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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Q&A With Ted Johnson

I recently asked Studio 713's Ted Johnson a few questions about his music. Ted has played in numerous bands featured at BitWorks Music, including National Holographic, Johnson-Hendrix, Groove Stream Attractor, and Smokin' Granny.

BitWorks: How did you start working with Joe Hendrix?

Ted Johnson: Joe and I met through an ad I put up at the Music Loft in Carrboro, NC. When he showed up for our first jam session, I was impressed with the state-of-the-art synth gear he owned and the fact that our improv styles seemed to mesh well. I recorded our first session together which I later mixed down as the CD "Midnight at the Power Station." This CD has its moments but will probably not be released in its current form. I may extract ther best bits from it for a future "From the Vaults" collection.

BW: Tell us about the progression of the 4 albums you have released so far, 3 of which are now available for download.

TJ: All four albums were assembled from material that Joe and I recorded at Studio 713 over a two-month period. The music are spontaneous improvisations recorded in real time with no overdubs. Typically Joe and I would agree on a tonal center (e.g., Am) before beginning a jam and then let things evolve as we played. I would characterize the resulting music as spacey ambient electronica.

BW: How do you select your album artwork?

TJ: I listen to the music and see what images appear in my mind. I read a lot of science fiction so the images often relate to space probes, other worlds, time travel, UFO's, etc. I've been fortunate to find art work that matches these images by artists who are willing to let me use it on the album covers.

BW: What are your other current projects?

TJ: I'm currently working on a sequel to my solo CD "Ambient Realms." I hope to have it finished by mid 2008.

I also play with Groove Stream Attractor and National Holographic. Like the Johnson - Hendrix group, these bands specialize in spontaneous improvisation. (BitWorks features CD's from both groups.) I've also been fortunate to meet several other musicians in the Chapel Hill area that enjoying getting together for jam sessions when time permits. Several times a month, Studio 713 hosts a jam session for four or five musicians drawn from this pool. To date, these sessions have produced over 40 "home-brew" CD's that I distribute to the musicians and our friends. I hope to remix and release the best material from these sessions as official CD's through BitWorks. But first we need a name for this amorphous collection of players. Any suggestions?

BW: What is your current studio setup?

TJ: "Ambient Realms" was recorded entirely on a computer system using Sony Acid. However, I use stand-alone recording equipment (mainly a hard-drive ADAT system) to record most live performances and jam sessions. Since there is typically no vocalist at the jam sessions and all instruments (including drums) are electronic, we can send all parts directly through the board to the recorder (no microphones are used). A headphone mix is sent to the musicians. I use both powered near-field monitors and headphones for mixing. I like stereo FX so I have lots of outboard gear attached to my guitar and synthesizers.

BW: Do you have a message for your fans (and the rest of the aliens)?

TJ: I don't know whether I have any fans, but I'd definitely like to colloborate musicially with any interested aliens. You can reach me at

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