The Deli's Featured Artist(s) Poll Winner: Johnny Showcase
- by Alexis V.
We love alter-egos and artists who stay in character, especially when they are as downright sexy as Johnny Showcase (a.k.a. David Sweeny), which is most likely why he came out on top in our recent Featured Artist(s) Poll. (Or maybe it’s because he just simply likes to be on top, ladies - oh yeah.) Well, check out our interview below with the cougar magnet Johnny Showcase, and learn more about his semi-mythical past.
The Deli: How did you start making music?
Johnny Showcase: Like most people, I suppose. It began with a very small kernel of highly-concentrated emotional joy in my heart. There was an immense, pressurizing heat provided by my loins, which in turn caused the kernel to explode. Melody burst out. I couldn't help it. My hips were like a clock. Electricity sparked every hair on my body. It was music.
TD: Where did the name Johnny Showcase come from?
JS: Many years ago, I was in Rhode Island, playing under my given name, John Ciacassi. I had an altercation in a back room at Quidnessett Country Club in Potowomut about my cover of "Every Time You Go Away" by Hall and Oates. I could have sworn the chorus was: "Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you..." Turns out I stand corrected... Anyway, the club owner was furious, because it was a vegetarian wedding. He called me some names, so I threatened him with a pair of serving tongs. It turns out he was connected to some nasty guys in Providence, and he put a hit out on me. I did what any person in my situation would have done. I faked my own death, and spent a year in Lancaster, PA as a cobbler named Jebediah Shumacher. I then came to South Philadelphia, and started performing under Johnny Showcase. All of that is, of course, secret. Please don't print it.
TD: What are your biggest musical influences?
JS: Michael, Stevie, Funkadelic, Miles and Gary Wilson. Also Carole King. And Erykah Badu.
TD: What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?
Philadelphia is chock full of greatness - Birdie Busch, Spinning Leaves, Dr. Dog, etc... I'm also listening to this great trumpeter I used to play with in RI, Ryan Carniaux, now playing in Europe. Have you heard him? Look him up.
TD: What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?
My first concert was the hippest thing I ever seen...Ray Charles, with opener Tower of Power at the Warwick Musical Tent. Mama Ciacassi took me. She also tried to body tackle TOP's barisax player, The Funky Doctor, as he took the stage for an encore. I believe he was receptive. My first record was Thriller, and it was all I needed for three years. I remember I had just stopped breastfeeding, and was really looking for something to latch onto.
TD: What do you love about Philly?
JS: Philadelphia is an incubator for incredible art. Theatre, music, dance... people are hungry and playful and joyful. There is room for great cross-pollination. And women are generally easier here, which is refreshing.
TD: What do you hate about Philly?
JS: There is a morbidly obese man on my block that verbally abuses his children. He is what I hate about Philly.
TD: What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
JS: I am going to begin studying the cuica, which Brazilian friction drum. It was originally designed to mimic a female lion mating. Airto Moreira made it really sing in Miles Davis' Live Evil record. Other than that, I am going to continue my work on The Mystic Ticket trilogy. And music videos. We need more music videos.
TD: What was your most memorable live show?
JS: Rumi Kitchen and I once did a brief tour to Azerbaijan. Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was in attendance with his wife. I knew him from when I was an exchange scholar at the Center Brown University in 1989. We were briefly roommates. They did an incredible waltz to our tune “Push That Rock.” People stood around and lit candles. I began crying during the song. I swear we all levitated that night.
TD: What's your favorite thing to get at the deli?