Brian Johnson

Minimal Mag sit down with Toronto based musician and DJ/producer Brian Johnson following the release of his ‘That Culture’ album on his own Master Chef Music imprint. 

Brian Johnson - Interview

You trained as a classical musician at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto at a young age. How pivotal was this musical foundation shaping the DJ/producer you are today?

I feel like it really helped me build a strong foundation of enjoying and playing music from many different genres. Understanding how someone can compose something, and not feeling intimidated by complex sound design. 

Your previous track record of collaborations with mainstream artists is awe-inspiring, featuring Drake, Mos Def, and Barrington Levy. Today, you have cemented yourself as an underground electronic artist; what sparked that shift to the underground?

I’ve always enjoyed the underground scene, going to after-hours parties and staying up late. Not to say that one day I won’t go back to the mainstream, but I feel a certain comfort and accepting relationship to the underground scene. 

Your sound is distinctive for your fusion of old school reggae, soul and gospel – deriving from your native roots – with current deep electronic beats. What role do your sources play in your musical identity today?

It’s my roots and culture; it’s what I know and what I’m confident with. It’s the foundation that makes me unique to the genre. I know that other artists might have a similar sound. It’s just what I know and what I’m comfortable with. 

Artistic visuals are something that has always been synonymous with your releases. The artwork on your upcoming album takes it to a new level with a futuristic, cyber-punk feel. What was the idea behind this artwork?

I was looking for a new graphic designer, and I saw Rad Design online and thought, “Wow, I need something just like that!” I reached out to him to see if he was interested as he is such a phenomenal designer. I think his style brings a visual depiction of the sound I created to life.

Brian Johnson - Soundcloud

In a previous interview, you stated that you briefly moved to New York before returning to your home city, Toronto. Tell us, what makes the Toronto music scene unique to you?

Toronto is where my family and friends are, so there’s no other place on the planet like it – the Six is home. We’re so accepting in terms of uniqueness and diversity it only makes sense for me to be here.

In your signature style, the new LP blends a variety of registers ranging from heavenly female vocals to sinister, foreboding basslines. What was your inspiration for this album? Does it differ from your previous work? 

My previous work was more of a deep house soulful vibe. My new album is a more up-tempo tech house sound. I want people to get up and dance into the late hours of the morning with this one. 

Is there any track in particular from the new LP that holds a special place in your heart?

To be honest, I love all the tracks on my album. They all show the different emotions and diversity that I wanted to bring to the production table; I can’t really pick one. I’ll let the audience decide what they like for themselves. 

Your imprint Master Chef Music has been gaining significant traction recently. What’s in the pipeline for the latter part of 2022? Are there any artists we should be looking out for?

I have a couple of releases coming from Toronto’s own Greg Gow and Wes and a new group I’m working with called Organic Life and Petrichor. Look out for them in the upcoming months!

Brian Johnson - Links

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