Chicagoan Johnny K (Karkazis) burst into the business when he took a shot with a rising band: Disturbed. He produced and engineered some demos for the then-unsigned metal group, which soon led to a deal with Reprise. Happy with the work he’d done on the demos, the band insisted that K produce its debut The Sickness, which went on to sell more than four million copies. He’s known widely for working with metal bands but also strives to produce in a range of genres. Bands on his production roster include Megadeth, 3 Doors Down and Plain White T’s.
His first hit was with Loudmouth’s “Fly,” which was included on the soundtrack to the 1999 film Varsity Blues. Lately he’s also completed a number of mixes and he typically engineers every project that he produces. As an aside, this is K’s second time being featured in Producer Crosstalk.
Recently he sold Groovemaster Recording Studios, his former 40,000 square-foot Chicago space. He now works primarily out of his substantial home studio. K has managed to carve out a successful career in America’s second city. But it’s not always easy to persuade bands to make a cross-country trek. “Some clients were okay with coming to Chicago, others like Staind weren’t,” he explains. “A majority of the bigger bands wanted to record somewhere else.”
Every producer must discover ways to draw the best out of an artist. K finds that his approach varies from band-to-band. “One of the most important aspects of recording is the psychology of it,” he explains. “There isn’t any one way to get the best from an artist. Some respond best to being pushed, others respond best to being encouraged. The drummer in Disturbed [Mike Wengren] played better when he got a little angry or frustrated. Some people perform better when you’re their bud and there’s camaraderie, others work better when you challenge them. You have to feel out the artist at the beginning of the session.”
One of his recent productions was The Beast Inside, the debut from Fearless Records’ Virginia metal outfit My Enemies & I. He caught the band one night at Chicago venue Bottom Lounge, met the guys and suggested that they work together. They came to his studio, recorded some demos and K was able to help them land a record deal. “There was a lot of potential,” he observes. “We challenged ourselves to make the songs better.”
In addition to his work with established bands, K still enjoys working with undiscovered acts. “We knew Johnny was our guy shortly after meeting him for the first time,” Zach Jones, guitarist with My Enemies & I recounts of working with K. “He knew what we were going for in every aspect and how to get it there. He said to us, ‘Let’s have the performance make the record, not Pro Tools.’ I think you can really hear that on the record.”
K aims to relocate to Nashville. He mixed a record in 2000 with Chicago alternative band Caviar and fell in love with the city. Recently he completed an EP with Boston jam band Juice and another with L.A.-based country outfit Michigan Rattlers. He also produced Adelitas Way’s 2017 record Notorious, which was released in October of this year.
Contact Johnny K – producerjohnnyk.com, [email protected]