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Ape School

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Ape School is the moniker of Michael Johnson, a multi-instrumentalist studio wiz based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was previously a member of the indie rock bands Holopaw and Lilys. He made his debut as Ape School in 2009 in association with Ninja Tune. Born in Miami, Florida, Johnson moved to the Florida panhandle as a child and spent his teenage years in Gainesville. While living there, he was a member of the band Holopaw, whose frontman, John Orth, had collaborated with Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock in the band Ugly Casanova. Thanks in part to Orth's affiliation with Brock, Holopaw was signed to a recording contract with Sub Pop, the label that had released the Ugly Casanova album Sharpen Your Teeth (2002), in addition to early singles by Modest Mouse. Holopaw released two albums on Sub Pop, Holopaw (2003) and Quit +/or Fight (2005), both of which feature Johnson as a multi-instrumentalist. Apart from Holopaw, Johnson released a solo album, Nonsense Goes Mudslide (2004), on the Must!Delicious Recordings label. Meanwhile, he moved to Philadelphia, where he began collaborating with local indie rock artists including Kurt Vile and Kurt Heasley. Most notably, he joined Heasley's band Lilys for the recording of their album Everything Wrong Is Imaginary (2006) and its supporting tour. He collaborated next with Daedelus on the album Love to Make Music To (2008). Thanks in part to Daedelus' affiliation with Ninja Tune, the label that had released Love to Make Music To, Johnson was signed to a recording contract with Counter Records, a newly established subsidiary of the label. Adopting the Ape School moniker, Johnson proceeded to release Ape School (2009), a psychedelic indie electronica album created chiefly with an old Moog dating back to 1965 (reportedly the fourth Moog modular synthesizer Robert Moog ever made). In 2012, Johnson, working with drummer Eric Slick and a host of guests, returned with the second Ape School release, Junior Violence on Hometapes. ~ Jason Birchmeier

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Birth Name:

Michael Johnson


Philadelphia, PA

Years Active:

'00s, '10s