CM>>>Jon, the first thing I remarked when I held your new album called “The Colossus” in my hands was the colorful and mystic artwork of the album. It really reminded me, and hope you won’t get me wrong, of the artwork of some albums from the late Sixties and the start of the Seventies when Hippies became more progressive Rock musicians. After listening to this stunning album I personally found some musical hints to this decade, like some Synthesizer sounds and arrangements. I mean not the complete album but parts… Am I completely wrong? And can you tell me something about the artwork and its connection to the music?
Jon>>>No, you are spot on, 100%. For one, all of the synths, instruments, amps, etc. that I used on the album were made before 1984. Furthermore, most of the music I listen to is old. Im heavy into 70’s prog rock, soul music, electronic music from the 70’s, and more old music. So if all of that is coming through, then im not surprised at all. The artwork was a piece done by an artist named Judith Schaecter, who does these stained glass pieces. I just thought the piece was amazing, and there was a kind of stoic, mysterious vibe to it that I thought fit with the music.
CM>>>The album offers an unbelievable wide range of different musical styles merged together to a new kind of Pops songs. Surely there are also tracks, which are definitely Hip Hop songs, but mainly the album owns a very unique character. More than all the other solo albums you released before “The Colossus”. Would it be right to state that this album is the one that reflects your musically personality most in the moment?
Jon>>>Yes, I think that’s very accurate. This record probably draws on more styles and influences than anything I’ve ever done, and it does reflect my listening tastes. There are days when I just want to hear ambient atonal music like Vangelis’ “Earth” or something. And then days when I wanna hear Ed Banger, or Mastodon, or the Impressions. So yes, this is certainly the most personal album I’ve ever done.
CM>>>When I received the album I listened to it three times in a row. I was fascinated by its … and I really hope it doesn’t sound rude, crazy atmosphere; it reminds me of a kind of crazy circus. How would you describe this album by your own words?
Jon>>>The best way I can describe it is that it’s an overview of the different types of production I’ve done in the past: sample-based music, mc collaborations, live instrumentation, and working with vocalists. It does kind of jump from one style to the next, and I can see how it might feel a little schizophrenic, but I’m fine with that.
CM>>>The other thing is, as I said that some synthesizer sounds and riffs etc. remind me of some vintage sounds and old albums, but magically I never felt that I listened to an old album more like listening to futuristic music. What’s the secret behind this effect... any idea? Or let me ask more precise have you started to merge these different sounds and styles with the aim to rebirth an atmosphere you missed for a long time or was it your aim to create something new with old fragments?
Jon>>>Well while I love old instruments and sounds, I very much want to avoid trying to be a “revivalist” of a certain type of music. I am not trying to be mistaken for something old. I just like the way old gear sounds. So from a writing perspective, I try to continually look forward. I heavily use a sampler, and that is a very “90’s” instrument; same with ProTools. I basically just want to draw on the aesthetic things I like about ANY of the music I enjoy, which goes from 2000 Dr. Dre, to 1965 Chess records.
CM>>>When was the idea born for “The Colossus”? And how long have you worked on the album? .... and am I allowed to ask you what’s the idea behind the title?
Jon>>>It really started as soon as I finished “The Third Hand”, but most of the recording happened in 2008. Coming off that record I knew that I wanted to start collaborating as much as possible. The title was slightly borrowed from a video game, “Shadows of the Colossus”, and it seemed apt, so I stuck with it.
CM>>>For me it was sometimes difficult to find out, which instruments have been played live and which were played by samples and loops because of the very intensive atmosphere of each song. But is it right to say that you are getting more into playing the instruments by yourself than using samples? Or is this a phase, I mean could it happen that you will arrange a complete sample based album in the future again?
Jon>>>I’d say the album is about 70/30, live/samples. In theory, I COULD do another 100% sample based album; it’s just that it would be prohibitively hard. But who knows, that might be something I want to do in the future.
CM>>>I’ve seen that your calendar is packed with many dates. How or better say will you represent the complete album live on stage or what is happening when you are on tour?
Jon>>>On stage, I’ve got my turntables and sampler in the back, and then there’s 2 keyboard stations, gtr, bass, and drums. So I am pretty able to run through the different aspects that went into the album, except for the guest appearances, obviously.
CM>>>You nearly played all instruments on the album by yourself, when have you started to teach yourself all these instruments? And when did you first came in touch with music instruments... long before you started to get interested in DJ music?
Jon>>>I went to a music school in high school, so I have a bit of a head start, but I’d say that I didn’t get really serious about it until 2003 or so. I’ve been attacking all of those things pretty hard since then.
CM>>>What is the most fascinating thing about music for you personally?
Jon>>>There’s still a sense of uncovering a mystery when a song gets a new part, or you solve a problem, or something. That sense of “creation” has never gotten old to me, hopefully it never will.
CM>>>I’ve already asked you about the warm crazy circus-like atmosphere of the album, hmm... so I started to draw a picture of you somewhere between a person which will never grow up and someone who loves to see people smile to his music... to romantic?
Jon>>>Ha! Not too romantic, but I’d say probably too deep. I make music, first and foremost, to please myself. That’s at the heart of everything I do, is trying to entertain myself. And if other people enjoy it, great.
CM>>>Besides singing and playing most of the songs by yourself you also invited a lot of guests like Ponte Coleman, Kenna, Aaron Livingston, Columbus MC’s The Catalyst, Illogic, NP and also a few instrumentalists. This is new for your productions I think. How does it feel to work with others on a very personal album? And since the days of MHZ would it be an option for you to play in a kind of band again?
Jon>>>It was great. Even though I was having other people sing songs that I wrote, it was still a very personal experience. It was so fun getting songs back and hearing someone else sing them better than I could. I’d love to be a part of a group; I’d really love to start getting hired just to be a player, not a producer or writer or arranger.
CM>>>The album is also the first album you released on your own label Rj’s Electrical Connections. What was the reason to found an own label and what can we expect from the label in the future?
Jon>>>First was that I really wanted to own my own masters. Second was that I finally had the ability to go out and get a distribution deal, or get a publicity campaign set up, so on and so forth. In the future, I’ll probably be focusing on just putting out my own music, but who knows, I might pick up some other artists if it really makes sense.
CM>>>Do you felt more freedom by releasing your own album on your label compared to the releases before?
Jon>>>Definitely. But that has 2 sides; it’s also scary to know that the onus is on ME to not screw it up. But I am fine with that. It’s all very exciting, especially knowing that I’ll own this record forever.
CM>>>But maybe its also more … hm what’s the right description… exciting? To release an own album on an own label? I mean the complete personally flows in two times… so you are more vulnerable if something goes wrong.
Jon>>>Right. But it’s a lot easier to deal with your own mistakes, than someone else’s. I can cope with me screwing up; other people, not so easy.
CM>>>After being a DJ and musician representing music for more than a decade what do you feel when you are looking back? Do you have the feeling that time passes quicker and quicker with your success? Or do you live your life more intensive by getting more success and reputation?
Jon>>>I feel lucky that I experienced the things I did. I feel lucky that I am still doing this. Time definitely passes quicker; but I am also more equipped to get done what I want to get done, the older I get.
CM>>>Do you still have friends and mates from the old days were your career started or does the success and the intensive touring changed things a little bit?
Jon>>>I do, but it’s hard to maintain friendships PERIOD, new or old, in this business. Its very time consuming. But I still have a few.
CM>>>2010 a new decade just started a few weeks ago, who does the year feel to you personally?
Jon>>>Great. Excited that I was able to get a record out on my own! That’s so big for me right now.
CM>>>What can we expect from RJD2 in 2010? Do we have the chance to meet you somewhere in Europe?
Jon>>>Yes-may 2010, I am touring EU. See you then!
CM>>>What do you need for a perfect day in your life?
Jon>>>Sleep, espresso, some good food, a little exercise, and I am happy as a pig in shit.
Photos by permisson of Ballyhoo Media
Interview Michael Mück
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