Brian Johnson Interview

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– How long have you been producing music? What’s been your proudest moment in electronic music so far?
I’ve been producing for about 15 years. I started out recording demos with my R&B group and shortly after, began tracking and arranging for local and international artits/dj’s in various downtown Toronto studios. Every day I worked on something completely different- genres ranging from religious sung sermons, to hardcore gangsta’ rap, to corporate sound signatures. But my electronic influences continuously came from my co-studio partners. They were heavily into electronic music, we’d create tracks together and study the latest releases in our off-time. This eventually sparked the start of our label Bohemian Yacht Club, which I’m quite proud of.

– What interests you aside from music?
Well, if I’m not tracking vocals in the studio, producing for someone else (or myself), or working on a set- I’m sleeping. But I must add, I’m a massive basketball fan on many levels, and try to get a game in when time permits. I actually have a bunch of electronic players on one of my teams, and I’m open to all challengers!

– Do you remember the first electronic music you heard? Did you immediately realize it was something you wanted to do yourself?
It’s tough to say what my first electronic music was, I was a fan of many different styles when I was growing up. I remember listening to guys like LTJ Bukem, Micky Finn for D&B, Aly Us, Lidel townsell/Outhere and even some Bonzai Phycadelic trance. I never really stuck to one style. I knew when I was very young that music was going to be a part of my life forever, but I only recently started pre-releasing my own tracks.

– What was the last record you bought and why? Do you get record shopping in Toronto much these days?
Records, oh how I miss thee…haven’t bought one in almost 5 years now, I switched to other platforms, and the rest is Beatport history.  Although I love the sound and feel of vinyl on 1200/1210’s, nothing can compare. But maybe it’s just nostalgia

– So what’s your vinyl collection like? Is it pretty extensive?
I’ve been collecting for a long time, since 12” where inexpensive and quite obtainable.  I would collect, share and trade with my close friends. We have endless wall units full of classic hip hop, house, soul, reggae, techno- you name it. Not to mention all the promo stuff from artists over the years. We also have a few autographed Chris Liebing, Tomas Krome & Timo vinyls to mention some electronic ones.

– As a DJ what do you see is your role? Do you only buy tracks you’ll play these days? Or do you buy stuff for home listening too?
I buy all types of music for different reasons, some for getting a good vibe before producing, others to play in my sets, and some for personal listening.

– And do you pack different bags depending on where you are playing? Are there a lot of different cliques and scenes in Toronto in that essence?
Although there are a lot of scenes in Toronto, you will usually find me in the deep house and techno areas. However, I do occasionally enjoy checking out other club vibes.

– How much stock do you put in DJ feedback from your productions? Is it something you’re at all conscious of?
I’m generally open to criticism in the creation phase of my music. If something doesn’t fit, I remove it and try again, until it’s well received. I believe I’ve gotten some positive feedback from my released tracks due to this. I really appreciate when people go out of their way to send me messages about my stuff. I always try to respond if I can.

– And what’s your favourite thing about producing music? Are you self-taught or trained?
My favourite thing would be when the track nears the finish line, especially when I’m collaborating with different artist/producers. In regards to my training, it’s a little bit of both- I was quite fortunate and learned in different places from instructors at various studios, some of whom were teachers at highly sought after schools. I would “pick their brains” and sit in on mixdown sessions. I also take classes here and there, if there’s something new that interests me.

– Hardware? Software? Both?
Both! Trust me, I’ve done the research. I won’t get into it, it’s an endless discussion…

– Tell us about your latest EP and the inspiration for it…
Ethnic Undertones came together a little over a year ago. I was working with Geneva on one of his songs and he dropped a freestyle at the end of his track. I asked him if I could use it for a House release, and he was all about it.

– Do you make music and then send to labels? Or vice-versa?
Most of the time, I make tracks with the label in mind. But here and there, a label will shoot me an email for something specific, or I’ll run into a label representative.

– And what more can we look forward to from Brian Johnson?
Some of my best work will be coming out this summer featuring strong collaborations with extremely talented artists. I was tempted to leak a bit on Ethnic Undertones, but decided that both deserve individual releases.

Interview by Ian Fleming

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