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Todd Johnson: Feature Interview

Discussion in 'Features' started by TalkBass, Jan 9, 2006.


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  1. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <table width="200" border="0" align="left" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2"> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=222546"><img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/toddjohnson/johnson3.jpg" width="200" height="250" border="0"></a></td> </tr> <tr> <td><span class="style1">Photo &copy; Stan Hollon </span></td> </tr> </table> <p align="center"><font size="+3"><b>Todd Johnson on TalkBass.com</b></font></p> <p align="center"><strong>Acclaimed Bassist Joins TalkBass.com, Hosts Dedicated Q &amp; A Forum </strong></p> <p align="left">I'm excited to announce Todd Johnson, acclaimed musician and pioneer of the 6-string bass, is the host of a new &quot;Ask A Pro&quot; Q&amp;A forum here on TalkBass.com. I won't try to detail his accomplishments - it's all spelled out in the following feature interview conducted by TB member &quot;SMASH&quot;. Todd Johnson's Q&amp;A forum is located under the &quot;Ask A Pro&quot; category in our Bass Guitar forums. <a href="http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?&t=222546">Read Interview</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.talkbass.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=140">Visit Forum</a>
     
  2. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <p><i><center>Interview for TalkBass.com by TB member "SMASH"</center></i></p>
    <p><strong>Introduce yourself! Tell us what you're up to, what gear you use, etc. </strong></p> <p>Hi my name is Todd Johnson. I'm a professional bassist and educator in Los Angeles. I'm looking forward to hosting a <a href="http://www.talkbass.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=140">forum here on TalkBass.com</a>. Please be sure to stop by my website <a href="http://www.toddjohnsonmusic.com">www.toddjohnsonmusic.com</a> and check it out. There you can check out my gear, full bio, gig/tour calendar, cd's and instructional DVD's.</p> <p>Gear I'm using: My main bass is the new ZON TJ-6 model. I string it up with ZON ultra sonic strings .135 through .32 This is my dream bass that Joe Zon and I designed specifically for me and the way I play the 6 string bass. The guys at ZON are my hero's!! Joe is way ahead of his time. Stop by my site for pictures and specs or come see me at NAMM and let me know what you think!!! <a href="http://www.zonguitars.com">www.zonguitars.com</a></p> <p>I've also been known to take out my Barker Vertical Bass from time to time!!! Be sure to stop by the Barker Bass Forum and check it out!! Lee Barker is really onto something!!! <a href="http://www.barkerbass.com">www.barkerbass.com</a></p> <p>I plug into a Thunderfunk head then into an Accugroove Tri110L. I turn it on, set it flat and turn it up.........this is the sound I've been searching for. I'm EXTREMELY content with this rig. <a href="http://www.accugroove.com">www.accugroove.com</a></p> <p>I highly recommend and endorse Ensotec cables. You can't beat 'em. Plus they're affordable and extremely affordable. Check them out at <a href="http://www.ensotec.com">www.ensotec.com</a></p> <p><strong>Describe your current projects - how do they inspire you and allow you to grow as a bassist &amp; musician, and please mention some of the different things (musical or not) do you bring to each project.</strong></p> <p>I've recently jumped into the instructional DVD market, releasing my first DVD &quot;The Walking Bass Line Module System&quot;- Volume 1, in September 2005. (For any former BIT students out there, this is the same method I taught at BIT and everyone's been bugging me to release!) (Volumes 2 and 3 should be out later in 2006)</p> <p>Plus I'll also have my second DVD, <em>Technique Builders</em> - The essential guide to electric bass technique ...available February 1st.</p> <p>What do I bring to the instructional DVD's? Well, first of all, if you want to REALLY learn something then teach it to someone else! Ha!</p> <p>I've been teaching since 1991 at such notable institutions as Musicians Institute (BIT), Cal Arts, College of the Canyons and I'm currently teaching at The Masters College........so.....experience, application and expertise would be the main things I bring as an educator.</p> <p>Plus as a Christian musician, teaching has become my &quot;ministry&quot;. One of my main purposes in life is to help bass player/musicians improve their skills and &quot;hopefully&quot; minister to others. If I can help raise the bar even a little bit, then God will have found me useful for His purposes!</p> <p>I've been playing with the Ron Eschete trio since 1991. We're set to release our 6th or 7th cd in February. It's a live CD entitled <em>In the middle - Live at Spazio</em>. This is arguably as good a jazz guitar trio as there is. This group is where I've developed my &quot;playing bass lines and chord changes technique&quot; and my &quot;melodic&quot; approach. This has been my &quot;Doctoral program&quot; so to speak. Playing with Ron Eschete for 15 years has been the best thing that could have happened to me. It's truly a blessing, honor and privilege to work (and essentially study) with such a &quot;harmonic&quot; genius.</p> <table width="200" border="0" align="right" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2"> <tr> <td><img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/toddjohnson/johnson2.jpg" width="300" height="225"></td> </tr> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> </tr> </table> <p>Last year I released <em>Get Happy</em> with Kristin Korb on upright bass and vocals, myself on 6 string bass (but functioning as the guitar player) and Kendall Kay on drums. If you don't know Kristin, then you better get busy! (<a href="http://www.kristinkorb.com">www.kristinkorb.com)</a> She's the REAL DEAL.....plays like Ray Brown, sings like Ella!! Her first CD was as a singer with the &quot;RAY BROWN TRIO&quot;. Hey, &quot;good enough for Ray Brown, good enough for me&quot;. Ha!</p> <p>This group has been a tremendous opportunity for me to explore &quot;chord melody&quot; on the 6 string bass. I've got a pretty good start on it, but the more I learn, the more stuff I realize is &quot;just out of my grasp&quot;......BUT, a year from now I'll have more of it under my fingers and then realize (again) the music that is just out of my grasp. It's an ongoing process, but the key is to keep grabbing a little more of it all the time.</p> <p>I've been working a lot recently with my good friend and great piano player, Jim Martinez (<a href="http://www.jimmartinez.com">www.jimmartinez.com</a>). In fact we'll be playing the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow Idaho with Kristin Korb February 22 - 25th. Jim and I have been doing a bunch of jazz arrangements of Christian hymns. This is really fun and joyous music to put it mildly. Plus with Jim, on some gigs I'm the bass player........other gigs, he hires an upright player and I function as the guitar player or horn player. It's really an enjoyable challenge to be able to change roles at a moments notice!!!</p> <p>Plus, Jim is also one of the best businessmen I know. He's brilliant. I'm learning A LOT about the business end of things from him. What a blessing he is!!</p> <p>This last year has also allowed me the great joy of getting to know and work with Dr. Kate Reid. She's a MARVELOUS vocalist and piano player. Think....Diana Krall meets Sarah Vaughn. Working with Kate is teaching me the finer points of accompanying another GREAT vocalist. Her melodic phrasing is just superb, so the last thing you want to do is get in the way of that....yet you really want to give her the maximum amount of support at the same time......inspiring and challenging to put it mildly!!</p> <p>Speaking of singers..........I can't forget Dewey Erney!! He and Ron Eschete have been working together for 30 years!!!!! They ARE the &quot;great American song book&quot;. I swear they know &quot;every song ever recorded&quot;. I've literally learned at least 15 tunes a month for the last year working with Dewey............and they're all gems. Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jobim etc. BRILLIANT!!!!! Check out <a href="http://www.deweyerney.com">www.deweyerney.com</a></p> <p>All this plus teaching a half dozen students at The Masters College, plus a &quot;slew&quot; of students that study with me privately on the side!!!!!</p> <p>As you can see, God has truly blessed me with work!!</p> <p>Whew........that's a lot of stuff......no wonder I'm tired....I'll stop there for now!!</p> <p><strong>I notice you endorse Accugroove cabinets. These are the subject of a great deal of excited debate lately. Are you aware of the issues surrounding the company currently, in regards to &quot;flat&quot; response and particularly the &quot;switch&quot;, and if so do you care to comment?</strong></p> <p>Yes, I'm a proud endorser of Accugroove cabinets......and yes, I'm aware of the &quot;excited&quot; debate. Let me just say this......THE best LIVE sound I've ever heard was Nathan East at Bass Quake a couple of years ago. I was totally blown away. Last spring I finally had an opportunity to check out the Accugroove gear and in 2 minutes I was sold.......best sound I've ever had. Changed my musical life.</p> <p>I would encourage people to play/use the gear that brings them the most joy and gets them the sound they're searching for. Then move on and PRACTICE!!!!<br> Ha!</p> <p><strong>What one good bit of advice would you offer about both touring and recording as a hired gun, and alternately as a bandleader?</strong></p> <p>Be prepared!!! Sounds like the Boy Scouts! Ha!</p> <p>I've always made an effort to be as prepared as possible.....meaning knowing the bass part, melody, changes etc. KNOW THE MUSIC......not just the bass part! You never know when the piano player or guitarist might not show up or get stuck in traffic and you and the singer, or you and the drummer have to start without them!! I wouldn't want to do this all night, but I could do it if I had to.</p> <p>Be organized with your charts, equipment, car etc. Basically, be professional........get to the gig early. Band leaders have A LOT of things to worry about. Make sure that you're not one of them!</p> <p>Make an effort to help others in any way you can. It's basically the golden rule.....Love your neighbor as yourself. You get the point.</p> <p><strong>What teachers or influences have you had up to this point and how do you wish to progress as a musician?</strong></p> <p>Well, Gary Willis was a HUGE influence for me. I had the privilege and honor to study with him for about a year and a half. Then I studied with him for about 6 months learning how to teach his Fingerboard Harmony course at M.I. Gary REALLY helped me get the bass under control physically AND mentally. He's a genius in my opinion. Plus he's a genuinely great guy.</p> <p>Although I never had the opportunity to study with him, RAY BROWN has been major influence on me.</p> <table width="200" border="0" align="left" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="2"> <tr> <td><img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/toddjohnson/johnson4.jpg" width="300" height="240"></td> </tr> <tr> <td><span class="style1">Photo &copy; Stan Hollon </span></td> </tr> </table> <p>I should also mention my tremendous debt to Bob Magnusson, Putter Smith, Nathan East, Jimmy Haslip, Jerry Watts, Jeff Berlin, Luther Hughes, Alexis Skalrevski, Steve Bailey, George Lopez and Dave Keif. I almost hate to start a list like that because I always forget someone and feel horrible about it.<br> So please forgive me if I've forgotten anyone.</p> <p>Bruce Pennell was a great teacher for me when I was going to college in Spokane. Pat Castro was a GREAT teacher I had in high school.</p> <p>Ron Eschete has been probably the biggest overall musical influence on me however. Ron is THE premier 7 string jazz guitarist alive!!! Playing with him for the last 15 years or so has deeply influenced the way I hear and think about music. Plus, he's CONSTANTLY improving as a musician........He constantly kicks my butt, every night, every tune. He's somehow managed to help turn me into a useful musician......not just a bass player, but a MUSICIAN......and for that I'm eternally grateful.</p> <p>Well, I'm hoping/trying to learn more and more about harmony, melody and chord voicings. I'm hoping to study with Oscar Castro-Neves.....just cop some of his harmonic thought processes and his &quot;Jobim&quot; thing. I've been transcribing him this last year or so.</p> <p>I recently had the opportunity to get to know pianist Llew Matthews, so I'm hoping to study with him as well. Llew was Nancy Wilson's piano player and musical director. Talk about a guy who knows something about music and how to accompany a singer!! Wow!!</p> <p>These are the things I'm reaching for at the moment.</p> <p><strong>Your bio mentions your &quot;innovative technique where [Todd] plays chord changes and bass line simultaneously.&quot; Ed Friedland, in his review of your &quot;Get Happy&quot; CD, says you've been &quot;pushing the envelope of 6-string bass for years.&quot; What's going on?</strong></p> <p>Honestly, I'm just trying to play some music. I hear more than just the bass line, so I've been trying to figure out how to play more of it all the time.<br> Basically I'm trying to learn to be a self contained orchestra. It's possible...........I'll figure it out someday.........or have a lot of fun trying.</p> <p><strong>You're part of the Christian music scene? Any notable differences vs. the secular scene?</strong></p> <p>Yes, absolutely............Frankly, the music level in the church is pretty low. Like I said before, I'm hoping I can help improve that situation with my teaching, DVD's and clinics. 200 years ago the church was the &quot;state of the art&quot; in music. Unfortunately that's no longer the case. But, the church does have much stronger lyrical content...IMHO! The subject matter is INFINITELY more edifying!</p> <p>I'm also blessed to work in the secular market as well.......and to work and study with some of the best musicians on the planet. Fortunately for me they've also turned out to be some of the nicest people I know as well.</p> <p>I'm hoping to use the best of what God has allowed me to experience and use it to the best of my abilities for His purposes. For me, this is the way to go. I don't mean to preach to anyone, but I do want to be honest and share my heart, so folks know where I'm coming from. I realize I fall far short, but this my attempt.</p> <p><strong>What's it like trying to make ends meet playing Jazz today?</strong></p> <p>Challenging to put it mildly. You really need to be versatile, creative and work extremely hard. (...and have a wife with a good job! Ha!!) You have to create your own opportunities. For me, it was just too frustrating to just sit back and wait for the phone to ring and totally rely on that. So to supplement things I've had to learn to look for and create opportunities for me and my music.</p> <p>Too many musicians sit back and think the world owes them a living.............no one owes us anything..........so work hard at your craft and also work hard at the business end of things. Make sense?</p> <p><strong>What's your vision for your Talkbass forum - ideally what sort of topics would you enjoy covering?</strong></p> <p>At a certain level I'm open to most anything. I will tell you that &quot;thumb slapping&quot; etc. is not my bag. I dig it, it's just not what I do. Plus there are so many guys that really play and teach that style so much better than I ever could.</p> <p>I'm more of a &quot;harmonic&quot; guy. I'm a &quot;jazz&quot; guy. I love melody!<img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/toddjohnson/johnson_fish.jpg" width="300" height="225" align="right"></p> <p>Actually, if I can help folks and answer questions, then I will...............and If I don't know the answers, then I'll tell you that too and try to help you find someone who does.</p> <p>I think our best bet is to just fire up the forum and let's see what it brings. I'm looking forward to it.</p> <p>I'm looking forward to getting to know a bunch of cool people and hoping to see them at clinics, conferences and gigs. Thanks again for this opportunity!</p> <p>God bless,</p> <p>Todd Johnson<br> <a href="http://www.toddjohnsonmusic.com">www.toddjohnsonmusic.com</a></p>
     



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