THE STORY SO FAR
John Paul Montagna was born on April 18, 1972. A proud Brooklyn Native and Beatles-obsessed child, he was musically precocious. After trying his hand at piano, drums and guitar, he picked up the bass guitar at age 12 under the spell of the Mount Rushmore of British Rock (Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, John Paul Jones & Jack Bruce) and the bass-heavy radio pop of the early 80s ("White Lines," "Every Time You Go Away," "Borderline," "Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'").
John attended the prestigious LaGuardia High School Of Music And Art in 1986. He pounded the tympani in the orchestra and bass guitar in the jazz band, and he reports having an out-of-body experience playing with LaGuardia's Gospel Choir. He also studied briefly with bass guitar guru Anthony Jackson, whose insights into the instrument remain with John to this day. He proudly shares Downbeat Magazine awards with his classmates for Outstanding Student Combos in 1989 and 1990, and by the age of 18 he had performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and CBGBs.
At Berklee College Of Music in Boston John ate, slept and breathed bass, playing on everyone’s recording sessions and in everyone’s recitals. He also joined a band, 12 Strung Gypsy, with fellow Berklee students; they released a CD, Trial By Fire, in 1993 (when making your own CD was a big deal). At age 21 he entered the workforce (aka the Irish pub circuit) in Boston and Cape Cod, learning how to control a crowd of drunk Boston hipsters with 4 strings and an attitude.
Back in New York in 1995, John was immediately gigging all over town. He recorded and toured with singer-songwriter Francis Dunnery, and released his first solo CD, Enjoy Your Dessert, in 1997 (when making your own CD was still kind of a big deal). He also worked every catering hall and hotel ballroom in the Tri-State Area, learning how to control a crowd of drunk New York wedding guests with 4 strings and an attitude. For the next few years it was more local gigs, private events, songwriting demos, lather rinse repeat.
A key professional moment for John occurred in 2002 when he jammed with guitarist Godfrey Townsend (ex-John Entwistle Band). Soon after, Godfrey, drummer Steve Murphy, keyboardist Manny Focarazzo and John were recruited by legendary producer/engineer/recording artist Alan Parsons, and the "Alan Parsons Live Project" toured the world and elsewhere from 2003-2010. The APLP rhythm section also played many high-profile gigs in NYC as the Godfrey Townsend Band, and toured as the house band on many “Hippiefest” and “Happy Together” tours backing the likes of Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz (ex-Monkees), The Turtles (featuring Flo & Eddie), Denny Laine (ex-Wings), Mark Farner (ex-Grand Funk), Mitch Ryder, The Cowsills, Felix Cavalerie (ex-Rascals), and others,
He married Jill in 2005, singing The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” at the ceremony (nailing it), and printing the lyrics to The Beatles’ “I Will” in icing on the wedding cake. (Wedding guest Alan Parsons asked the groom if there would be any music at this event that he WASN’T involved in.) John released another solo CD, Senza in 2007; Bass Player Magazine called it “the blueprint for a bassist/singer/songwriter's place in a world usually occupied by guitarists and pianists.” Track 3, “Stone In The Water,” appeared in an episode of Key And Peele on Comedy Central.
John and Jill welcomed their son, Marco, to the world in 2008. In December 2009 John heard Marc Maron announce on his then-new WTF With Marc Maron podcast that he’s accepting submissions for a new theme song. John turned on the computer and cranked out “Are We Doing This?” in an hour, and emailed Maron an mp3 of a rough mix. Maron emailed him back a month later: “You win. How do you pronounce your last name?” A video of John recording the theme song has racked up thousands of YouTube views, leading John's sister call him a “micro-celebrity.” He recorded a dozen more bumpers for WTF, releasing The WTF Album in 2011.
John launched the Radio418 podcast in 2013. Interviewing the “Happy Together” tour principals, the legendary artists opened up to him in lengthy in-depth conversations. More interviews followed with tour principals on the road and NYC-area colleagues at home. He released another solo album Late To The Party in 2016 as a free digital download; Bass Player Magazine called it a “smart collection of pop songs.” (Good press is still kind of a big deal.) In 2017 John began writing about music and pop culture for CultureSonar, finally making good use of creative writing skills and strong opinions, and co-hosted and produced the Breaking It Down with Jeff and John podcast for with veteran NYC bassist Jeff Ganz. He also assembled Montagna Band with guitarist Tristan Clark, keyboardist Ado Re and drummer Rich Zukor, playing around NYC and continuing to find his voice. As of this writing his most recent collection of original music is the 4-song solo EP #goingdirect, released as a free digital download on Nov 20, 2019, the day Mercury went direct after a lengthy retrograde.
In March 2020 John locked down for COVID. He was profiled by Bass Magazine's "Lockdown Check In" but otherwise watched all live gigs disappear. From his home studio, he helped develop the curriculum for Gowanus Music Club's Beatles 101 class, bringing high-end Beatles geekery into the online music education space, and played bass on two songs for Ram On – The 50th Anniversary Tribute to Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram with LA producer Fernando Perdomo and original Wings drummer Denny Seiwell.
John is currently a master's student at Brooklyn College in the mental health counseling program. He also continues to write, practice, teach and learn, waking up every morning remembering that the obstacle is the way and planning his next moves...