: a b o u t M a t t J o h n s o n
From Modern Drummer:
Brooklyn-based drummer Matt Johnson has kept busy the past fifteen years with a succession of fulfilling gigs that have seen him playing European stadiums, Lower East Side bars, and every kind of venue in between.
After arriving on the New York City music scene from his native [Houston] Texas in the early '90s, Johnson hooked up with Jeff Buckley and was a member of the revered singer's band on the Grace album and tour. The years since Buckley's untimely 1997 death have found Johnson backing John Mayer, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Duncan Sheik, Beth Orton, and others in the studio and on stage, as well as moving forward with his own projects, like his new solo album Cagefighter.
-Patrick Berkery (Feb. 2010)
Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Chris Dowd of Fishbone, Beth Orton, Kris Kristofferson, Elysian Fields, Rickie Lee Jones, Marc Ribot, Yuka Honda, Suzanne Vega , Duncan Sheik, David Poe, Greg Laswell, John Mayer, Chris Stills, Harper Simon, Edie Brickell, Itaal Shur, Tom Freund, Teddy Thompson, Richard Thompson, Kamila Thompson , Katell Keineg, Mandy Moore, and Dean Wareham of Luna and Galaxy 500.
Recent live dates have included sitting in with Doveman for tour dates in Brussels and Austin,
a beautiful year-end gig at John Zorn's The Stone with Elysian Fields, the McGarrigle Christmas Hour at Carnegie Hall (with Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Jimmy Fallon, Rufus Wainwright, Justin Bond, Emmylou Harris) a NYC gig with Gabriel Kahane, 6 months of touring with Martha Wainwright, and a year of worldwide touring with Angus and Julia Stone.
In 2011, Law of the Land (Mind of Matt Music / Toolshed) was created as part of a three record project consisting of 'Cagefighter', 'Law of the Land", and 'Cavedweller'. Johnson came up with the names of these records in exactly five seconds, as long as it takes to say them in succession. Then Johnson resolved to make them real, at whatever personal cost.
The first record, Cagefighter, was conceived as part demo-part studio album. Johnson released this debut solo CD Cagefighter on his own in 2010. Johnson wanted to share this project with his fans and peers to showcase his songwriting and multi-instrumental performance talents. The release is not intended as a drum record but Johnson does play all drums on the full length recording that was recently noted in Modern Drummer magazine (February 2010).
Johnson explains: "singing and guitar playing were my focus during production. I wrote the record and then picked an incredible cast of characters to play it". The record features performances by: Joan as Police Woman, Catherine Popper of Ryan Adams band,
Thomas Bartlett of Antony and the Johnsons, Gerry Leonard of the David Bowie band,
Cameron Greider of the Martha Wainwright band, Jeff Hill of the Rufus Wainwright band,
Oren Bloedow of Meshell Ndegeocello's band. Johnson remarks "with this record I needed to prove to myself, as a lifelong drummer, that I had the nerve to write, record, produce, and release a record that I was singing and playing guitar on. It was put on a schedule of sorts, finished, and released both to my great pleasure and personal chagrin. The embarrassment of being seen and heard could not be allowed to deter me from making art."
"Once Cagefighter was finished, I embarked on the writing process for Law... Having learned valuable lessons from the making of CF, I went into my rehearsal space every day for months, hashing out songs and exploring my voice. I found that I had a certain range and power in my voice that was previously unexplored. So I decided to try taking my melodies up an octave from what I usually did. The result was a sort of rasp. As I sang more and more, I came to enjoy it as I had always enjoyed the physicality of drumming.
In creating Law... Certain themes emerged consistently. All art is likely to be autobiographical in some way. I realized that I was working through things that were of concern to me. With Angalien, I was addressing my own feeling of having "wasted" time in my life, living in such a way where I had learned to expect less of myself, yet still expecting to be happy. I made a song that reinforced the idea that what I was afraid of was exactly the thing I needed to face. And in facing it, I would be able to live a life that was previously inaccessible to me, due to the fact that my fears had served as boundaries to my experience. I craved to be outside my old boundaries. Angalien was created as a celebration and an overt statement of purpose.