How dare we spend so much valuable energy answering such questions as "What is Jazz?".



John Herndon

RogueArt CD


A longtime mainstay of the Chicago independent music scene, drummer John Herndon boasts an extraordinarily eclectic and far-ranging discography, but remains best-known for his work as a member of post-rock innovators Tortoise. Born and raised in Asheville, NC, Herndon relocated to Chicago in 1985, where he spent the remainder of the decade drumming for indie rock combo Precious Wax Droppings; from there, he spent a year with noise pop favorites Poster Children before mounting Tortoise (previously Mosquito) in 1990 with Eleventh Dream Day bassist Doug McCombs. Originally conceived as a studio rhythm battery in the mold of legendary reggae duo Sly & Robbie, Tortoise soon evolved into a five-piece group, drawing on elements of jazz, dub, and even progressive rock to hone a complex, highly influential instrumental approach that defined the American post-rock aesthetic of the mid-'90s. Even at the peak of Tortoise's notoriety, however, the group was not the prolific Herndon's sole outlet -- under the nom de percussion Johnny Machine, he was a member of Wicker Park groove merchants 5ive Style, and also tenured with the For Carnation and Uptighty. A sought-after session player, he additionally appeared on studio dates headlined by Sally Timms, Butterfly Child, and Derek Bailey. In 1997, Herndon and his Tortoise mates Jeff Parker and Dan Bitney formed a satellite project, fusion trio Isotope 217; in 2000, he produced the Aluminum Group's excellent Pelo, and in 2002 he assumed drumming duties with the Eternals. Although Herndon began composing his own electronic music during the mid-'90s, he did not make his proper solo debut until 2000, assuming the guise A Grape Dope for a dub-influenced 12" issued as the second volume in Hefty Records' "Immediate Action" series. The first A Grape Dope CD, Missing Dragons, followed on Galaxia in May 2003.