Mikael Johnston got his start in the music industry as a founding member of Mephisto Odyssey in 1993, one of the first American Electronic Dance Music acts to sign to Warner Brothers Records.
From there, his charisma and solid musical sense led to a steady stream of writing, production, engineering and remix work with bands such as Jane’s Addiction, Static-X, Soul Coughing, and others. In 2008, Johnston partnered with longtime colleague Dave Dresden to form the writing and production team of Dresden & Johnston where he used API mic preamps, compressors and EQs to record their Billboard Top Ten Dance hit “Keep Faith.”
Fast-forward to 2012, Johnston upgraded his studio with an API 1608 small-format analog console to complete a mix for rock icon Blondie at the request of the bands producer Jeff Saltzman.
Johnston was first introduced to the API sound while working with other Warner Brothers acts that wanted to experiment with electronics, something that Johnston was adept at.
“We used API gear for the Jane’s Addiction remixes for the ‘So What!’ maxi single. Shortly thereafter, I co-wrote ‘Crash’ with Static-X. I realized it was time to step up my game. And several friends suggested an API lunchbox was the way to go.”
Johnston filled out his lunchbox with API mic pres, compressors, and EQs. Later he added an API 3124 rack-mount, four-channel, mic pre for work with bands such as I Am the World Trade Center.
As Johnston continued moving through his career, he realized that booking studio time for a lot of his work was expensive, and it soon became obvious that it would be more cost-effective to do the work in-house.
“It’s one thing to book studio time if you’re focused solely on being an artist, but I have a decade of experience as an engineer, remixer and producer,” he said. “I then decided I wanted to equip my new studio with a first-rate analog console so that I could take on both roles at the highest level.
“It’s no secret that I believe a hybrid mix is far superior to an in-the-box mix, and for my taste the more high-end analog gear that’s involved, the better. While deciding on a console I took several factors into consideration, namely the history of the manufacturer and their longevity in the business, as well as their reputation.
“I also decided I didn’t want a vintage console because they’re a hassle to maintain. So that left me with a short list of credible names that have been in the industry for decades and also make new high-end, small-format, discrete analog consoles.
“The API 1608 seemed to be the only one that was purely discrete analog circuitry without a lot of extraneous, potentially problematic, and eventually obsolete, computer integration. Therefore between the console topography and the API 500 series format becoming an industry leader, it was a no brainer for me.”
Blondie and their producer Jeff Saltzman loved Johnston’s recent API 1608 mix of their song “Rock On.” Johnston has also been collaborating with Saltzman and singer Natalie Hawkins on lyrics and melodies for music written by Blondie guitarist Chris Stein. And in addition to his work with Blondie, Johnston is also: working on a short film mix in 5.1 for Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Aidan Fraser (Pirates of the Caribbean 2, King Kong, ParaNorman); mixing hip hop artists Oh No, Declaime and Georgia Anne Muldrow (from the acclaimed Stones Throw label) for producer Chris Keys; and ending the year producing an album for the up-and-coming Danish Act ‘Sleep Party People’ with Saltzman. All these projects will involve Johnston’s API 1608 console.
“If things continue like this, I’m looking forward to expanding my API 1608 out to 32 channels,” Johnston said. “I couldn’t be happier.”