Creative Quarantine: Musician John Mohr

Musician John Mohr | Photo credit Rebecca Dudley

1. How are you holding up?

Me? It depends on the day. There are good days and bad days… Someone called it the “Coronacoaster”, I think that is pretty accurate. I am missing people, missing live music, concerned about the generations-long damage that will be done by the orange monster. The recent protests and outrage have the potential for something good to happen. I am trying to be optimistic and find the positives in “this”, but it is hard.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

TAR: It has stopped the 2 planned TAR live shows. We were going to play a “fest” in Minneapolis in late May, preceded by a show in Chicago. We had just started practicing for those shows. We had a good, really good 4-hour practice… then nothing since… We did get a Bandcamp page up and have posted some old live recordings that came out well. Mike Greenlees (Tar drummer) has been kicking butt on the Bandcamp pages. Tar friend Drew Crumbaugh did the mastering and EQ-ing, and I must say, it has turned out well.

John Mohr of TAR | Photo by Tarik Dozier

There are TAR fans and TAR band members in the world that say/think it would be good to remaster and reissue some old TAR LPs. So, we’re thinking about that, too.

There has been some good chatter amongst Tar band members, so interests seem high in doing _something_. Covid-19 has made everything harder, though.

Blatant Dissent: My college punk band (’84-’88). We (Mike Greenlees and I) put up a Bandcamp page with the complete vinyl output of Blatant Dissent. the vinyl was digitized and “remastered” By Drew Crumbaugh. He did a great job on this, too!

Deep Tunnel Project is a new thing, not intended to be a band, but rather a flexible combination of people with shared musical interests, people that one wouldn’t think about playing/writing together. I adore my bandmates in Tar as lifelong friends and compatriots. But in addition, I want to play with other friends, other people I admire, musical heroes (hello there!)… The idea is to be open to a variety of styles. In a recent conversation with a respected guitarist who I hope to collaborate with (no names, please), we discussed a combination of Crazy Horse and the Feelies. We wrote a song! That broke a 25-year dry spell for me…

Riffs are getting written and shared around. I’m writing some lyrics, we’ll see where this goes. Home recording is new territory for me. It’s somewhat ironic as my work/job is in technology, but when it goes to music, I am old school. So, I am trying to learn if Garageband is a good tool for me to use.

Jon Langford’s Skull Orchard: I joined Skull Orchard a couple of years ago. I am the third guitarist in the ensemble. I bring scrape, squeek, squeel, and skronk to the festivities. Skull Orchard has just pre-released the first 7″ single of a series “Losers” b/w “Aberfan 1966” performed by GW SOK and OMA. It is available here.

There is also a lovely scathing video of current events and “leadership”. Jon Langford & Skull Orchard “Losers”

Duets: My wife (Becca Dudley) and I are playing acoustic guitars almost every evening. We have a few dozen songs in our repertoire. It has been very fun.

I am thinking…. thinking about writing, and actually doing some writing. Specifically, the intersection of leading (“Leading”?) a touring rock band and the leadership lessons from my professional career as a Technology manager / Technology leader over the past 25 years. Collaboration, Negotiation, Networking, conflict resolution are all strategies and capabilities that one needs in both spheres to be successful. I’ve had this idea for a long time. Now is the time to get it done!

My jobby job work allows me to work at home, so I am appreciative and fortunate for that.

John Mohr | Photo by Hillery Conroy Terenzi

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

It’s been a pretty terrible 4 months, or 3 1/2 years, or both. I’m not interested in repeating either. Be kind, patient, think broadly, value and support science, make decisions based on data. Stay in touch with your family and friends, even if it not physically possible.

I have not forgotten that I am more fortunate than many, so I am not complaining…


4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

Hard to say who is handling this well, but I do enjoy live streaming of:  

Joel Paterson every Friday Afternoon on Facebook

John Szymanski every Sunday afternoon at 4pm or so

Dean Schlabowske every day at 9am…

Jon Langford, here, there and everywhere.  He did a very nice video/episode about his hometown of Newport (co-created with his son James) – “Newport Songs“.

Jason Narducy @splitsingleband (twitter) has been doing some solo shows in yards across Chicago, he’s done something like 17 of them so far.


Hideout in Chicago has been doing great things, fundraising, streaming shows, and continuing to be a positive force.

Space in Evanston – is doing food drives, fundraisers, creative events (record of the month.

John Mohr has been playing music in the greater Chicagoland area for more than 35 years. Raised in Elgin, formed and educated in the fields and halls of DeKalb, actively touring the world (and elsewhere) as vocalist and guitarist of TAR from ’88-‘95, John thought he went as far as he could go musically, and then stopped in 1995. Complete silence for 14 years.

Turns out music isn’t just for youngsters. At 55, John is active in a few music endeavors (Tar, Deep Tunnel Project, Skull Orchard) and working on writing a leadership book intersecting lessons and experiences learned while leading a touring rock band. It turns out that these lessons can also be applied in the professional business world.

You can follow John’s doings on Twitter at @johnmohr