Johnson, Rob (Magnitude Nine) (April 2004)


Magnitude 9's Soul Decoded - An Interview With Rob Johnson

Magnitude Nine - Decoding The SoulThree years had gone by since Magnitude 9 (as they were known then, now Magnitude Nine) last released an album, that being 2001's Reality In Focus, just one year fewer than between Reality and their debut Chaos To Control. But, 2004 brought Decode The Soul, a strong release from the quintet of Rob Johnson (guitars), John Homan (drums), Ian Ringler (bass), Corey Brown (vocals), and Joseph Anastacio Glean (keyboards). Joshua Turner spoke with Johnson about the new album and where Magnitude Nine is headed now.

Joshua Turner: Hello

Rob Johnson: Hello, is this Josh?

JT: Yeah, this is Josh.

RJ: This is Rob from Magnitude 9 calling about an interview.

JT: Hi. Just to start things off, I have to tell you that the album is very good.

RJ: Oh, thanks. You like it?

JT: I like it a lot. I especially like the guitar parts that you're contributing.

RJ: Thanks man.

JT: It's awesome.

of times I listen to a lot of bands and they just sound like a Dream Theater rip-off.

JT: Exactly.

RJ: We are just trying to take a little different approach. Maybe we are trying to take more a Queensryche route with this album [...] The way we see it, the only way this metal style of music is going to get exposed to more people is if some of it is a little more accessible. On this album, a lot of the songs aren't real super long and they are not real complex, but they still have the prog overtone, you know.

JT: Exactly. That's kind of what I was thinking when I was listening to it. That there are so many bands out there that are Dream Theater clones or rip-offs that we're calling it, they just fall into the same formula. When I was listening to it, I thought this is something different. It has a lot of the same elements, but it's different just the same. It's got some real good guitar solos, some real good melodies. [...] That's why I really liked it. It was kind of heavier than what I expected from hearing previous albums, but at the same time it was still something new and fresh and different.

RJ: What did you think of the new Dream Theater album? That was pretty heavy, wasn't it?

JT: Yeah, it was a lot heavier than I expected.

RJ: Yeah. I just think we are trying to, I don't know, we are just [going to] reach more people, because it seems like if you follow the same formula the only people that are going to buy our CD's are going to be prog metal fans. [...] We don't want to be that limited. I think the only way you are going to get this kind of music someday back on the radio or get it on MTV is to maybe go with a little more song-oriented formula than having a 10 minute song.

JT: Exactly.

RJ: You know, I mean I love that stuff, don't get me wrong. I love Dream Theater. I love Symphony X, those guys are great at what they do. We just want to be a little different than they are. [?] Why not?

JT: I'm wondering how does the band write and record their music. Can you explain some of the song writing process?

RJ: Actually, it is pretty basic since I'm the guitar player. Me and the singer Corey Brown, we formed the band pretty much. [...] What I usually do, what I've always done is since I'm a guitar player it is easy for me to come up with the arrangements and the riffs and stuff. So, I usually demo the song out here. I demo them out with a drum machine and arrange them. I arrange the song and write them like that and then I give CDs to the other guys in the band and they kind of change things around, add their parts, and we rehearse. Pretty much our singer Corey Brown, he pretty much takes care of all the lyrics and melodies. We don't really, I'm not too much of a lyric writer at all.

JT: Okay.

RJ: Yeah, he does all that stuff and lyrics-wise he just writes about everyday life issues. We are not one of those bands that writes about demons and wizards. [...] If you read the lyrics, I don't know if you have the promo or the real CD, but the lyrics pretty much talk about situations that everybody goes through in life. The world has changed a lot since 9/11, so a lot of the lyrics are straight-forward, you know.

JT: Yeah. I'm interested in this album and I'd like to see you guys in a live format?

RJ: Yeah, I'd love to do that.

JT: What kind of plans do you have for tours, like Europe, the US, whatever?

RJ: We would like to do, we have talked about maybe there is a possibility of doing some of the big metal festivals this year. [...] Like maybe the summer or fall, but we're not sure. Um, we've all been in other bands before and we've done the club scene and did little tours and stuff. We are to the point right now where we are not even popular enough to do that and have a budget to tour. For example, I saw Fates Warning before, here out of Columbus, Ohio. They're well-known and there was only twenty people there.

JT: Wow!

RJ: So, a band like us is not even that well-known. The only way we would ever do a nationwide tour or something is if we could get lucky enough to be like an opener for Dream Theater or Queensryche. [...] Because opening up for someone like that could expose us to their fans and thousands of people whereas touring in a club situation actually out here where we live in Ohio and stuff, nobody really cares, you know.

JT: Sure.

RJ: The only stuff people want to see out here in clubs is Korn and that kind, you know, the nu metal stuff in clubs. It would be pointless for us to try to do a tour and just play in front of 10 or 20 people a night in a smoky bar. We are just kind of been there, done that. We'll tour if the situation is right, but if not, it is too expensive.

JT: I've heard you mention some bands that inspire your work. You've mentioned Dream Theater, Queensryche, Fates Warning. Are there any other bands that you'd add to that list?

RJ: Definitely a band called TNT. Have you heard of TNT?

JT: Yeah, I've heard of them.

RJ: Those guys are great, because they are real good songwriters. They are not like a progressive metal band. They are more like a melodic metal band. They write songs with good hooks and good guitar playing, good singing. We are kind of along the lines of TNT. Also, Yngwie Malmsteen. Stuff like that, you know. The melodic stuff with good guitar and good vocals.

JT: How did the band come up with the name Magnitude 9?

RJ: Well, when we first started we were trying to think of a band name and that's kind of hard to do. We don't want to think of something cheesy even though many people may think Magnitude 9 is cheesy. I'm not sure. Ha ha ha. The music is heavy and powerful and energetic, so Magnitude 9 means like heavy, right, with an earthquake. On a scale of 1 to 10, uh, we just decided to call it Magnitude 9.

JT: Okay. That's pretty cool.

RJ: Yeah, it was something, we really didn't know what to call it, you know.

JT: You also said that Corey Brown is from a different group, I believe it is Psycho Drama.

RJ: Yeah, he is the singer in a band called Psycho Drama. They did 2 CD's together and they broke up. [T]hey were kind of like Queensryche. They broke up and we started Magnitude 9.

JT: Okay, let me see, let me ask some questions about yourself. What other musicians inspired you when you were learning the trade?

RJ: Oh boy, since I'm a guitar player, it's pretty much all guitar players. Definitely the big ones are Yngwie Malmsteen, um, Jason Becker. I took a few lessons off of Jason Becker back in the eighties. I was like writing letters. I would send him some money and he would send me some guitar licks in the mail.

JT: Wow, that's pretty cool.

RJ: Yeah, he was a big influence. Um, the guitar player from TNT, his name is Ronnie Lee Techro. He influenced me a lot. Of course bands like Dream Theater have been a great influence when I first heard them and Fates Warning. So, mainly a lot of guitar players are for me.

>JT: Are there any other guitarists in the field today that you hold in high regard now?

RJ: Yeah, definitely Steve Vai and Tony MacAlpine, guys like that.

JT: How did you choose to play the guitar out of all the other instruments?

RJ: I remember being 12 years old. I'm 33. I'm from the eighties generation. I remember when MTV first came on and I remember seeing videos of Van Halen and I just thought, just thought the guitar looked so cool and it sounded so cool, watching Eddie Van Halen play in videos like "Jump" or "Panama." So, I just thought the guitar looked a lot cooler than playing saxophone or something in a high school band, you know. So that's what made me choose it really, watching him.

JT: Really?

RJ: Yeeaahh.

JT: Another thing, I've heard you being referred to as a shredder, which I believe is a compliment. Is that something you can explain to me?

RJ: Pretty much when you say someone is a guitar shredder that means they are real technical, proficient guitar player. Um, whereas like just a regular rock guitar player might just player normal licks, normal guitar stuff that's easy to play. A shredder in the guitar terms often is referred to someone such as Joe Satriani or Yngwie Malmsteen. Someone that can really play a lot of fast techniques and play everything really accurately.

JT: How much do you actually have to practice and keep your skills up?

RJ: Well, I used to, a long time ago, when I first started playing, for years I'd practice 8 and 10 hours a day. But now I don't really do that anymore, because most of my time is spent for song-writing, but I still keep my chops up with song-writing, you know.

JT: How many years have you been playing?

RJ: Since I was 12, so I'm 33 now, so maybe 21 years.

JT: Wow. That's a long time.

RJ: You know, I didn't start playing until I was 12, but I didn't start practicing seriously until I was in my teens, you know. Then that's when you start getting real serious about it.

JT: We are talking about other bands that inspire you. What is the last concert you attended as a fan?

RJ: Actually, the last concert I went to see was a band called Symphony X. You've heard of Symphony X?

JT: Oh yeah.

RJ: We went to see them in Cincinnati, Ohio. They were great. It was just a great concert and then I also saw G3, you know that concert?

JT: Yup.

RJ: Yeah, that was with Yngwie, Vai, and Satriani.

JT: Okay. Was Petrucci in that one as well?

RJ: Yeah, he was on the last year's show, not this year. It was a good show.

JT: To understand more about the music that you're into, what's the last CD that you purchased?

The last CD that I bought was the new Dream Theater, Train of Thought.

JT: What did you think about that?

RJ: I loved it. I think it is their best album in years, cause it is a lot heavier. It's real technical and I like it a lot.

JT: For the most part, I've liked the last 3 albums they've come up with. I really like the change in styles. For me, It was kind of nice to have something a little different, although I wouldn't mind if they went back to their conceptual type of album, those sort of albums.

RJ: Right. I agree with you. I think this album has a good sound, It's a little more aggressive, a little more heavier. Yeah, I think it is a good album. I think it is their best album in years.

JT: Is that kind of heaviness and their means of mixing in the progressive with the heaviness, is that what you guys try to aim for? You've mentioned Dream Theater a few times.

RJ: Oh yeah, we like the style that they do. We like to mix together the heaviness with the melody. You know, the technical guitar stuff. The changes with melody and stuff, we try to do that.

JT: That's what I was thinking when I was listening to your album, that's what I was thinking, that this was something that was pretty melodic for something that's actually this heavy. You turn on the Nu Metal stations and they've got the heaviness, it's usually lacking the melody. You get the same riffs, there is some repetition. It's pretty commercial, but with your stuff, it was quite heavy, but very melodic. A lot of the guitar parts just jump out at you.

RJ: Yeah, I'm glad you noticed that man. We like the really aggressive edge. We like to pull people in with the aggressive edge and also give them some hooks and stuff to listen to so they can remember, you know, maybe when they stop at the end of the CD, they can remember the melody of the song. I think that's what makes a good song is melody.

JT: Have you guys actually performed live?

RJ: No, you know, we never have. We've practiced and stuff together. We've never performed live, because like I said, we've all performed in other bands and the climate for us is just not right to perform live at clubs unless we'd be exposed to so many more people. You know, this Nu Metal stuff is what people want to hear in clubs.

JT: You've mentioned other bands that you've been in. What are some of the other bands that you've been in?

RJ: For example, our singer was in a band called Psycho Drama. They did a club scene for years and toured a little bit. I used to be in a band called Saddleback Shark. We were kind of like Megadeth or Pantera style, but we broke up. We toured the tri-state area.

JT: That leads me to my next question. Can you remember any Spinal Tap moment that you might have had while you were in concert or on tour, something along those lines.

RJ: Well, I used to play in a band, like I said, called Saddleback Shark and our singer and bass player got invited to be on the Jerry Springer show. They took a video tape of some girl taking her top off on the Jerry Springer show, so that was maybe our biggest Spinal Tap moment I've been involved with.

JT: That is kind of funny.

RJ: You know, she was a pretty big girl. [both laughing] It was kind of funny, those two guys were on the Jerry Springer show showing that video. It was all about women taking their clothes off at concerts.

JT: Oh, wow.

RJ: I was involved with the band, cause I remember, I think I was the guy who video taped it. You're from the stage, you bring a camera up to the stage and video tape people in the audience.

JT: That's funny.

RJ: It's kind of gross, too.

JT: Just to ask you some custom questions here, just cause fans like to know a little more about the artist, identify with them.

RJ: Sure.

JT: What is your favorite book?

RJ: My favorite book. Well there is a book that's called, this is totally off the subject and kind of weird, but I think it's called American Auto Factory.

JT: Okay.

RJ: The reason is, we still work day jobs. We are not at the level where we can make a living off of music yet. I actually work in an auto factory. I work in a factory that builds the Honda Accord. I just like reading that book called American Auto Factory. Ha ha. That's my favorite book.

JT: Just along the same lines, what would you say is your favorite movie?

RJ: Oh man, I love Braveheart.

JT: Yeah, that's a good one.

RJ: Man that's hard to say, because I like Braveheart, I like Gladiator. I just think Braveheart is full of spirit and full of triumph.

JT: So, you are probably planning on seeing Master and Commander and Troy and those epics.

RJ: Oh, I love those big epic movies man.

JT: Yeah, I like those, too.

RJ: That's great stuff, better than cheesy stuff like Legally Blond and all that crap.

JT: Ha ha ha.

RJ: I hate that.

JT: That's funny.

RJ: Not into chick flicks.

JT: Yeah, neither am I and probably not too many of your fans either.

RJ: Yeah, but stuff like Lord Of The Rings and really just epic stuff. Deep Throat.

JT: Sure. [We both laugh]

RJ: Okay, just being stupid.

JT: Uh, so what kind of plans does the band have for the future?

RJ: Well, what we want to try to accomplish, we hopefully, I know right now we are getting played on a few stations like over in Europe and stuff and Japan are playing our music on the radio. We would like to try to get to that point where somebody, some DJ will take a chance and spin us on the radio. I know we are getting played on some college radio stations, which is cool. Eventually we would like to break out and be a mainstream metal band that is not a nu metal band, you know.

JT: Exactly. Okay, is there anything else you would like to say to your fans at this time?

RJ: Yeah, I just want to say that we really hope they pick up our new CD, cause we're confident that it's a real good melodic metal CD and we think a lot of people will really enjoy it. If you like melodic metal, pick up the new Magnitude 9 CD.

JT: Oh yeah, I agree. I recommend it as well.

RJ: Thanks. It's kind of fresh. You know, compared to a lot of the stuff that's out there, it's kind of fresh to hear a CD like this, I think.

JT: I think so, too. Okay, well that's all the questions that I have for you right now.

RJ: Alright Josh.

JT: I appreciate you calling me.

RJ: Yeah, no problem man.

JT: I want to wish you good luck in the future as well.

RJ: Thanks. [...] I appreciate the support and the coverage.

JT: No problem. Part of it is that I like the album so much it is very easy for me to say nice things about it and actually get a chance to talk to somebody that's in the band.

RJ: Well, that's cool, I mean, that makes it all the worthwhile for us man. If you could spread the word and if you talk to anybody that might like this kind of stuff music, maybe mention our name.

JT: Okay.


Discography:
Chaos To Control (1998)
Reality In Focus (2001)
Decoding The Soul (2003/2004)

Added: April 4th 2004
Interviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

Hits: 1485
Language: english
  

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