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Richard Leo Johnson interview page 2

CDJazzMonthly: Each song has a certain melodic openness to it. How much did spontaneous improvisation play a part... how much was created with a preconceived
structure?

RLJ: I always write and record with a certain intangible and spontaneous response to the tuning I am using and the sound that comes from the instrument....I never start out with an idea or meaning but let the process of invention determine the outcome. All of the songs I play are pretty much committed to memory. I record the basic tune and then revisit the music and add to the basic idea. This especially applies to "Celeste". The theremin is an incredibly esoteric and bizarre instrument. I totally abused it on this recording, but...I guess that is how I have always approached the guitar.

JazzMonthly: Any favorite moments while recording "Celeste?" Favorite track?

RLJ: Compositionally my favorite song is "Swoon"....it is more symphonic than most of my stuff...and I had a blast putting that together. A far as accessibility and fun...I think that would be "Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Star".

JazzMonthly: At what point did you make the decision to become a professional
musician and actually record your own CD?

RLJ: I started recording in my late 20s and did a couple of self-released cassettes.... did some random shows at clubs and colleges. I got an endorsement with a major acoustic guitar manufacturer(not Martin) and that kept me very busy doing clinics. Soon after that I was signed to Blue Note (did 2 CDs with them "Fingertip Ship" and "Language". Some years later I started working with Cuneiform and did 3 CDs with them. This is my 1st self-release since my last CD with Cuneiform.

JazzMonthly: Who were your greatest influences?

RLJ: My biggest influences are Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Stravinsky and Jimi Hendrix, and non-guitar faves are, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jackson Pollack and William Faulkner.

JazzMonthly: "Celeste," is a mix of haunting, mysterious and soul-stirring
performances. Do you remember a particular moment when you just knew
that music was your future, and that you were compelled to fulfill that
destiny for yourself?

RLJ: That is a very kind assessment of "Celeste". I have been obsessed with the guitar for most of my life...I don't see any reason to not play and record music as long as I am able.