BY JOSHUA M. MILLER | PHOTO BY LAURA DIERBECK
Jon Frost is always looking for ways to make the world around him better — whether it’s through his job as a firefighter, songwriter and producer or through other means of community outreach.
“Your legacy is not about the material things that you build up. It’s about how much you’ve given away, how much you’ve helped your community. That’s the kind of legacy that I want to leave,” says Frost. “It’s not about the things that I’ve accumulated or have, because that stuff decomposes. It’s not something people will remember you for. They’ll remember you for the deeds that you’ve done and the people you’ve helped. That’s what I try to build my life around, just being helpful.”
Frost, who has spent the past decade at various firehouses around the area, currently drives fire engines and trucks for the Milwaukee Fire Department. Any doubts he had about the dangers of the job were dashed when he saw how much of an impact he could have.
“I found out how involved in the community [the department is] and that’s the component that lead me to say ‘Hey, this might be something to look into,’” he says.
While he was working at Engine 30, he recalls regularly seeing the poor living conditions in the 53206 zip code. There was a lot of anger and frustration in many of the households and not much love. So he knew he needed to step up.
“When I go on runs and calls, I try to smile and joke with the kids, because a lot of time there are kids in the home and parents are there and it’s a lot of cussing and a lot of anger and just no love in the house,” says Frost, “so I try to come in and be a beacon of light for that brief period of time. Just smile at them, laugh with them or play with them while I’m there.”
When Frost has downtime on the job or is off duty, he often writes and produces songs under the moniker Jon Brown, sometimes for Kill The Motherboard, his joint project with producer Jack Splash. He writes songs intended to initiate conversations about important social topics. Kill The Motherboard released its most recent album last summer.
|"Your legacy is not about the material things that you build up. It's about how much you've given away, how much you've helped your community. That's the kind of legacy that I want to leave." ~ Jon Frost"|
“A lot of the songs that I wrote for the album are more on a conscious level,” Frost says. “They were more introspective and dealt with the things that were going on in my community, because I was experiencing a lot of that stuff just through firefighting and in just living where we live.”
His music, he continues, provides him a form of therapy and a platform to speak out about “atrocities or crimes against humanity” going on in his own community. Some of the songs on the latest Kill The Motherboard album address gun violence, an important topic for Frost as he and his family moved to a new neighborhood a few years ago to escape crime and violence.
For example, the song “Saint Paul” is about a shooting that happened not too far from where Brown grew up, in a neighborhood known as Wall Park. “One day my wife and I were just taking a walk and we saw a bunch of police cars and firefighters and paramedics — just people all over the place, people running around screaming and crying, and bodies laying on the concrete,” Frost recalls. “Someone had just got shot. It happened to be Archie Brown, who was a very well-respected individual in the community, and that just impacted me. A child was involved also, and so every time I would drive past that area, every day I would think about it and I couldn’t get that vision out of my head, so I felt that I had to write about it to purge myself.”
He also writes about the importance of forgiveness in “The Water.”
“No matter what we’ve done in our lives, every second that we are alive is another opportunity to change and to do better for yourself,” Frost offers. “You can’t do anything so egregious that you can’t be forgiven. Everyone deserves a second chance in life.… That’s what it’s all about, forgiveness. It’s not for the person that committed the deed or the crime; it’s for the person who’s forgiving. That’s who benefits from forgiveness most of the time.” MKE