Simon Johnson: From being mentored by Micky Most to playing Montreax with Lana Del Ray

Simon Johnson: From being mentored by Micky Most to playing Montreax with Lana Del Ray

Simon Johnson and the guitar go back a long way. He got a lipstick-red Washburn when he was ten years old and, inspired by Hendrix, Clapton and Deep Purple, took his first steps towards becoming a professional musician. He signed with Rak Records and cut his teeth working alongside legendary producer Mickie Most. His career since then has taken him in the studio and on the road with the likes of Lana Del Ray, James Morrison, John Illsley and Jon Allen. We caught up with Simon while on tour with Lulu earlier this year.

 

MPS
What kind of work do you get the most satisfaction out of? 

SJ
I'm lucky enough to have a balance of both gigs and studio work, but if I had to choose it would be the studio. Creating a record from the ground up is such a buzz, I recently built a studio at home for sessions and production work which I'm really enjoying.  

MPS
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

Playing Montreax Jazz Festival with Lana Del Rey was incredible. Knowing how many of my favourite musicians have shared that stage was a real honour.

MPS
Mickey Most was perhaps one of the most important producers of the 20th century; can you tell us about your experience working with him at Rak?

SJ
It's hard to put into words. He was and continues to be the biggest musical influence of my career. Writing and recording at RAK studios 2 or 3 days a week for over 4 years was my apprenticeship, from a guitar point of view he taught me to appreciate and respect the song over everything.

MPS
You’ve worked with some big-name artists over the last few years, which jobs have been the most interesting for you?

SJ
My favourite job has been working with Jon Allen. He’s the real deal, great songs and an amazing voice.

MPS
Hendrix and Cream clearly inspired you as a guitarist, who else would you count among your musical influences?

SJ
Ry Cooder, Buddy Holly, George Harrison, Buddy Miller, Marc Ribot and recently Blake Mills.

MPS
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

SJ
Late 50s America would be pretty amazing, hang out for a few years then move to London.


MPS
What guitars are you playing at the moment?

SJ
Bravewood Tele is my favourite electric at the moment, also enjoying my 64’ Teisco SS-4L.

MPS
Tell us about your Strymon El Cap and BigSky, what made you chose them?

SJ
They're simple to use, sound fantastic and are extremely versatile. Most importantly they inspire me.

MPS
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

SJ
Greer Lightspeed, Origin Effects Cali76, Diamond Memory Lane, DAM 1965, Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe, Strymon Flint

MPS
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

SJ
I sold my beloved 1962 Fender brown face Concert a couple years ago, really miss that amazing tremolo.

MPS
Can you think of anything that really changed things for you, and why?

SJ
I guess it would be my first decent guitar - an American standard Strat, bought when I was 16. I had to sell a lot of ice creams that summer to pay for it!

MPS
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

SJ
Everybody's journey is different, but it's important to get out there and play as much as you can. Jam nights, pub gigs, open mic night, start you own band – try to make your own scene. It's tough at first, but if you play the best you possibly can and you're reliable and a pleasure be around, you'll be fine.

 

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