Music is often a vehicle for positive change in the world.
Many music events have been created to bring attention to important issues happening throughout the world. Now, the nonprofit Musicians for Overdose Prevention is teaming up with Holy Crap Records to release the punk compilation album, Ramones-Esque, in order to raise awareness for communities suffering from opioid overdoses.
Musicians for Overdose Prevention is an Asheville, North Carolina, based nonprofit created by John Kennedy and Cinnamon Kennedy. They saw the overlap between musicians and drug addiction in their local music communities and the broader music scene as a whole, and new something had to change. In order to help fight addiction within the music scene, they created Musicians for Overdose Prevention in order to remove the taboo nature around carrying Narcan/Naloxone, and to distribute the life-saving medicine to small underground rock bands as well as the venues that support them. To further raise awareness, they created a compilation album of original material inspired by the sound of The Ramones.
Musicians for Overdose Prevention and Holy Crap Records were able to bring in 47 artists from across the world to contribute to this album. This compilation includes groups such as Suppi and The Ghouls, Al Pacino’s Sister, The Discs, The Thorazines, Hit Dogs, Merzie, The Pulsebeats, ThatBeat, and many more. Everyone involved saw this as a chance to raise awareness to this amazing charity and hopefully save lives in the process.
We were able to ask John Kennedy some questions about the creation of the nonprofit, the new album, and what Musicians For Overdose Prevention is planning to do in the future.
So what led you to create Musicians For Overdose Prevention, and can you talk about what the organization has accomplished thus far in a nutshell?
I have family members who deal with the issue of addiction. Some of that led me to an oral history project where I sat down with 100 people, either using or in recovery, in the Southern Appalachians, and listened and recorded their stories. At the same time I was running the Holy Crap Records Podcast with my wife Cinnamon – and we play the best underground music each week, 202 weeks in a row.
There were people in the Asheville music scene dying from overdose, and it seemed like such an obvious thing to do: get Naloxone in the hands of music venues, musicians, and bands. So far, we’ve dropped off Naloxone to music venues in Asheville, Charlotte, New Haven and Athens, we’ve sent 300 Naloxone kits directly to musicians and bands. We also help manage the online music performances for International Overdose Awareness Day. We’re part of the steering group of TEMPO (Training and Empowering Musicians to Prevent Overdose) with Gibson Gives and MusiCares.
And I see you’ve recently partnered with Holy Crap Records to create Ramones-esque, a punk compilation album meant to bring awareness to the high cost of Narcan specifically. Can you discuss the journey of this from idea to fruition?
We are also the Holy Crap Records Podcast. So our thesis is to create strong relationships with bands – play them on the Holy Crap Records Podcast, get to know them, get to know underground labels, invite them to share their music through our compilations – and then send them Naloxone, T-shirts, stickers, a ‘zine, and hopefully they will become advocates for carrying Naloxone. Ramones-esque is short-hand for catchy, three chord, punk songs – so anyone could participate in this compilation.
$75-$80 for a Naloxone kit is too expensive for a musician who is cleaning dishes. It just is. Pharmaceutical companies – Emergent BioSolutions in particular – should not be making a profit from Narcan as pharmaceutical companies helped create this overdose crisis. #NoProfitForNarcan.
I see 50 bands have all taken part on this album. How did you go about recruiting the bands? And are they all North Carolina-based?
They’re about 2/3rd North Carolina bands. We just put the word out about this compilation. We’ve produced 7 compilation albums – so bands know what to do.
Were most/all the songs recorded and produced by the bands individually? Who compiled the songs and put the album together?
Yep. The songs were recorded and produced by the bands – we had Kevin Boggs as producer and Icarus Tyree manage this compilation.
And are these all original songs?
Do you find determining the order of songs on an album like this to be a challenge, and how important is that to you?
Oh – it’s too much of a challenge. Way too much for me – so we gave it to Icarus to figure out. I personally know all these musicians and bands – and I couldn’t choose an order.
Will there be any live performances/touring in support of this album one way or another?
There is a plan – in its infancy – to drive a flatbed truck outside the headquarters of Emergent BioSolutions and play a punk show – demanding they lower the price of Narcan – until we get arrested. There’s also a postcard campaign aligned with this compilation album. So every musician and band who shared music will get a merch bag sent to them with the CDs, t-shirt, Naloxone, stickers, a zine – and stamped and addressed postcards asking Emergent BioSolution to lower the cost of Narcan. #NoProfitForNarcan.
Other than your organization, what else does John Kennedy do in the music world?
Run the Holy Crap Records Podcast with Cinnamon. We were both in Egg Eaters, which was on the Kafadan Kontak label. That imploded during the pandemic – and now I’m in too many bands. I’m in Bad Banker, a country techno anarchist band with Cinnamon, Thieves Like Us sounds like an updating of Blondie + New Order, Dark City Kings an outlaw Americana band, and PINKEYE, my punk band that just opened up for Agent Orange. Cinnamon is also a DJ at Asheville FM, WSFM-LP.
What’s the ultimate goal for Musicians For Overdose Prevention?
All music venues should carry Naloxone. All bands and musicians should carry Naloxone. This will save lives. Musicians for Overdose Prevention is also interested in mental health issues of musicians and having the conversation about how musicians can look after each other.
What else might you have in store for the rest of 2022?
We’ll definitely drive around to more music scenes and drop off Naloxone. And we’re going to have another compilation album – James Bond Theme Songs – this summer. We’re not the only organization distributing Naloxone to music scenes – so we’re working to start a bad-ass gang of harm reduction music organizations.