Saturday, July 24, 2021

Brian Johnston (1969 - 2021)

My friend Brian Johnston died on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. He was 52 years old.

Brian Johnston, in a recent photo
Brian was an artist, making both music and visual works. He was also active in trying to reform and modernize his church, and started a site to help others struggling to reconcile their faith and their lives. While I am not religious at all, I deeply respect Brian's drive to make things better and provide support for others.

I met Brian at Langley High School when I was a junior. We bonded over music and synthesizers.

Brian had an Ensoniq Mirage, the first "affordable" digital sampler. I had a Casio CZ-101 and a drum machine. Together, we started a synth band project, called The Panther Moderns, the name stolen from William Gibson's "Neuromancer".

We got a spot in the high school talent show that year, and performed a cover of Faith No More's "We Care A Lot". It was my first time performing as a lead singer, and my first time performing in a rock band. It was a life-changing experience.

That one performance led to my being asked to join Darow Han's band. Brian would go on to join Jesus Wept. We remained friends through high school, hanging out, and going to each other's shows (when we weren't playing at the same ones!).

I remember Brian as a thoughtful and relatively quiet guy, with sad, expressive eyes and a kind of Nicholas-Cage-in-Valley-Girl charisma and emotional core. He was also very funny when he wanted to be.

The author (l) and Brian Johnston reprising "We Care A Lot" in 1987.

Over the last decade or two, Brian and I communicated once or twice a year, usually over email. A few years ago, we had discussed starting a new collaboration, an updating of our original synth duo project. Our responsibilities got in the way for both of us, and after some false starts, we reluctantly agreed it wasn't the right time. 

I wish I had more time with him, to hear more about how he was doing, to make more art together. I am grateful for the time I did have, and for his inspiration and life-changing impact. 

Thank you, Brian.

Brian is survived by his wife and six children. You can make a contribution here.

Sadly, I must also note that Brian took his own life. Brian is unfortunately not the only friend of mine who has done this, not the first from my high school bands, and he is not even the only one who has done this in the last 12 months.

Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255, and there is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

Brian as I remember him, 1987.

1 comment:

Brian's Friend said...

I met Brian in the Mission field in Germany. I loved his wit, music, and understanding. Brian was a odd nerd. I can say that because I was too. The difference was he made look great! Then Brian and I met up in the military. That is where I met the love of his life Ellen. Alexander was there too, and over the years others appeared. Brian and his family had a deep memorable impact on my life in the best of ways. Even when Brian and I parted on political and theological ways we still had a mutual respect and understanding and respect for each other. His passing and manner of passing shook me to the core. There was no shame, anger, betrayal, just loss at a dear friend. I miss him!