Mike Johnson (guitarist)

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Mike Johnson
Head and shoulders photograph of Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson 2003
Background information
Born1952 (age 70–71)
United States
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Years active1978–present

Mike Johnson (born 1952) is an American experimental rock guitarist and composer, best known as the co-founder and member of the Denver-based avant-rock group Thinking Plague. He has also been a member of Hamster Theatre and The Science Group, and has collaborated with several musicians, including Bob Drake, Susanne Lewis and Janet Feder.


Mike Johnson played in his first band at the age of 13 and began writing music at 17. He studied classical and electronic music in college in Denver but taught himself the guitar and composition. While at college in 1978 Johnson answered an advertisement at a local music store requesting a guitar player "into Henry Cow, Yes…"[1] This put him in touch with bass guitarist and drummer Bob Drake. Johnson and Drake initially played in a few cover bands but in 1980 they began experimenting with prepared guitars and tape machines, and recording material Johnson had written. "Our goal was to combine the harder edge of progressive rock, as in Crimson and Yes, with the more modern tonalities and experimental approach as reflected in the work of the Art Bears, our major heroes at the time."[1] By 1982 they had enough material to perform live and enlisted three other musicians for a brief tour of Denver. This band became the first incarnation of Thinking Plague.

Thinking Plague[edit]

Thinking Plague was active on and off between 1982 and 2004 and quickly achieved prominence in avant-rock circles.[2] They made five studio albums, and released one live album recorded at NEARfest in 2000. Johnson and Drake led the group until Drake left in the early 1990s after which Johnson took the helm. Most of Thinking Plague's material was composed by Johnson.

Other bands and collaborations[edit]

While Thinking Plague has dominated most of Johnson's musical career, he has also been a member of Hamster Theatre since 1996 and The Science Group in 2003. He toured with the 5uu's and Hail in the mid-1990s and has collaborated with a number of musicians, including Bob Drake, Susanne Lewis, Janet Feder and Fred Frith.


With Thinking Plague
With Hamster Theatre
With Hail
With Janet Feder
With Fred Frith
With The Science Group
With Luciano Margorani
  • My Favorite Strings (2004, CD, Isinaz, Italy)
With David Shamrock
With Yugen
  • Iridule (2010, CD, AltrOck, Italy)
With Dave Willey
  • Immeasurable Currents (2011, CD, AltrOck, Italy)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Northrup, Greg, "Interview with Mike Johnson, May 2001", The Giant Progweed, archived from the original on September 27, 2007, retrieved July 2, 2007; .
  2. ^ Hagelbarger, John. "Interview with Mike Johnson, November 2004". Progressive Ears. Retrieved July 3, 2007.

External links[edit]