Musician, writer, producer, composer and record label owner, Johnny Turnbull made his name in the music industry by pinning down what it is to be cutting edge – surprising listeners time and again with an eclectic style that couldn’t be pigeon-holed. A constantly evolving artist, he has seen success both on stage, and more recently, in the studio – influencing new musical genres and pre-empting sounds of the future.
Beginning his career in 1979 he co-founded the seminal group 23 Skidoo, exciting the industry with a sound that had never been heard before – a combination of funk, reggae, ethnic, avant-garde and electronic music. 23 Skidoo topped the independent charts in both the UK and US with the mini Lp ‘Seven Songs’ and the12” single ‘coup’.
Putting their experimental artistry to work on stage too, the group’s legendary live performances used film, slide projections and strobe lighting, and won them rave reviews. They were notably described as ‘a life-changing act’.
In 1985, 23 Skidoo’s loss of rehearsal space proved to be a pivotal point in the group’s evolution – and Johnny’s future in the music industry.
His interest in the recording process led the group’s metamorphosis into the production entity Ronin. And following a period spent producing and developing local talent, he founded Ronin Records with his brother Alex.
The label’s first release was the massive underground hit, ‘Jailbreak’ by Paradox; one of the first break beat records which stormed to the top of the independent dance charts.
A major record deal with Virgin soon followed, funding a more sophisticated recording facility. This enabled a diversification into remixing, production and ad soundtracks; clients included Sade, Stevie Wonder, Ice T, Seal, Massive Attack, Ginuine, M People, Kylie Minogue, Wrangler, Nike and Smirnoff.
Now working under his alias ‘Mad Money Wah’, Johnny went on to produce the ‘Countryman‘ Lp with DJ Skitz – which has proved to be a landmark in UK Hip Hop.
Greater success followed for Johnny’s group too. Virgin struck a deal with 23 Skidoo, leading them to record and release a self-titled album featuring Roots Manuva, Carl Macintosh, and jazz legend, Pharoah Sanders.
The 23 Skidoo back catalogue was also released on CD for the first time by Ronin Records before Johnny decided to wind down the label in 2002.
Johnny Turnbull is currently perusing a freelance career, writing, producing and mixing for artists such as Outcast, Ciara, Usher, Dido, Misteeq and Princess Superstar, and composing for Population Music.