By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
He picked up guitar in his teens and joined his first band, the '60s-influenced mod-rocking Funseekers, in 1987. "I didn't make a record until I was in my 20s. I didn't get on stage until 30," he remembers. "I guess I'm sort of a late bloomer." Indeed, at times Crozier's strenuous self-deprecation and inveterate shyness suggest a man who is still growing into his impressive physical stature and daunting intellect. "People have made me out to be a hermit, but I'm not," he insists when presented with claims of his anti-stardom. "I just like to stay at home."
Chicago Sun-Times music columnist Jim DeRogatis, who played with Crozier in the short-lived '90s project the Wahinis, begs to differ, cheerfully evoking the hermit epithet to characterize Crozier's genius. "John Crozier is the strangest and most brilliant guitarist since [punk legend] Robert Quine," DeRogatis says. "He's easily the best guitarist Minneapolis has ever produced, but he's way too smart a person to fall into the rock-star trap. He just likes to wake up in the morning and have his tea and live his life. A certain kind of person assumes that if you're John Crozier and you're not on Interscope Records, you must be a frustrated musician, but he doesn't want that."
In fact, he wants a lot less than that. He will not take a compliment. When I finally come right out and compare his skill at brightening the corners of rigidly prescribed song forms to that of Thelonious Monk (that's right, Thelonious Monk), he hems for a second before almost leaping off the synagogue steps. "You know," he says, pausing for a moment, "I have been influenced by him."
He's also been touched by Wes Montgomery, Eric Satie, John Coltrane, Tricky, drum 'n' bass, and the Finish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. In short, he has traveled, and he's brought the outer world to bear on his rich inner world.
"I feel like a real beginner," he says as midnight approaches and the traffic on Hennepin slows to a trickle. "It's like I'm still in training, and I may never get where I want to be."