Ludwig HQ: What is your schedule like for the next few months with John Mayer?
J.J. Johnson: We have a few dates, but we're pretty much rapped up touring at this point. We will be performing on the Mayercraft Carrier in late March, a cruise sponsored by John.
Ludwig HQ: Are there particular gigs you are looking forward to?
J.J. Johnson: I have some dates with Doyle Bramhall 2 and Gary Clark Jr. that I'm looking forward to.
Ludwig HQ: Mayer’s recently released Where the Light Is DVD really showcases the kind of live chemistry this band has on stage. What are some of the things you enjoy about playing with this line-up?
J.J. Johnson: I love the fact that all the members are highly skilled musicians and great listeners, and are able to turn on a dime at any point and go with whatever is offered. They are also very good people and we are all close friends.
Ludwig HQ: Any drawbacks?
J.J. Johnson: Nope.
Ludwig HQ: How did you get the gig with Mayer?
J.J. Johnson: I was recommended by a few sources when he was looking for a new drummer. He had auditioned a number of drummers before me.
Ludwig HQ: What does drumming for such a versatile guitarist/musician/songwriter demand?
J.J. Johnson: It demands that you have a wide palate of music knowledge, that you be a good listener and that you be able to improvise
Ludwig HQ: What do you do to keep up with these demands?
J.J. Johnson: I try to stay inspired through listening to other music and practicing.
Ludwig HQ: What’s your Ludwig set-up like for the current tour, and what are you digging about it?
J.J. Johnson: Im using a 5 piece set. 14 x 22 kick or a 24. 9 x 13 rack tom, 16 x 16 floor tom, and 16 x 18 floor tom. and a variety of snare drums. I use a different snare for almost every song to capture the character of the song. I dig that they're versatile for tunings, user friendly and consistent.
Ludwig HQ: How important to you are the drums you play and how do you feel it affects your playing?
J.J. Johnson: I feel that the drums that I play are very important. Everybody has their own personal sound, so it's important for me to play something that I feel good about and that's able to provide what I need sonically.
Ludwig HQ: Can you describe how you tweak your drums to get your personal sound?
J.J. Johnson: I prefer a very open and resonant sound, but at the same time I pay attention to what's going to suit the music the best as far as tuning goes.
Ludwig HQ: You have also done a lot of session work. What are some things you do to prepare for recording in the studio?
J.J. Johnson: If music is available beforehand, I obviously study it and take notes while still going in with an open mind, not getting too attached to any ideas to see what is realized.
Ludwig HQ: What about your playing says “HIRE ME” to a given artist?
J.J. Johnson: I'd like to think that it's because I come with creativity, a good attitude, reliability, and big ears.
Ludwig HQ: Are there certain sessions that stand out as something special?
J.J. Johnson: Doyle Bramhall 2's Welcome was an amazing experience of making a record. It was very liberating because everything was cut live, and it was a great group of people. Benmont Tench played and produced and Jim Scott engineered and co-produced and they created a really positive and inspired environment. More recently I had a really good time working on Charlie Mars record. It was another really spirited session with a great group of musicians.
Ludwig HQ: Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?
J.J. Johnson: I've been enjoying working with Gary Clark Jr. recently. Gary's a talented young guitar player and songwriter from Austin.
Ludwig HQ: Everyone has their own snare drum sound. What snare are you playing, and how have you made it your own?
J.J. Johnson: I don't have one particular snare that I use, I look to the song and music for the appropriate sound. But I find myself using the Black Beauty quite a bit (6 1/2 x 14). I also get a lot of mileage out of my 8 x 14 and 6 x 12.
Ludwig HQ: Who are you major drumming and musical influences?
J.J. Johnson: My influences are so many and varied it's hard to say, but a few that come to mind are Elvin Jones, Levon Helm, Al Jackson Jr., John Bonham, Stevie Wonder, Zigaboo Modeliste, and Kenny Buttry.
Ludwig HQ: What advice can you give to drummers that see your playing and want to advance to the next level?
J.J. Johnson: Obviously developing a good foundation is important, listen to as much music as possible, and keep an open attitude.