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Skulls in Space: The Atomic Rock of Nick Johnston
When looking over Nick Johnston’s album covers and posters, they’re full of outer space images, skulls, a futuristic world, dark comics, sentiments of an unknown and unexplored world. And the songs span from names like ‘Atomic Mind’, ‘Poison Touch’, ‘Silver Tongued Devil’, ‘My Final Days On a Doomed Plane’ to ‘Electric in my Veins’. When you’re looking at these images and listening to his equally far-out music, your mind is instantly transported somewhere else.
Hailed as a modern guitar virtuoso and with his newly-founded genre, atomic rock, Canadian artist Nick still remains incredibly modest. His success attributed mainly to a strong work ethic and devotion to his instrument. This energy spans beyond his playing, translating into a sincere respect for the people who helped and inspired him throughout his career.
Uncommonly, Nick’s most influential relationship falls outside of music altogether with his visual artist, Mark Rehkopf. When creating music, Nick finds great inspiration in visual content drawing imagery from beloved comics, animations and science fiction. He says:
“Comic book writers/artists like Mike Mignola and Francesco Francavella just blow me away! Then you get into some of the legendary guys like Frank Frazetta, Drew Struzan and Bill Gold. I also get really inspired by cartoons. I’ve written plenty of music after watching Samurai Jack, Bugs Bunny, and Ren and Stimpy!”
Johnston’s relationship with his artist Mark is a rare bond. Neither of them works in the other’s discipline; they both stick to what they’re good at. Together, their two talents combine seamlessly resulting in a fully realised, immersive world. Mark’s detailed artwork both influences and is influenced by Nick’s music. In addition to illustrating Nick’s musical work, the two artists collaborated on a graphic novel entitled ‘Nick Johnston and the Tale of the Cosmic Strings’ in 2012.
And so, the more suitable connections you make and the more characterisation you add to your music, the more the music comes to life.
If your vision is unique enough, people will notice. That’s why the guitarist has been gaining so much glorification and demand. His music has attracted guest solos from guitar icons Paul Gilbert and Guthrie Govan and has included rhythm sections featuring Marco Minnemann and Bryan Beller of The Aristocrats. Additionally, Nick has been featured on records for other artists including guest guitar solos for prog-rock bands Periphery and Polyphia.
Influenced by the great rockstars: Mikael Akerfeldt, Steven Wilson, Alice Cooper, countless film soundtracks and the comic world, Johnston has become a hybrid forerunner in the industry with an image and sound entirely his own.