Ashland native launches Queer music label with partner in January

by Sophia Lee

A queer music label planning on shaking up the industry has reached the Bluegrass state.

“We both identify as queer. Our existence is resistance,” stated Philip Odango of BlackRainbow Records.

Philip Odango and David Johnson

David Johnson and Philip Odango, in a polyamorous relationship, met on a cruise early this year. Johnson and his other partner, Adam W. Johnson, watched as Odango sang karaoke to “You’re Welcome” from the movie Moana. This is when Johnson first sensed his looming connection with Odango. Though the couple was on their honeymoon, they could not resist the bubbly and zealous aura presented by Odango throughout the trip. 

David Johnson, 40, grew up in Ashland, Kentucky, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, and obtaining his Ph.D. in neuroscience. During this, he decided to take a year’s leave of absence to work at Guitar Center, where he was required to take various music courses. Johnson started getting involved with music production through one of his coworkers and eventually started a band. He then began doing production work for their recording materials, putting together press kits, and gofering around.

The Dead Speak

Soon after, sound engineering and music production became his most prominent talents. Alongside working full-time as a therapist, his technical background led him to create BlackRainbow Records. Johnson currently has two musical projects, which are signed to the label – The Ones Among Us and Theory of Motivation. You can check out “BLOOD” by Theory of Motivation here

“Our purpose is to elevate a community that lacks the resources to do so. Louisville is such a talented city. How do you rise above a sea of wonderful sounds? ‘Create or vanish. Destroy or perish.'” Johnson said, quoting a slogan written on some of the label’s merch insinuating that if we do not create, we disappear. “If we do not work on breaking through the limitations placed before us and overcoming them, we will perish.” He continued.

Philip Odango, 39 years old, developed a pervasive creative and technical background through event production and project management. Odango has created and produced over 80 shows, owned a coffee co-op shop in a historically black business district of the state, and obtained a degree in psychology and business. Immigrating to the US at a very young age, he made his way from San Diego to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he lived until this year. 

In his free time, Odango created an online persona when he first entered the design sector called Canvas Cosplay. Experiencing his artistic genius and lovable nature, Johnson offered the idea of BlackRainbow Records to Odango. In this project, they could utilize their authentic connection to build something for their communities. In September 2022, Odango packed up his truck and drove from Virginia Beach to Louisville for the permanent move. His expertise in events planning and video production makes Johnson and him an unstoppable duo. 

The Dead Speak, Corey Elmore and Philip Odango

“We are looking to extend ‘yes, you have a space, and yes, you will be loved and empowered. And we will help you achieve your goals.’ We are very much focused on advocacy and finding the right people and partners to fill the gaps as needed. Relationship building is significant for us to grow with what we know and learn along the way. And we are fortunate enough that we are currently in a place where we can provide resources and guidance to this community to empower them to do the work. It starts from the heart. Through our combined experience, we can turn passion into action” Odango discussed the overall goals and values of the label. 

Starting the label has been quite an extensive process for the duo, but their impressive resumes have sent them in the right direction thus far. After getting set up as an official Limited Liability Company (LLC), obtaining insurance, and managing the more technical aspects, they are finally ready to launch the endearing record label fully. Developing relationships with venues and producers has been smooth sailing, thanks to their various backgrounds. They have learned who to stay away from and what spaces are safe for queer and BIPOC folks. Since they have both been successful, they hope to spread that within their community via a record label that looks and sounds like a rainbow.

Johnson spoke passionately about his desire to provide this community space in the music industry. “It doesn’t have to be all about subscriptions and synthetic bullshit. You have to find a way to do the work, but it has to come from the heart. You have to know the opportunity is there for you, and if you’re willing to do that work from the heart, we want the world to know the opportunity is there.”

The label has three acts working with them: Johnson’s two projects and The Dead Speak duo. The record label will officially launch on Saturday, January 7th, 2023, with a party at Vernon Lanes from 12 to 3 PM. The event is free to attend, but they are asking for folx to register here. All three acts will be performed, and the label will showcase the world premiere of “Trigger Warning” by The Dead Speak.

“We want to reduce the barriers to entry. Build a longer table, not a taller one.” The pair finished by emphasizing their dedication to inclusivity.