DJ, producer and multiple label owner John B recently put together an album chart for us at Trackitdown filled with DnB favourites of his for everyone to hear. Also newly releasing his latest EP on Metalheadz, Frances Shillito talks to John about how things have been going, a little more information on his studio setup, and what else is in store for fans this year...
Hey John, how are you? How has 2016 been for you so far?
Very well thanks. I’ve been working hard in the studio on new music and already and the diary is filling up with gigs very nicely. I’ve also just got my USA work visa renewed and will be heading out over there for some dates over the spring summer too which I’m really looking forward to. More UK gigs would be nice though, and much more environmentally friendly hah!
You recently released your latest 3 track EP on Metalheadz ...what has the response been like to it so far?
Really, really good – from both my dj/producer peers and D&B fans. So much amazing feedback on social media and positive comments wherever clips have been posted on Youtube/Soundcloud etc – which is rare – not even any taking shots at my haircut, or eyeliner, or calling me gay! Even on youtube. Unpresidented hah!
The official video for ‘Lava’ was unleashed a matter of days ago also...and what a video it is! With intense and creepy shots of bugs, females and artistic phrases throughout. Tell me more about that...where did the idea for the video come from and what is the concept behind it?
Thanks – I spent a lot of time editing it! The general vibe was to take the idea of Lava - the flames of hell, sin, temptation, dream-states, purgatory etc and then rebirth. I guess partially referencing the idea of people thinking I was ‘back’ – at least in terms of back to more traditional DNB (not that I ever left!!). I dug out loads of random stock footage and spent hours editing and overlaying video to try to bring it all together. I’ve been making a conscious effort to have a visual side to a lot of my new tracks, not just some bullshit generic video of people breakdancing, or roller skating, or doing parkour that has nothing to do with the track, something with a meaning that is related to the music and adds to the atmosphere and emotions I was going for when originally producing it. (Check out ‘Electricity’ and ‘Starburst 2016’ on my youtube channel). It’s been great learning a new skill, getting up on Final Cut X as part of the process too. I certainly plan on more interesting videos as I progress with my new ‘Evolve’ project this year too.
How would you describe the sound of your new EP and what is like working with Goldie’s family at Metalheadz?
The concept was to reference the original ‘Blue Note Era’ sound I remember from the Headz Sunday Sessions, when I was first getting into the D&B scene, and take it forward in a way that wasn’t possible due to technical limitations back in the day. Also a reaction against some of the generic, disposable stuff around at the moment, taking things back to when D&B tracks were longer than 3:30 – with long, ambitious interesting intros, lots of real breaks, 2nd drops, really twisted but somehow still organic bass sounds & more of a feeling of real soul and atmosphere behind it. Working with Headz again has been great, there’s a really good team in place that has done an awesome job of getting everything done properly right from the start – and of course it’s an absolute honour to be back on such a legendary label after so many years, and with 3 tracks I’m thoroughly proud of.
As well as your latest EP release, you have also had a few album releases on your own label Beta Recordings including the incredible debut album from Virtue. What is it about an artist that makes them stand out to you and draws you to them becoming a part of the Beta team?
Its hard to say really – obviously it all starts with the music they send me, and how keen they are on pushing things forward – and if they’re easy to work with. The Virtue album all went great, he worked really hard on the whole concept and all the planning went like clockwork. That was actually the first album by an artist other than myself that I’ve put out on Beta – definitely up for some more should the opportunity arise. Gmorozov out in Russia has got one on the boil too, inbetween whatever crazy mad pHd Chemistry he’s into at the moment…
As well as being a legendary DJ in your own right and a multiple label owner, you are a producer as well. What does your studio setup consist of?
Much simpler now than when I started out, very little hardware as I do everything ‘in the box’ – I have a decent Mac Pro, Logic X, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol keyboard, Mackie Monitors, MOTU audio interface and loads of plug ins and well-organised sample library. And nice chairs.
Many of our readers are aspiring DJ’s and producers themselves and love any advice or top tips from legendary acts like yourself...are there any studio tricks you can share or anything you found particularly helpful in your journey to where you are now?
In terms of production I’ve improved so much technically in the last year or so, taking a lot more time and effort on keeping things simple, using buses more effectively, learning more about mastering techniques, saturation, making space in the mix for everything with clever EQing etc. Then again, I did perfectly well without all that in the past, just making sure I picked the right sounds and was careful with how everything was layered up. I did my first couple of albums on mixers that didn’t even have EQ and I didn’t use compression at all so hey… Originality and hard work are most important – I would advise against getting too bogged down in technique and nerdy studio stuff in favour of exciting new ideas. But that’s easier said than done!
Which artists from your youth would you say have had the biggest influence on you?
Wendy Carlos, Jean Michelle Jarre, The Cure, NIN, Pet Shop Boys, Beethoven, Throbbing Gristle, A-Ha, Flock of Seagulls, Bowie, Human League, Jan Hammer, Depeche Mode.
One of our favourite tracks here in the office is your classic Up All Night, do you have a personal go-to track of your own?
Track of mine? Red Sky is probably up there, as an actual song and piece of dancefloor DnB, its definitely one that I’m most proud of, that and ‘The Journey’. If you mean by another artist, I’d say ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure probably – never get tired of that song.
To finish us off...are there any upcoming releases, exciting new acts or tour dates you would like to share with our readers?
The next big stuff I’ve got coming is the start of an exciting new project I’m called ‘Evolve’. Its basically an umbrella for a new series of stuff I’ve been doing, fresh releases reliably every month, along with the podcast being rebranded and a touring concept to go with it too. The first two releases are done and ready to go, and there’s loads more to finish off over the next couple of weeks before I head off on tour in the US. Dates-wise it’s best to check the listings on my site, plenty of festivals and European gigs in the diary, and since I just got my US Visa renewed the other week I’ll be back out there loads over the coming months.
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