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John Hansen, far left, and The Slickee Boys.
John Hansen, a longtime fixture of D.C.’s punk scene known for his pranksterish joie de vivre, who spent much of the ’80s as the roadie, soundman, and then the guitarist of The Slickee Boys, died last Friday. Hansen took his own life, according to his sister, Christine Hansen Martin. He was 47.
Hansen was 16 when he began working for The Slickee Boys around 1979—he had dropped out of high school along with his friend and future brother-in-law Seth Martin, who was then working sound for the early punk and new wave act. Hansen toured with The Slickee Boys throughout the ’80s, and when rhythm guitarist Kim Kane left the group in 1988, Hansen took his place until the band broke up in 1991.
“He was kind of like the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll,” saysMarshall Keith, The Slickee Boys’ guitarist. “He was the powerful person in the club who always got things going.”
Hansen was known for antics on stage and off.Mark Noone, the band’s singer, recalled one before-gig prank at a venue in Connecticut, where Hansen spotted a mouse scurrying at the bottom of an empty trash can in the band’s dressing room. “So John had me hold the door open while he flung the mouse into the girls room,” Noone says. “He was a real prankster—one of those anything-for-a-laugh guys.”
Robbie White, who also did some road work for The Slickee Boys and ran their fan club, remembered one show at the Roxy in Dupont where Hansen joined the band to sing the rock standard “Stepping Stone”—he was wearing a loincloth and nothing beneath it. From the crowd, White’s then-girlfriend ripped it off Hansen while he was singing. Hansen didn’t pause, White says. “He probably appreciated it.”
Hansen played in other groups, like The Zones, his band with Seth Martin; The Upsetters, a glam project with Keith; and, in recent years, an outfit called Septic Twins. He worked for a number of years as a soundman at the old 9:30 Club. In recent years he started a home-renovation business. He played in some of The Slickee Boys’ regular reunion gigs, andearlier this year attended the 9:30 Club’s 30th anniversary party, where the band performed.
“Whenever you’d see John Hansen you’d walk away saying ‘I love that guy,’” says Seth Hurwitz, the co-owner of the 9:30 Club. “It’s very sad and pains me to think of someone who brought so much joy to others being so unhappy himself.”
Hansen took punk rock seriously, The Slickee Boys’ drummer, Dan Palenski, says. “Everything he did was professional.” At one show, Palenski’s snare broke off its stand, and Hansen held it in place for several songs. “He was one of those guys that everybody knew,” Palenski says. “If they had a band they could get an honest opinion of him. He always hated when opening bands got horrible treatment. He always stood [during their sets].”
Christine Hansen Martin says her brother struggled with addiction but that friends and family believed he’d been in recovery. Of his death, she says: “I think it was very sudden, it was not a well-thought-out plan. It was a quick decision. If he’d any time to think about it he wouldn’t have done it.”
“He was one of the most brilliant people I knew and he had the sharpest and quickest wit,” she says.
Hansen is survived by his daughters Emma, 20, and Audrey, 10; his mother; and five siblings.
Hansen’s family and friends have set up a fund for his daughters. Donate to it here.