Interview: Dominik Johnson

In an industry dominated by the “charts”, Radio One and O2 Arenas, it is refreshing to be reminded and enlightened of the other musical outlets and options in our world.  Dominik Johnson, based in Manchester, works all over the UK and (via the internet) the world, composing, playing and producing music for Film and TV productions.  His work has been used by the likes of the BBC, Channel 4 and NBC and he has released six library albums, all of which are published by leading companies in London and L.A.  His music is unique and original, playing instruments from around the world, such as the Chinese Gu-zheng Harp, the Turkish Saz, the Bouzouki, the Spanish Guitar and many more. His use of rare instruments, live recording and post-production technique is uncommon in the Film and TV industry and he is currently creating soundtracks for two independent feature films set to be released in 2012.

TFFT recently caught up with him to find out a bit more about his work…

 Describe your work in three words / How would you describe it?

Organic, Cinematic & Instrumental

I always find it hard to describe my material and work. 90% of the music I do is intended for Film and TV stuff (library music) at the moment and it’s almost all done by myself in my own studio. But I guess my music falls under the ‘World’ ‘Ethnic’ ‘Ambient’ genres because I pay instruments from many different countries – and I try and bring those elements into a more film score style production.

I often use the term ‘organic’ to people as almost all of my music is played and made using real instruments. I know this sounds bizarre. But, so much music is made today (particularly in Film & TV music) using sampled and midi instruments, which to me just sounds cheap and amateur. There’s something about hearing flesh and blood from plucked, bowed and blown instruments that gives the music so much more motion and depth.

What inspires you?

All kinds of art, culture, film and music – but what really draws me in, is musical traditions and styles from all over the world. Finding out about different instruments, different techniques and other sonic timbres in other music is my passion.

How did you get into your line of work?

Through sheer hard work, being inspired and drive. A few people have labelled me a workaholic lately – I guess I am in a many ways. I’ve been creating, recording, composing and playing ‘world’ music with ethnic plucked instruments for years now, but around five years ago I started doing session work for producers, recording artists and composers – and I’ve been building everything up since then. I also devote a lot of time to networking and meeting people in all creative industries…this is very important in my opinion. There is a bit of the ‘who you know’ attitude in the music world, but its about how you make those connections – and they must be made in my opinion.

What’s the piece of music you’re most proud of?

Well, I’m really pleased with the collaboration work I’ve been doing with a Swiss-based flute/pipe player Sandro Friedrich. Sandro has played on many film soundtracks and has worked with Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) and Tan Dun (House of Flying Daggers). I recently did two Japanese film soundtrack styled works with him for TV, which features me on Chinese Guzheng Harp and Sandro on Shakuhachi flute. We’ve already been commissioned to do more film music together for 2012, so we’re both really excited about future productions together.

You can hear one of the tracks here:

‘Asian Dreams’ | Dominik Johnson by Dominik Johnson

Most recent record bought?

Anoushka Shankar – Traveller

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

To many to name – both dead and alive.

What are your thoughts on the UK music scene?

Well, I don’t do much live performance on stages – a lot of people say I should and I am thinking of putting a world music ensemble together soon…

I think the UK music scene has a lot more to offer than what we hear in our everyday lives. I hear and work with some amazing musicians, producers and composers from all over, but because of their style (and marketing) very few people will hear their work – which is a shame, but this has been happening forever – it’s nothing new.

What piece of music do you wish you had written?

…far too many film soundtracks to mention

Head to Dominik Johnson’s website to read and hear more from this wonderful talent

Ellie Witt