John The Savage
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John The Savage

Band Rock


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"Kitchen Voodoo Release Show Preview"

It didn’t take long for the Milwaukee music scene to embrace John the Savage, a group that after less than a year and a half of playing out together has established itself as one of the city’s most noteworthy bands, thanks to their roaring appropriation of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Tom Waits at their drunkest, not to mention their must-see, megaphone and trumpetassisted live shows. Tonight the band celebrates the release of their debut album, Kitchen Voodoo, a disc that faithfully captures the fury of John the Savage’s concerts, having mostly been recorded live. The show pairs the group with two top-tier Milwaukee punk bands, Father Phoenix and Lopan.

Friday, Oct. 3
John the Savage w/ Father Phoenix and Lopan @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m. - The Shepherd Express

"Brave New Band"

“…a band throwing everything in all at once. Each part clicked and worked as a collective whole. It was as if an orchestra made an impromptu stop at this Bay View cellar to play for 20 or so people…Plenty of bands mix the different musical styles and ideas of their members to create their sound. With John the Savage, these differences aren't assimilated to create something else; they're celebrated…John the Savage doesn't follow the typical formula for a guitar-bass-drum band. The members are experimental and inventive in pulling music out of anything they can get their hands on. They squeeze accordions, blow trumpets, pluck mandolins and shake maracas. They even rattle chains, beat on tambourines and scream through megaphones. If you just looked at their instruments, you'd think the members were part of a marching band…And then there are the backing vocals…Because of its vast musical arsenal, the band's exact sound is hard to pinpoint. Instead of sticking to one feel or genre, the sound constantly shifts. At times, the band rolls out horn-infused songs that feel more Mexico City than Brew City. Other times the songs are growling and dirge-like. Or the band can shift to a tune that could easily be the theme song of an old spaghetti western…Describing John the Savage's musical style sounds like a case of genre ADD, but the members don't care. They've embraced the variations of their sound, creating a style can be described as being "very John the Savage…" -- MKE, Justin Shady - MKE Newspaper, Milwaukee

"Turner Hall Ballroom Concert Review"

"The Milwaukee-based opening act John The Savage sounded like Tom Waits fronting an American version of The Pogues, a version still well in touch with its punk roots. The band was messy and drunken in all the right ways, crafting a sound that was unpredictable and gloriously noisy. Yet when things threatened to spiral out of control, the blaring trumpet of Michael Henderson provided the band with a much-needed sonic focal point. Local music fans take note: This is a band to keep your eye on." -- THE SHEPHERD EXPRESS, Michael Carriere - Shepherd Express

"Cactus Club Concert Review"

“…even with my camera, I still couldn't capture the sheer magnitude of John the Savage's awesomeness…For those of you who've never had the pleasure of being "Savaged," know this: they're a supergroup of sorts...About half of the band can claim "multi-instrumentalist" on their resume, and will showcase said skills during the course of one live show. During the course of their shows, you'll hear more musical styles than you would listening to all three discs of The Clash's Sandanista…In the less-than-a-year John the Savage have been playing out, they've yet to release a proper album. But somehow, their audience knows every word to every song, and have no problem singing along at the show. I realized this Friday night, as I, too, was locked amidst the chain of concert-goers, arms around each other, beers aloft, shouting along with the band during "Sinking Ship." There's just something undeniably infectious about this band, something you need to experience for yourself to truly understand…There's really nothing else like this going on right now. In Milwaukee, and in general. And I'm pretty sure that's only going to lead to them becoming bigger, and more popular. So, enjoy these small-venue shows while you can.” -- FAN-BELT--MILWAUKEE, Milan Zori - Fan-Belt--Milwaukee

"Summerfest Concert Preview"

"One night, while on a worldwide voyage, a pirate captain fell in love with a fair-skinned gypsy. He courted her, they married and eventually gave birth to six beautiful children. They showered these children with weapons of sound: a piano, a megaphone, some guitars and a big-ass metal chain. The children mastered their sound, becoming one in the process. They called themselves John the Savage, and the people of the world smiled in acceptance." -- MKE - MKE Newspaper, Milwaukee

"Cactus Club Concert Preview"

"[One] of Milwaukee’s most novel new bands...John The Savage, a Bay View band that wonderously emerged in time for this summer's Bay View Bash, kicks up a lot of drunken racket with accordions, a trumpet and, occasionally, a megaphone." -- THE SHEPHERD EXPRESS - The Shepherd Express

"Summerfest Concert Review"

" …Now that’s how you sing amazing grace. Milwaukee’s John the Savage imagine what would happen if Booker T used his MGs for evil instead of good. From the cacophonous percussion to the overzealous trumpet to their howling singer, Michael Skorcz (who channels Tom Waits’ drunken, pirate pastor persona), everything about their ramshackle sound is bold and loud, so the band made a swift impression with their headlining set last night at the Cascio Groove Garage. 'Who are these guys?' several passersby asked. 'John the Savage,' an audience member responded, inaudible over the racket. 'Who?' 'JOHN THE SAVAGE.' 'John the Sausage,' the band suggested after their first song, as onlookers congregated around the stage, taking in the spectacle." -- -

"John The Savage - Kitchen Voodoo Review"

by Amber L. Herzog

Album: Kitchen Voodoo
Record Label: The Bus Stop Label

Six-piece John the Savage ain’t afraid of no ghosts — the ghastly and sinister are this debut full-length’s bread and butter. From Mexican standoff (“Me & the Warden: Standoff”) to murder ballad (“Ballad of a Killman, pt. XI”), it’s thematically dark, and though the vocals are most often indecipherable wailing, the band’s ability to incarnate stories instrumentally and transport listeners to distinct settings is just genius.

In “Sinking Ship,” for example, a near-eight minute epic noisy with trumpet, violin pizzicato, accordion and then some, panic pools at the first sight of leakage, the crew yo-ho-hos like rum-filled pirates and the vessel plunges deeper and faster into oblivion. Similarly, piano-driven “Market Day” vividly recalls art squares of Paris and “Dope-Ass Fade from Jose” could have been just another dinner at Chi-Chi’s had the funk guitar and cowbell not keenly come into play. Their musicality isn’t a fluke — Kitchen Voodoo was largely recorded live to capture the spirit of a John the Savage performance.

But within that good idea is vulnerability: all opportunity for nuance is lost. Players are on the same plane, all equally determined to be heard. Under relentless uproar, the arrangements suffer. Why blanket over hard work? Had they explored musical dynamics beyond just “loud,” even more of the band’s competence could have shone through.

John the Savage may not be particularly restrained in subject matter or sound, but the year-old band has victoriously created its own genre-bending authenticity. Too many cooks or not, Kitchen Voodoo is still spellbinding. Disagree? A plague of locusts is probably already on the way. - The VITAL Source

"Kitchen Voodoo Album Review"

In the local corner of our library, there hasn't quite been a CD that's taken to a wide variety of our DJs as much as John the Savage.

Perhaps this wide-styled appeal lies in how Kitchen Voodoo gleefully refuses to adhere to any type of boundaries and throws back its proverbial head, charging from one wild song to the next like a weekend party-hopper.

Mixing a smashing selection of guitar, piano, trumpet, upright bass and the fantastically storied vocal stylings of Mike Skorcz, John the Savage are savage balladeers, throwing official genres out the window, mixing world, classical, pop and rock to a create a sound that has hits of Tom Waits, tinges of cabaret, ballad blasts of Gordon Lightfoot and plenty of Gogol Bordello's charisma. Make no mistake, though, Kitchen Voodoo has plenty of its own magic. -


"VOODOO SESSIONS" ep on LuckyMeLuckyMud, August 2009

"KITCHEN VOODOO", full-length on The Bus Stop Label, October 2008

"ACTIVITIES COMP VOL. 1" featuring an alternate mix of "Bathroom Stalls"

"LIVE AT MAD PLANET" Demo DVD/CD (limited press of 125, now out of print)



Orchestrated chaos and unruly, yet calculated balladry are what Milwaukee’s John the Savage unwittingly juxtapose on their debut full-length Kitchen Voodoo (The Bus Stop Label), and with their healthy penchant for the rowdy, they manage to use the thinnest glue to hold together the semi-structure of their wildly spontaneous arrangements. Seven-strong, the group’s music is all instrumentational swells, its mélange of piano, strings and brass bearing the bastard child of temperamental rock and roll and majestic symphony orchestra. Guitarist/accordionist/vocalist Mike Skorcz transmits the spirits of Tom Waits and Gordon Lightfoot drunkenly having a midnight jam session in a graveyard, growling and howling about murderers, thieves, drunkards and liars; a howling dusty and brassy vocal whirlwind, his band mates echoing his story’s sentiments lustily -- the crew of the most organized cacophony this side of the Pacific.

The impulsive tempo changes and impetuous arrangements are what create John the Savage’s undeniably arresting live performances, and have taken the young band from basements to festivals to performing for national and international acts such as Melt Banana, Brazzaville, The Detroit Cobras and Grant Hart. Their vigorous stage presence translates exceptionally well to Kitchen Voodoo. Perhaps this is because the album was recorded entirely with a group-setting mentality, roping in the sounds of all seven members in one fell audio swoop, including the added aid of friends’ roiling percussion and shouts. The raw energy of the band is recognized perfectly in this manner.

Kitchen Voodoo is a fitting balance between twitchy instrumentals and raw-energied ballads. Pianist Rita Szopinski’s bouncy instrumental segueway (Dope-Ass Fade From Jose) pairs perfectly with Michael Henderson’s tuneful trumpet blasts. Lusty ballads twitched into motion by Skorcz’s calculating guitar strummings are sung cryptically -- lyrics such as “The barnyard was hot but the slaughterhouse was fun / we made gifts for everyone” (Bathroom Stalls) creating an odd but fascinating aesthetic. Although lyrically sinister, the attitude behind the music is anything but world-weary. John the Savage slyly turns the tables on all things of the underbellied nature, creating a joyful sense of abandonment and managing to work a little voodoo of their own into the dark corners of their balladry.
--Erin Wolf

"One night, while on a worldwide voyage, a pirate captain fell in love with a fair-skinned gypsy. He courted her, they married and eventually gave birth to six beautiful children. They showered these children with weapons of sound: a piano, a megaphone, some guitars and a big-ass metal chain. The children mastered their sound, becoming one in the process. They called themselves John the Savage, and the people of the world smiled in acceptance." -- MKE, Milwaukee