Established DJ and music producer Dick Johnson once played gigs all over the world before he was enticed by the Kiwi lifestyle and made the transition to New Zealand. He soon established a presence within the Auckland electronic music culture and went on to develop an outstanding career within the confines of NZ by creating innovative beats, keeping an ear to the ground and in turn, staying relevant through the changing times. Remix Magazine caught up with Dick Johnson on his early experiences with music, the key to staying relevant and the success of his recent collaboration with Nick D and friends in Weird Together.
The success of Weird Together must be really rewarding, what was behind creating the group?
'It's super exciting, we couldn't believe the international level of recognition we received. I think we're up to over a million and a quarter hits on Spotify now which is pretty awesome. Nick D and I started Weird Together three years ago, with the idea of juxtaposing music from around the world. The early days had us taking samples from anything from 1940's Ethiopian tracks to vintage Calypso music from the Caribbean, but as time went on we got other people involved and we became like a band. We’ve now got a steel pan player, bass player, as well as different vocalists and MC's.'
‘Ready for This’ clocked up over one million plays soon after its release while hitting #33 on the global Spotify charts and #99 on the US radio charts - what goes into creating a track like that?
'Ready For This came about through a combination of guitar, live percussion and Bianca Paulus on vocals. It was inspired by the faster African rhythms and that kind of African style guitar playing as well. It took a long time for it to actually come out, we made that record probably over a year ago, but it was great that it took off when it finally did.”
This is just one of many high-points for your career but going back, what was your first experience with music and can you pin-point when it evolved from more than just a hobby?
'Yeah, definitely. I've been DJ'ing and making music for more than 20 years now but my very first experience with music were my parents playing records. I grew up in Manchester in the UK in the early 90's, when bands like Stoneroses were at the forefront of music. I saw the start of the house and acid house music culture start to develop, and got involved in all of that in my late teens. I remember heading along to an illegal warehouse party and watching DJ's like Sasha and thinking how much I loved this entirely new sound. The music to come out of the '90s was like a new movement in the world of music, it was a kind of four-on-the-floor style beat that I had never heard before. That was around the time I was like, 'Yeah I want to do that', and so I went ahead and did it.'
What were some challenges you faced along getting to where you are now?
'I came to New Zealand when I was 30 so I had already been well established in the UK music industry. I started out maxing mixes and giving out cassettes to anyone who'd listen. I'm a big believer that everything worth having takes hard work, and being as keen as I was to make a name for myself really helped. I was putting out what I was creating to as many promoters and clubs that I could, until I finally signed with a record label.'
See Weird Together at this year's Wanderlust Great Lake Taupo festival, from 2 - 5 February, 2017.