Composer Biography: Dominik Johnson
Could you talk a little about your work, who you are and what you do?
I'm Dom - I’m a composer, producer and musician rolled into one. I create what I like to call 'handcrafted soundtracks' as most of my music is made using real, live acoustic instruments which I play myself. I work out of my studio in Edinburgh which is filled with instruments from all around the world, as well as different kinds of microphones, Macs and studio gear! I tend to focus and specialise in making music tailored towards documentary, drama and factual productions, as this is where my musical styles, experience and interests lie. My library music has provided the soundtrack to hundreds of well-known television shows in the UK and US over the years, and I help score the odd feature film now and then - most recently La Novia (2015) which won two Goya Awards.
What are your main interests and inspirations in writing music?
I am inspired by all the subtle, organic, natural sounds of the acoustic instruments I play. I love the texture and feel that these instruments provide, and they make good soundtrack music because they're timeless and don't date with advancing technology. I've always had an interest in musical styles and musical instruments from around the world, and I focused a lot of my early years on playing classical guitar. I think this opened up a lot of exotic musical styles to me, such as Elizabethan music, Spanish and South American music, and from that point I was hooked on learning more and more musical styles and instruments.
As well as full time composing for various TV and film projects, I've spent the last six years collecting instruments, studying, and exploring musical genres and history. I'm always working on new techniques and fingering patterns, while learning new musical styles for my own compositions - I love it!
The instruments I use for my recordings are made specifically to my requirements by some of the finest luthiers in the world. Making and building instruments is a beautiful skill that requires a high level of craftsmanship.
Your work with de Wolfe has been quite diverse. How does your process change when wrting for different styles?
Yeah, I’ve done three albums with de Wolfe so far, World Documentaries (DWCD 0665), Lives and Landscapes: North America (DWCD 0682) and a North African one (which I’m just finishing), and although each album has its own unique character, the production process stays the same. Musically and creatively what I really like to do is take my instruments and blend them with modern production techniques, using the instruments in a more filmic, sync-friendly way.
A good example of this is the World Documentaries (DWCD 0665) album. Here I used a lot of my South American and African instruments (like the Charango, Ronroco and Kora), but created a much more neutral, non-geographical acoustic soundscape, and yet it still has that exotic sound flavour. It works really well in this short film de Wolfe synced recently:
I love working in the studio! My process of producing soundtracks in the studio is also quite unique, in that not only do I play and compose most of the music, I also do all the engineering, editing and mixing too. The production 'sound' of music is just as important as the notes of the music, so I like to spend a lot of time mixing and making sure all the recordings are smooth, interesting, broadcast quality and easy on the ears!