[Mixtape] Guerilla Humanitarian, Jon Rose

Shot: Waves For Water Documentary

I first met Jon Rose in a filthy basement in Long Beach, New York. He had a shovel in his hand. Post-Hurricane Sandy mobilization was underway, spearheaded by Jon and the organization he founded, Waves for Water (W4W). That hurricane, which rocked major swathes of the Tri-State area’s coastlines, is one of the many natural disasters and crises that W4W has responded to over the years all over the globe—from Haiti to Nepal.

The former pro surfer-turned-humanitarian’s ethos, “Do what you love and help along the way,” and his tireless commitment to innovation has injected a fresh perspective into the red tape-laden world of international aid. We caught up with him on the subject of his personal soundtrack and which music inspires him while he racks up passport stamps.

Part of the ongoing series of interviews created in conjunction with AllSwell. Read on and listen in to the playlist DJ Glen Walsh created based on Jon’s daily dose of “Scratch” and a history of sticky fingers.

What’s your go-to first listen of the day?

Every single morning I wake up to good old school roots reggae. I have always been a fan of roots artists such as Gladiators, The Mighty Diamonds, Horace Andy, Peter Tosh, etc. The best outlet for a good mix of all the old stuff is the Lee “Scratch” Perry’s TuneIn Internet radio station. It’s what I put on every morning.

First album you ever bought with your own money?

Iron Maiden’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” I didn’t buy it, though. I stole the cassette tape from a thrifty drugstore.

Juvie! Speaking of formative years, what were you listening to in junior high?

I’ve always had a pretty diverse taste in music, even as a kid. I was listening to Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, and at the same time artists like The Cranberries and Tracy Chapman.

Do you have certain music that puts you in the mood to create?

Sometimes I like to work to deep house. Something really rhythmic that drives me from one thought to the next, like Bob Moses, etc.

First concert you ever went to?

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Tour.

Most recent live show?

GNR at Dodger Stadium.

Favorite music venue?

Greek Theatre for bigger shows and the (old) Hollywood Palladium for smaller shows.

Who are your musical muses?

Iggy Pop and Tom Waits.

That’s a badass duo. Top or most unlikely live music moment?

The Kills. Alison Mosshart is a force on stage.

Was music a big part of how you grew up? What was the soundtrack of your early youth?

Yes, it was. As I said, I had a very diverse music taste from a young age. I was listening to everything: Buzzcocks, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Tosh, 2Pac and Biggie, Goodie Mob, Cat Stevens, etc. I was all over the map.

Being “all over the map” is sort of how your travel schedule looks these days. How did your parents inform your taste in music?

My pops turned me on to Cat Stevens, James Taylor, America and a bunch of other good folky singer-songwriters that I still dig today.

Groovy. Okay, let’s get real. What’s a date deal breaker in terms of music? AKA: If they own the T-shirt from the tour, you’re out.

Creed, 3 Doors Down…you get the point!

Point received. Quick: vinyl, cassette or digital? Don’t think just answer.


We love a good road trip. What musical memories do you have from road trips past?

A couple that come to mind are 2Pac and Blind Melon. These two artists remind me of specific places every time I hear them.

We know exactly what you mean. How do you discover new music? Who widens your musical world?

I discover music typically from three sources: Soundcloud, Spotify and Hype Machine. They all have pretty good “discover” sections within their platform.

Best lyricist?

Bob Dylan and 2Pac.

To become a Clean Water Courier or learn more about Waves for Water, check out www.wavesforwater.org/couriers. To follow along Jon’s global adventures give him a follow @jon_rose.