Reggae with unusual message: Jon Wayne and the Pain

Left to right: Chuck Torgerson, Jon Wayne and Christopher Hicks
Photo by Stephen Wayne
Left to right: Chuck Torgerson, Jon Weight (a.k.a. Wayne) and Christopher Hicks.

Like so much of reggae, the syncopations of Jon Wayne and the Pain are designed not only to propel you onto the dance floor, but to do so with a positive message about the struggles of life.

While the 3-year-old band’s name suggests a celluloid cowboy bringing misery to anyone crossing him, the music is about something much more real: the pain of addiction and the fight for freedom from craving and dependence.

The Minneapolis-based group, featuring Christopher Hicks on drums and Chuck Torgerson on bass, celebrates the release of its self-titled debut CD on Friday (May 2) at the Cabooze, 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis. New Rebellion and Acoustic Beatdown open the 9 p.m. show. Admission is $7.

You can hear a couple of songs (“Spinning Around Again” and “Blues Junior”) from the CD at the band’s MySpace page.

Crossing many rivers
Lead singer and guitarist Jon Weight (a.k.a. Jon Wayne) acknowledges the irony of making reggae — the Jamaican music associated as much with cannabis sativa with Bob Marley or Peter Tosh — chugging out a message of redemption from addiction. And he’s insistent that his band not be associated with ganja-scented reggae culture.

“We are not in any way about promoting that,” Weight says. “I don’t smoke pot. I’m sober, for various reasons. We don’t stand for that. Our message has no association with any drugs, except maybe the Most High; Jahweh, you know.

“I’ve struggled with addiction, with various addictions, you know, alcohol and drugs. For me, all this music reflects that struggle and the triumph over it.”

When asked how long he’s been sober, he replies immediately, but then pauses and asks that it not be included here.

“Please don’t put that in there,” he says. “It’s not so much that the focus should be on that. Our music is about the availability to live differently, if you so choose.”

Spinning right round
The 26-year-old Weight points to a song he wrote, “Spinning Around Again,” as an example of the Pain’s music of redemption.

“It’s like spinning around again inside my head. It’s about trying to catch the dragon, you know. You know, they say ‘chasing the dragon’ — trying to catch something you can’t catch. But it’s also saying that it’s good vibrations; it shines a light and it basically says you can overcome any of that.”

He says he begins writing songs by putting the music down first and then coming up with the lyrics.

Weight also adds touches of melodica to the Pain’s music. The woodwind instrument is an odd hybrid of harmonica and accordion.

“It’s really cool with the dub style of [reggae],” he says. “I’m self-taught. I was thinking what a cool instrument it is.”

Eventually, he hopes that music becomes his full-time occupation. Right now he’s making food at a D’Amico and Sons restaurant.

Even though making music is only part time at this point, he thinks about the economics of the business, especially with the release of his band’s first CD. It has him analyzing the costs and benefits of people downloading music for free on the Internet.

He’s grateful that he’s not accustomed to an income from CD sales, he says. Because he’s not used to it, there’s essentially nothing for him to lose when people download his music for free instead of buying it at a store.

“I don’t know what it’s like to make money on album sales, so I’m grateful for that,” he says. “The only thing I would like to mention is that if you can afford to pay for it, please do, ’cause we do appreciate it.”

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