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3rd Degree - Fingers on Fire
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
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There isn't a better band in the world than 3rd Degree. Only better known ones. And there's never been a more fitting name for a band's website than because ROCK they do. These people:

Jon Paul Johnson - vocals, guitar
Aaron Johnson - guitar
Chad Royce - drums
Adam Johnson - bass

are into the power rock mode of play. They worship the guitar like it's the only statue on the island. The brothers from Brooklyn have the mastery of a Brian May, and in fact cite Queen as a major influence. Also Marilyn Manson, so that shows you the road they're on. They've been compared to Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello, Guided by Voices and others, but 3rd Degree is decidedly of the 00's generation. Yes, it may have the energy that post-punk claimed, but with Much better sound quality, and a mix that makes you just want to bang your mouth and eyebrows against the nearest steel wall.

Arlene Montage - 3rd Degree Video
Download the 3rd Degree Video        Download the 3rd Degree Video
(live at Arlene Grocery, Jan 25th 2003)
Quicktime Movie Download (8M)

That's because, though the aptly named Very Short Album is just that, it packs the power of a half hour Beatles CD, yet with the crunch of a hard rock heart pumping juice in an electrified glass house. It is quite simply music you want to hear on the radio. You remember each song before each song is over.

At the Bottom
So Easy
Start Over
Tell Me

"At the Bottom" is like "Tie Your Mother Down" for a modern generation, complete with "I will watch you drown" sentiment. It could be the standout tune, if it weren't for the competition. The crash of the guitars is like listening to rock in a thunderstorm; you wonder just how large the sound is, where it's coming from, how many people are really around you. Overdubs? Who knows.

Streaming MP3: "Fall"

And yet, why do I get the feeling that "So Easy" is a ballad when it's so loud and flamboyant? They take the altitude and attitude of Styx and chop in a Stone Temple Pilots air raid over the glossy finish until you are tired from just the sweltering residue in the throbbing earphones. "So Easy" is an incredible exercise in songwriting and songthumping; what to write and how to implement it. If scribes could pitch wares like this to Nashville and LA and the world, there would never be a starving artist.

Very Short Album is actually a trouble-making release. It teases us all for the next step - a very Long album.

Streaming MP3: "So Easy"

So how'd this all come about? Jon explains: "We came up with 3rd Degree about 8 years ago. Adam and I originally started the band as a blues trio when we were just a couple of stupid 14 year olds. 3rd Degree is the name of a blues standard, so without putting too much thought into it, we named the band after it. Since the band changed and grew so rapidly we never really stopped to change it. The Best thing about being brothers is that we're used to fighting. Lots of bands break up because they can't get along and fight all the time. If you get in a fist fight with some guy, chances are you're not gonna talk to him again. But if it's your brother, you're probably gonna have dinner with him later that night."

Years of studying great guitar players and using a knowledgeable producer, Jim Ebert, helps give them such a professional sound at such an early age. "Doesn't hurt to turn the amps up all the way, either," they say. "VSA has been getting pretty good airplay on college stations around the country, and we just spent the last summer touring the east and west coasts in promotion for it. Actually, if you listen real closely, the secret to world peace can be found in our music."

Streaming MP3: "At The Bottom"

More on 3rd Degree
* Genre: Rock
* Hometown: New York City
* Website:
* Buy "Very Short Album" (EP)
* Buy "Radio 7"
* Contact 3rd Degree

Streaming MP3: "Start Over"

For live gigs, they'll cover anything that's rockin' and classic. "We've covered 'Ain't Talkin' 'Bout love' by Van Halen, 'The Boys Are Back In Town' by Thin Lizzy, 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen, to name a few."

That classic rock sound is enveloped in this Very Short Album. "We spent a really long time making Radio 7. I think since it was our first album we really wanted to make it a 'masterpiece'. The problem is thinking that way can cause you to really lose perspective and you can end up overproducing. On VSA, we really wanted to try to catch a raw/live feel and not over-think it too much. We started a song each day and finished it that day. We originally went in to record a 3 song demo, but ended up recording six songs. We talked about recording a few more and making a full length, but we decided we wanted to try a new spin on the next recordings and thought that these six could stand on their own."

Streaming MP3: "Medication"

The response has been overwhelming. And a cut above even from their previous album. "I think it's very different from our first record but everyone who enjoyed Radio 7 seems to love VSA even more."

For those of us who really NEED to hear more, don't worry. 3rd Degree is all set to invade the studio next month, to go in a different direction for the next album. "I think this album will be a little darker, and a little weirder. Like we did on VSA, we really wanna capture the Live sound of the group, but I think we'll explore different sides of the band this time. Should be interesting. Who knows, we might come out with a Rock Opera recorded using only our bare ass cheeks as instruments."

Streaming MP3: "Tell Me"

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