A Musical History

(established 2006; last updated 1/14/15)

    When Johnny Depp was 12 years old, his mom bought him his first $25 guitar.  Johnny stole a Mel Bay chord book, locked himself in his room, and learned how to play.  He often jokes that he was so engrossed in playing guitar, he missed puberty.  Soon he was playing in a series of rock bands in South Florida: Flame, Zaphyre, Bitch, Bad Boys.  His ambition was to join a well-regarded band called The Kids, and in late 1980, he finally got his wish and became their lead guitarist.  The Kids had quite a bit of success in the Florida music scene, opening for such acts as The Pretenders, The B-52s, Talking Heads and Iggy Pop.   They even opened for Chuck Berry once, while on the road in Georgia.  In December of 1983, The Kids went to LA in search of fame and fortune, at one point changing their name to Six Gun Method.  But the competition was much fiercer than they imagined, and the band members were struggling to survive.  One day, Johnny’s friend Nicolas Cage told him, “You should try acting,” and helped him get an audition for A Nightmare On Elm Street.  Johnny got the part… and the rest is history.

     Even after getting several more film and TV roles, Johnny still considered himself primarily a musician and dreamed of becoming a rock and roll star.  In 1986, after returning from The Philippines where he filmed a small role in Platoon, he got a gig playing rhythm guitar in the Rock City Angels, another band with Florida roots.  But it only lasted about 8 months.  He was approached to play the role of a baby-faced cop posing as a high school student in a new Fox TV series called 21 Jump Street.  He initially turned it down, because he didn’t want to be locked into a TV series, and he didn’t want to move to Vancouver where the show was to be filmed.   But after the actor who was chosen for the role of Officer Tom Hanson didn’t work out, Johnny was again approached to take the role, and this time he reluctantly accepted.  That meant he would have to quit the Rock City Angels, just at a time when they were on the verge of a huge record deal.  The Rock City Angels did get their deal.  Meanwhile, Johnny became a star.

    Years later, while Johnny was filming What’s Eating Gilbert Grape near Austin Texas, he and his childhood friend Sal Jenco began hanging out with area musicians Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers and renowned songwriter/roots rocker Bill Carter.  At first, they got together to cook, but eventually they began playing music together for fun, and P was born.  When the Austin South By Southwest organizers invited the Butthole Surfers to play, Gibby asked them to instead book his other band.  P made its debut appearance at SXSW on March 17, 1993.  The band followed with occasional gigs at Johnny’s club The Viper Room, and a pair of shows in Vienna in 1997. A studio album was released in November of 1995, and there was even a single, Michael Stipe.  In 2000, Johnny was still talking about the possibility of the band getting back together and doing some more music together. We’re still waiting!  Meanwhile, Johnny has reunited with The Kids several times, most notably on January 28, 2007, and August 29 and 30, 2008 for the Sheila Witkin Memorial Reunion Concerts in Pompano Beach, FL.

    Over the years, Johnny has participated on a number of official releases, by the likes of Shane MacGowan, Oasis, Iggy Pop, Vanessa Paradis, Glenn Tilbrook, Babybird, Marilyn Manson, Patti Smith, and Aerosmith.  He contributes musically to the Chocolat, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, and Rum Diary soundtracks.  He has also served as a producer on titles such as Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys and the Gonzo soundtrack.  Shane MacGowan has invited Johnny to play on his next solo album, and says that they had played together while filming The Libertine in 2004… but they forgot to record anything!  Johnny finally got a chance to collaborate again with Shane in 2010, when he contributed a wicked guitar solo to the Haitian earthquake relief charity single, I Put A Spell On You, and again in 2013, for Leaving Of Liverpool on the Son of Rogue's Gallery compilation.  There are now rumors of yet another future collaboration with Shane, so we shall see!

    In 2007, Johnny took on his biggest musical challenge yet by taking on the lead role in a film version of the classic Stephen Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.  Although he claims never to have sung a complete song before this (he has, in fact, sung snippets of songs in other films, as well as doing backup vocals for The Kids and P), and without taking any professional voice training, he pulled off the difficult singing without a hitch!  Johnny's singing is now officially released on the Sweeney Todd motion picture soundtrack.  In 2014, Johnny was seen in another singing role: The Wolf in the musical Into The Woods, also composed by Stephen Sondheim.  While this role was much smaller than Sweeney Todd, it was certainly memorable!

     In 2011, Infinitum Nihil Records was filed as a domestic corporation, with Johnny's sister Christi (Elisa) as a named member.  In 2013, the two Tonto's Giant Nuts contributions to the West Of Memphis soundtrack, Little Lion Man and Damien Echols Death Row Letter Year 16 1/2, were credited to Infinitum Nihil Records.  Hopefully, these are just the first of many releases by the record company!

     In a July 2006 interview Johnny did with two Japanese school children, he told them, "It's still my number one love, the guitar.  I still play every day and I still love it as much as I did when I was 12 years old."  Music has always been, and is still a big part of Johnny’s life, and may it always continue to be so!