Johnathan Thomas is a bass music producer based in Chicago, with releases on Italdred, Saturate Records, Seclusiasis and #internetghetto to name a few.
How long have you been writing music for and how did you first get started?
I started writing music almost three years ago now, however I was in the music world for years before i began making my own sounds. I got my start by making and mixing beat music and chill 808/bass music. After that I began messing around with other genres and found my love of Juke shortly after. My first serious Juke release was a collaboration with Subxchronic on the “160” compilation by Seclusiasis Records.
You live in Chicago, the birthplace of Juke / Footwork amongst other styles of music. Has this played a role in influencing your sound?
I actually moved just west of Chicago recently, I had been living in the South before and needed a bigger city with more opportunity. It has been a big inspiration though, and I feel like I have been a lot more focused since moving here. Seems like my artist career took off soon as I moved up here, I am very happy at the moment.
Do you have a certain method or process when building a track normally? EG – Do you start with drums and work your way up, or melody / sample?
If you listen to my Soundcloud page, you’ll see I’ve made a lot of different kinds of music. Recently I have been making mostly Juke and 160BPM bass music with influenced by all kinds of styles and sounds. I usually start with the drums and find a kick pattern I dig. Then, I try to find a drum melody to weave in and out of the cleverly placed kicks. Usually synths are next to follow, a background synth or a filtered in lead is often the next thing I try to apply. I try to stay very mix conscious and give other artists a couple sections to mix in and out of. But it can vary with style and track, so it just depends on how I am inspired that day.
You work with many different producers, how important do you think collaboration is in electronic music?
Collaborating was a big part of finding my sound and techniques. I feel it is pretty important to collaborate with artists, especially now. It helps with growing and finding techniques and sounds you may not have ever considered applying. I have gained a lot from collaborating, and like you said I have done a lot of it.
Bass music seems to be getting harder to define these days with so many genres merging into each other. Would you say Juke is an evolving genre and where can you potentially see it going?
I try to push genre boundaries all the time with my music. Juke is definitely an evolving genre. I have seen people blend it with everything from Grime to the deep Dub hybrid stuff I have been making lately. I find myself the most satisfied when I figure out a way to blend Juke with other genres. It is nice to see people who normally do not like or listen to Juke music get down because I mixed it with a genre they love. I feel genre blending is going to play a huge roll on the future of music.
What are some of your go-to Plugins or pieces of gear right now?
To be honest, I use Ableton 9 and my laptop all day. Stock synths like Operator and Simpler are highly underrated. I am considering getting some new synths, but i’d rather wait till I can afford physical ones.
I want to have something I can touch and feel. I have gotten so good at virtual Ableton synths over the years, that I would rather wait to master a physical synth when I can afford it.
Who are some other up and coming artists you’re feeling right now that we should look out for?
I am always listening to a ton of music, so these kinds of questions are hard. I have been talking to and working with Seapoint, an artist I have looked up to even before making music. He runs a new label called Xenonyms, and I am a big fan of the music they are releasing. You should check out their tunes and expect a compilation with one of my tracks on it very soon!
I also have been really into this guy named Metapod recently, he made this EP in 24 hours that is bewildering. We have a tune in the works at the moment also.
What forthcoming releases can we look forward to from yourself?
Right now I have forthcoming releases on Xenonyms and just released a brand new track on Italdred. Other things are locked in with labels like Saturate Records, Tenth Degree and more (release dates pending). And I have a bunch of other finished ones that are looking for a home. There will be no lack of music from me this year, I am going to be consistently dropping new tracks.
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What’s your current performance setup and what shows do you have coming up?
I use Ableton to mix live with my APC40 and custom effects rack, which helps me mix quickly and efficiently. I’ve just announced my next tour dates (see below). Initially I have 7 dates to announce, but will probably be adding some more mid-tour. I have been preparing for a minute trying to finish up as many tracks as I can prior, this will be an incredible experience!
Cheers for taking the time to chat with us, keep up the good work.
Thank you guys so much for your time, I really appreciate it!