Gold Coast’s Jake Johnson has a new solo project under the moniker of Burning Jacob’s Ladder. Jake has just released his first single ‘Danger In Me’ which he wrote, performed, mixed and mastered entirely himself. I caught up with Jake for a chat just before Christmas to find out more about the project and what we can expect in 2021.
Hey Jake, congratulations on the single. I guess you better start by telling us a bit about yourself.
I started playing guitar when I was about 15. I used to just jam with friends when we were at secondary school. I joined my first serious band, The Harrington’s, when I was 16. We did pretty well to be honest, we played all around the UK and we went to Europe once. I did that until I was about 19, then it changed into another band. We toured a little bit but never released any music. That fazed out after about a year, we all went away to University and it was hard to keep the band going. It was around that time that I got into production. One of the guys that I was in a band with used to record himself. At the time I knew nothing about recording, apart from being in a few studios myself I knew nothing about the process. I just thought it was the most powerful ability you could have. If you could record yourself then nothing was going to stop you, I kind of saw it as witchcraft. He taught me the basics and I picked it up from there. From there I started doing it a bit myself, recording and stuff. I travelled for 9 months after that and then came to Australia. I’ve been here for 5 years and it was only about 2 years ago that I picked the guitar up again. I had a friend who was in a band in Brisbane and he asked me to join the band which I didn’t want to do at the time. I started jamming with him a bit and we started a project. I actually wrote “Danger In Me’ when I was with him. He then got busy with his band and so I went off and continued on my own. That was about 18 months ago. And here I am. This music should have been out a long time ago really, but these things are always quite slow.
At least during Covid you’ve probably been able to keep up the momentum.
Yeah things haven’t really changed for me. I’ve not stopped working; I work in hospitals so Covid didn’t really affect me in terms of work. I didn’t really have any down time. I go to work to buy toys and gear for my little studio and just make music.
What’s the story around Danger In Me?
I wrote that when I was doing another project with my mate like I said. It was kind of a turning point because I have never sang in my life, in all the bands I was in I was always the guitarist. When I got into this project with him I started singing a little bit and that was the first song I actually sang on my own. I think that was also the tipping point to realise I’m not the best singer in the world, but I can probably do this on my own.
Well let me tell you something if that’s what you think! I’ve just got a couple of my kids here and we just listened to your song before and we all thought you sounded like Michael Hutchence, so there you go!!
Someone else said that the other day. Look I produce music and engineer it. I’m not saying that that is not my voice, but I had a little bit of help
Hahaha. I said to my daughter doesn’t this sound like him and she said oh my god yes. She was trying to think who you sounded like. That’s 2 people that have told you that now so there must be some truth in it.
Yeah maybe. I’m still not confident as a vocalist but I’m getting there. So anyway going back to what you asked around the story of the song. I wanted to write a song that started and never really stopped so that is probably the reason it kind of kicks off and the energy doesn’t really drop until it finishes. That was kind of intentional. I wanted something a bit more up tempo because a lot of what I had written prior to that was a bit slower. I wanted it to be dark, so I messed around with the tunings of the guitar but apart from the energy level the rest of it just came as I wrote it. I wrote it very quick once I started it, the backbone of the song was written in an hour or two. It’s a pretty simple song. Lyrically it’s nothing too serious, it’s about having choices. About sometimes wanting to make certain choices but knowing that they are probably not the most sensible ones to make. Lyrically my songs are never very specific really.
More a take what you want from it style.
Yeah, it can be interpreted in different ways by different people. More of the energy went into the music side of that song as opposed to the lyrics.
Who would be your influences then?
My go to bands have always been Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Angels, Mark Lanegan, Nick Cave and I suppose I would go to them But weirdly enough, obviously this being my first song, it’s the first time you get feedback from strangers. Some of the things they have been saying is not what I would have thought but it does make sense as well. I think a few bands thrown around are probably bands that, you know when people talk about their era of music, were from the 2000’s which was mine. Even though I didn’t mention them they are bands that I probably was listening to at that time so I would be influenced by them in some way. One example is Kasabian, and weirdly enough that got mentioned a couple of times in comparison to that song. I’ve always been a fan and it actually made me go back and listen to them, the first couple of albums that were released in that era and I do get it. Although I wouldn’t have mentioned them to you there is probably a lot of music that I grew up with that has had an affect without me really knowing.
I had to go and look where you had put yourself genre wise because it had that dirty grungey sound to it too which would be that 2000’s again.
I wouldn’t know how to pinpoint that song to be honest so I don’t blame you if you can’t.
I’m actually not a genre fan but I was curious to see what you had put.
That’s refreshing to hear actually because I have been writing with a drum machine which is nothing like what the song sounds but I love electronic music and I also love experimental music.
Experimental is my favourite!
I’ve always been interested in it. I used to write music for film, so I love orchestral music and anything like that.
Anyway I was writing a song on the drum machine a couple of days ago, maybe for the second EP, but it’s very electronic. I was showing one of my friends from back home and he said it was quite a bit of a shift. He’s only heard Danger In Me, I said to him it is from that song but collectively I use electronic music in some of my songs anywhere. I want to use it from the start so that I’m not pigeon-holed to one genre. I’d hate to release two EP’s of all similar stuff to what you have heard and then for me to want to do something like this. I want to start how I mean to go on with it. Actually another of my influences is Radiohead. I love Thom Yorke. It’s essentially what they do, incorporating alternative rock music with the experimental electronic music. Especially what Thom does on his solo albums, he pushes more into that electronic side. I know it’s cliché but going back to what you said there is just good and bad music.
It doesn’t matter where it comes from or who is making it. I understand the game though and if you make a name on just writing grungey music and release a few EP’s and then completely change it’s going to be like he doesn’t really know who he is or what he wants to do. So I am trying to start the mix from the beginning.
Definitely. It’s been really good to see a lot of young bands coming out that are just playing and writing whatever the hell they want.
I think if you want to be in the game for a long time you need to be able to adapt. I look at people who I look up to or am influenced by and who have been around for 20+ years and you do have to change. I think if you have that capacity to be able to write in different genres then it makes you a stronger songwriter. I love different genres of music, so I want to try different things. I suppose there is a little bit of that when you listen to the EP.
When is the EP dropping?
There’s another single coming out on the 18th January and the EP, Seventh Fever Of The Mind, will be about a month after that. That gives me time to work on the second EP. Now I have started I don’t want to stop; I write songs all the time, so I want to keep churning out music. I’m just going to go for it.