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Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, June 13, 2000
John Oszajca may be best known
as Lisa Marie Presley's fiance, but
he's also making a name as
a recording artist.

‘Odd man out’
seeks a musical home
with his first CD

Review of John Oszajca's CD,
'From There to Here'

By Tim Ryan


THE voice seems mature beyond its 26 years; firm, inspired and honest, with a hint of vulnerability that comes from opening up to a stranger.

Oahu born and raised John Oszajca (pronounced Oh-zah-kah), has just released his first CD, "From There to Here." The disc doesn't fit easily into any genre, mixing up bits of folk, classic rock and deadpan white rap. It's won't fit easily into radio formats geared toward digestible pop. But then, Oszajca is accustomed to being odd man out.

"I don't want to go too far out on a limb giving in-depth reasons for leaving Hawaii," Oszajca said in a telephone interview from Memphis.

"It was the simple things. I was a kid who liked wearing a leather jacket, and liked looking like I was into rock music. You couldn't even find a store that sold a leather jacket because there probably isn't much need for one," he said. "I wanted to dress like the people that I thought were cool. All I could find were surf clothes.

"Being the odd man out is never a fun experience. I don't want to express too much venom ... but it was quite difficult. I was always the outsider."

He left his Windward roots for the mainland just six weeks after graduating from Kailua High School in 1992.

Oszajca thinks of himself as a beatnik of sorts, like writer Jack Kerouac or singer Bob Dylan, both of whom hit the road to discover life.

He was 13 when he started planning his escape from Hawaii after visiting relatives in Denver. "I realized that maybe I was a swan after all and there was a whole world of swans outside Hawaii. I vowed to leave and to really start my life."

The brief trip provided Oszajca the confidence to follow his dream.

And the dream was music.

Oszajca -- son of artists John and Linda Oszajca -- got his first guitar at 15 and took lessons in Kaneohe. "I was always one of those kids who couldn't just enjoy something. ... I couldn't just like listening to records -- I'd have to want to make them."

At 13, Oszajca was listening to Dylan because he liked "the sentiment of a beatnik and the soul of an old blues singer." He also appreciated Elvis Presley.

Oszajca earlier this year became engaged to Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie, 32. The two met in Los Angeles through friends. (A condition for this interview set by Oszajca's publicist and manager was that questions pertain to his music, not his relationship with Presley. Oszajca's manager remained on the phone throughout the hour interview.)

Oszajca did say the notoriety surrounding his pending nuptials hasn't been a problem, although he's had "to take measures to keep it from getting out of hand."

"(My romantic relationship) is something I'm very proud of," he said. "But there's a lot of trickery (by the media) that goes with issues like this, trying to get quotes and other information and it doesn't (feel) good when someone tries to make my relationship vulnerable."

Oszajca set out for Seattle just after graduation. The first few nights were difficult. "I was sad and scared; I missed my family and friends," he said. "I could hear people screaming in the middle of the night."

But within the first week Oszajca wrote in his hotel room what has become his anthem, "Where's Bob Dylan When You Need Him?" The song seems geared to be the first single released off the CD.

Oszajca didn't find financial success in Seattle. Doubts crept in. "I sat around and felt sorry for myself. It was the most soul-searching period of my life, trying to figure out who I was, what I really wanted, what was important."

He decided to give his music career another chance, moving to Hollywood.

Oszajca and a friend created the band Popism, which Oszajca has described as an "Andy Warhol painting ... performance art ... a total experiment in hype."

The band never let on it was satire and eventually attracted hundreds of people a night for half a year. Popism broke up when band members started taking themselves too seriously.

Oszajca kept writing songs and last year recorded two demos which record executives liked but never pursued.

So he and his manager invested in better quality demos and eventually caught the attention of Java/Capitol records.

The song "Bisexual Chick" was leaked to an L.A. radio station and after a few plays, Oszajca's phone was ringing off the hook. Ten days later he had a record deal. "Bisexual Chick" was selected as theme song for the film "Clubland."

Oszajca is concentrating on promoting the album and a possible West Coast tour. He would love to play Hawaii.

"I would sleep in a dumpster and ride my bike across the country if it gives me the chance to tour."



Oszajca tries on
many styles

Bullet "From There to Here"
By John Oszajca (Interscope 0694903472)

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


BETROTHAL to a celebrity brought Waimanalo-raised John Oszajca to the attention of many who would have overlooked him otherwise. Set that knowledge aside and Oszajca's new album makes it clear that he could have reached the national audience on his own if -- and it's a big "if" -- Interscope Records had promoted him effectively.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Back In 1999
Bullet Bisexual Chick
Bullet I Might Look White
Bullet Where's Bob Dylan
When You Need Him

Quicktime | MPEG-3 info

"From There to Here" is a fine calling card for a previously unknown journeyman singer/songwriter.

The 11 songs are originals and Oszajca obviously has a broad vision of modern American rock. He draws on such diverse influences as T. Rex, Jerry Reed, Billy Bragg & Wilco, the Ventures, Beck, Tommy James, Arlo Guthrie, Ugly Kid Joe, the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed, and on musical genres as distant as country, gospel and modern punk.

What isn't found in the lyrics, melodies, backing tracks or mixing board effects is any indication that Oszajca listened to any local music during his years here. His amalgamation of different musical traditions is interesting even without any local references.

Oszajca is also interesting lyrically. A couple of songs are basic tracts of fashionable alienation that should provide entry to the "modern rock" audience. Others offer more sophisticated satirical perspectives. Oszajca turns a clever phrase here, drops a key word there, and creates an interesting listening experience, particularly when singing about "bisexual chicks."

A hidden 12th track reprises "Where's Bob Dylan When You Need Him?" for those who've gambled that Oszajca is a talent in his own right.

Given the traditional popularity of the familiar in modern American music, Oszajca could build a large following.

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