Singer-songwriter Patrick Johnson is ready to tell his side of the story. The current bassist of cow-punk band Dash Rip Rock has spent a long time in the music industry, playing in a few different bands that have varied stylistically. Now he’s finally set to record his debut solo album, Last River-Drive In. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with the singer about his past career highlights, the album he’s been busy creating, and what’s in store for the future.
Like many, Johnson picked up the guitar as a teenager. For him, it was at the age of 16. Despite the musical acquirement, it wasn’t immediately a hit with Johnson personally. “At first, I didn’t really take a liking to it, so I stopped and set it aside,” Johnson stated.
However, things changed for the young man when he started developing a musical relationship with his brother Paul, who played the guitar. At age 19, Johnson had turned toward playing the bass-guitar. From there, it was a collaboration that would transform into Johnson’s first extensive musical project and band, Poor Harvey – an alternative group influenced by the likes of Tom Petty and Neil Young, with a little grunge thrown in.
Besides playing live, it led to Johnson’s first step into the recording process. However, it wasn’t exactly what anyone would desire, but it fit for the time. “We came up with a demo cassette tape, took it to a friend of ours, and recorded 6 songs. It was a Gorilla studio, we hung mikes, duck-taped them to the ceiling. It was artistic, open, poetry, like free verse, anything goes. That’s how we came up with the demo CD, a 6 song EP around 2001. I played bass and sang a little bit of background vocals.”
Over the years, Johnson’s musical career included a stint in New York City, where he was seeking the limelight to musical success. The living situation wasn’t exactly desirable. In fact, it was quite humble. He lived in a basement – relying on a café down the street for a restroom. “If you needed to go at night and the café was closed, you were out of luck.”
But it ended up being one of the greatest experiences that shaped the artist. “I performed more music in that brief time period than I had ever had the opportunity to play before. It was 5 bands, with 3 being regular gigs. You can go to NYC and play every night in a different club, never play the same place twice, and never play with the same musicians again if you wanted to.”
NYC provided for a fun and competitive atmosphere to play live, an undeniable favorite for Johnson when it comes to the music industry. There’s a competitive nature that goes along with the task. “Nothing’s better than blowing away another band, especially if the band is the headliner and you’re the opener. And you knock everyone away with your performance. Then the headliner comes on and bing, not everyone is as energetic because you sucked all the energy out of the room with a great opening set!”
Then, of course, there’s the thrill. “Playing live involves very high energy. When you’re on, you’re on, when you’re off you are off, like any band. The energy and just pulling it off is really amazing to have people link up. Something chemical goes on.”
“With live music, there’s definitely an understanding between everyone. It feels like you’re sort of a conduit, music is flowing through you and you’re along for the ride,” he continued.
Meanwhile, over the years, Johnson has continued to evolve musically. One stint with a band called the Prescriptions even had Johnson playing bass in a song featured in a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear.
Other interesting highlights have included tour stops with his current band Dash Rip Rock, where he’s played in places including Denmark and Norway.
Johnson refers to music as being the universal language, and with his solo album there’s something to prove. There’s also the added pressure of being in the spotlight, rather than playing bass and doing backup vocals. “There’s always the chance someone could hate it. You have to be open to criticism. It’s something you have to get over. We’ve had criticism before with Poor Harvey. You just have to shrug it off, not everyone’s going to like what you’re doing.”
The songwriter’s music is inspired by various elements ranging from real life experiences to sci-fi movies, a genre he takes a special liking to. As for the songwriting process, Johnson states, “Sometimes with enough caffeine I can write a song in 10 minutes. Sometimes they stay in the vault for a while. Then I’ll change the chord structure later, and it takes on a new life.”
As for the future, it’s completely open. Johnson hopes to continue recording and he’s starting out without a label, something he actually sees as a perk. For him, it’s an asset that doesn’t give the added pressure and constraints of what a label demands.
“It’s going to be fun promoting the record but I don’t see myself quitting my main band just to fly solo.” Meanwhile, collaborating and forming new projects are something he looks forward to. The new album is a continued step in the songwriter’s evolving musical adventure.