Interview: Rob Johnson

Discussion in 'Artist Reviews & Interviews' started by Chris, Apr 11, 2005.

  1. Chris

    Chris Forum MVP

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    Apr 19, 2004
    Boston, Mass
    <div align="right"><img src="" alt="Rob Johnson of Magnitude 9" />
    <b>Interview: Rob Johnson of Magnitude 9</b>
    <i><font size="1">By: WC7, The Real 7 & Jerich</font></i>
    <img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="" alt="Rob Johnson" />
    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;"></span>: First off I would like to say welcome, and thank you Rob Johnson for granting us this opportunity.
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">Rob Johnson</span>: Thank you, I'm happy to do an interview for - I think it's a really cool site!

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777 (WC7)</span>: I see that you have been a very busy man, not only with your solo work, but also shredding away as the guitar player in the progressive metal band Magnitude9 and your instructional series with Chops from Hell. For those who are not fortunate enough to know who Rob Johnson is, could you tell us a little about yourself?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Sure. I've been playing since I was around 12 or 13. My main influences include Yngwie, Paul GIlbert, Ronni Le Tekro (of TNT), Paul Gilbert and Jason Becker. I have 3 solo shred guitar instrumental cd releases. These were released in Japan & Europe. They can be ordered from the website at Guitar 9 Records: <a style="text-decoration:none" href="" target="_TOP"><span style="color:8080FF;font-weight:bold;">Rob Johnson - Guitarchitecture</span></a> You can also find a best of CD by me that Chops From Hell Released here: <a style="text-decoration:none" href="" target="_TOP"><span style="color:8080FF;font-weight:bold;">Rob Johnson - Chronicles of Shred</span></a> As well as a Guitar Instruction DVD & CDROM called Shred Tactics, here: <a style="text-decoration:none" href="" target="_TOP"><span style="color:8080FF;font-weight:bold;">Rob Johnson - Shred Tactics</span></a>

    I'm also in the melodic metal/prog metal band Magnitude Nine. I guess we are similar to groups like Queensryche, Dream Theater, TNT, Fates Warning - that sort of style. We have three CDs out so fa, our most recent being "Decoding The Soul". You can pick them up in stores, or from sites like Other than that, I'm endorsed by Ibanez, Dimarzio and SIT Strings.

    <img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="" alt="Rob Johnson" />
    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>:The first thing one notices when listening to you Rob, is your speed and articulation across the fretboard - truly amazing. Can you give us some insight into your preparation and/or methods of practice, discipline, warm up and so on?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: I would say just take your time. It took me years to get comfortable with my playing & to get to where it's at now. Some days though, I can still be sloppy & I still need to warm up at times. I would say a good warm up is spreading out 10 minutes for scales and 10 minutes for riffs. what really helped me is playing along with a drum machine. Those are all good warm ups. I used to practice 8 - 10 hours a day, when I was younger & had time. Now my time is spent mostly on warming up, then trying to make up new licks, work on songwriting, things like that.
    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: With this in mind, what do you do to un-wind? In other words are there times when you just play and improvise?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Oh yeah, there are days when I just like to plug in and just jam and just enjoy the time and sounds of the guitar & not worry about what I'm doing. I started playing guitar because its fun, so I always try to keep that in mind. There are days when I don't touch my guitar. And days when I don't put it down. So I would say, don't force yourself. Play when you want, Go to a movie when you want. Just enjoy it.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Creating music whether it is a solo effort or one combined with other musicians is no easy task, however I can't imagine the pressure involved in creating an instructional series. Can you explain your inspiration for taking on such a task and what if any obstacles you overcame to complete it?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Sometimes I get emails from people requesting lessons from me. I have done that, but now that I'm so busy, it's hard to do that for all the requests. I used to take a few lessons by mail back in the late 80s from Jason Becker before he got too busy. That was fun and inspiring as well. I also took some lessons by mail from Brett Garsed.

    So, I talked to Chops From Hell and we came up with the idea of me recording a Lesson Video, with some cool licks, that would maybe solve that issue. I basically wrote down some licks I use a lot & like, and showed them on the video. Then people can expand on my ideas & come up with their own. I'm working on my next lesson video now.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: One question that comes to mind, especially for young up and coming guitar players, concerns the path to becoming a guitar player. There are those that are self-taught and those that have a formal education in music. Can you share your thoughts and experiences in respect to this?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: I think starting out; A bit of FORMAL education, with a GUITAR TEACHER really helps. I'm not saying take 3 years of lessons, But even a few months with a good teacher, one on one, really helps. I took Formal Lessons with Various guitar teachers, off & on when I was starting, then I got to the point to where I was getting good enough to learn & understand on my own. Then I started buying books & lesson videos that helped me out a lot. So I think some of FORMAL & SELF TAUGHT is a good idea. Start out with a teacher to get you going, and then go for it on your own. Take lessons from others off & on. My motto is, you can never learn enough. I'm still learning all the time & I'm no where near to where Id like to be as a Guitar player. I think we can all always improve. If you already think you know it and can't learn anymore, then you're done.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Listening to Magnitude9 for the first time, I thought you guys were European; can you shed some light on some of your influences?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Sure. We are an American group,inspired by all types of metal. I like everything from hard rock to prog rock to death metal. Our main influences would be the melodic metal bands.We all grew up listening to Dio, Metallica, Queensryche, Fates Warning, Yngwie, Racer X, Maiden - and yes, even bands like Ratt and Motley Crue. I've always thought Warren DeMartini of Ratt is awesome.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Whose idea was it to do Flight of Icarus - amazing job, by the way. [hums along] Especially the solo?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Thanks! That was my idea to do that tune. I wanted to do an Iron Maiden tune that most people had heard & was really catchy. That's just a great metal song - powerful with great guitar & great vocals. I'm glad you like the solo , I tried to spice it up a bit with some arpeggios & fast picking in there , yet still keeping it similar to the original solo which is so melodic.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777 (Jerich)</span>: On your first self titled CD you seemed to just be having fun, really rocking out and enjoying it, but barely touching on what you could do as a guitar player, How do you rate your own CDs?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: I agree. With my 1ST solo CD, I did not really have any set direction on style. I just played what felt right & had fun.
    Some songs are heavy, others are bluesy. It's a decent CD, but my favorite solo CD of mine, which showcases my best song writing & playing skills, is
    Guitarchitecture, my 3rd Cd. There are things on my debut CD that I would change now, but that's where my head was at then.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: You have an original and distinct sound and style, but at times one is reminded of Satriani/Vai/Petrucci/Gilbert - and a spicy Jason Becker, was this planned or did it just happen?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Wow, thanks for those kind words. It's nice to be compared to greats like those guys! Since I like & listen to all of
    those players, I think it's just natural that they rubbed off on my style. They are amazing.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: You used to take Lessons from Jason Becker - how was that experience?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Yeah, I used to write him letters back when he was in Cacophony. It was really cool, because he would write me back, answer my silly questions & send me guitar picks. I then asked if I could take a few lessons with him by mail. I took about 5, before he got so busy that he didn't have time. But his licks from those lessons really helped. He is one of the best shredders ever. In my opinion, His CD 'Perpetual Burn' is still one of the best guitar shred CDs ever.

    <img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="" alt="Rob Johnson" />
    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Would you ever do the G3 tour if asked?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: mm, I'm not sure if I'm good enough! [laughs] Those guys are amazing. Maybe I could be a back up player.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: On "Guitarchitecture" you really seem to rest all the backing guitars on the seven string. How has the seven string guitar helped you convey yourself through your music? As a seven string guitar player what does the seven hold for you?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: I've been a seven string player since 1994. Just having that extra string really helped me think about the guitar in a different way. Just more riffs you can do, things like that. It just feels natural in my hands. A six string neck feels so odd to me now.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Your use of the Digitech Whammy pedal in the song "Negotiable" on your self-titled CD would make even Tom Morello jealous. How did that come to be? Would it be difficult to replicate live?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: I thought that was a cool sounding pedal, so I wanted to use it on a few tunes. My favorite use of that pedal is on the song "Transcendental" from my cd Guitarchitecture. I don't want to over use the pedal like Tom does , but I like it in a few songs.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Hands down your song "Nerve Disorder" is a great tune. What was the gear setup for recording it?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Thanks!I used my 1992 Ibanez Universe With Custom wired DiMarzio PAF PRO 7's. Steve Blucher at DIMARZIO wired those for me, and they sound killer. I used back then my ADA MP1 Preamp.It had some killer tones & great lead sounds.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: How do you keep your music even flowing and interesting at the same time?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: I just try to write something I would like to hear, if I bought a cd. I like shredding licks, yet melody & structure at the same time. I try my best to fuse them both, and make the song Flow.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Any word on something new from Saddleback Shark?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: We broke up years ago, back in 98, but we had some fun times & we still keep in touch. Now my only focus is Magnitude Nine.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777 (TheReal7)</span>: What have you been up to?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: Lately I've been demoing new tunes & working on ideas for my new Lesson DVD.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: What gear do you use?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: My Ibanez Universe Models, and a new Custom 7 string the Ibanez LA Custom shop made for me. I'm using Rockton amps.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: Do you have any unique 7 strings in your collection?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: The most unique one is an awesome , all black LA Custom seven string built to my specs by the Ibanez Custom shop. Its all black, with a matte finish, not glossy. I wanted a seven string with 3 humbuckers in a row, so it has 3 in the row & looks cool. It sounds great.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">777</span>: What is your fondest memory in all your years of playing?
    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: My fondest memories are when I got to travel to Japan, do some guitar clinics, meet with Japan Fans, have a custom guitar made for me, and being featured in some Guitar Magazine interviews. Oh, and having my cds released on a real label worldwide.

    <span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">WayneCustom7</span>: On behalf of all of the forum members and any 7 string guitar players out there, I want to thank you for taking the time out and taking part in this interview. I also wish you huge success in all of your forthcoming projects, and life in general.

    <span style="color:eek:range;font-weight:bold;">RJ</span>: This was fun, Thanks to you - your site is great! Thanks for your interest in my playing, I look forward to hearing from all the seven stringers out there, I welcome your emails, hit me anytime!
  2. TheReal7

    TheReal7 Mr. Melody Contributor

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    Feb 7, 2005
    In a cabin in the woods...
    Awesome Rob, thanks for the interview.
  3. WayneCustom7

    WayneCustom7 Paolo Contributor

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    Dec 2, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    This one is the LA CUSTOM IBANEZ 7 STRING they made for Rob Johnson with 3
    Humbuckers , Custom wired to HIS specs by Dimarzio.
    Hopefully Chris can edit the original interview and include this baby.
  4. Jerich

    Jerich Contributor

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    Jul 2, 2004
    ridley park PA
    Great interview GUYS!!!! we need some photo's of those guitars ROB speaks Of I'd like to see a Lot of those GRECO's for some reason. Hey Rob do not make me fly out to OHIO and take the photo's myself ..HAHA!! thanks ROB.
  5. Shawn

    Shawn Ibanez Guitars Forum MVP

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    Apr 2, 2005
    Southern Maine
    That's pretty nice, man!
  6. Michael

    Michael Forum MVP

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    Aug 26, 2005
    Geelong, Victoria, Australia
    Rob is my favorite guitarist of all time. Great playing, tone, songs, everything is there!
  7. Mark. A

    Mark. A gang* 4 lyfe Contributor

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    Jan 9, 2006
    Melbourne, Australia
    I agree Mawd, Rob is one of my favorites. Amazing player, his legato runs he does flow so well, it's insane.
  8. TheReal7

    TheReal7 Mr. Melody Contributor

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    Feb 7, 2005
    In a cabin in the woods...

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