When I first met Johnny Lyon, I was in awe of his impressive mop of dark shaggy hair. I think this is what makes him iconic, and a hit with the ladies for sure. He was performing at a bar called Cassette Number 9 in Auckland city with one of his musical outfits, The Psychs, back in 2010. He embraced true rock and roll swagger and genuine musical talent in the form of an electric guitar, but little did I know back then, that this was only one aspect of the whizz kid I was to about to befriend and discover. He is a true entertainer, full of dynamic creative energy who brings his own unique style to any project he’s involved with.

Not only is he extremely well musically endowed, Johnny has a distinct and accomplished visual style. You can count on him to provide a full-on sensory experience with his vibrant work, as he exhales life into his aural, visual and virtual world spaces. Recurring themes of music and pop art serenade his personal portfolio of work, harnessing vivid colours, bold texts and punchy graphic manipulations. His work has a distinct cut and paste feel of digital collage, which generates a multitude of fresh and electrifying notions. Johnny has the spark of imagination and ability to develop some seriously wacky, psychedelic concepts, particularly through his motion and music video works. He has produced and directed for some high profile and up and coming New Zealand bands, each one a testiment to his attention grabbing style.

It’s hard to keep up with this kid, but I pinned him down for some hard core Q & A. Take a deep breath and envelop your senses in the following collection of images and swathe yourself silly in the eclectic mix of candy-pop surrealism; featuring plenty of skulls, mullets and David Bowie characters for your enjoyment.


Words: Emma Forster


You do lots of different things Johnny, can you please tell us where you have come from and what you are doing at present?

HELLO. I live in Auckland and I’m a motion designer by day, musician by night. Right now (Sunday night) I’m drinking beer and finishing a music video.


Qualifications vs life experience. Can you tell us a bit about both which has lead to where you are today?

Im a fan of balance. I spent longer than the average person reading books and getting qualified but to be honest, it gets you nothing. You gotta get out there and take it. But it helps to knowing how to actually get it.


You have an eye for design and enjoy creating your own pieces of art alongside working for a creative company…When did your passion for design and drawing became apparent?

I got sick of seeing the names of bands I was in on uninspiring gig posters, so I got a cracked version of photoshop and started doing posters. After 6 months or so I was bullshitting my way through designing posters for big gigs/events still not quite understanding what bleed, CMYK etc was all about. After a while I decided to take it a little more seriously and enrolled in a one-year design course which combined my new found interest in design with my background in film, landing me in motion graphics.







Do you have a personal alias?

I like my given name, nobody believes it’s real anyway. Although I do use ‘Johnny Volume’ when it’s required.


Do you think your upbringing and family life has influenced your creative output? Tell us about the role of your family members in your life and how they have contributed to the work you are achieving.

I come from a very creative family (musicians, phoptographers, painters, designers…) and in a way my upbringing was definitely a case of nurture over nature. I wasn’t overtly creative in a pen to paper sense as a kid…I was more into throwing eggs at cars with my sweet Ramones bowl cut. Growing up, I guess my surroundings taught me to channel it all into my creative endeavors.









Your hair is an inspiration. When did you decide to embrace this aspect of your physicality into your design work?

Ha ha. I was working on a logo for my band Mad Pattern and didn’t realise the resemblance to myself until it was finished, and since then it’s become a running gag. I love trying to sneak it in to my client work (so far an MTV animation and an ad for Kit Kat, yes!)


Please explain to me, what is it about David Bowie?

He was never far away from our family turntable growing up. I’ve always been a fan but went through a real phase about a year or so ago, working my way through his catalog. I was also developing a motion graphics piece at design school and his many personas and styles seemed like an interesting idea. After a solid 4 weeks of Bowie animation and nothing but Bowie on my iPod, I’ve become slightly obsessed.













What is your favourite part about the music video process? Is it the ideas, the physical shooting or the editing process? In what area do you get the most kicks?

There are lots of parts that I love, and lots that I don’t. I always bite off more than I can chew with a $5000 NZ On Air grant, which generally means long hours and stress. But when it’s all done and dusted theres nothing better than putting it aside, avoiding it for a month or two, then sitting down and watching it for the first time and looking past the mistakes or things I wanted to change. Just sitting there and going, “Wow, how the fuck did I do that?

You like to tell a good story Johnny. Can you tell us one for the readers please?

Shit. Ummmmmmmmmm. Well apparently Elvis Presley was born an identical twin, his brother however didn’t survive labour. Now get this. What if he did survive? Think about it. Maybe he has no idea, and he gets bought a beer now and again for the resemblance. Or maybe he’s spent his life as an Elvis impersonator? Maybe the two of them ran into each other and decided to swap places? Maybe he was the evil twin and he became the fat, drug dependent Vegas Elvis while the real King of Rock’N'Roll is still out there…think about it





Can you give us a few adjectives to describe your personal style?



What is Mad Pattern?

My dirty dirty garage rock n roll band. We’ve been sitting on a killer EP for a couple of months, it’s sitting in boxes waiting for official release and a tour! (almost finished website)








Who/What is Luger Boa?

New musical project of Jimmy Christmas (former The D4 frontman) which I joined at the start of the year for a recently completed national tour of new album New Hot Nights. I earned some serious party stripes along the way.


If you had $1,000,000, how would you spend it?

Dinner and cocktails with Bill Murray. Or an amp that went all the way up to 11.





Quote of the day-

“Buy the ticket, take the ride”. Hunter S. Thompson.


Now, you have told us where you have been and what you are doing currently, can you tell us where you are heading in the near future…?

I’m heading your way and to Sydney in mid-November for some Luger Boa shows, but other than that I’ve had such a full-on year I haven’t given much thought to the future, it’s been all about getting shit done.

Maybe I’ll go to New York.




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