Unwrapped: Johnny Daukes – This Is The Road

We had a chat with Johnny Daukes about his immersive new album and short film This Is The Road

A multi-hyphenate artist who is gifted as a writer, a musician and also a filmmaker, Johnny Daukes is the kind of person that embody the meaning of the word “creative”, delving into various artforms and styles to assert his unique vision and tell his immersive stories.

The artist’s brand new album This Is The Road is a piece of work that continues to showcase his distinctive appeal and artistry, melding introspective and thoughtful songwriting with an emotional resonance that feels authentic and real, tying the tracks together through themes like f religion, fatherhood, politics, abuse, addiction, grief and environmental collapse. The album is also tied to a short film that adds to the immersive and powerful nature of the project, solidifying Johnny’s creative vision and bringing it to life in three dimensional fashion. Such a huge undertaking with so many immersive factors left us fascinated and desperate to know more, so we had a chat with the artist to find out a bit more about how the album and film came together and what experiences and influences helped bring it to life.

We love your new album ‘This Is The Road’, what more can you tell us about it?

Thankyou. The album was a reaction to several things that seemed to pile on top of each other. After my nephew died very suddenly, I wrote ‘A Magpie Came Today’ to rationalise the terrible pain my older brother was in. The sound of the track led me to revisit some acoustic demos and add to the sound palette. I’ve a ‘significant’ birthday coming in December and impending ‘sixtyness’ made me contemplate how I’d been parented and how I was parenting. My childhood was rather blighted by sexual abuse and the damage that does to your character is always there somehow. I wrote about it in a memoir ‘Shadowman’ that came out in October ’22. At the time it felt very cathartic but it certainly wasn’t a silver bullet. Whilst I was recording the album, I read the brilliant biography of Elliott Smith, ‘Shooting Star’ wherein he describes his own experiences of being abused as an atomisation of his young character. That prompted the song ‘Atomised’ which is clearly influenced by Elliott in its sound.
There’s a strong political theme in songs like ‘The Cardinal Sins’ and ‘Leave’, the first intersperses with religion, the second with climate change. We live in a world where wealth creation, media and political control are becoming inextricable. I don’t see how anyone can possibly think this is healthy…but there’s no shortage of stans for the likes of Trump, Murdoch, Musk, Putin, Modi, Orban etc etc These clowns love to rail against the ‘elites’ and weaponise that to convince huge swathes of ordinary people to support them. Maybe they like the taste of boots?

What was the process like putting it together?

I work alone, not really through choice – but I’m cheap and available so…
My music is never technically complex. I’m a pretty rudimentary guitarist and can play simple bass / keys / drums etc I have very simple working methods in my studio and try, as much as possible, to originate good sounds with good mics. Most of the bands I love, you can hear the rooms they record in. Pixies, The Who, Elliott Smith, Grandaddy, PJ Harvey ( I could go on and on and on) have quite an organic approach to recording. I’ve always loved reading about how records are made, studio processes…and certain principles appeal to me. Room ambience is important and luckily my studio (a 6 sq metre wooden cabin) has a great natural sound. On any given track I try to make sure every part is played on a different guitar, through a different amp, with different mics, then it kind of mixes itself. Kind of.
Recording vocals on your own can be a pain as you’re trying to engineer and make sure you getting somewhere emotionally, but I try not to add any pressure and throw down a couple of guide takes. Often, these will be the takes I’ll use.
The worst thing that happens is when the headphone lead snags and they’re ripped off your head. It feels like you’re being attacked. The only thing that’s worse is actually being attacked but fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often.

What were your biggest influences when creating it?

There are various influences on this record, mostly things that occurred to me after I’d done basic demos that I then listened to for guitar sounds etc. Also people around me whilst I was working.
In no particular order:
Syd Barrett, Elliott Smith, PJ Harvey, Kobbie Mainoo, Kristin Hersh, Grandaddy, Aimee Mann, Alejandro Garnacho, Oli Daukes (RIP), John Kenneth Shanks, Leonard Cohen, REM, Betty and Pepper, The Who

What was the thought process behind making a short film to accompany it?

I’ve made films for years and frequently, when I’m writing a song, it’ll be accompanied by images in my mind. When I was making the album that became ‘This Is The Road’ I sensed a connection between the songs, there was a sense that it somehow mapped my life. The last song I wrote was ‘This Is The Road’ as I was questioning whether I had the wherewithal to actually finish the record. Hence the lyric, ‘you put one foot in front of the other’. I was struggling with lots of things in lots of ways and the act of making the record became an answer to my own question.
Before I’d finished mixing the album, I started collaging some images in Photoshop of people I’ve been influenced by and animated it. It worked beautifully with the track ‘Dreams’ and the film snowballed from there. It wasn’t possible to shoot anything and I knew I didn’t want any lip-sync or do anything that felt like a music video. I began to collage ripped footage with graphical elements, all of which were visual metaphors or deliberate juxtapositions to the lyrics. Some days I’d end up with a few seconds and after a few months, I hit on a graphical style that meant I virtually scrapped everything I’d done up to that point. There are obvious stylistic influences, but I wanted to make something that felt really unusual and original.
I screened the film in Soho at the end of May for around 200 people and they all clapped. Which was nice of them.

What else do you have planned for the near future?

I’m probably going to return to my ‘day-job’ for the next few months and edit a movie, passion projects like the album/film don’t really make much commercial sense. But I’ve no doubt I’ll be recording again quite soon. I’ve made five solo albums since 2007 and have now made all of them available on vinyl and CD through my own label www.documentofinterest.com
I recorded some songs about a decade ago with members of Roxy Music, The Smiths, Suede and Supergrass and I’d like to release the six track album of glam rock very soon. Watch this space ( – )