFW students taking the Embassy Event course also helped with the complex logistics of setting up the rehearsals, lighting, lasers, sounds, and the performance at the theater.

The idea for this exciting collaboration was born when John Fishell, Director of the PFW Music Center, asked Kevin Quandt (Pink Droyd’s lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist) and me (synth/Hammond player and harmony vocalist) if there was a possibility of creating a huge Pink Floyd performance with the PFW students. This started several months of planning and writing the choir, wind ensemble, and music synthesis arrangements.

As Pink Droyd’s keyboardist, I have a deep understanding of the chords, melodies, and sound effects required for a Dark Side of the Moon performance. The fastest way to create the framework for the vocal and instrumental arrangements was for me to play a MIDI keyboard controller into computer software called Finale by MakeMusic. This application captured all of my performances and displayed them as notes on a staff. John Fishell then used those notes to create individual parts for all of the members of the wind ensemble and the choir. We then played back the Finale version while I played piano live to help spot any melodic or rhythmic clashes. When the parts were perfected, they were printed and handed out at rehearsals at the Rhinehart Music Center on Purdue Fort Wayne’s main campus. The choir, wind ensemble, and electronic music students were first rehearsed in sections, then later as one large group at the Embassy Theatre, the night before the show.

Andrew Fisher — a PFW Music Industry major who sang background vocals, performed two alto sax solos, and helped with the event marketing — said, “Pink Floyd songs often involve complex harmony, which made both musical roles a great deal of fun to perform live, and we all enjoyed every second of it. The tribute band, Pink Droyd, has tons of shows under their belt, which made the gig run smoothly onstage. The Embassy itself is historic, and exploring it before and the after the show was a treat.”

“I also lead the Street Team in charge of creating and handing out fliers as well as going to local businesses seeking sponsorship. The rest of the team was made up of a communications crew and a production crew. Throughout the semester, we took a close eye on budgets, branding strategies, and advertisement opportunities. It was a practical experience that tied directly into my degree program. We learned lots about our strengths and weaknesses.”

The students from the Music Synthesis class performed Pink Floyd’s “On the Run,” using the school’s Moog Sub 37 analog synthesizer to create the sequenced riff. The school’s Moog Etherwave Plus theremin was used as a control voltage source to open and close the Sub 37’s filter, like on the album. A Roland TR-8 drum machine replicated the repeating hi-hat pattern and heartbeat. Students also used an Arturia MicroFreak synthesizer and an Alesis Strike MultiPad percussion pad to create real-time sound effects. A live electric guitar and a violin with a Fishman pickup were processed through a Korg Pandora Stomp pedal and a BOSS VE-20 vocal effects processor for additional ambience.

The Embassy Theatre performance was a complete success based on the surprisingly good ticket sales, with the profits going to help the music departments with future projects, and the real-world experiences gained by all of the students involved. - Sweetwater, Inc.


New Album:

"We've Got a Live One" (11 tracks, recorded live on 6/2/2022)


Namaste (On Your Way to Hell)
Stand By
Pushing and Pulling (by Wreckingroom)
Valentine (featuring David Liebman)



Modern yet retro-tinged hard rock with an emotional, original flare.  John's inspired performances bring emotion and power along with concise, clever songwriting and an unexpected pop sensibility.  His sleeves are covered with his main influences such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Queen, and his shirts are also stained with ingredients ranging from 80s pop to jazz, as his main influences were also genre-bending at times.  On the recordings, John performs all musical instruments and vocals with the exception of drums and some incredible guests such as jazz master David Liebman.  John's live performances are sweaty affairs, yet filled with his understated and self-deprecating sense of humor.   

Band Members