He was born at sunrise as Joel Justin Nygra…
His hometown was Portage, Indiana, on the tip of Lake Michigan (about 35 miles outside of Chicago). His parents were the original villains in the Roller Derby and had many adoring fans. They had traveled the world. They had a mountain of articles written about them, now safely tucked away in the loft above the garage. Joel craved this kind of attention and fame for himself.
When he was twelve or thirteen, his own magic began to happen. When he first heard the Turtles’ “So Happy Together” on his sister’s portable record player, he realized that he could make music instead of making trouble. (He still holds the record at his Catholic grade school for swats-per-year.) With a guitar borrowed from his neighbor, he wrote his first song, “Wet Smoke.”
He was so inspired that he worked for six months as a busboy to earn the money to purchase his first guitar and amp (which he bought during one of his Tuesday night rituals of sneaking off with the Jeep while Mom and Dad were out bowling). His dad was not happy to see them, and the neighbors were not happy to hear them. His daily practice sessions involved wedging his amp out the window for the whole world to hear. The police came on a daily basis.
With the guitar-playing neighbor now on drums, and his best friend learning bass, he formed the fast, loud, heavy power trio, Ruth Baxter. The young band instantly commanded attention from the entertainment industry. They recorded demos for Columbia Records. They appeared live on television. They were featured in the press. Yet, Joel had not even learned the standard tuning for a guitar; he was using his own tuning method.
After three years fronting Ruth Baxter, Joel made his first attempt to go to California. Although his biker-gang escort succeeded, for the eighteen-year old Justin, anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It’s a story in itself. After six weeks of fiasco/adventure, Joel returned to Portage. He spent the next two years practicing his songs to perfection and learning the art of recording. He wrote and produced more than 70 songs during this period.
He then reunited with Ruth Baxter’s drummer, John Muller, and moved to Saugatuck, Michigan, where Muller’s parents owned a small resort. They worked out a deal with a local boat maker who gave them a warehouse to record in, and all they had to do was baby-sit and perform for about 100 screaming kids on Friday nights (while the parents went out to party). During this period came the release of his first single on Inner Ear Records, under the name “Justin Tyyme.”
When he returned to Portage, he wrote his first full-length album. It was originally entitled “Rockin’ in the Cradle” until he happened to see a new office building in town with the huge sign that said, “Planned Parenthood.” He decided it had a nice ring to it and should be the title for the album. With new artwork designed, it was packaged and released by Authentic Records, under the name Joel Justin. As it gained press, college play and sales activity, it also gained notice from North Carolina, where Planned Parenthood’s headquarters were located. They filed a $300,000 lawsuit, and served Joel with a cease & desist order. The album had to be pulled from record stores and radio stations across the country.
Enter the Mad Ants: He re-released the album with yet another title, “There I Was”, and formed the Mad Ants to tour and support. The band built notoriety in the Chicago Region. Joel built a studio in his home so the band could record upon immediate inspiration. As the band developed, so did the music. Three more full-length albums were released: “Demo*Lition,” “Released,” and the timeless “Hey, Who Paid the Rent?” which even today is being licensed for movie soundtracks.
The Mad Ants performed extensively, creating a faithful following and have been praised by the press for their stage antics and raw, powerful live sound. They took full advantage of the new studio that was stocked with vintage guitars, amps and drums, releasing the follow-up to “Hey, Who Paid the Rent?” with “Jules White” ...dedicated to the so-named legendary producer of the Three Stooges. After a few member changes, they followed Jules White with “TENLOUDLOVESONGS,” which features the usual relentless guitar work, but with added B3 organ and piano.
Also during this period Joel spent his energies running his studio producing pop, rap, punk, metal, and even gospel. He formed his own label and publishing company and released some of the most promising acts in the Midwest. He was never one to refuse a chance to perform, so when the Mad Ants went on hiatus he hit the road as a fill-in lead vocalist and guitarist for some well-known entertainers. He has also shared billing with, engineered and produced the sound for artists such as Robert Palmer, Squeeze, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Platters, The Drifters, Garth Brooks, America, George Benson, Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, The Box Tops, The Shirelles, Gladys Knight, Waylon Jennings, Foghat, Molly Hatchet and many more.
He finally decided to make a permanent move to Los Angeles in 1995. Inspired by the move, he wrote 80 new songs over a three-year period on his beloved Gibson Hummingbird affectionately known as “Lulu.” Joel found himself eager to get back on stage performing his own music, so he put together a one-man show called “The Bitter & Sweet Show” and toured California. He also focused his attention on the film industry, placing more than 30 songs in feature films and television.
While living in LA, Joel was invited by a friend to his beach home in Brazil for a vacation. In January of 2005, Joel’s life would suddenly and drastically change. While swinging in a hammock and writing a new song called “Margarita” he heard a knock on the door. A Brazilian neighbor who barely spoke English asked him what he was doing. When Joel said he was working on a new song, the Brazilian man invited himself in and sat and listened for hours. Joel gave him a couple of Mad Ants CD’s. The man returned early the next day, pounding on the door. He had all the right connections, and within days Joel was doing concerts and sharing the stage with some of Brazil’s biggest stars. Like Jimi Hendrix and others who have had to leave their homeland to achieve national recognition, Joel was once again ready to uproot himself, all for the sake of his music.
It was not easy getting all the legal paperwork together for Brazil, but his persistence has paid off. He recorded a stunning new pop-rock CD entitled, “4/4” using all Brazilian musicians. The CD is getting rave reviews and airplay in all the major cities thanks to support from megastars like Ivete Sangalo and Margareth Menezes, along with some Brazilian jetsetters who have fallen for the “gringo’s” instantly likeable music.
Joel Justin currently resides in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He and his highly rhythmic Brazilian bandmates, as of this writing, are rehearsing for a tour of South America 2006/2007. He has not given up on his “Bitter & Sweet Show”, and includes two to three acoustic songs in every performance. He also plans to reunite the Mad Ants for at least one more CD tentatively titled, “International Anthem.” Expect to hear from this “new old face” very soon.
Joel Justin’s Discography:
|The Mad Ants||International Anthem|
|The Mad Ants||The Best Of|
|Joel Justin||Pajama Factory|
|The Mad Ants||TENLOUDLOVESONGS|
|The Mad Ants||Jules White|
|The Mad Ants||Hey, Who Paid the Rent?|
|Cream Puff Disaster||Peace the World Together|
|The Mad Ants||Released|
|The Mad Ants||Demolition|
|Joel Justin||There I was|
|Joel Justin||Music-For-Movies Volume 1|
|Joel Justin||Music-For-Movies Volume 2|
|Joel Justin||Music-For-Movies Volume 3|
|Joel Justin||Music-For-Movies Volume 4|