Mr. Kowalsky is a Costa Rican-born musician. He sings in English, Spanish and French. Mr. Kowalsky began his musical career in the mid-nineties, in San José, Costa Rica. His current album Surf Rock Reggae captures Mr. Kowalsky’s search for the roots of reggae and combines it with more modern surf and rock accents. He frequently tours in Europe, the next United States, and Latin America.
In the middle of the nineties, Mr. Kowalsky formed his first band with a group of high school classmates, together inspired by punk rock and ska acts they saw at small venues in San José. That first band was Pollo Frito. Mr. Kowalsky said of the band, “We played in friends’ backyards, at events at our high school, underground festivals, and a few clubs in our city. Pollo Frito existed for almost 3 years… it was an adolescent Ska punk band that sounded really bad, but we were having fun.”
In 1998, Pollo Frito changed its name to 13 Millas de Libertad, or 13ML. Many of Pollo Frito’s songs, such as “La Mejenga,” “Problemas,” and “Un Amigo Nuevo,” made it to 13ML’s debut, self-titled CD, which had the strong ska/punk style that would define the group over the course of its existence. This first album was recorded in Panama in 1999, and launched in 2000. The public’s enthusiastic response, together with subsequent positive reviews, made the group feel welcome in the region’s underground musical scene. That same year, the band started to tour in promotion of their debut in Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico.
In 2001, the group was signed by Latin American Indie label DDM. They recorded a second album in Panama, called Rumba al Pacifico, which was distributed in Central America and Mexico that same year. The band was soon performing more frequently, traveling between Costa Rican beaches, Surf and Skate contests, and festivals such as the Rock Fest. During that time, 13 Millas de Libertad shared the stage with international Latin American acts, such as Argentina’s Ataque 77 and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.
The 13 millas de Libertad’s years from 1996 – 2003
After leaving 13 Millas de Libertad in 2003, Mr. Kowalsky started to work on his own music. In October 2004, he took off to Los Angeles, California, where he met up with friend and producer Evan Rodaniche, with whom he had worked in Panama on the 13 Millas de Libertad albums. Over the course of a couple weeks, they recorded demos for three songs: “Música Levantaste al Muerto,” “Live Free or Die,” and “Soy Un Cabrón.”
In November of 2005, Mr. Kowalsky went back to Los Angeles and recorded his debut solo album, Live Free or Die, exploring new sonic territory by employing a more alternative and indie rock sound. The album was launched in Costa Rica in early 2006.
Mr. Kowalsky moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2008, to pursue music in a new, artistically vibrant city. The move proved fruitful: During his time in Boston, the Costa Rican artist shared the stage with bands like The Toasters, Bim Skala Bim, King Hammond, Westbound Train, The Skatalites and others, while also meeting producers and collaborators who would help shape his future sound.
Mr.K’s second solo album was released in 2012. This second production was called Johnny’s Bazooka (Watch Out for the Kid with the Loaded Gun). Produced By Steve Foote, ex-bass player of Big D and The Kids Table, the record reached back to Mr. Kowalsky’s roots, showcasing a mix of punk rock and ska.
Being artistically active in the US and Costa Rica, and with an eye on Europe, Mr. Kowalsky realized he would have to think creatively to tour successfully. He thus hand-picked three different groups of musicians, one in each region, to join him on the road. The arrangement allowed Mr. Kowalsky to tour fluidly and explore new markets; from 2012-2015, he was performing in such countries as the US, Costa Rica, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, France, England, Netherlands, Belgium, and Romania. Gigging in new places and with new people again had an impact on his aesthetic and artistic goals. Frequenting beach clubs and summer festivals, Mr. Kowalsky added a number of ska and reggae classics to his set list, and his attention inevitably turned to roots reggae, rocksteady, classic ska, and calypso.
In early 2014, surf apparel brand Hurley sponsored a Mr. Kowalsky tour, which took the artist to Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, the US, Germany, and England. The relationship with the brand continued when in May 2015, Hurley invited Mr. Kowalsky to record at their studio in Costa Mesa, California.
Surf Rock Reggae, Mr. Kowalsky’s third solo album, resulted from the sessions at Hurley Recordings. The record was produced by John DeCarlo and Mr. Kowalsky. The album captured Mr. Kowalsky’s search for the roots of reggae and combined it with more modern surf and rock accents. The album was released in September 2015, accompanied by a CD release party tour that took Mr. Kowalsky and his band to cities such as Köln, Amsterdam, Paris, Boston, New York, Mexico City, and others.
Mr. Kowalsky moved to Paris, France in 2016, where he continues to develop his music career.
In December 2020, Mr. Kowalsky presents his fourth album: “Everybody Nice!”, recorded in studios in Los Angeles, Boston, Paris, and Kingston, Jamaica, and featuring guest musicians such as Greg Lee (Hepcat), Vin Gordon (Skatalites, Wailers, Studio One session musician), Jamaica’s Jamila Falak, and Boston’s The Doped Up Dollies.
With 13 Millas de Libertad
13 Millas de Libertad ( 1999, Independent )
Rumba al Pacífico ( 2001, DDM Music Records )
Live Free or Die ( 2006, Independent )
Johnny’s Bazooka, Watch out for the kid with the loaded gun
( 2012, Independent )
Surf Rock Reggae ( 2015, Hurley Recordings )
Everybody Nice! ( 2020, Independent )
Galán Skunk ( 1998)
Beautiful Loneliness (2008)
Live Once (2015)
Chaos Mon Amour (2016)
Sunset Awaits (2016)
California to Kingston (2019)
Jack’s Hill (2020)
Rockin’ in XMAS TIME (2021)
Birth name: Joan Cerdas
Also know as: Mr. Kowalsky or Johnny Kowalsky.
Languages: Español, English, Français
Genres: Reggae – Ska – Rocksteady – Early Reggae – Latin Reggae – Surf – Punk Rock – Alternative Rock – Latin Alternative – Calypso
Occupations: Musician, Songwriter, Graphic Designer.
Instruments: Vocals, Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Bass guitar, Ukelele, Melodica, Piano, Organ.