Shred Lords: Nigel Johnson of A Martyr’s Fall
Born in Gary, Indiana, but raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nigel Johnson is the lead guitarist and vocalist of old school metalcore outfit, A Martyr’s Fall. One of the best known figures in the Milwaukee scene, Nigel began playing the guitar far later than most and crafted a unique style rather quickly.
“I got my first guitar when I was nine. The thing is I didn’t really care. I wanted to learn but I was this nine year old ADD child…I basically destroyed that poor thing and I feel so bad,” he recalls of his early years with a guitar. “There’s too many times I think ‘man, had I just taken it seriously then what level I’d be at now.’”
Taking a heavy interest in hard rock and heavy metal, Nigel eventually returned to the guitar once more at the age of 18. His first guitar as a serious musician came from his future bandmate, Ryan Kubacki, who sold him his old guitar after purchasing a Synyster Gates signature guitar for himself.
“When I got the guitar I literally spent hours fuckin’ around on it, playing notes. For me, it was an exhilarating experience to work and work and work until finally it was like ‘hey, this actually sounds like something’.”
Becoming passionate for the guitar almost immediately, Nigel soon began recording his music using his cell phone. Though the flip phones of the era weren’t of the greatest video quality, he was invited to join Inohv8 (pronounced ‘innovate’), his first band a year into his new hobby.
“I was a little nervous at first. I knew I could play good guitar, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be in a band,” he recalls, but given the band’s interest in replicating a sound similar to Paramore, he kept at it and just focused on having a good time.
After the dissolution of Inohv8, Nigel formed what would become A Martyr’s Fall. Working ever harder at his craft, Nigel began to grow more interested in heavier, more technical music. Least to say, the sound of the two bands is a far cry from one another. Strangely enough, metal and hardcore aren’t his main influences. Rather, he draws inspiration from a variety of non-metal sources, especially classical music.
“I’m kind of expanding my horizons musically, because I don’t want to sound like other bands, per se,” he says. “For me, it’s a journey. It’s a journey to find something I never necessarily played before.”
Despite being held back from releasing their debut album, A Martyr’s Fall became a household name in the Milwaukee metal scene. Their tight metalcore sound earned them a great deal of respect from their peers, but like anyone passionate about their art, Nigel is looking to make his guitar work on the next A Martyr’s Fall album something fresh and unseen.
“I think one thing I’m doing nowadays is I’m kind of taking a different approach, especially when it comes to my solos. I want to focus less on shreddy and more on if my solos are portraying something.”
Due to the rather recent release of A Martyr’s Fall’s debut album, Nigel says that the band doesn’t have any plans for a new album in the near future, but they are working on new material. In the meantime, the band is working on getting a touring vehicle, so they can venture out of Milwaukee more and “conquer the Midwest” before heading out even further. As for Nigel as a guitarist, he vows to “keep putting my heart and soul into my music,” and evolving his style.