Interview: Rob Johnson

Dan McAvinchey: Rob, what made you want to pick up the guitar? Who were some of your earliest influences?

Rob Johnson: My dad always played music around the house when I was growing up. I was always fascinated by the sound of the guitar. Some of my earliest influences were Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, Warren DeMartini, Jake E. Lee and Paul Gilbert. After I learned a lot from these players I started getting into the jazz/fusion players such as Allan Holdsworth, Mike Stern, Al DiMeola and Scott Henderson. Every good guitarist that I've ever heard has inspired me in some way.

Dan McAvinchey: What guitars, amps, and effects are you currently using to get your sound?

Rob Johnson: I currently own three guitars -- Ibanez Universe 7-string guitars. Also, I'm using and designing Greco (Japan) 7-string guitars. For amps, I'm using a variety of ADA, Mesa Boogie and Rocktron equipment. I record using Alesis ADATs. For strings I use S.I.T, and I use DiMarzio pickups. In addition, I use a Roland guitar synth, a Vox wah-wah, and a Digitech Whammy pedal.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you trying to achieve musically?

Rob Johnson: I just want to write good, melodic, technical, intense, guitar-oriented songs. I hope to have the ability to inspire someone, someday.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your long-term goals?

Rob Johnson: My long-term goals are simple, continue improving and have fun! I don't care really if I don't become a "rock star" or a "guitar hero", as long as I'm happy with my music and maybe someone else likes it too.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your most recently completed projects and what are you currently working on?

Rob Johnson: I just finished my third instrumental guitar CD, available in January, 1997. The vocal group I play with, Saddleback Shark, recently released a CD.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you write your music?

Rob Johnson: I just write it at home. It usually starts by just jamming or practicing. Some days I have zero ideas; other days I can write a song in a few hours. The drummer, Rick May, and the bassist, Karl Gunther also add a lot of cool ideas when we track a song.

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Dan McAvinchey: Do you record in a home studio or rent time at a commercial facility?

Rob Johnson: I have a home studio and my drummer has a 24-track home studio. We cut rhythm tracks at his place and I do all the guitars at home.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you decide to form your own record label and release an independent record?

Rob Johnson: Well actually, I just got tired of waiting around! In Japan I have a three-year contract with a label, but for now in the States I do it myself. I'm in total control of the money and of my artistic freedom.

Dan McAvinchey: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Rob Johnson: The advantage is being able to make your own decisions. The disadvantages are not being in record stores everywhere and having as much promotion.

Dan McAvinchey: Would you have any marketing or promotion tips for musicians about to release their first independent record?

Rob Johnson: Save up a bunch of money to use strictly for advertising -- the money spent is tax-deductible from your earnings. You should make posters, do clinics or shows, and do your best to get product into local or national stores, if you can.

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Rob Johnson is a guitar player from Columbus, Ohio, who plays in the metal band Saddleback Shark. He has released two solo albums "Rob Johnson" and "Peripheral", with a third solo CD slated for release in February, 1997. Johnson's rhythm work has been compared to Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and Scott Stine. His lead work is aggressive, melodic, and he can rip with the best of 'em. Johnson has started his own record label -- Screemin' Geetar Records -- which permits him to release his records with total artistic freedom.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Johnson to ask him about his independence and his plans for the future.