Canadian solo nouveau flamenco guitarist. Johannes speaks with us about his early years as a musician, recording, spirituality and more.
October 16, 2005
Guitarhoo!: Hello Johannes welcome to Guitarhoo! Where are you from originally?
Johannes Linstead: Thanks! I am originally from Canada, just outside of Toronto.
G!: When did you first pick up and instrument and were you self taught or did you take formal lessons?
JL: I received my first guitar for my 8th birthday. I took a few lesson as a kid, but in my teens I learned by listening and analyzing other guitarists, as well as classical music from the masters: Bach, Mozart, etc.
G!: Which areas of playing came most easily to you and which areas were most challenging?
JL: Maybe it’s in my genes but I found it pretty easy to reach the level of proficiency that enabled me to play really fast lines. Mind you, when I was in my teens (I had more time then) I was practicing 8 plus hours a day. Composing has always been second nature to me. But what I did have to work on was my timing! I remember my high school teacher always telling me to slow down.
G!: Who were some of your musical influences early on?
JL: As mentioned I loved the great masters of the Baroque and Classical periods, and also many Italian and Spanish composers for the guitar, like Sor, Tarrega, Guiliani. There were also rock influences such as Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen…A couple favorite guitarists these days are Jorge Strunz and the great Flamenco master Sabicas.
G!: Which guitars are you using live and in the studio?
JL: In the studio I use a Maldonado flamenco guitar with cut-away, which I had custom built for me in Spain. Live I use a Raimundo flamenco. It’s a decent guitar but not as rich sounding as the Maldonado.
Johannes live with his hand painted Raimundo Flamenco guitar.
G!: “Sangre del Toro” off of your record “Mediterranea” has some pretty firey interaction between your guitar and Gypsy violin playing. Who is that violin player?
JL: The violinist is Vasyl Popaduik from the Ukraine. He is fine player and we enjoy challenging each other!
G!: Do you write out most of the parts for the other instruments on your recordings or is that a result of collaboration with your musicians?
JL: Many parts I do write out. However, I do try to give the opportunity to let each musician incorporate his/her own style, and many times there will be solo sections where they do their own thing.
G!: Besides the main melodies in your songs, when it comes time solo do you do a fair bit of improvisation?
JL: Other than the main themes, I improvise just about everything in the studio. I’ll have a set chord pattern that I will use for a verse which is like a blank canvas. Then I’ll start throwing colors on it. Often, I will improvise some melodies and then re-record them in a more refined way.
G!: All of your records have reached high on the Billboard charts and have won many awards. Could you ever imagine you’d have this kind of success and why do you feel listeners are gravitating to your music the way they are?
JL: I have always believed in my music and I have always given 110%. I work very hard on all aspects of my career, from recording to graphics design, to promotion. On the one hand I am surprised at my success, but on the other hand I have worked so hard to get here…
G!: You’ve trained in Martial Arts with Qi Gong Master Weizhao Wu from China and Hung Gar Kung Fu master Dr. Jopet Laraya. In which ways do you find this helps you as a person and an artist?
JL: In many ways it defines who I am. The spiritual connection to Kung Fu has lead me to follow a path that most people could not follow. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs…I don’t drink coffee or pop. I meditate and do Qi Gong daily in an effort to live a holistic life. I also am trained in various ancient energetic healing techniques. In every facet of my life I try to keep the highest ethical standards and I believe the result is that I bring happiness to many people. I get fan mail from around the world, and a constant theme are the words “spirit”, “heart”. “soul”, “love”. When people write to me and use these words, I know they have understood my music.
G!: Recording question here. Your guitars sound very full and clear. When recording which mic’s do you use, how many mic’s do you use and where do you place them? Do you combine the mics with a direct line in to the board?
JL: For my next CD I have been experimenting with using two mics, but in the past I have use only one. However, I am finding that the second mic isn’t necessary. So, basically I will use one mic, an Audio Technica 4050, pointed at the location where the sound hole meets the fretboard and about 16 inches away. I think another key is the mic preamp and how it is set. Currently I am using an Avalon VT 737sp. I also record with compression and EQ.
G!: Your new record “Dreams Go By” is a collection of 11 romantic piano pieces. A departure from any oher record you have done in the past. What inspired you to do this and is this something you’ve wanted to do for a while?
JL: I’ve been writing piano pieces for many years now; some classical and some romantic new agey stuff. Everyone that I played for said “You gotta record that stuff!” so I decided to do it. I was going to make it available in stores, and I actually have all the artwork for it ready to go, but I decided to make it available only from my website at www.johanneslinstead.com for download. So far the response has been fantastic… so I may make it available in stores one day.
G!: What are some of your new projects lined up in the new year?
JL: I have a few projects on the go. The two most important being a new CD of my usual Latin guitar music, and also a book. The book is not a novel but more of a spiritual “how to” book. That may be available late 2006.
G!: What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of music?
JL: I enjoy walking and spending time in nature. I also love to travel to tropical locales – which I think comes out in my music. I also love to read, particularly books by Osho, which are spiritual discourses.
G!: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
JL: Well, there’s not much you can do about talent – either you’ve got it or you don’t – but if you feel you have something to offer then you must be relentless in self promotion. Don’t rely on being “discovered”. Make it happen for yourself by believing in yourself. Make calls, send out press kits, make contacts… If you need money to promote yourself, get a job so that you can invest in your music and your future. But most of all, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it!
G!: Johannes thanks for taking some time out for this and we all look forward to your future works!
JL: Thanks again!
Interview © 2005 Guitarhoo!