Audio Grad Shaking Up the Aussie Music World
18 Oct 2017
Audio Grad Shaking Up the Aussie Music World
18 Oct 2017
Initiative and innovation are gold-star qualities for any creative professional these days and Chris Johnson's colourful career is in large part thanks to these qualities. A graduate of Audio Production in the days when SAE had a campus in Hobart (1997), Chris Johnson is both a beloved musician and an influencer in the worlds of Australian music and community radio.
His musical one-man outfit pretty much says it all: Chris performs as ‘Christo Jones’ and has gathered fans with his layered, folky, symphonic and sometimes poppy performances on a self-built rig of guitars, samplers, percussion & pedals — it all started as a performance art project and has mushroomed into a beautiful music career. Christo has wooed crowds on the stage of TEDx Sydney, Tasmania’s world renowned MONA museum and the cyclone-ravaged Town Hall Ruins during Darwin Festival. The press also loves him.
In his “day jobs,” Chris Johnson has been a radio and new-media executive for over a decade. At 22, Chris was the founding manager of the nationally award-winning station Edge Radio in Tasmania. He now manages the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap) and is Head of Programs and Services at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australian (CBAA), both nationally renowned organisations that crucially support musicians and community radio.
All of this has earned Christo Jones plenty of love from fans and press and places him as a pretty incredible role model for anyone navigating the wild and dynamic world of independent music.
Tell us about your inspiration as a musician.
Music and non-commercial radio were the only industries that made sense to me. I’ve been hooked on playing music since I was given a guitar, aged eight. I became obsessed with sound when I was given the chance to mix bands in high school. I really think I didn’t have a choice.
Chris Jones as Amrap Manager at 2016 Bush Bands Business Indigenous Artist Development Program
What are your fondest memories of your time at SAE?
SAE provided the perfect mix of expertise and inspiration. I’d go to class with a diverse mix of music lovers, learn sound engineering principals, explore equipment, and then head home to apply that knowledge to my own music on a four track recorder that another student lent me.
What did you value most about studying at SAE?
Like the old saying goes, SAE gave me a fishing rod instead of a fish. SAE provided a foundation for me to listen to music differently and to seek out and understand the equipment and principals needed to bring that music to life.
Can you shed some light on how studying at SAE has lead you to where you are now?
Without SAE I’d have no career. Towards the end of my studies SAE referred graduates to an audio engineering company. Within a few months I was resident sound engineer at the University of Tasmania bar and for the following four years I was paid to mix local and touring artists, while supporting my journalism and media studies degree.
From there, I got involved with projects and companies that I was passionate about — it really is about following your passion, having confidence and vision to take some risks and to be creative about carving out your own career. SAE gave me the foundation, know-how and inspiration to create a career of my choosing.
What have been your career highlights?
So many. Taking the Edge Radio events team to live mix and broadcast both stages of the Falls Festival. Creating Amrap’s music distribution platform AirIt and seeing the results as it enabled thousands of Australian artists to get airplay on hundreds of radio stations. Performing my own music at a TED Talk and at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), which two ex-Edge Radio technicians developed the AV for.
What do you enjoy most about working in your industry?
So many community radio makers adore music and want to support Australian musicians. I love working every day to build a bridge between the Australian music and community radio sectors, and finding loads of people who want to help out. And it’s fun when music industry folks wander into my live shows and see me juggling guitars and drums while singing!
What are you working on at the moment?
The Amrap team at the CBAA are developing some new tech that I honestly believe will take community radio’s support of Australian music to a whole new level. I’m arranging the next run of Australian dates for my musical moniker Christo Jones so I’ll be back on the road in the new year.
Can you share an artist that inspires you?
Kevin Parker of Tame Impala is an inspiration because his production has genuinely changed the ‘sound’ of music. I’ve followed his work since the first Tame Impala EP arrived in the mail at Edge Radio. Since then he’s combined analogue and lofi equipment and principals with modern production tools to inspire and inform a generation of musicians, recording artists and producers.
What advice would you give to students aspiring to become successful their field?
Get involved wherever you can and support each other. I volunteered mixing and recording bands and in community radio to find my place. Mind you, be careful to avoid exploitation. We should resist the rising internship culture in Australia when it undermines the ability for skilled technicians and musicians to get paid for their valuable work.
This or That Game:
Converse or Vans? How about Spring Courts? If they’re good enough for John Lennon’s feet, I’m in!
Coffee or Tea? Was Tea at SAE, but now I’m older it’s Coffee all the way!
Apple or Android? Apple, but with deep resentment. I’m still waiting for the Macbook killer so recording studios and touring artists can ditch Apple!
Instagram or Twitter? Instagram. Trump ruined Twitter.
YouTube: Christo Jones