Wrapping Up 2018 With Jon1st: BnC (Mega)Mix 036
Jon1st is what some might refer to as a “DJ’s DJ.” He exists in that oh-so-rare middle ground between technical proficiency, phenomenal taste, musicality, subtlety, and flow that eludes so many DJ’s who fall into the “turntablist” category. His appreciation for unique sounds and equally unique approaches to performing and sharing those sounds creates the perfect storm of quality selection and presentation. We’ve been following Jon for years now, through his official scratch routines for artists like Ivy Lab and Sam Binga, his 2013 Online DMC World Championship win among a multitude of other notable turntablism awards and successes, his radio podcast for Fly High Society and countless other guest mixes for outlets ranging from Ninja Tune‘s Solid Steel Radio to Tim Parker‘s NTS to Hyponik to Noisey, and of course, his ever-impressive production chops. Since 2010, he has been releasing an annual year-end wrap-up megamix including all of his favorite tunes from the past year blended into a 40-minute-long medley of Jon1st-approved stompers, and we couldn’t think of a better way to end 2018 for Booms and Claps. We sat down (metaphorically) for a quick check-in with the man himself to chat about his recent releases, touring, the existential meaning of DJing (apparently it’s a lot more involved than playing two songs at the same time), and of course, this year’s wrap-up mix aka BnC Mix 036: Jon1st’s 2018 MegaMix. Check out the interview below and buckle up for 365 days worth of beats neatly packaged into an explosive 40 minutes of Jon1st 2018 selections. Feel free to scroll to the end of the article for the mix tracklist. Enjoy!
Ay Jon! You’ve had a huge year since the last time we saw each other on your debut US tour back in January! How was it touring the States for your first time with an absolute legend like Shiftee?
Yo! Thanks for having me.
That tour earlier this year was so much fun! As you say, it was my first time DJing in the US and also my first time visiting most of the places we played on the trip too. It was lovely to meet a lot of people I’ve been speaking to online over the years in real life, and a pleasure to play some shows in Canada again also. We even ended the tour with a show with DJ Craze – we couldn’t have asked for more for a final gig!
Touring with Shiftee was awesome, we’d met a couple of times previously but had never spent any substantial time together and it was great to get to know him better. We have a lot of mutual respect for each other’s past work and have a shared outlook/approach being both DJs from turntablist backgrounds who have transitioned into production since finishing our respective battling days and have been experimenting with ways of performing our studio creations live in a club environment as part of our sets. I definitely learned a lot from watching him perform and returned home super inspired, and I hope we can play together again in the not so distant future.
I know you just returned from a tour of Asia recently, as well. Tell us a little bit about that experience. Where did you go? What was your favorite show? When you tour in a place like Asia, are you playing gigs for people that are familiar with the style of music that you play, or are you playing gigs for people that know you as turntablist?
Asia was brilliant. I was there for about 6 weeks this time between Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and India. If I was to pick one stand out show I’d say Bangalore, as the vibe was so on point there, but I really enjoyed the whole trip, especially exploring cities on my days off and trying local food.
In regards to the types of shows I’m playing, it’s often a mixture between playing for promoters who have invited me based on them being familiar with my output as a DJ, producer and turntablist and have booked me to do my thing, and others who know my turntablist output and may not know my club work so much but really want to have a turntablist play for them, so I had a few instances where I’d have to mix it up a bit and play more varied sets, but I enjoy doing that too. It’s those environments that make you go outside your usual comfort zone and learn.
I also had the opportunity in every country I visited to do a free workshop with local DJs at some point, which I always enjoy. I really like sharing knowledge when I can and doing my best to help speed up upcoming DJ’s development by trying to connect the dots for their individual goals with techniques etc.
You’re obviously very well-known as a turntablist, but over the years you’ve gained quite a bit of momentum as a producer and tastemaker as well. I think we’ve all seen at times that technical proficiency on the decks doesn’t always require a good ear for fresh sounds, but this never seems to be an issue for you. How do you balance the technical aspect of DJing with focusing on quality content?
My interest in beats and bass music has always been simultaneous with my interest in turntablism. Before I had my first big break winning my DMC title in 2013, I’d already spent the past 6 years playing in clubs and booking underground shows for the emerging beats/160 scene in the late 00s as a club promoter and had my ear to the ground for new music in the scenes I was interested in, as well as a few years practicing at home before starting to play out. Back then I booked early shows for Om Unit, Moresounds, ARP101, Deft, Manni Dee, EAN, Danny Scrilla, Lorn, Mosca, Debruit and others.
It’s always been one of my goals to make my take on turntablism work in a club context and combine those two passions of mine – choosing the right moments to scratch depending on the crowd and time of the night, doing routines with songs that are relevant to that particular audience and the vibe/energy in the room rather than trying to shoehorn them in etc.
In terms of balancing things, I split my time between digging/listening out for new music, working on mixes, producing music and making scratching routines. I’ve always wanted to be as balanced and proficient a DJ as possible, and maybe I’d have become better in some of those disciplines faster had I chosen to really specialise in one or two of them, but I love all aspects of DJing so much that I have preferred this longer journey. It also makes me never get bored of any one thing too.
You’ve been working a great deal over the past couple years with Denmark’s resident beat-maestro, Shield, both on production and on some live performance routines. The two of you just released your first full release, the Flapjacks EP. How does that collaborative process compare to solo work for you? When you and someone like Shield work together, are you largely physically getting together in the studio, or sharing work over the internet?
I really enjoy collaborative work when it comes to production and the vast majority of my released work at this point in time has been made with other people. Each collaboration partner I’ve worked with has been totally different and collaboration often requires a couple of sessions getting used to each other’s approach before finding that sweet spot for writing and in most cases the combination of minds will create something pretty different to what would be written on our own.
With Shield, we’ve found being in the same room together and jamming ideas together often makes the best ideas, and then afterwards we take turns behind the computer tweaking and making fine details. Because we live in different countries, we try to meet up for a week at a time every couple of months to write and then finishing up any remaining technical tasks on tracks over the internet.
Can you tell us a little about the EP and the project as a whole?
Sure! All the tracks on the EP were made over a few sessions together this summer. There’s a 80BPM beats tune , the more rowdy ‘halftime’ title track, a 150BPM breaks/jungle tune which has my girlfriend playing harp on it and a melodic 140BPM track. We have a lot of other material from the sessions but we specifically wanted to pick out a selection of tracks that not only worked together as a body of work but also have a good variety of tempos and styles. Our plan is to be on the road in 2019 performing our music live and the variety of the EP is a good reflection of the range of styles you’ll hear in our sets next year.
You’ve also recently released an EP with Cosmic Bridge’s EAN. How did that come about?
I’ve known Ian for about 6 years now. Initially we met as I was a huge fan of his Darknet EP and I booked him at my old club night shortly after it came out. I was a big fan of his work as Various Production prior to him starting his EAN project too and have always loved his attention to texture and his ability to mix organic and melodic elements with gnarly bass and grime influenced sounds.
In 2014 we started a hip hop/beats side project with Will LV called GOALS and after we released our first beat tape under that project, Ian and I decided to work on some club music together too, which ultimately resulted in that recent EP and a single prior to that. He’s taught me a huge amount in terms of production and I always come away from hanging out with him having learned something. Expect more from us next year too.
One of your prominent affiliates is Ivy Lab’s 20/20 LDN imprint. How did that affiliation come about?
Stray and I had met a few years prior around 2011 if I recall correctly, through a mutual friend that I went to university with and when he started putting out more footwork and beats influenced tunes I was super into them and was supporting them in my mixes etc. I can’t remember the exact way it came about but I remember he called me saying the guys were starting a club night and wanted to book me for one of the first events. I think I played the third event after it started in 2014 and shortly after they invited me to make a routine with their Twenty Questions EP. I played one more show for them after that and they subsequently invited Deft, Tim Parker and myself to be club residents for the events moving forward. It’s been a real pleasure playing for them and a huge opportunity to open up for a real variety of artists at some great venues in the UK and Europe in the past 3 years. It’s been awesome to see them go from strength to strength and really evolve their sound to what it is now.
How does your preparation process differ between a club DJ set and a “routine”? Do you plan out your club sets that same way you might plan out a “routine”? Do you play the same style of music in a “routine” that you would in a club set?
In terms of preparation for club sets I’ll make sure I’ve become really familiar with any new music I’ve discovered since my last set and prepared files with cue points etc so that I can jump around the tracks quickly on the fly and not waste time cueing up songs in my headphones as much. If I’m playing more of a peak time set I like mixing pretty quickly, so in those instances I will prepare quite a bit if I have a good understanding of what the event is about, but in any circumstance I always switch things up if I need to if an audience aren’t engaged in what I’m doing.
When it comes to a routine I’ll have that whole 2-3 minute performance meticulously rehearsed so I do most of it the same every time if I choose to do it. From a DJ perspective, I try to compare it to playing a song from your library but it has bits I need to perform. I’ll treat that routine like I would any other song and consider the vibe at that time before deciding to do it (‘would it work if I played it right now?’ ‘do I need to play some other songs before I start the routine to warm up/cool down into that vibe?’).
In terms of music I choose for routines it can be anything. Saying that a lot of the time these days I’m making routines that I can perform in clubs with club music I like or I’ve made, but I also make routines that wouldn’t work very well in a club environment to be enjoyed just as videos online. For example, the most recent routine I made was using Refuse by Silent Dust and DRS that I’d consider to be more of a radio or headphone track, which I’d probably not use in a club, but works for watching at home. I’d compare it with producers making a variety of music, some for clubs, some for more radio sets, some for headphone listening etc.
Speaking of your club sets, what have you been playing recently? Any artists/labels/tunes you’re especially feeling?
Some of my favourites recently have been the new Astrophonica compilation and Fracture’s recent material, Om Unit’s forthcoming EP, a lot of Sinistarr, Maltin Wolf, Touchy Subject’s forthcoming bits, Itoa’s recent output and Deft’s recent EP.
I would be remiss to not touch on your 2013 Online DMC Championship win… Tell us a little about that experience and how it’s affected your career. I would imagine it’s opened quite a few doors for you, but at the same time, do you ever feel like you get pigeonholed as “The DMC Guy”?
Sure. I’d been entering DMC for a few years alongside my club sets initially just for fun to push myself to improve my technical chops and try to build my reputation a bit in the UK, as regional and national DMC in the UK was held at big venues at the time and would be well attended. I never wanted to be someone who battled forever, but wanted to give it a go for a few years and hopefully win a national title, make some good routines I’d be proud of and then stop and move on to focusing on other areas of DJing like production. I made it to the UK final and World Online final three years in a row and by 2013 I was taking it very seriously and was practicing 4-8 hours a day when time allowed for it. After winning DMC Online and placing 3rd in the traditional live world final in 2013 I was content with competing and was ready to move on. I’ve made loads of great friends in that scene and these days I judge the online and world competitions when I’m available.
The reactions to my DMC set in 2013 completely changed my career, 100%. I was active playing around the UK by that point and was doing some guest mixes on London/internet radio but the amount of new eyes on me with my winning video gave me so many new opportunities. DMC is definitely still considered a huge badge of honour of sorts with fans from certain generations and I’ve been able to do things I probably wouldn’t have been able to without it like work with equipment and software manufacturers on designing and testing DJ equipment and it’s given me the opportunity to meet so many of the people from the turntablist community around the world that have inspired me. I’ve been able to play a much wider range of gigs than most DJs too I think, which I’m very grateful for.
When I won I was aware that those new eyes on me wouldn’t be there forever and I spent the next few years trying to really prove myself further, promote what I was about where possible and push myself to improve more but on my own terms without the rules of competition – which is why my routines have become more and more musical in recent years, as I don’t have the same pressure to be super technical all the time and focus on pushing things for myself on a compositional level instead. I was really proactive in making regular guest mixes following the competition, for example, so I could make people aware that I had been passionate about club DJing and the sounds I play for a long time, and I think it definitely helped me cement the general idea that I wasn’t only about making battle routines and was a dedicated club DJ wanting to push the scene I was passionate about too. For the most part I think it’s worked, and I don’t think I’ve been pigeonholed as ‘just a battle DJ’ too much in the last five years that I’ve been more well known.
For a while I definitely felt a lot of pressure/obligation to give more technical sets based on my association with being a turntablist champion – but I have always felt the need to prove myself, which is a nice kind of personal pressure to have in my opinion, so it’s never been too much of a thing. I feel that over the last few years I’ve been able to cement what it is I’m about too. For example, a lot of people I meet now have discovered me through one of my more well known recorded sets like my Boiler Room set from 2017 or one of my Solid Steel sets, rather than my older battle material, and I feel like been able to let go of some of that pressure I was carrying around with me as people are more familiar with what I do now.
Let’s chat a bit about the mix you’ve done for us! I understand you’ve been doing an annual end-of-year mix for the past 8 years, released through outlets like Ninja Tune’s Solid Steel podcast, Tim Parker’s NTS show, and Hyponik from the UK. How do you go about putting these mixes together? How has that process evolved for you over the years as your style as a DJ develops?
I started this mix series in 2010, initially through my old club night and then since 2013 I’ve been releasing them as guest mixes. They’re a fun way for me to share some of my favourite songs I’ve been playing out that year and also a chance for me to be a bit self-indulgent and explore my love for multitrack studio mixes. As a teenager I was a huge fan of mixes like Turntable Scientifics by Mr Dibbs and various mixes by Buddy Peace and Zilla (both their work together and separately). These guys would make really intricate mixes blending and reworking several layers of tracks at once and it’s been something I try to incorporate a little when I make themed mixes. I try to make these mixes quite fast pace with tracks switching pretty quickly, but there being a continuous groove that gradually shifts across the duration so it doesn’t feel broken. You’ll hear some tracks with substantial sections, some which are looped up as layers and others just as one shots. I try to present some tracks in new contexts in this way and looping up elements heavy tracks over chilled ones and vice versa. It’s been really fun to put this mix together – hope you enjoy it!
Once you check out this year’s mix, take a peak at the archive of Jon1st End of Year Megamixes from years past!
Oliver Yorke – Ryoan-Ji
Miss Red – One Shot Killer
Etch – Paging Dr Octagon
Deft – Done
Rhi – Night Driving (Ivy Lab Remix)
Vromm – Restart
Sinistarr – Void
Strategy – Put God First
Missy Elliot – One Minute Man (Oakk Remix)
Lynch Kingsley – Deadly
Strategy – Yung Pepsi
Om Unit – Righteousness
Groves – Hennessy Brown
Strategy – Lanterns
Philip D Kick – In Formation
Itoa – Ever Orbit
Moresounds – Warrior VIP
Itoa – ???
Moresounds – Shut Up
Halogenix – Raeph
Ivy Lab – Cake
Fracture – Soundboy Get Nervous
Break – DamnHot
Slick Shoota & DJ Earl – Sick Shyt
EAN & Jon1st – Ghostloaf
Hodge – Amor Fati (Doctor Jeep Edit)
Fracture – Makes Me Wonder
Danny Scrilla – Wipeout
Sinistarr – 55555
Sully – Soundboy Don’t Push Your Luck
Fracture – Take You feat. Lucie La Mode
Maltin Worf – Clave
Etch – Flamingo Grove
Mel G – The Light (Freshtilldef Remix)
Mahakala – The Exodus
Evidence – Rain Drops
Philip D Kick – Drown
QZB – Unity
Proc Fiskal – Kontinuance
Danny Scrilla – Mirrors
BSN Posse – No Matter How Far
Sudan Archives – Beautiful Mistake
Lewis James – Praying Out Loud (Om Unit Remix)
Danny Scrilla – Hindsight VIP
Ivy Lab – Cadillac
Schmeichel – Uhhhwheeee
Stick In The Wheel – As I Roved Out (Om Unit Remix)
G Jones – That Look In Your Eye