The John Ludi Story
I have long believed that music can change people’s lives and broaden their minds as individuals (though I certainly have come to have FAR less faith in the positive societal reach of a thoughtfully-written song). I have functioned outside of the major label music industry by choice…mostly…and always have. Creating my music on a cottage industry level I am not beholden to the wishes of the music industry and can say and play what I want to, which allows me to write songs focusing on Politics, Philosophy, and the Human Condition with lyrical depth and detail without worrying about what “the suits” think.
I was born and raised in Detroit, a now-decaying post-industrial Mid-Western American city that used to be the automotive capital of the world. From a very early age, I sensed that there was something deeply wrong with the world and the majority of the people living on it. Though of a generally easygoing and humorous nature, a deep and omnipresent sense of foreboding in my heart did not exactly translate well in my youthful attempts at communicating with my fellow humans.
This particular attribute would persist indefinitely. Reading voraciously, progressing from a foundation of science fiction, fantasy and horror to mythology, science, philosophy, economics and world religions, I found myself obsessed with the “Big Questions”…you know…the ones that freak people out. I asked them a bit too often in polite company. (I’m a lot quieter now. Comes with age.)
The music of artists like Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and Peter Gabriel grabbed my ears in my early teens. I started singing odd and unpleasant little songs with a pianist/trumpeter friend in middle school, attempting to blend humor and dissonance in way that some would term avant guard (though on reflection could simply be termed “bad” ).
At around 13 years of age, I started learning how to play guitar, bass, and later, keyboards, as well as attempting to harness my embryonic vocal skills. Though very much intellectually and emotionally moved by progressive genres of rock music, I discovered the British Wave of Punk Rock in the mid/late 70’s and realized that the Sex Pistols and the Clash were a lot closer to my then-current skill set than Gentle Giant or Yes. The overtly political nature of the lyrics also inspired me.
Rapidly growing in my guitar playing ability, I teamed up with the only two other punk rockers I knew and assembled a short-lived but truly awful punk band that mercifully never made it out of the basement. No physical records exist of this project…hopefully.
Eventually, I happened upon the atonal experimentalism of artists such as the Residents, Renaldo and the Loaf, Chrome, Fred Frith, Laurie Anderson, Henry Kaiser, and Tuxedomoon. Inspired by such music, I formed a band with two other friends, named Pliny The Elder. The focus of this band was to make music that would cause both discomfort and laughter, often simultaneously, through the use of obnoxious sounds and lyrics that were an abstract mockery of the common culture.
Release: Pliny The Elder-Torpid Liver
Release: Pliny The Elder-Compound Lobster Maintenance
Pliny The Elder recorded over 200 “songs” over a period of 2 years and developed a small following via word of mouth and cassette-only releases.
I also recorded my own experimental music, generally increasing in compositional coherence with each release. I even managed to play some of this material live.
During this period, I maintained a weird and visually flamboyant public persona, often dressing in bizarre clothing, wearing theatrical makeup, and otherwise finding ways of attracting more attention than was probably justified and going out of my way to irritate people in general. I was pretty much an attention-whore…but I justified it with my altruistic conceits.
Release: Tim Z******i-Etcetera
After bludgeoning listeners with experimentalism and dissonance and finding myself only reaching those who were already well-versed with the “fringe” culture, I decided to find a more populist way to reach audiences with the philosophical and political messages and ideas I was trying to convey. I answered an ad for a lead vocalist for a band (named Gon Moros at the time) that was much more mainstream in it’s presentation, though still highly creative and musically inventive.
I took on the stage name “Tim Eldair” (a twist of the word “Elder”) , the band renamed itself Soft War, and together we began a campaign of recording and playing long weekend stints in the Mid-West, near-South, and East Coast, attempting to develop an audience.
Release: Soft War-Stay b/w Ruins
Release: Soft War-Conflict
During this time I continued with the low-budget recording projects:
Release: Tim Eldair-Doubts, Fears, and the Death of Reason
Release: Tim Eldair-The Slow Dance to Desolation
We released an EP that garnered the band a fairly impressive amount of press and airplay on the college radio circuit.
Release: Soft War-One Day It Will All Come Down
Sadly, this was about as close to reaching a wide audience we would reach in this incarnation. Despite the quality of the music and the prolific output of the songwriting team of Greg Kutcher and “Tim Eldair”, we were not able to take advantage of this momentum and after 5 years in the group I left the fold after we recorded a never-released full length album and played our final show as Soft War at the famous New York club CBGB’s.
Recording: Soft War-Labor Day
The band continued on as Trust Fund and I slightly altered my stage name to “Tim Elder” and proceeded to continue a solo musical career that also included producing a fair amount of other artists and bands. (As it turns out, being a solo artist is my default mode…while I enjoy collaborating with others, it’s a lot easier and less stressful to just put things together on my own, even though I miss the extra nuances that other players provide.)
As “Tim Elder” I recorded a full length album that I used as a demo and moved from Detroit to Minneapolis. It was very well co-produced with Barry Warner, but the songs themselves were not up to my usual standards, so the album has sat largely in the “vaults”. A couple/few of the tunes are on my album of outtakes, the rest kind of make me wince.
Release: Tim Elder-Unsigned
The Minneapolis period was a particularly fertile one. I formed a band with several local musicians (the Hate Gods), started a soundtrack company, created a label (Sublime Carnage), assembled a comedy troop (the Bad Poets), formed an acoustic duo and put out several releases under my own name as well as under the names “House of Usher” and “The Quiet Earth Orchestra”.
Release: Tim Elder-The Hate God
Release: House of Usher-The Healing Power of Oblivion
Release: The Quiet Earth Orchestra-World Without Words
Release: Tim Elder-Everything b/w Crucified
Release: Tim Elder-Fashionably Angry
Taking a somewhat new musical direction, I decided to adopt the new stage name John Ludi for the next album…as well as leave Minneapolis for the more dynamic city of Chicago.
Release: John Ludi-Hell’s Laughter and Heaven’s Ache
After only a little over 2 years in Chicago, I was drawn to the East Coast for personal reasons (it’s always about a woman, isn’t it?) where I accomplished very little of artistic consequence aside from remixing some of my early releases and laying the bed tracks for my next album.
Release: John Ludi-Early Ludi
Release: John Ludi-Rise Above or Fall Below
Rhode Island turned out not to be the scenario I expected, so I returned to Michigan and finished my next album as well as messing about with a few other recording projects.
After 3 or so years back in Michigan, I decided that Chicago was a better place to be economically.
In 2008, I released two albums, one with my old songwriting partner in Soft War, Greg Kutcher, the other by my “Prog Rock” project the Quiet Earth Orchestra.
Release: Soft War-Soft War
Release: The Quiet Earth Orchestra-The Quiet Earth Orchestra
The Quiet Earth Orchestra project in particular garnered a good deal of positive press and online radio play. Sadly, after a month or so of decent sales via CD Baby, the sales plummeted to nothing. I quickly realized that tens of thousands of downloads of the entire album had occurred on torrent sites and, greatly disheartened, I packed the whole musical career in for a few years.
My muse rests discontentedly though, so I released a couple more albums in 2015.
Release: John Ludi-Rage
Release: John Ludi-Obsolescence