DozenQ – Rob Johnson

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the series DozenQ

Rob Johnson is a guitarist  and musician from London, who has spent the last few years making instrumental film soundtrack (esque) instrumental albums. Heavily inspired by a wide array of influences, Rob was initially inspired to make a ‘Tubular Bells’ like record for the 21st century after his previous band ended and there was nowhere to house the new demos he had made for that project. He went on to make his debut album ‘Upon a Painted Ocean’ that was released to a little critical acclaim in 2009.
In 2012 he has returned with the follow up, the ambitious ‘Throw The Sun Into The Sea’ which comes in the form of a visual album, as Rob has gone further this time, pursuing another of his loves – film making. Consequently this album comes complete with 10 short films to accompany the music, dealing with themes of heartbreak juxtaposed with a (possible?) alien invasion… Your average instrumental album this is not.

01. What are your earliest memories of music?

I can’t remember anything specific, but I have vague memories of hearing music in my Dad’s car when he would take us places – things like Mike Oldfield and The Police that have remained massive influences on me to this day. Steeleye Span and Clannad not so much…

02. Do you come from a musical family at all?

My mum used to be a music teacher so she taught me some chords on the guitar when I was very young. My brothers and sister are all musical as well (drums, trumpet, flute, singing), so it definitely runs in the family.

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03. Who are your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?

Right now, Peter Gabriel is my biggest influence. Both in terms of music but also the variety of projects he has worked on and the quality he has maintained throughout his career. He is an artist I aspire to be like. In terms of biggest influences on my guitar playing style – it all comes from literally hours of playing along to my favourite albums and almost religiously studying the guitarists of those bands. People like John Frusciante, Tom Morello and Mike Einziger – those are my 3 biggest guitar influences.

I think the music you listen to when you’re growing up and the penny drops and you start actually discovering the music you like instead of what everyone else is listening to is massively important, and for me it changed who I was and everything I wanted to be.

So when I first heard Rage Against The Machine, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus, it kind of blew my mind you know. The first time I saw the Chili Peppers live, I was 16 and it literally changed my life. I saw John Fruscicante playing and literally thought – that is what I want to do. I still love all those bands very dearly and their music has helped me throughout all aspects of my life.

I despise… Maybe bands or artists who seemingly have not worked hard to get where they are, or manufactured bands producing music that is very obvious. A lot of what is played on the radio – whilst the majority is very good and you can understand why it is being played, sometimes you hear a song and it’s just like – ‘are you serious?!’ Those acts I’m not too fond of.

04. What drives you to make music in the way that you do today?

I am a creative person so to have this outlet is in many ways a joy. I have a way in which I can communicate my view of the world to the rest of the world. (Whether or not they choose to listen is another matter entirely… )

At the same time I do feel like I am pursuing something with the sound and ambition of the projects that has the potential to be unique and groundbreaking. I feel like I am finding new ways to make interesting sounds on the guitar and I think I have something to say that hasn’t been said before. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. And you have to have this kind of self belief because it is not easy, and without it I would not be able to pursue it, because it is madness. I just have a general feeling that this is what I am best at in my life and that I should pursue it no matter what. Time will tell whether or not this was a naive assumption.

05. What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live shows?

Fire. Danger. Dancing girls. Guitar theatrics and classic comedy. In that order.

06. What is your song crafting process? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

I am pretty much always writing, however 95% of this will be stuff that I never use, but what I am doing subconsciously is learning what sounds good where, what works and what doesn’t etc. Then every so often I’ll hit a few notes in an interesting or different way and then I’ll know instantly that that is an idea I need to pursue. So straightaway I’ll record it just into my iphone or whatever so it’s not lost in the ether. Then I will keep playing, crafting and chipping away until a song emerges. The process can be sometimes very quick or sometimes very slow. There is now rhyme or reason to it. It’s never the same but it is that constant search that keeps me going. It’s basically like a big jigsaw; working out what needs to go where, and sometimes when you can connect a new part you’ve just come up with to an idea you’ve had for years it’s the best thing ever. Like it was always meant to be or something. It’s basically like connecting the dots.

07. How did your music evolved since you first began playing?

It’s become more structured I suppose. I mean it always was, but at the start I think you follow a very rigid verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break, chorus, chorus structure and nowawdays my songs are not at all like that. Some are very simple and come are very complicated structure wise. I think in general it has just evolved across the board – notes, chords, time signatures, musicality, ambition – as my understanding of the guitar and music in general has grown.

08. What has been your biggest challenge as an artist? Were you been able to overcome this? If so, how?

The biggest challenge I have as an artist (in my opinion) is that the music I make is instrumental. Therefore it is immediately harder for an audience to find, take on and appreciate because there are no words. However, I also feel that some of the most famous and well known music we all know is instrumental so from that respect it doesn’t bother me. But I do think that these challenges that come from being different and out there and not having words while they are at times overwhelming and daunting, they also give me enough ambition to try and overcome people’s pre conceived notions about instrumental music and what an instrumental album will be and sound like.

09. Do you play any covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?

I don’t live, but I do in private and am always toying with the idea. I worked out a version of ‘Breakin a Sweat’ by Skrillex recently that I think worked pretty well… If I could pick any song I’d probably choose Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel. I think that’s just a genius genius song. I don’t think I could play it in public though as I don’t think anything could even come close to the original. Although the best cover I think I’ve ever heard is the Ryan Adams cover of Wonderwall – which you’d think would be an untouchable song to try and cover but he did a amazing job. Also Hurt by Johnny Cash. You listen to a song you’ve heard a million times and you know ever lyric and they make it sound brand new. Incredible.

10. Where did you envisage yourself being in five years time?

Hopefully scoring movies, with a couple more albums on my shelf.

11. Who would you most like to record with?

Red Hot Chili Peppers. I am inspired by their music and think they have an incredible work ethic. I’d love to jam with them – Josh Klinghoffer is basically living my dream right now.

12. What should we be expecting from you in the near future? Please feel free to plug your Album?

I’ve just released a new album called Throw The Sun Into The Sea, and it comes with a short film for every song. You can check it all out on this site If you like instrumental music, music in general or sunshine then you should go check it out. It might just be right up your street. I’ll be out and about playing gigs across London and further afield to promote it. So that is my focus for right now. I’m always working on new songs but I have just spent literally 9 months on Throw The Sun, so now I need a little creative break before I attempt my next project – but I have a few ideas in mind…

Rob Johnson on Facebook

Originally posted 2012-04-30 11:07:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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