Chuck Johnson is a composer and musician residing in Oakland, CA. He approaches his work with an ear towards finding faults and instabilities that might reveal latent beauty, with a focus on pedal steel guitar, experimental electronics, alternate tuning systems, and composing for film and television. Recordings of his work have been published by VDSQ, Thrill Jockey, Temporary Residence, Kompakt, Ghostly, Trouble in Mind, Scissor Tail, Merge, and Three Lobed, among others.

Between 2011 and 2015 Johnson released a triptych of solo guitar LP’s – A Struggle Not A Thought, Crows in the Basilica, and Blood Moon Boulder, that have become touchstones of the post-Takoma Records solo acoustic guitar format. Balsams – his solo pedal steel guitar debut – delivers what Pitchfork has described as “singular,” and “a mournful hymn built out of layers of sliding strings, cascading with a zenlike stateliness…” In 2019 he joined forces with Marielle V. Jakobsons to release their debut LP as Saariselka for Temporary Residence Ltd. The follow-up to Johnson’s acclaimed Balsams LP, The Cinder Grove delves further into the compositional possibilities of the pedal steel guitar, adding string ensemble and piano.

He has toured internationally and performed at the Hopscotch Music Festival, Sydney Festival, Debacle Fest, the Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia, the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Siren Fest, and the San Francisco International Film Festival, among others. Johnson’s credits as a film composer include scores for the HBO film Private Violence and the popular PBS shows Somewhere South and A Chef’s Life.  In 2009 he received an MFA in Electronic Music and Intermedia Art from Mills College.


Chuck Johnson
“What A Friend We Have In Jesus” On Day Before Yesterday compilation CD (American Primitive) 1999
“Duet” With Marc Faris On Transmissions Oo1 (Transmissions/ WXYC) 1999
“For Twelve Guitars” – On Transmissions Oo2 (Transmissions) 2000
“Closing Credits” On And To The Disciples That Remain compilation CD (Amish) 2006
“A Struggle, Not A Thought” On Beyond Berkeley Guitar compilation CD (Tompkins Square) 2010
A Struggle Not A Thought LP/CD (Strange Attractors Audio House) 2011
Crows In The Basilica LP (Three Lobed Recordings) 2013
“On a Slow Passing in a Ghost Town” on Imaginational Anthem Vol 7 (Tompkins Square) 2015
Blood Moon Boulder LP (Scissor Tail Editions) 2015
CJ-1 cassette/digital (Drawing Room Records) 2015
Velvet Arc LP (Trouble in Mind) 2016
“Mastic” on The Hired Hands: A Tribute to Bruce Langhorne (Scissor Tail Editions) 2017
Balsams LP (VDSQ) 2017
“Brahmi” on Pop Ambient 2018 LP/CD/Digital (Kompakt) 2017
The Cinder Grove LP (VDSQ/Tak:til) 2021

Golden Retriever and Chuck Johnson
Rain Shadow LP (Thrill Jockey) 2020

“Ceres” digital (Longform Editions) 2018
“Shepherd Canyon” on Thousands of Eyes in the Dark LP/CD/Digital (Ghostly International) 2019
The Ground Our Sky LP/CD/Digital (Temporary Residence) 2019

Charles Johnson And Zachary James Watkins
Meet Me By The Pleroma / Suite For String Quartet Split CD (60Hurts) 2009

Idyll Swords
Idyll Swords CD (Communion) 1999
Idyll Swords II CD (Communion) 2000
Purposeful Availment CD/Ep 2002 (Threelobed Recordings) – Available From Midheaven

Shark Quest
“Lala” On Survive And Advance Volume 2 compilation CD (Merge) 2003
Gods And Devils CD (Merge) 2004
“Open Season” On Bandwidth compilation (WXYC) 2004
“Dancing Tooth” On Oh Merge compilation CD (Merge) 2004
“Sin The Moon” On Heard Together: Songs From North Carolina compilation CD (Unc – Available Through Merge) 2004
“Tibicen Malachisi” On Compulation Volume 2 CD (Pox) 2005

Over Hylaster CD-R (Cirrus Oxide) 2004
“Prelude In E Minor, Opus 28 No. 4” On Homemade Covers CD-R Comp 2006
Southern Man + Pykrete No More Love To Give CD (Phaserprone) 2006
Liber Novus 2x LP (Frequenc) 2010

Micro-East Collective
Fabric CD (Umbrella) 2001

“At The End Of The Day” On CD Accompanying Badaboom Gramaphone Magazine 1997
Solo Guitar CD (Amish) 1999
“Dendrite” On Zaum compilation CD (Dead Ceo) 1999
“Free Infusion Across The Blood-Brain Barrier” On Transmissions Oo1 compilation CD (Transmissions/ WXYC) 1999

The Stray Sod (Amy Wilkinson And Chuck Johnson)
“Fairy Tale” On I Can’t Get That Evil Wiener Song Out Of My Head compilation (Hypno-Vista) 2002

“Duct” On Zaum compilation CD (Dead Ceo) 1999

“Break” And “Your Heart’s Cold” From Split 7-Inch With Evil Weiner (Stay Free) 1993
“Dinghy” On A Day In The Park compilation Lp/CD (Now Sound) 1994
“Pachinko” From Split 7-Inch With Tinsel (Over The Counter/ Load) 1994
“Radio Helmet” 7-Inch (Now Sound) 1994
Even The Thorny Acacia CD (Jesus Christ) 1994
“Distance Of The Moon” On Follow The Bouncing Ball compilation CD (Badabing) 1995
“Slipjoint” On Cognitive Mapping Vol. 2 compilation CD (Friction Media) 1995
Medium Planers And Matchers CD (Jesus Christ) 1995
Under The Veil Of Health Lp/CD (Squealer Music) 1996
“Three-Legged Dog” On CD Accompanying Chunklet Magazine 1997
Despina By Land CD (Squealer Music) 1998

Guest Appearances
Superchunk – Clambakes Vol. 2 – A Page Of Madness (Available From Merge) 2003

Music for Film and Television

IMDB profile

Tobacco Money Feeds My Family 2003
(with Shark Quest) – Monster Road 2003
Guestworker 2005
With These Hands 2008 
(with Shark Quest) – Rocaterrania 2008
(with Stefan Smith)  – Who’s Next 2010
(with Stefan Smith) – Behind These Walls 2011
(with Stefan Smith) – Standing on Sacred Ground (PBS) 2014
Private Violence (HBO) 2014
A Craftsman’s Legacy (APT/PBS) 2016-2017
Road to Race Day (Complex Networks) 2017
Food Town (PBS) 2018
A Chef’s Life (PBS) 2013-2019
Somewhere South (PBS) 2020