An interview with Ojibwe musician Justin Quake Jones

by Sep 7, 2011A&E0 comments




DKP:  What’s the first and most important thing you want us to know about you? What should I think of when I think about you?
QJ:  The most important thing i’d like for everybody to know is that I would NEVER do music for money, greed, or anything of that nature. I do music for the love of the art. Music is who I am and it will forever continue to be who I am. The money that comes with the music would be to support my family and to make sure they live a comfortable life. I could never do music for any other reason.

DKP:  With an awesome name like yours, there should be a good story behind it. Can we hear it?

QJ:  Through out my career I have been through a lot of names trying to find the one that stuck with me most. Quake is actually short for my native name I was given, which is ‘Quakegabo’. I am very proud of my heritage. Which I am half Native American (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibway) and Caucasian. Plus when I think of Quake I think of strength which I try my very best every day to have plenty of, which I think everybody should try to have to survive in this world.

DKP:  So, how did you start making music?  Did you have a musical childhood? Who influences you musically?

QJ: I can honestly say that music has been apart of my life, even when I was just a bun in the oven. My mom told me that one day she went to a Powwow while she was still pregnant with me and when the she was sitting by the drums, they would be playing and when they were, I was moving all around her stomach. When the drums stopped, as did I. The elder ladies leaned over to my mother and said, “Yup, that is defiantly an Indian baby in there!”. Another time, after I was born she was at another Powwow and while she was cradling me in her arms, I was a sleep. Again she was standing by the drums and when they started playing, my hand would move along with the beat of the drums. My influences in music are anybody who has the strength to make a difference in the world no matter what genre. I love oldies such as The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and Ray Charles. Michael Jackson is defiantly a huge inspiration to me as he his to many other artists. It’s not only the music they make, but the difference they make in the world. Not many people know that Michael Jackson spent a lot of time at Children’s Hospitals who had cancer or were very sick and he would just hang out with them and learn their story. I am also a huge fan of Litefoot. He has done a lot for Native Americans and I would love to follow his work! I am a huge fan of people who do that and I hope to some day do that myself when my musics gets to a more known level. 

DKP:  Why Hip-Hop? Is that a new new form of Native traditional music?

QJ: I chose Hip-hop because I find it easier to tell stories. I love stories. Whether they are about love, action, power, any kind of story I love hearing. I believe you can also tell stories through singing but growing up I never felt I was the best singer so I had to find a way I could tell stories through music and one day I said, “Let’s give this hip-hop thing a try!”. As for it being a new form of Native traditional music, I can’t really say for sure. I’m sure it could if the Natives who do hip-hop rap about tradition and keep with it like the traditional songs I grew up hearing. It is defiantly a new form to reach out to people though! One of my other goals is to help Natives find a way to express the way they live in the future.

DKP: Why do you think Hip-hop has caught fire in NDN Country?
QJ:  I think probably the same reason why Hip-hop caught everywhere else in the world, it’s catchy and fun to listen to. We all like different kinds of music and everybody has a reason why they like a certain kind of music. People could listen to music just to have something to dance to or like most people they could listen to because it is a very strong medicine. We all have problems we go through in life, music just helps us as humans to cope with it.

DKP: What do you hope folks will feel or find when they listen to your tracks?

QJ: I hope they feel the hard work and love I put into my songs. I love making people feel good and I hope my music can help them with that feeling.

DKP:  Do you have particular songs that have special meaning to you and for you? Tell us about some of those?

QJ:  All my songs have meaning to me because it is my work of art that I absolutely love doing with a passion. If I were to pick any song that meant most to me, it would probably have to be a song called “Surviving The Times”. The beat is from Nas’ song called “Surviving the Times” and I loved how he talked about the beginning of his rap career. I wanted to do something of that nature but in mine I talk about my childhood and what I have planned for my future. I mention my childhood friends and I mention my family. Family is very important to me so I defiantly had to write about them.

DKP: Do you receive your songs fully formed? Or do you labor over each line?

QJ: I put A LOT of hard work in my songs. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to music so everything has to be perfect. I kind of wish I was like how I am with music during school because I think I would of been a straight A student then.

DKP:  Music is a powerful force. Why do you think people should listen to yours?

QJ:  I feel like we all need to listen to new artists then what we always here on the radio. Sure, some of the music they play on the radio can be really great songs, but me personally, I like to change it up sometimes and broaden my horizons in my musical listening choice. Most stuff on the radio now a days talk about money, girls, and drugs. I feel we as a people need to get past of all that and go back to music that is meant to move your soul, not just your booty.

DKP:  Who are you away from the studio? What fills your time, your dreams, your days besides music?
QJ: Away from the studio I am a father of a son named Carter James. I am just a simple guy who loves to play basketball and hang out with friends and laugh. I love watching movies. Another one of my goals is to become an actor someday so it would be another way for me to tell stories.

DKP:  What do you think people see when they first see you?  What will they miss if they just go by first impressions?
QJ:  Most people usually just see my height! I am 6 foot 3 so most people think that is pretty cool. Me, I think it’s just an easier way to stick out in crowds. If they just go by first impression, they are missing out on my kind heart. Like I said before, I love helping people and I dislike seeing people cry so I will do what ever I can to make them smile.

DKP: Okay, then what do you think listeners hear when they first hear your music? What will they miss if they don’t take a second listen?

QJ:  I’m not sure to be honest. We all have different tastes in music. Lately, people who have heard my music like what they are listening to, but honestly I hope they take a second listen just to HEAR what I have to say.

DKP: Well, I’m sure you have readers’ interest now. How can they find your music or connect with you?

QJ: Through the internet of course! Youtube, Facebook, and I just got onto All they got to do is just search Quake Jones and they will see me!

DKP:  What do you wish we knew about you and about your music right now that we don’t?  Tell us, please.

QJ:  I just hope everybody will take me serious. Most people think I do this just to do it for fun or whatever else people do music for. Me, I do it for the love of the art. I do it to try and make a difference. I do it to make people dance. I do it because music is who I am. I will continue to follow my dream until the music stops. The Music will NEVER stop.

DKP: Thank you so much for sharing with us. We look forward to much music from you.


Dr. Honey Dawn Karima Pettigrew is  a NAMMY-nominated recording artist, an award winning filmmaker and the author of two novels, THE WAY WE MAKE SENSE and THE MARRIAGE OF SAINTS. She hosts a Native American talk show that airs on Talktainment and other radio outlets.