Boulder, CO based band Salem is fronted by drummer Todd Anders-Johnson, who also works as a tech-rep for SLC based Voile Equipment. An avid backcountry enthusiast, Anders-Johnson will be taking the band on tour this winter with Salem bringing its original blend of hip-hop, jazz, and neo-soul to the bars, saloons, and breweries of skis towns all over the western U.S. and Canada.
-How did you become the “Official House Band” for Voile?
I reached out to Wally at Voile a few years ago and he was very receptive to my work with music in the snow sports industry. Soon enough I was riding a Mojo RX split board and Dave Grissom asked us to perform at winter OR and the SIA trade shows in the Voile booth and after parties. We’ve been enjoying the new Artisan split boards and Charger skis with our powder tours with good access to great backcountry throughout the US and Canada. I let Voile know that I would be interested in working with them in Colorado if they ever could use some sort or rep out here and that worked out this fall for me to work as a Colorado tech rep. I recently recorded a couple songs with Voile in mind and we’re heading out on a tour as the house band in late December.
-Your upcoming tour seems to be heading to some pretty sweet snow destinations.
I started touring to prime snow locations with Salem about 5 years ago in order to be able to entertain and meet some great people and to have the ability to get out for some turns at ski resorts, snowcat and heli ski lodges and cool events like Tailgate Alaska. I book the tours with snow fun in mind and have been lucky to get fellow players who have a similar sensibility. We’ve played a bunch of competitive ski and snowboard events as well as getting a few sound tracks with ski films or industry productions.
-What is your background?
I was born outside Boston and lived in MA and MO for my youth. I started skiing when I was young but really got into it when we moved to Vermont for my high school years. I was introduced to snowboarding by Jay Quentin from Smokin Snowboards and we had a crew at Jay Peak in the early days. I played in a rock band in high school and in the high jazz band as well. I continued playing and recording music alongside my studies in international development and somehow finished a BA at the University of Washington in Seattle while touring with a well-established band from Vancouver, Canada called the Paperboys. I kept snowboarding and eventually started split boarding. In Colorado, I took some coursework to get better knowledge for backcountry like my wilderness first responder and AIARE I and II certifications as well as alpine rescue and ice climbing.
-Describe your music
Salem music is a bit socially-conscious, definitely groove-based, rocks out but with a hard funk/r&b/jazz vibe and has bits of Afro-Cuban and Caribbean elements as well.
-How did you get involved in the environmental scene?
I was a bit of an activist from my short time at the University of Vermont and with my continued studies with development issues. I was active with the Gulf War protests and organizing in DC and around the WTO meetings in Seattle when I lived there. I later was able to be part of Bono’s One Campaign’s One Campus/One Vote as a panelist at UPENN, which was an honor. I started to travel regularly to Alaska from Seattle and I was amazed by the glaciers there. I met some knowledgeable guides and glaciologists and was able to have my own personal experiences on the ice with split boarding, ice climbing, trekking, rafting and fishing there. Soon, I started interviewing glacier and climate scientists in Alaska and in Boulder as it has such great research on snow, ice, hydrology and climate and atmospheric science with CIRES, NOAA, NCAR and NSIDC located there. I started linking my band’s shows with organizations like the Canadian Climate Project, the Nantucket Land Council and Protect Our Winters from doing solar powered concerts to showing a short POW climate awareness video at events.
Recently, I have been able shoot some video throughout Alaska with a focus on climate and glacier science, renewable energy production and glacier recreation. To prep for this, I took a course at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks a couple summers ago on field methods in glaciology to get a grasp on how mass balance is calculated by scientists with radar and GPS. In August this year, I was able to join Dr. Matt Nolan on a 2 week backpacking trip to the McCall Glacier in the Brooks Range of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has been studying the glacier with a variety of weather stations placed around the glacier for the last 10 years. It was an amazing experience and the most remote that I have ever been.
-What is your connection to Utah?
I started going to Utah to perform at the White Owl in Logan while touring through from Seattle years ago. I am working with Voile and will be out for Outdoor Retailer in January as well as Salem shows at OR and the Stateroom. We are also at Snowbasin and Snowbird this season as well. I was actually at the Utah Valley University in early December to present a Risan Media video on diversity in glacier science and glacier mountain environments as part of the United Nation’s International Mountain Day and Mountain Partnership.
-What place are you most looking forward to playing?
I am pretty excited about heading back to BC with snowcat skiing at the White Grizzly lodge and guides in the Selkirks with Fernie, Revelstoke and Golden in there as well. Alaska takes the prize every season though!
-How often do you get to ski/ride when on tour?
When booked well with good routing, we can get out every day. I get out regularly when not on tour, but I also work with Voile and with media production Risan Media, booking/promoting tours and events and teaching drums at the high school and with private lessons locally as well.
-What’s it like to be ‘touring’ when you get to play in so many great winter destinations?
As long as the details are worked out well in advance, touring can really be sweet and allows for a lot of good outdoor fun. It is work at this level though. We don’t have roadies and we travel light, but it is work to setup, play and tear down at events. I don’t know too many bands that focus specifically on snow destinations. Often, there is a lot of driving to get to a zone and then short trips in between, such as our trip to BC in January. Most Colorado, Targhee/Jackson and Utah trips are more of a weekend warrior style.
-You’ll be coming through Utah several times this winter?
We had some really deep snow at Snowbasin and it is a swanky little place we play at. I finally hit Snowbird a couple weeks ago and that will be a great time at the end of April. We’ll do a show at the Stateroom for an OR Voile after party in January and that room is fun. I hope to get some more backcountry in out there with some good guidance from locals this season.
-Memorable story from the road?
I once toured AK and rented a van from a company that I always went with and the van broke down in between Talkeetna and Denali Park. Somehow I didn’t freak out and we were able to get picked up by the club in their van with all of our things. The next day, after our show, the rental company set us up in Talkeetna with new vehicles to use but we had to take a shuttle with all of our gear to Talkeetna. I felt like a chump with a touring band putting all of our gear in the shuttle trailer with tourists and such. I sit down and a really kind woman starts telling me how her husband is a drummer as well, as jazz drummer. I was like, great. So she introduces me to her husband sitting next to her, Jack DeJohnette. He is one of the greats who played with Miles Davis, John Coltrane etc. We chatted for the whole trip to Talkeetna and gave me a good perspective.
We have had some amazing shows in the little town of McCarthy, Alaska. It’s 60 miles down a dirt road and having to cross the glacier river on a footbridge with gear on carts at the meeting of the Kennicot and Root glacier. Great times and usually summer with light throughout the night and bonfire parties and people breaking out fresh salmon from Chitna on the way in from the Copper River. I also played a gig way out on Great Point on Nantucket where you have to 4 wheel drive out 14 miles to a little house with a generator for a party at the end of the island, pretty sweet.
-Funny story from the road?
I booked my first 7 week national tour with this other band I played with. Our last date was at a venue we played at a lot so we were lettin it out a bit. On break, going to get a beer, someone asks if Santana’s drummer can play with us. I was like, yeah, sure that would be cool. It turns out it’s Horacio ‘el negro’ Hernandez, one of the most amazing drummers in the world from Cuba, who I actually got to meet and hang out with in Seattle a few months earlier after his Jazz Alley show with John Patatucci. He looked over and gave the thumbs up. Will you play I asked..I’ll play some congas. So it went..”get Horacio some congas, get Horacio some congas, get Horacio some congas, down the line of people! He played congas the whole night and drum set on 1 tune and I played congas. Another good one, we were playing the Pioneer Bar in Haines on our annual Alaska Heliskiing party and Jeremy Jones comes up and asks if Todd Johnson was there and I was psyched as I had been in touch with him but never met. We had a beer for a bit and he was off and out to film for Deeper that next day!
-How can we get hooked up with some of your music, aside from checking out a show?
My official website is www.salem-music.com but I point people to www.reverbnation.com/salemtoddandersjohnson as it has a nice arrangement with music, photos, videos and shows right there and works well on mobile devices, too.