On this week’s show is a conversation that Mike has been greatly looking forward to sharing. It’s with Trinidadian-Canadian author and artist Antonio Michael Downing, who in the music world currently goes by John Orpheus. At 46 years old, there is a suddenly a lot of interest in Downing’s story and art. His tough-but-extraordinary life and artistic career is memoir-worthy, for sure. And so, unsurprisingly his memoir, Saga Boy: My Life of Blackness and Becoming, has done well. The book examines his journey from Trinidad to the tiny northern Ontario town of Wabigoon at 11 years old, growing up there with his older brother as the only Black kids around, and being raised by a stern evangelical aunt. Art, especially music, became his mental and literal escape from that place. He makes his way to Kitchener and then Toronto, and along the way he tours Europe with Liam Gallagher legends, wears and discards various personas and genres – like the punk rock rapper Mic Dainjah, and the soul crooner Molasses – and refuses to grasp commercial success if it requires sacrificing his own vision. There are innumerable ups and down, revelations, and tough lessons learned along the path of his illuminating journey. In Saga Boy the book, Antonio Michael Downing breaks open his mind and heart to examine that story, and on Saga King the album, John Orpheus celebrates the place where the journey has brought him. Here on the podcast with Mike, he digs into his story and the extraordinary lessons and experiences he’s had.
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief for Canadian Musician, Professional Sound, and other magazines. He’s a fan of long conversations about music and the music industry.