As a solo artist, producer, composer, member of groups including Chromatics and Glass Candy and founder of the label Italians Do It Better, Johnny Jewel helped shape the look and sound of music and film in the 2000s and 2010s. Harnessing the nostalgic power of analog synths from the '70s and '80s and coupling it with surreally stylish visuals, echoes of Jewel's evocative aesthetic can be seen and heard in artists such as Chvrches and films like Drive, as well as his own projects.
Born John Padgett, Jewel grew up in Houston, Texas as a creative misfit, listening to the Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth and making controversial art projects while still in high school. After graduation, he moved to Austin, changed his name to John David V, and began making pop as well as electronic noise music, influenced by artists ranging from Karlheinz Stockhausen to the Dead C.
By the mid-'90s, he was living and recording in Portland, Oregon as Johnny Jewel. It was there that he met his future Glass Candy bandmate, Ida No, while working at a grocery store. After forming in 1996, the duo's music evolved from raw, post-glam rock to icy disco on releases like the 1999 single "Brittle Women," 2003's debut album Love Love Love and 2007's follow-up B/E/A/T/B/O/X. He then joined Chromatics -- a project founded by Adam Miller after seeing Glass Candy perform in 1999 -- in 2005, when the band's revolving lineup settled on Miller, Jewel, Ruth Radelet, and Nat Walker (with whom Jewel formed two more projects, Symmetry and Desire).
In 2006, Jewel founded Italians Do It Better as an electronic-focused imprint of DJ Mike Simonetti's Troubleman Unlimited Records. The label's inaugural release was 2007's After Dark, which featured songs by Jewel's groups as well as like-minded acts such as Farah and Indeep. The collection, along with B/E/A/T/B/O/X and Chromatics' Night Drive, defined Jewel's artistic perspective.
The world of film and television took notice: One of Jewel's earliest fans was Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, who used Glass Candy's "Digital Versicolor" in his 2008 movie Bronson. Though Refn initially hired Jewel to compose the music for 2011's Drive, Cliff Martinez ended up writing the film's score. However, Desire's 'Under Your Spell" and Chromatics' "Tick of the Clock" appeared on the soundtrack, and Symmetry fleshed out Jewel's pieces on 2011's Themes for an Imaginary Film. Following Chromatics' acclaimed 2012 album Kill for Love and 2013's After Dark, Vol. 2 collection, Drive star Ryan Gosling enlisted Jewel to compose the score to his directorial debut, 2014's Lost River. That year, Symmetry's "The Hunt" was used as the theme song to A&E's crime drama Those Who Kill, and Jewel rounded out 2014 by releasing the 31-minute-long song "The Other Side of Midnight." Two years later, his score for the Belgian film Home won the Georges Delerue Award. Windswept, which collected songs by Chromatics, Glass Candy, Symmetry, and Desire, as well as solo tracks and songs that appeared in Twin Peaks: The Return, arrived in 2017. ~ Heather Phares