Johnny Barker is back with the release of his latest album 'Sleepwalking'. Now known simply as BARKER, many Kiwis will recognise him from TV shows such as Cover Band, Go Girls and as the terrifying and iconic Shortland Street character, Joey Henderson aka The Ferndale Strangler.
We recently caught with BARKER and found out more about his impressive new recording.
You've dropped your first name and are now just referred to as 'BARKER'. What prompted the change?
I love a stage name (laughs). My friend Rob Brown, who is a great influence, came in and said "Stop changing your name!", because I'd been in 10 bands over the years. He said "Just stick to one name, use 'BARKER' in all caps". So I've just stuck with that and it sounds kinda rock n roll.
Your album 'Sleepwalking' has just been released. Where did the idea for Sleepwalking come from?
I was playing with The Aristocrats and we were all sort of recording together. I'd bought Pro-Tools and wanted to learn how to record on my own as well and keep myself busy. I wanted to get more and more music under my belt. It's just been over the last 4-5 years that is has developed into the record that is out now.
And you recorded Sleepwalking in a few different locations?
Yeah. I started tracking in Point Chevalier in a flat, and then went travelling around Europe with my girlfriend at the time. We were travelling in a camper van so I was writing songs on the road. We were holed up in this little village in France for a few months and I had this wonderful little space looking out over this French village, and I just had a keyboard and a little bass that I had bought in London, and just started tracking there. So I did half the record in France and then came back and finished the last part of the record in beautiful sunny Avondale.
How long do you reckon the whole process took you?
It was about 4 or 5 years. It's that funny thing that it doesn't feel like a long time because I was just sort of tinkering away here and there with a lot of red wine and late nights. Whenever I'd get a bit of spare time I'd just jump in and work on the tunes. It was quite an enjoyable long process.
Would it be considered a concept album?
I guess so. The trick on this album was I decided not to write personal experience songs, I instead decided to follow the Johnny Cash school of songwriting. He would write about these characters or stories. But I was playing with characters in sc-fi genres, so each of the songs felt like short movie scripts. So I guess that makes it a concept album? (laughs).
You recorded the majority of the instruments yourself...
Yes, but I definitely had some help from some pretty talented friends. I had Cole Goodley play the drums on the record; he's a monster jazz and rock drummer, and did a really beautiful job on elevating the songs. Wesley Dowdell from my first band Jester, he showed up at my house one afternoon and I said "Jump on the kit and play to this tune", and he made that a fantastic track (Spinning Numbers). Jared Kahi from The Aristocrats and Ghosts Of M.O.T.A.T played some bass here and there. And the guys from The Map Room; SImon Gooding and Brendon Morrow, they did some backing vocals as well.
And how about production wise? Did you produce it yourself?
I sent my stuff to a good little group of friends who gave me a bit of advice here and there. But to be honest my wife has a pretty good set of ears, and she'll lean round a go "No, that's gotta go", or she'll turn around and say "Keep that one!". And in terms of mixing, Simon Gooding took the mixes and really opened them up... opened the curtains on the mix and made it quite bright and beautiful. So I was quite thrilled with that part of the process.
Who was the brains behind the music video for 'Censored'?
I came up with the concept based on the song... it's about how people have a sort of a front that they put out there. Kinda like social media, they project a version of themselves that is a false front in a way, and the true you is behind that. So we thought we'd play with that concept. A friend of mine called Drew Sturge was over in Spain when I was travelling and I'd just finished writing the song. We went out for a day in Pamplona and we shot me being like a homeless character. So we shot half the video there and two and a half years later we came to New Zealand and shot all of the performance part of the video with Chris Watkins. The two videos are sort of taped over each other and intertwine at the end there. It was quite a fun process.
You've got the album release show coming up on Thursday June 29th...
Yes, I'll have to get my arse into gear and get the band rehearsed up and play a show. It should be a good night. I'll put it to the boys but we might play a couple of tunes from The Aristocrats, maybe a few covers... a little bit of everything. And of course the whole album of 'Sleepwalking' as well. We've booked Nectar Bar in Kingsland, and is really a great little spot.
Any plans for a tour in the works?
I'd love to go touring! We'll start with the one show and then if I can find some funding or jump on a bill with another band that would be great. But the precious commodity is time... but long story short I would love to tour. Fingers crossed!
BARKER - Sleepwalking Album Release Thursday 29 June Nectar, Kingsland
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