Making music at sea – Trio of sailors in HMCS Halifax form friendship and band


Joanie Veitch
Trident Newspaper

When Sailor Third Class John Stymiest left on a six-month deployment with HMCS Halifax Jan. 1, he brought his acoustic guitar, figuring it would help pass the time on his first deployment.

As the warship headed to Europe to take part in NATO exercises under Operation Reassurance, S3 Stymiest found two other sailors wanting to play.  It was not long before the trio were creating original music and playing at an event in front of the entire ship’s company, including Cmdre Bradley Peats, Commodore of Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1).

While the warship was docked in Stockholm in April, it held a talent show dubbed “HMCS Halifax Eurovision 2021”. 

“It was something special to play our music and see the smiles and joy from the crew during a deployment where the normality of exploring different countries during port visits no longer exists,” says S3 Stymiest. “We knew the ship’s company would be surprised, as they had never seen us play music together before. We mostly wrote in private so that we could give a little shock value.”

They won the talent show, of course.

S3 Stymiest met fellow musician S1 Francis van der Kamp while playing guitar in the Junior Ranks mess. His rap and hip-hop style blended with S1 van der Kamp’s singer-songwriter background and they came up with something they describe as “folk rap”.

“Think Dallas Green meets Classified meets Linkin Park,” says S3 Stymiest, who goes by the stage name Johnny GASH, in a nod to his navy life, a term used to describe garbage aboard ship.

“At first it was just something fun we would do on our off time, but soon we realized we had tremendous chemistry and decided we would start writing original music together,” says S3 Stymiest.

Master Sailor Colin Puff heard about their unique musical style and brought his guitar to one of their jam sessions. MS Puff loved their blend of music. Having studied music production at Algonquin College in Ottawa, he offered to help with production and sound.

“He started playing with us and integrated perfectly. As he is more of a producer, he gave us advice on that side which is incredibly appreciated as sometimes that is what you need to not get too carried away,” says S1 van der Kamp, who plays under the moniker VDK.

The combination of musical styles worked immediately, with MS Puff and S1 van der Kamp playing guitar and S3 Stymiest on main vocals.

“Johnny would just start freestyling over whatever we played and then VDK would sing a random hook. The music comes so easy with these guys,” said MS Puff.

They plan to record an EP to release on Spotify and bring their music to the Halifax music scene once they are back from deployment, and once COVID restrictions allow for live shows.


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