Q&A: “Blessed man” Chadzilla looks forward to House of Rock Summer Camp

Chad "Chadzilla" Johnson
Oh no! There goes Tokyo go go Chadzilla!

“On June fifth the Hill will shake!” Chad Johnson recently announced to a packed Swallow Hill Music Teachers’ Lounge.

And while staffers and teachers chowed down on Ukefest leftovers, no one doubted him for a moment. When the first session of Chad’s House of Rock Summer Camp returns on June 5, the Rock and Roll camp will literally shake the former church on Yale Avenue that houses Swallow Hill to its bones, as it has for a decade.

Not that the camp is just one blistering, ear-splitting, “these go to eleven” jam session, but let’s be honest, it’s Rock and Roll. And we like it.

And since we’re being honest, no one calls Chad “Chad.” In these parts he answers to Chadzilla.

We recently caught up with Chadzilla to get his take on a decade of House of Rock, and what he is most looking forward to for this year’s camps.

First off, congratulations on ten years of House of Rock Summer Camps at Swallow Hill Music! When you started House of Rock, did you envision it going ten years?

I honestly didn’t even think about the future of the program. I initially started the House of Rock so that my older female drum student wouldn’t have to show up at some random blues jam just to be able to play with a band. She needed to have that experience to understand how to play the drums more fully. So I started a class to teach her how to play with other people!

What do you know now about House of Rock that you wish you had known when you started out?

That eventually this program and the music that I’m passionate about would be important to young people, families and the Swallow Hill community.

Rock and Roll – or just Rock – has a long and varied history. How do you incorporate different eras and genres of rock into the camp?

I believe that 50 styles of music should be condensed into one genre – “Rock” music.

I have always shared one important thing about our recent musical history to the House of Rock – all of this music that we love, that we hold emotional attachment to, that we want to learn and rawk, either alone, with a group or in front of a thousand people. ALL of it exists because generations ago, people from around the world, specifically Africa, were forced to live with different people and lead very different lives from their ancestors. Slaves needed something to hold onto for hope – music. The opportunity to openly express yourself to the world, both good and bad through music is something that every community deserves from Leadbelly to Led Zeppelin to Bruno Mars. Music that moves both the players and the audience – That is “Rock” Music… to me!

How do the campers respond to that mix?

I think most of them understand that the way they feel when they play together is the way Kurt Cobain felt when he was jamming with his mates!

What is new to House of Rock this year that you are particularly excited about?

I am very excited for The Soul of Rock camp – which runs July 10-14. I feel that kids are opening up so much these days that they are ready to feel the groove in a way that is a little foreign to them. Even though Gospel beget Blues beget Rock beget Metal beget the next style of popular music, it’s because of the rhythmic connection that soul-based music provides that we have such a vast library of great songs to enjoy and learn from. Just check out “Soul Power” by James Brown. He tells the story a lot better than me!

OK, here it is!

Have you kept in touch with previous campers as they’ve graduated and moved on? Have you encountered any of them performing in Denver and beyond?

I have very much so. One of my assistants last summer and this summer – Charlie Akers – came through the Sunday House of Rock program and summer camps at 14 years old, just shared the stage with ME last weekend playing our original music in our band Anonymonkey at 3 Kings Tavern! Ben Pisano, playing under the band name Corsicana has been crushing it in the Denver area recently. Erin Dougherty, who was in the first House of Rock summer camp ever (along with Emma Henry who eventually made it to Hollywood on American Idol thanks to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith) just released the album “Celestine” under the name Little Star which I produced. I see people everywhere around the Denver area who have been a part of the House of Rock in some way. I am a blessed man.

For a guy known as Chadzilla, House of Rock has a strong tradition of campers getting nicknames. Do you have a nickname formula, or do they come about organically?

I love it! We are all given great names by our parents at birth. But a newborn rocker hasn’t lived and hasn’t revealed itself to the world. I believe that the best nickname is earned. So some form of their given name and/or a special moment mixed with my vast knowledge of popular culture (?) seems to be the formula.

What are a few of your favorite House of Rock nicknames you’ve been party to over the years?

Scoobozzy, BenJammin, Wyatt Erp-ma-gurd, Lucy-fer, JS Rawk, Blue, the Weatherman, Red Bull, Ro-Dan, McLovin, Limey Fez, Tron, Shred Zeppelin, Belch, Tazer, Sam Handwich. So many!

Care to add anything?

I absolutely love music and I am blessed to be a part of people feeling connection with other people through the most common bonding agent that humans have. Some House of Rockers have met great friends through this program. They are growing up and bringing their passion for life to our community. We are family, all my brothers, sisters and me. What an honor!

Swallow Hill Music’s 2017 House of Rock Summer Camps for campers ages 13-18. Camps take place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and tuition assistance is available. The camps run the following dates and registration is open now!

June 5-9: House of Rock: First Band Experience

June 12-16: House of Rock: Second Band Experience

June 19-23: House of Rock Advanced Camp: Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense

July 10-14: House of Rock Intermediate/Advanced Camp: Soul of Rock

July 17-28: House Of Rock: Songwriting/Recording Camp (2-week camp)

House of Rockers
Chadzilla, back row center, with some House of Rockers at Make Music Denver at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2014.

This Q&A was conducted via email with Swallow Hill Music Marketing Manager Barry Osborne.