He moved to Austin, Texas and slowly but surely began to gain notoriety within the Indie music scene. In 1988, Johnston visited New York City and recorded 1990 with producer Kramer at his Noise New York studio. Then, Kurt Cobain began to wear a t-shirt featuring the cover image of Johnston’s album Hi, How Are You. By the early 90s Johnston was officially a star. The only problem? He was in a mental institution at the time
Mental breakdown or not, a bidding war to sign Johnston ensued. He refused a multi-album deal with Elektra Records because Metallica was on the label’s roster and Johnston was convinced that they were possessed by Satan and would hurt him. He also dropped his manager (who brokered the deal), because Johnston believed he too was possessed by Satan. Ultimately, he signed with Atlantic Records and released Fun, produced by Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers in 1994.
Throughout all of this, Johnston was always drawing. He made his album covers, and just about everything else. And his demonic obsession is evident in every one of his creations.
In 2004, he released The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered, a two-disc compilation. The first featured artists such as Tom Waits, Beck, TV on the Radio, Jad Fair, Eels, Bright Eyes, Calvin Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips covering songs written by Johnston. The second disc featured all of the original recordings. Johnston has also continued to draw and his work has been featured in art shows around the world (currently at Agnes B in NYC). In 2005 The Devil and Daniel Johnston was released by Director Jeff Feuerzeig. It tells the story of this amazing artist better than you could ever imagine.
Such a great story. And Johnston’s most recent collaboration is with Supreme – way cool.