Up Close and Personal with Drummer Dan Johnson

with Contributing Writer/Photographer Song River

A load full of TNT is one way to describe the passion and love drummer Dan Johnson exhibits for his chosen profession.  Since his early days of winning his MTV award back in 2007 and his work with bands like Flaw, Love & Death, Korn, RED and so many more the intensity of just how talented and notable his skills are it appears maybe only be just touching the surface of what he can do! 

Currently out on tour with Flaw, an album in the near future with them in the works, the beginnings of another long awaited album with Love & Death are all the makings coming from the gifted soul Dan Johnson.

Song River: First of all, how has this Phoenix, Arizona hot summer been treating you? Or have you even been home long enough to experience a 'haboob' yet?

Dan Johnson: I actually don't mind the Arizona heat at all! I've been living in AZ since 2004 so I'm used to it I suppose. After your first summer here you can handle 'em all!  I missed the last haboob being on the road, but I didn't "miss it!" (Laughed)

Song River: Dan so much has happened the last few years. Does it ever seem like you blinked and time sped by?

Dan Johnson: It definitely feels like I blinked and all of a sudden here I am years later, but I couldn't be happier and more grateful. Touring with Sammus Theory and winning the MTV award, joining Love & Death and touring with Korn, then RED, I'm just getting started!

Song River: With the days of MTV back on that incredible blip in 2007 you have really honed in on your skills as a drummer to say unequivocally your drums can fit into almost any genre. Some musicians cannot go beyond a certain style, yet you almost seem to be defiant and have crisscrossed from country, to rock, to metal like no biggie. Why is that do you think?

Dan Johnson: Well thank you :) I grew up listening to all styles of music at one time or another so that definitely helps. Plus, from early on I kinda had it in my head I wanted to go the 'hired gun ' route and I always wanted to play music with as many people as possible - never stop learning. Trying to be prepared for any gig thrown your way.

Song River: When you have time do you still teach drums to young people over at the School of Rock in Scottsdale?

Dan Johnson: As a substitute, sometimes yes. That's an amazing school and they're so good to me. I would definitely recommend it to kids wanting to learn the fundamentals of playing with other musicians.

Song River: Practice, practice, practice. How difficult is that at times for young people to realize that drummers like Dan just didn't show up exceptional one day?

Dan Johnson: Practice is key. Every moment of my existence is basically spent revolving around my instruments. Whether it's practicing or thinking about parts, work or playing gigs. A daily regiment on the practice pad and the kit with AND without a metronome is vital. Also, making sure my mind is clear is important to me, too.

Song River: Is there a particular drum kit you like working with on a regular basis and that you prefer teaching your students on? If so, which one and why?

Dan Johnson: Well, lately I've taught some lessons teaching on the electric kit. That seems to keep kids' attention more (laughed), but honestly, I'd rather teach on both so you can get used to everything.  My DDRUMS kit is the one I'm playing on now and I love it.

Song River: How has the tour with Flaw been going?

Dan Johnson: The tours with Flaw have been going great! I'm currently on my 2nd tour playing for them and I'm very excited for what the future holds with being part of this team. They're great guys with an amazing fan base. The songs are really fun to rock out live. Plus,  I love it because they're technically from the NĂ¼ metal genre and that was definitely the most influential era of my musical upbringing.

Song River: What transpired that brought you on as the drummer for Flaw currently and when did you come on as their drummer?

Dan Johnson: The former bassist and I played together in the Phoenix area years ago and we stayed friends.  He called asking if I'd be interested in doing a tour and I was ecstatic too. So I learned the set in about 36 hours - 2 days later we left on a 5-week tour! (laughed)

Song River: How about after the tour any plans with Flaw?

Dan Johnson: We (Flaw) have lots of touring coming up and we're going to start on a new album together. I can't wait!

Song River: Catching up on what is supposed to be coming... I read somewhere that the project with Brian "Head" Welch of Korn, "Love and Death" is supposed to be coming together again as well. Has it been four years correct since the release of Between Here & Lost?

Dan Johnson: Yes, 4 years already! Time flies. I can't wait to track drums with Love and Death and see those guys. I loved 'Between Here and Lost' so I can't wait to get in the studio with them and Jason Rausch again !!

Song River: What is the story about how you and Brian came to work together originally?

Dan Johnson: So years before Brian put his band together, I was working at a nightclub in Tempe as a door guy and met a producer, Ralph Patlan, who later became my mentor. Ralph also put the band together with Head.  I was called for an audition and the rest is history, as they say!

Song River: Looking at where you are now as a musician and where Brian is plus the addition of guitarist JR (formerly of Island) and the possibility of a few different bass players do you sense a timely growth in what will transpire in this next album?

Dan Johnson: Absolutely and that's the part I'm most excited about. Everyone's been through a lot more life since then and grown a lot as musicians and personally since then.

Song River: When do you think you will actually be able to give the project your full attention?

Dan Johnson:  Playing drums is my life. I'll pour everything I have into every musical endeavor. But as far as my own band, I would also like that someday, too!

Song River: If you were to describe Dan just what it is a drummer brings to a band... how would you place it in a descriptive relatable form what you do for those you play with?

Dan Johnson: You have to be the backbone. The heartbeat and essentially the person keeping it all together. I love that aspect of performing. Keeping everyone on stage with me comfortable, locked in and worry free while keeping everyone in the audience entertained and rock'n out!

Song River: We recently lost two of the most influential musicians of our time- Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Any thoughts as to their influence on you, your view of our current state in this realm of depression and what can we do collectively to help bring about a change?

Dan Johnson: I appreciated Soundgarden, but I absolutely loved Linkin Park. 'Hybrid Theory' is one of the most influential albums of my life. I will always cherish that time listening to it day in and day out for years. I'm still in shock over that tragedy, I guess. As far as how I feel about everything else?...I believe that life is too short and we need to be grateful for each new day and live life to the absolute fullest you possibly can. Treat each other better, like human beings. Have more compassion, kindness, and patience. Judge less and love more. Of course, music can always fill a multitude of ills. 

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