Veteran of Toronto's Post-Punk and Roots scenes plays roots music for a new milenium.
John Borra is a Canadian musician and songwriter based in Toronto, Ontario. He was a member of Toronto’s post-punk underground scene beginning in the early 1980s playing bass in bands like A Neon Rome, Scott B Sympathy, Groovy Religion and Change Of Heart.
Since the early 90s he’s been writing and performing his own Roots/Americana songs with John Borra Band, Rattlesnake Choir and as a solo artist.
John Borra’s first release as singer and principal songwriter was a self titled cassette in 1997 (recorded and produced by Ken Myhr) which was soon followed by a cross Canada tour with Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor as both openning act and bass player for Keelor’s band.
That same year he formed the John Borra Band featuring Cleave Anderson (Blue Rodeo, Battered Wives) on drums, Steve Koch (Viletones, Demics, Handsome Neds) on guitar and Colleen Hodgson (Zeppelinesque) on bass. Their first record Band came out in 1999 followed by One Night At Seven In The Morning in 2002. Derrick Bradey (Hawksley Workman, Skydiggers) would take over bass duty in 2005.
In 2006 he formed Rattlesnake Choir as an extension of a duo act he’s had with (Screamin’) Sam Ferrara. In it’s 12 years together the band would also include Michael Boguski, Miranda Mulholland, Dani Nash, Treasa Levassuer and Tony Benattar.
Rattlesnake Choir recorded three records; Live Music (2008), Walkin’ The Wire (2011) and The Prospector’s Curse (2015), appeared on The Dakota Sessions for CMT and played many shows including festivals and openning spots for Blue Rodeo and Broken Social Scene.
John Borra’s songs have been recorded by Whitney Rose, Corin Raymond and Nadiene Kellman and have appeared in film and TV. He has also scored two films; Webhead (with Tom Third) in 1996 and the indie horror The Prospector’s Curse in 2014.
John Borra played his first barroom gig within weeks of his 16th birthday at the legendary Toronto punk rock dive The Turning Point in 1982. His first band of any note was the post punk psycadellic outfit A Neon Rome (1984 – 1989) who released one record - New Heroin - on France’s New Rose Records receiving overwhelming critical praise from the UK press as well as at home in Canada. They were the initial subjects of Bruce Macdonald’s award winning film Roadkill before singer Neal Arbic went into spiritual exlile putting a virtual end to the Neon Rome story. In 2009 they released A Neon Rome on Cd which featured all but one of the songs from New Heroin and one song (Bsus5) from the unreleased second record All The Children Are In. They were featured in the Canrock book Have Not Been the Same and contributed a song (Shatter The Illusion) to the compilation record of the same name.
Before the breakup of A Neon Rome in 1989, JB started getting asked to play bass in other people’s bands. The first of which was Scott B Sympathy alongside fellow Queen St. travellers Ian Blurton (Change Of Heart, Jolly Tambourine Man) and Gord Cumming (The Lawn, Wood Are Full Of Cukoos) recording the seminal Neil Yonge St (1990) and playing on Scott’s followup Drinking With The Poet (1992). He has since played and/or recorded with many groups over the years and continues to do so today. Some include Ron Sexsmith, Greg Keelor, Kyp Harness, Anne Bourne, Serena Ryder, The Cash Brothers, Joel Stewart, Crash Vegas, Lucy Idlout, Barney Bentall, Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys), Viletones, Johnny and the G-Rays, The Swallows, Busted Flush, Dave Bingham (Ugly Ducklings) and Jim Carroll.
In 1993 he joined Change Of Heart. Over the next few years the band toured extensively (including tours with The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo) won $100,00.00 from local radio station CFNY and was signed to Virgin Records releasing the album Tummysuckle in 1995. With a heavy heart, JB would leave the band later that year to give his full attention to what had become his main artistic obsession – writing and singing roots/country songs. He has since joined Change Of Heart for a few reunion shows celeberating various posthummus COH releases.
Beginning at the legendary el Mocambo in the mid 90s, JB has also worked on and off as an audio engineer. Starting around 2007 he began a ten year stint doing part time work for CMT Canada in the audio department on live performance based shows. Starting as an audio tech he would become the Audio Supervisor on the productions as well as doing the multi-track recording on the shows. During his time with CMT he worked on dozens of shows featuring many of the top and emerging artists in the Country Music world. He also did sound part time at The Dakota Tavern during it’s heyday.
In the studio, JB has played on dozens of records and co-produced a lot of the ones he’s been more intimately involved with (JB Band, Rattlesnake Choir, Groovy Religion, Change Of Heart etc). He recently recorded and co-produced the record Two for Reno Jack and Sunday Wilde (2017), a soon to be released record by Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo) and co-produced Steve Mahabir’s Angel In Parkdale (2016) with the Grammy award winning Peter J. Moore.
Today Borra contunes to write and perform his original music, is working on a new solo album featuring many of his musical cohorts (past and present) and continues to play bass with The Screwed and legendary punk outfit, Johnny and the G-Rays.
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