In my opinion, Nick Johnston is one of the most exciting and naturally talented guitarists playing today. Imagine part Eric Johnson, part Michael Landau but raised on a diet of classic shred and you might have a bit of an idea. Or maybe Steve Vai if he was more into single coils and came from Canada. Johnston was recently in Australia for a tour with Animals As Leaders and Plini, but he’s about to return for the Melbourne Guitar Show.
“I love Melbourne,” he says. “The fellas at Schecter asked me to do the guitar show and I’m really excited about it.”
It’s been incredible to watch Johnston’s star grow over the course of his three full-length albums, as with each release not only does he kick his playing up a notch, but he seems to double his fanbase.
“It’s hard to understand that, it’s hard to believe that actually,” says Johnston. “I guess the thing is, it seems to some people who have joined the instrumental scene and see bands like Polyphia and Animals As Leaders and Intervals, or one of Australia’s exports - Plini, it looks like a new scene. For me I’m going to be 30 in a few weeks and I think back to when I started doing this when I was 20 and it feels like it’s taken so long, such a slow climb over such a long length of time that it doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten anyway. It’s been so consistently slow that when people tell me they’re a big fan I go ‘really? Why?’ You don’t quite notice it until someone points it out.”
“It’s taken me all over the world at this point,” says Johnston of his career in music. “Places I’d never dreamed I’d go to in a million years, and just so many crazy, unique kind of experiences that I’ve been able to have. It’s helped me stay mentally very much a kid. I always try and surround myself with stuff that makes me feel comfortable and creative, so music has given me more than just playing - it’s given me a life where I get to chase that feeling whenever I want and that’s unbelievable. But honestly I still feel like it’s the tip of the iceberg.”
Johnston’s guitar of choice is a Schecter signature model, now in its second iteration. “Schecter were interested in continuing to push that traditional three-pickup bolt-on solidbody style,” he says. “The first silver guitar did well but they were looking for something that was more of a unique build, more of a custom shop kind of guitar. This new green model actually pre-dates that silver one because when I had first gone to the shop they were very generous in that they offered me free range, and I picked a guitar that had a Wenge neck and this old body from the 90’s that kind of screamed ‘I need to go with that neck’. There was a pretty decent response online to that guitar. People were spec-ing out guitars like that from Schecter and buying them, so we decided to make a little bit more of a signature version of it. It’s got new pickups that I designed with Schecter. [It has] true single coils with lower output neck and middle and a hotter bridge, and it’s all I’m playing now. It’s been all over the world and it’s amazing. You’ll see it in Melbourne soon.”
The Melbourne Guitar Show will be held at the Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday August 5 and Sunday August 6. For more information head to australianmusician.com.au/melbourne-guitar-show.