Boulder band Salem performs free show in Edwards
A Boulder band with a cause. Its nearly as common as an oboe in an orchestra. But even though its not all that surprising, its nice to see a band that does more than just sing about social ills. Todd Anders Johnson, lead singer, songwriter and drummer for the band Salem, is certainly more than just talk. Johnson and the other band members spent three weeks in August touring in a vegetable-oil-powered shuttle bus. And along with performing in Alaska for two weeks this month with Salem, Johnson will be working on a documentary about global warming. Vail Daily: It says on your MySpace page youre heading to Alaska for two weeks this month to perform. How did that come about?Todd Anders Johnson: Ive been going up to Alaska for 10 years to play music. Salem has been going for five years now. I typically go two or three times a year. I book tours up there, and depending on the season, we do some really great stuff in addition to touring. We also get to go heli-boarding, backcountry snowboarding, we get up on glaciers, go sea kayaking, river rafting. Weve got a great network of guides and mountaineers up there.VD: What else will you be doing while youre there?TJ: On this tour, Ive got a film documentary on glacier recession Ill be working on. Ive been interviewing some pretty famous scientists at (the University of Colorado) and some mountaineers in Boulder here who work all over the world. While were in Alaska, Ill be interviewing a lot more people professors at the universities up there and mountaineers at the heli lodges well be performing at. When were at Talkneetna on this trip, Im going to get some footage of one of the main mountaineers up there and guides. … I have about 10 or 12 pretty serious scientists and an equal amount of mountaineers excited to discuss these issues around global warming.VD: Who writes the lyrics to your songs? Can you tell me about a recent song you wrote and what inspired the lyrics?TJ: I write the compositions and the lyrics. On the CD we just released in August, (the song) Harvest is a newer one its about the idea of just getting your own stuff together and be able to take part in society and realize that we can get together and make change. Basically Im a student Im taking a couple of grad classes and Ive been an activist musician for years. I believe in the power of peoples movements. Ive studied a lot of peoples movements around the world. … I dont think its dated, cheesy or hippy dippy; its the only way were not going to get slushed into the Third World like theyre doing now.VD: How do you describe your music? TJ: I would say its kind of a funk, jazz, hip-hop, kind of got an R&B and reggae flavor as well. When we go out as a six-piece, we pull in elements of Afro-Cuban salsa music, but well just be a four-piece this weekend Vincent Miller on keys, Rob Garland on bass, Jim Mullett on guitar and me on drums and vocals. VD: In August, Salem toured for three weeks off the grid in a vegetable-oil-powered shuttle bus that culminated in the band headlining the main stage at the Seattle Hempfest for 10,000 people. How does this fit in with the bands message?TJ: In August, I coordinated with a cool local nonprofit called Earth Concepts because I had been researching about how we could team up and partner with someone to tour that way because in May the (gas) prices were so expensive. I thought it would be cool to do an alternative thing. It went great. Its a really comfortable vehicle, … which is very much along the themes I sing about and write about and do some activism about its just that the alternatives are there. Hopefully we can get some further petitions and laws where we can incorporate more of that. VD: Whats the meaning behind your bands name?JA: For me, I study a lot of the traditions of the world, and shalom is Hebrew for peace, and salaam is the same in Arabic or Persian. Im pretty concerned about the state of the world and the whole war, war for oil, and certainly the Arabic and Jewish-Arab relations are a very contentious issue. For me, our name means peace.VD: Considering youre an avid, sponsored snowboarder, it must have been exciting to get your song Harvest into Warren Millers film Off the Grid. Tell me about that. TA: Kim Schneider, the editor, is just really kind, really brilliant. I love his work. Its been great to be involved.High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.