There aren’t too many female guitarists around, which is a real shame. But those, we know of, have showed that they’re more than capable of surviving in this male-dominated world. People, like JENNIFER BATTEN and CARINA ALFIE sure know to pull the strings and of course there are some great female axeplayers around, who show their skills in a band. KATRINA JOHANSSON is a relatively new name in the scene for some of us. After listening to the four songs on her EP “Guitarsongs Volume I”, we came to one conclusion only, that this female shredder is certainly a name to remember. Obviously, there’s a long and very promising future in store for her, so we’d like to introduce this lady a bit closer to you. You can’t be quick enough, because before you know it, she will hold a Grammy in her hands. Yes, her talent is that promising. Don’t say, we didn’t warn you! We asked about her musical career so far, and we also found out that she likes some very spicy Indian food. No wonder, that this lady is real HOT! Metal Maidens introduces you to KATRINA JOHANSSON....
Please introduce yourself to our readers....
Katrina Johansson: “Hi everybody! My name is KATRINA JOHANSSON and I’m a rock/shred guitarist, who has taken lessons from internationally known guitarist MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO and GARY HOEY. I have attended the Wisconsin Conservatory, where I studied classical and rock guitar. I am endorsed by Dean Guitars. I have toured with regional bands and have released a CD of heavy intstrumental music in 2006 on M.A.C.E. Records, MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO’s records label.”
Johansson with a double “S” sounds like a Swedish name to me. Are you originally from Sweden?
KJ: “Yes, Johansson is a Swedish name. My mother is from Sweden, moved to the U.S., when she was about twenty years old. Her entire family still lives in Sweden, mainly in the Southwestern region. I used to visit every year and think it is one of the most beautiful places.”
When did you start to gain interest in music and guitar playing in particular?
KJ: “I always loved music, even as a small child. I would spend hours listening to the radio and singing along. We always had classical music playing on the stereo, when I was growing up. I became interested in the guitar as a child and hearing Eddie van Halen changed everything!!”
Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?
KJ: “Only guitar.”
Who can we see as your musical influences?
KJ: “I have a lot of favorite guitar players. My main influences would have to be Eddie van Halen (VAN HALEN), JOE SATRINI, Peter Lindgren from OPETH, Greg and Duane Allmann (THE ALLMANN BROTHERS), GARY MOORE, and I could go on and on....”
You released a four track EP in 2005, which is called “Guitarsongs Volume 1”. How did the press react to it?
KJ: “I received a lot of positive reviews from the press, including Guitar Player magazine. Some of the reviews are posted on my website. I was very happy with the mix on my last CD. My favorite song on the CD is "K-9 Lullaby", because of the melodies. It also seemed to put my dog and a few friend's dogs to sleep, kind of soothed them. That is where the title came from.”
You are endorsed by Dean Guitars. How did this happen and what’s so special about Dean Guitars?
KJ: “I sent a CD to Elliott Rubinson of Dean Guitars and he gave me an endorsement. Dean Guitars are not only unique looking, but they have a real killer sound. My ML has great action, too.”
When you think of Dean Guitars, a lot of people will immediately refer to Dimebag Darrell of PANTERA (R.I.P.) for using these guitars. You recently received a new Baby Dime from the Dean collection. What’s special about this particular guitar? And what do you think of Dimebag as a guitarist?
KJ: “Dimebag was a great guitar player. He influenced a lot of musicians and had a really unique style. The guitar on my website is my main Dean Guitar, 79 ML.”
Your music is the perfect combination of melodic parts mixed with raw shred licks. You also see this back in the list of influences you mention on your website. MALMSTEEN, HENDRIX, BLACKMORE, GARY MOORE - all artists have a more relaxed mellow side and a side, where they want to crank the shit out of you. Is that one of the criteria, while writing a new song? Meaning, a song has to have a melody, next to some louder, heavier parts as well?
KJ: “I think, it is very important to have melody in a song. There is a time to shred, but without melody most people can not listen to you for too long. With melodic songs you can reach a broader audience.”
Maybe you can tell us more about how a new song is born. How do you go about, when writing new material?
KJ: “I don't really have a writing method. I may get an idea while driving or running or sometimes when I’m just practicing. Creativity can never be forced. I also have not collaborated on any material for a very long time.”
Have you ever been asked to join a band, and what are your thoughts about joining a band in the future?
KJ: “I would like to put a band together, when I am finished with my new CD. I may also just do some shows with backing tracks.“
If you could put together a band with any musician of your choice, what would this band look like?
KJ: “If I could put together a fantasy band, it would be Flea (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS) or Steve Harris (IRON MAIDEN) on bass, Alex Van Halen on drums and maybe Wolf Hoffmann of ACCEPT on guitar. I could come up with a million scenarios!”
Do you play live with a band or are you backed up with a tape? I remember seeing JENNIFER BATTEN here in Holland, giving some kind of master class with a tape. And I really had the time of my life.
KJ: “I may play a few shows to backing tracks, but I prefer the onstage camaraderie of having band members.”
Jennifer’s speciality is the finger tapping technique. Do you have your own speciality?
KJ: “I just wanted to say, that JENNIFER BATTEN is a great guitarist and musician. I don't think I have any specialty, you would have to ask my fans.”
What I also would like to know is how you choose your song titles. And isn’t it extremely difficult to come up with a title for an instrumental song?
KJ: “When it comes to song titles, I’d say whatever is inspiring me, positive or negative.”
There aren’t too many female guitar wizards around. We mentioned JENNIFER BATTEN here already and we could also mention somebosy like CARINA ALFIE, but that’s about it. Isn’t it difficult for you to be one of the very few ladies around in the world of guitar heroes?
KJ: “I think, that some barriers are lifting for women guitarists and musicians, but we still have a long way to go. I have a lot of young girl students and it is inspiring to see the eight and nine year old girls wanting to play electric guitar!”
Do you see yourself as a guitar hero, or more as a gifted musician?
KJ: “I don't see myself as a guitar hero, just someone who loves to play and write.”
You are also a guitar teacher at Hartland Music in Hartland Wisconsin. What’s it like to teach your pupils how to play rock guitar?
KJ: “I love teaching! It is really inspiring to watch my students grow as musicians and it is really gratifying to see them catch on. I always try to raise the bar. I have taught beginners to tap. Anything can be possible!”
You also teach classical guitar. Is there a huge difference between people, who want to play rock guitar and those, who want to learn to play classical guitar?
KJ: “I studied classical guitar, when I was a teenager, but I do not teach classical.”
Tell us a bit more about your guitars (like how many guitars you own), and the gear you prefer to use?
KJ: “I have two Dean Guitars, a tobacco sunburst Dean 79ML (wicked sound), Dean Baby Dime. My students love my ML. I also have a Fender Acoustic and a tobacco sunburst Zion Strat. I like Framus Amps, Rocktron Effects and Line 6 Effects also. There are so many great products to choose from. It gets a little overwhelming!”
You will be releasing a new CD this year. Can you tell us a bit more about it (how many songs, album title, etc), and do you have a date set already?
KJ: “My new CD is getting closer to being finished. It has been wonderful to be able to take my time and there are some surprise guests. I am working with producer and musician Mike Hoffmann (http://www.mikehoffmann.net). His bio reads like a who's who of rock. I have learned so much from him and he is really brilliant!”
Metal Maidens ‘zine is based in Holland, or the Netherlands, if you like. What more do you know about our country, besides the fact that we have beautiful tulips and windmills?
KJ: “Two of the world’s greatest artists are from Holland; Rembrandt and Van Gogh. “Starry Night” and “Irises” by Van Gogh are two favorites of mine.”
Do you have other hobbies or interests, besides playing and teaching guitar?
KJ: “I do have other interests, besides playing guitar. I love running, biking, skating, anything outdoors and animals. Kickboxing is great. My web designer has a great Martial Arts school, http://sageartsstudio.com/ I also love to read and play with my dog. There never seems to be enough hours in a day!”
I read, that you like spicy food a lot. I also like my food very spicy, and in my CD review it says, that I would ask you about your favorite spicy food dish. Well, here’s the question. I always take chicken or lamb vindaloo, when we go out to diner to an Indian restaurant. Pretty hot stuff and sometimes they prepare the dish that hot, my nose starts running, my eyes start to tear, and I can’t speak for a while. Talking about hot and spicy food here: can somebody please call a fire brigade or something???!???
KJ: “Vindaloo is a beautiful thing!!!! I think, it actually makes my eyeballs sweat, if that is possible! If you like sushi, Wasabi is probably hotter than Vindaloo. I think steam comes out of your ears if you use too much, but I think that is great, too.”
In almost every photo I see of you, you mention the people, who did your hair and your make-up. How important are your good looks? After all, you are a very good looking lady, if I may say so?
KJ: “First, thanks for the compliment! I like to give credit to whoever does my hair and makeup. Anyone, who works hard deserves some recognition! I do think there is too much focus on women's looks in the music world, definitely a double standard. Just read some forums. You never hear anyone insulting a male guitarist over his looks. The focus is on his music.”
Please take a look in your crystal ball for us, and tell us a bit more about your future plans?
KJ: “In my crystal ball I see a band and a new CD. Also, I hope to write more music, that my fans enjoy!”
Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
KJ: “As far as a personal message: Special thanks to your readers for supporting female rockers!!”
Thank you ever so much for this interview Katrina, and for answering all our questions. The famous last words in this interview are for you....
KJ: “My last words for the interview: practice, practice, practice!!”