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17 Apr 2017

The Lucky 13: John Robbins, Ukulele Master

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John Robbins. John Robbins. Tommy Locust

John Robbins has been around the local music scene for quite a while—and one of his many talents is his expert playing of the ukulele. He can perform classical pieces on the instrument, as well as a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and even songs like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Despite being visually impaired, he’s also a visual artist; his work can be seen at www.facebook.com/whoseworldcomic. John was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

I’m not exactly sure, but the earliest one I can remember is seeing Jose Feliciano on an outdoor stage in Berkeley when I was a kid. It was great to see one of my idols at the time!

What was the first album you owned?

Nirvana’s Nevermind, back in high school. Better late than never, right?

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz recently with my dad: Steve Allen, Zoot Sims, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, etc. Otherwise, I’ve been really into J-Rock (bands from Japan): X-Japan, The Oral Cigarettes, The Pillows, Special Others and The Brilliant Green.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Any sub-genre of metal. What’s djent and metalcore? Why not just say you play metal? 

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Kaki King. I saw her play once back when her first album came out, but I’d love to see what she can do now since her style of playing has evolved so much within the last decade.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

1990s pop/pop-rock. It’s just fun to listen to! Who wouldn’t want to bob their head to “The Sign” by Ace of Base or sing along to any Boyz II Men?

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert. It’s always a good time over there, especially for open mic!

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Let’s drive them crazy!” from the English version of “Hey Kids!” by The Oral Cigarettes, which is performed by a YouTuber called AmaLee.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Jake Shimabukuro. I saw him live in 2006 when he played at The Knitting Factory with Kaki King. The way that he played ukulele was absolutely mind-blowing. I had no idea such a tiny instrument could be that powerful and move so many people. Needless to say, the ukulele has been my favorite instrument to play ever since!

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Jake Shimabukuro: “How does it feel knowing you’ve inspired so many people to learn how to play ukulele?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Jake Shimabukuro’s arrangement of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Nirvana’s Unplugged.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Little Monster” by Royal Blood! What are you waiting for? GO LISTEN! (Scroll down to hear it.)

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