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Twin Cities punk greats Run Westy Run to rock Xmas Day

'90s-era Run Westy Run, from left: Terry Fisher, Kraig Johnson, Dan Davis, Kyle Johnson, Kirk Johnson.

'90s-era Run Westy Run, from left: Terry Fisher, Kraig Johnson, Dan Davis, Kyle Johnson, Kirk Johnson.

Christmas is a prime time for reunions and Run Westy Run is in the holiday spirit.

Formed in the mid-'80s by brothers Kraig, Kyle, and Kirk Johnson, along with Terry Fisher, the Westies developed a cult following in the underground Twin Cities music scene. Their post-punk, bluesy sound filled four albums, first released via powerhouse California punk label SST and then through local imprint Twin/Tone.

After a decade-plus hiatus, the band reunited for a show at First Avenue in December of 2013. The following August, Kyle died of organ failure at age 54. Only days after a memorial for their brother, the St. Louis Park-raised Kraig and Kirk brought the band together again for a Triple Rock show.

Kraig, who recently moved back to Minnesota from New York, spoke to City Pages about the band’s Christmas Day gig and what the future holds for Run Westy Run.

City Pages: What inspired you to get the guys together and book a show for Christmas Day?

Kraig Johnson: I think it was two years ago that we got back together. We played in the Mainroom and had a good time. We’ve all been coming back to Minneapolis. I’ve been in Minneapolis for the last year. It’s like, if we’re all here, let’s do something. We’re also recording some new songs.

CP: When do you expect those to come out?

KJ: Hopefully at the beginning of the New Year. It’s a few songs. We don’t have much in the bag right now. With Iffy [Kraig and Kirk’s side project] we have a bunch of stuff, too.

CP: Do you ever get tired of playing the songs you’ve been doing for almost thirty years?

KJ: The last few times we played, we played a few old songs but we played a bunch of new songs, too.

CP: How do the new songs differ from your previous ones?

KJ: I don’t think of it that way. Songs are different all the time. The way Westies write songs is to just get together and play. If something comes out of it, that’s a song. That’s the way it’s always been. Does that make sense to you? It makes sense to me.

CP: Yeah. It’s organic.

KJ: Yeah, yeah.

CP: In your mind, what was the high point of the Run Westy Run journey?

KJ: I haven’t been to that place yet but I’m looking forward to getting there. They’re all high points. It’s always just a pleasure. There’s always another high point in the future.

CP: That’s really optimistic.

KJ: Yes, totally.

CP: Do you have any holiday songs on your set list?

KJ: Maybe we’ll write one while rehearsing this week. That’s a surprise, I guess.

CP: What was Christmas like in your house when you were growing up?

KJ: That’s an interesting question. There were five kids in my family. Everybody got new pajamas on Christmas Eve. I don’t know how to describe Christmas at my house. After I got to be a certain age, I didn’t have Christmas at my house all the time. I wouldn’t come back.

My brothers all lived in different places. I like doing these gigs because after hanging with the family, you’d see a bunch of friends and it’d be a fun thing to celebrate. They’d be happy to just get out of the house. 

CP: Who do you like on the current music scene? What are listening to?

KJ: I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra because of his hundredth birthday. [Laughs] I listen to whatever people put in front of me most of the time. I’ve listened to Adam Levy’s new record. That’s really nice. I’ve been listening to a lot of Run Westy Run and Iffy because we have shows coming up and I have to learn how to play all that stuff.

CP: What has it been like playing without Kyle? Is that difficult?

KJ: No, I think he’s there in spirit. He comes to me in my dreams a lot, so I think that’s a good thing. It’s weird because a lot of the times, it’ll be a dream where I’m at a gig and he’s there and he’s always smiling. Loss is tough but you gotta move on. The fact that I dream about him a lot makes me feel that he’s still around in some kind of form.

CP: Do you have any songs about him on the new album?

KJ: Not on the Westies’ new stuff but I have written songs about him in my solo stuff. Maybe that’s something in the future.

CP: What else is happening in your life outside of music?

KJ: I’ve been doing a lot of painting and art. We’ll have different T-shirts and paintings and posters [at the show]. Art is always exciting. What else? Just doing music. I have some of my solo stuff that I’ve recorded and am going to put out in the New Year.

CP: Do you have any resolutions for 2016?

KJ: To stay positive and not negative. That’s about it.

Run Westy Run

When: 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 25.

Where: 7th Street Entry.

Tickets: $25; more info here

Iffy 

When: 8 p.m. Sat. & Sun, Dec. 26-27.

Where: 7th Street Entry.

Tickets: $25; more info here