The Ol’ Dirty Bastard aside, no one was more accurately nicknamed than Josh the Goon. We met right after he finished engineering The Knux’s 2008 opus Remind Me in Three Days. A friend’s friend threw a party in a rented Los Feliz mansion and word spread to the Goon, who materialized with a handle of Jack Daniels and the illicit supplies of a street pharmacist.
No party existed that the Goon couldn’t conquer, whether by hilarious vulgarity, caustic music commentary, entertaining paranoid conspiracy or merely being “the Goon.” He was a legend in dive bars across America — a bullet-headed, wheelbarrow-chested, tatted-up beast with undying loyalty and a sentimental heart.
The party temporarily halted when Josh got a little too wrecked that night in Los Feliz and knocked over a wall of shelves. You could’ve heard the crash back in Venice, where he was raised. After it fell, with the valuable shattered objects crinkling on the floor, we all stared at one another, cracked up and slowly exited. It was vintage Goon.
The party permanently stopped last week when Josh the Goon died suddenly. Without a full autopsy report, it’s not yet clear what happened. What is clear is that L.A. lost a beloved character, one who possessed the capacity to party like Axl in ’88. He was only 35.
Born Joshua Fadem, the Goon was a singular eccentric, the kind contemporary Venice rarely produces anymore — a combination of hardcore punk and hardcore rap kid spawned from the ashes of the fading Dogtown world. He turned scumbaggery into art. I mean that as the highest compliment.
The Goon never craved press or loudly demanded credit, but he was one of those overlooked integral figures who help a music scene thrive. After his stint with The Knux, which included a lyrical shout-out and cameo in their “Cappuccino” video, the Goon began engineering and producing for Freddie Gibbs.
Their bond was intricate and almost familial. It was the Goon who stayed in touch with Gibbs after Gibbs got dropped from Interscope, moved to Atlanta and got caught up in drugs. It was the Goon whom Gibbs called after a gunfight, while he was hiding out from his attackers. Despite being broke, the Goon purchased a plane ticket for Gibbs, demanding he return to L.A., and let him sleep for months on the couch in the apartment he shared with future Gibbs producer Sid “Speakerbomb” Miller.
As Gibbs wrote upon hearing of the Goon’s passing: “I wouldn’t be here without you. … You saved my life and resurrected my career.”
The Goon engineered almost every Gibbs project, from the classic early mixtapes to his Madlib collaboration, Piñata. He would’ve been the first to tell you that he wasn’t the greatest technical engineer, but his absurd and lovable personality allowed everyone in the studio to stay loose and produce their finest work.
Behind the boards, he also produced or co-produced some of Gibbs’ best songs, including “4681 Broadway,” “Queen” and “National Anthem (Fuck the World).” He managed to collaborate with many of his heroes, including DJ Muggs and Sick Jacken. Somewhere in there, he found time to become an expert web developer, which he did as a sideline until his final days.
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Few in this warped industry were as brutally honest or consistently interesting; he was too weird to live, too raw to die. There’s only his legend now, which exists eternal in everyone who ever watched him hoist or break a glass. There’s no real way to cope except by pouring out a little bit of every type of liquor tonight in memory of the Goon. This city has gotten a little less colorful and a lot less real.
An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Bizarre Ride show on RBMA Radio. Follow him on Twitter @passionweiss.