Causing a Row
A new album has been like a diary for this former Cowboy, writes Jade Kennedy
On a personal note, ex-footballer John Rowbotham is a complicated man. Getting ready to release his debut full-length solo album and celebrate his 30th birthday this weekend, Johnny Row, as he is known in music circles, is contemplative.
‘‘ This album has been a long time coming, it’s long overdue,’’ Row said.
‘‘ It’s pretty much me in a nutshell, like anybody else I’ve got my demons but I’m not angry all of the time.’’
Row has been in the local rap game for several years, most notably as part of The North Ward crew.
‘‘ I’ve been working with The North Ward boys but I had all of this other material that wasn’t really suitable for the group,’’ he said.
‘‘ I just found that looking after myself was easier, and I mean no disrespect to the boys, just time-wise and money-wise it’s been easier for this release.
‘‘ Also, the songs that feature on this album are kind of like diary entries.
‘‘ Some of them were written back when I was 18 or 19 and I’m turning 30 now so there’s 10 or 12 years of material there.’’
Row said some of his earlier musings have made it to the album, with a little tweaking.
His album, On a Personal Note, was completely homegrown.
‘‘ It’s all homemade, it was recorded in a home studio, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a high-cost professional production,’’ Row said.
‘‘ At the end of the day it all comes down to the person’s own ear and preferences.
‘‘ It’s a very raw recording, so these days a lot of people, especially the critics, might say it’s not enough, but the real fans of hip hop will appreciate it.
‘‘ It may not fit in with a commercial expectation of music, but every beat belongs there, and it’s very in your face, almost graphic in places.’’
Row said he had purposely chosen tracks that would not allow the album to be easily pigeon-holed.
‘‘ There are dark and gloomy tracks, there are love songs, there are some very sexual themes on there,’’ Row laughed.
‘‘ The hip hop heads will find something on there to enjoy, girls will find something that they can enjoy, but everything from the beats to the lyrics to the artwork to the production sums me up.’’
Row said he was fortunate enough to have some talented friends who helped in the production of the album.
‘‘ J-Point, Robie Gore and Beast are all local blokes that helped with producing tracks on the album, and db produced a couple of really good bangers,’’ Row said.
‘‘ I also got some friends to feature on there – J-Point, db and Robie all rap, Pat Mock and P-Boy run some verses and Smizler comes out with a cracking number.’’
Renowned local artist Lee Harnden produced the cover art. ‘‘ Lee and I go way back,’’ Row said. ‘‘ We made an agreement over a few beers, I said to him, ‘ If I ever make an album will you do my artwork for free?’ and I was just blown away by the portrait he came back with when the time came.’’
Coming from a heavy football background, Row said he made a living from the sport until 2001, and thought he was going to make a career out of it.
‘‘ For a long time there, music and rugby league was my life,’’ Row said. ‘‘ To this day music still is.’’ >> Johnny Row, On a Personal Note will be launched at the Mad Cow’s Udder Bar this Saturday from 10.30pm. CDs will be on sale for $ 20 each.