Our next guest mix comes from Jon1st, a DJ of incredible technical skill, having won the DMC online world championship last year, with a brilliant track selection and ability to bring the dancefloor to life. All this reflects in his busy touring schedule both at club nights and at many UK and international festivals, seeing him supporting a huge number of high profile artists including MF DOOM, Bonobo, DJ Vadim, Africa Hitech, Om Unit, Mala, The Herbaliser, Alexander Nut, Luke Vibert, Lorn, Kromestar and more. He is repeatedly praised for his skills as a DJ, and has had mixes featured far and wide, including on Ninja Tune’s Solid Steel Radio Show, Foreign Beggars Par Excellence podcast, Vice’s Noisey website and many more.
We were lucky to have him grace the UTC x Inflect boat party with us at Soundwave Festival in Croatia, alongside fellow UTC DJ’s, footage of which can be found here, aswell as catching his skills on the beach stage, both sets being a perfect balance of sunshine vibes for the surroundings, with pacey, energetic beats and bass to bring the party. Luckily, whether you were at Soundwave or not, the moment is not lost, as Jon1st has put together this brilliant summertime guest mix for us, to get the cocktails out to on a sunny day.
We also had a chat with Jon to find out about his DJing, scratch routines, musical influences, music production and more.
Hi Jon, thanks for recording this guestmix. We wanted to ask, you’re highly praised as a DJ and won the DMC online world championship last year, but where did it all start?
Hey guys, thanks for asking me to record a mix for you and cheers for the interview opportunity too!
I first got hooked on scratching when I was 12 when I heard a track by The X-Ecutioners called “It’s Going Down”. I bought the CD single and the b-side was a collaboration between The X-Ecutioners and The Beat Junkies called “X-Ecution Of A Bum Rush”, which was an all scratched track with vocal cuts, scratch drumming, beat juggling, melodic cuts etc. It completely blew my mind and I started researching how the sounds were made and started saving for a set of second hand turntables. With some kind help from my parents I bought my first set up when I was 15 and locked myself away practicing whenever I had free time. I wasn’t interested in traditional DJing for a few years but started buying records I liked and developed an interest in instrumental hip hop and what is now referred to as ‘beats’. I’d go to my local record shop at the time, Banquet Records in Kingston, a few times a month and would chat with the guys (shout outs to Buddy, Mike and JT!) about mutual musical interests when I was digging through their stock and after a few months of shopping there they invited me to play my first ever gig at their local hip hop night. I taught myself the basics of how to mix and ended up enjoying DJing that night so much that I continued to pursue it alongside scratching.
How long have you been DJing and practising turntablism?
I’ve been scratching on and off for 10 years now and have been DJing for 7 years.
You’re quite unique in being such an accomplished turntablist/battle DJ that is into footwork and footwork inspired uptempo beats. With the rhythms in these genres often being heavily syncopated and frenetic, how do you find that works with your scratching/ scratch routines?
It works a lot more naturally than you might first expect. 80/160 BPM has been a popular tempo for scratching for quite a while, with DJs such as Dstyles, Ricci Rucker and 2tall (Om Unit’s old alias) among others making practice beats for turntablists to scratch to at that tempo since the late 90s, so while the rhythms of footwork are slightly different to those scratch beats, scratching at that tempo feels pretty natural to me. While I first and foremost enjoy footwork and the various hybrid forms of the genre as a listener and as a club DJ, I find the driving nature of the double time elements of footwork in the percussion compliments scratching well. In particular, the ‘slow/fast’ strain of beats/footwork-inspired-beats is really fun to solo to, as the percussion leaves plenty of space to ride either the half or the double time groove of the track without either sounding too little or too much, both allowing you to compliment the natural syncopation of the track’s percussion and add extra layers of percussion of your own.
You play a lot of footwork in your sets but also mix it with other genres. What are your favourite genres of music, what was your first love in music, how did you discover electronic music, and how did you find yourself getting into footwork?
I mainly consider myself a fan of instrumental ‘beats’ (not the most clear genre description, I know!) and incorporate records from other genres such as dub, reggae, hip hop and occasionally jungle into that style as best I can. I discovered that approach to production through producers like DJ Shadow, Sixtoo, Prefuse 73, Danny Breaks and releases on Ninja Tune and Bully Records, then stumbled across the early Sound of LA beats compilations around 2006/2007 and a couple of years later discovered producers like Hudson Mohawke, Debruit, Bullion etc and the approach to beat making briefly (and jokingly) referred to as ‘wonky’. I see these various takes on producing instrumental hip hop as various evolutions on a similar mindset and personally interpret footwork and its various branches and interpretations as another addition to that instrumental beats continuum.
I discovered footwork online via the first Bangs and Works EP Compilation on Planet Mu in 2010 and loved how syncopated the percussion was, how raw the tracks sounded, the driving nature of the sample chops and percussion patterns and how it sounded like an almost tribal version of hip hop/beats. As a DJ, much like hip hop DJs have previously double timed slower hip hop records with dnb when mixing, I saw the possibility of mixing in footwork as a double time to slower beats and started messing around with it in my sets in late 2010, early 2011.
The very first electronic tracks I remember really falling in love with were tracks off a Ninja Tune ZEN compilation by artists like Luke Vibert, The Cinematic Orchestra and Amon Tobin, as well as DJ Shadow’s Endroducing LP. Before that I was mainly into rock music: bands like Deftones, Tool etc.
If you had to choose, who are you top three producers at the moment, and what are your top three favourite ever tracks?
In terms of top tracks, I don’t think I can pinpoint certain songs as my all time favourites but a few that have meant a lot to me over the years are “Your Teeth In My Neck” by Scientist, “All That You Give” by The Cinematic Orchestra and “Get Familiar” by Bullion.
DMC online champion is quite a title, there must be a lot of pressure to keep developing new tricks and routines to stay on top for competitions. How do you start planning a scratch routine and find your inspiration?
For sure, the main impetus behind battling is the notion of progressing not only your own ability but also the scene collectively pushing the culture and art form forward as a whole, discovering ways to manipulate records that have never been seen before and provide each other inspiration. Whether I’ve achieved that or not in my own routines is not for to me to say, but it’s my goal with battling to achieve that at least!
I try to make each battle routine different from ones I’ve created previously as much as I can but I’ll always start my routine planning process with experimentation and freestyling, whether that’s scratching over a beat, beat juggling etc, and then work out an idea for what I want to do with it as a whole. I’ll then plan it out in my head and start working the on details such as fills and transitions. While I keep clued up on what my peers are doing when I’m battling, I try to keep it out of mind as much as possible and I think having a big interest in electronic music, another scene which thrives on innovation, is a great source for inspiration and has definitely been an influence on how I’ve constructed routines. For example, in my winning set last year I used a swing influenced by listening to Dam Funk on a hip hop track to create beat juggle patterns I wouldn’t have usually made.
How are you coming across your samples nowadays? Do you crate dig for vinyl still, if so do you have a favourite record store? Or have you switched to hunting more online with the transition to serato?
I still buy records as I like having a growing physical collection but I mainly dig online for new music. I’m not precious about owning a physical version of a release but try to buy my favourites on vinyl. There’s not anywhere to buy the sort of music I like where I live but I always hit up Banquet Records when I’m back home and check out Phonica and Rough Trade when I’m in London.
Do you have a favourite scratch routine from another turntablist you could link us to?
Like the top 3 songs ever question, it would be really tricky to name just one routine as my favourite, but if I was to name one recent routine I really rate, it’d be DJ Precision’s 2012 DMC routine.
What do you think are the great ingredients for a DJ set?
First and foremost I think a DJ’s selection is the most important ingredient in a set. You can throw all the tricks you have at the tracks you’re using but if your selection is off the other skills are going to go to waste. If a DJ is a great selector and has an interesting style to compliment it when they’re mixing, be it a great sense of rhythm when blending or incorporating effects or scratching, then they’re really onto a winner for me!
You run a night in Leicester called DROP, can you tell us more about it and the types of music you push there? Are there any nights forthcoming? How is the club scene in Leicester?
Sure! I’ve been running DROP since 2008, first in Kingston and then in Leicester, and have always seen it as an outlet to play music I really like that I thought wasn’t being promoted where I live. It started off as just me and my friend Button Basher but in 2009 I started booking guests. Due to where I live there’s only so far it can grow but I’m really happy with the lineups I’ve put on and the reception at most of them. Some of my personal favourite nights have included having ARP101, LV & Josh Idehen and Debruit playing live, seeing Moresounds perform live his very first time, having Kutmah and Danny Breaks headline our 5th Birthday in October last year and having Lorn and Tokimonsta play a joint event with UTC in 2011.
Since winning DMC in September I’ve been a lot busier with bookings and I’ve not had as much time to put into the nights as I’d like and a lot of the time I’ve been DJing out of town when it’s been our residency, so I’ve only put on two nights with guest DJs/producers this year, but I’ll be doing a couple of residency parties in the autumn and maybe an event with guest headliners in the new year.
Regarding Leicester: while you have to dig deep through all the top 40 clubs to get to them, the city has some great local promoters and labels pushing interesting electronic music. The people into it here are really enthusiastic and I’ve seen them fuel many a club night in the time I’ve lived in the city! Most notably, the city has a really good dub scene and two local promoters set up the United Nations of Dub festival last year and recently held their second successful festival. Shout out to Felis and I-mitri!
You are also resident with UTC from Birmingham, and came to Soundwave with them when we teamed up for a boat party. How long have you been involved with them, what are the plans with UTC in the future?
I’ve been part of the UTC team since their second event in 2009, after reaching out to them after I attended their first night. The team currently consists of Knicker Bocker Corey, Slobodan and myself as resident DJs, with Philth and N4T4 as resident artists/designers, Blend as the resident visuals team and Keith as the main organiser behind everything. It’s essentially us plus guest headliners at each event.
In terms of upcoming events, we’ll be playing as a collective at a few festivals this summer and we’re co-hosting an after party for Birmingham’s City of Colours festival in September, with guest headliners Om Unit and Kenny Ken.
We hear you are all featuring at a number of festivals this summer, right?
Yeah! Keith and the visuals team have been working with the local Wonkey Hifi collective to create a festival stage called Mr Hung’s Laundry, a music stage meets screen printing workshop, at Shambala and BoomTown this summer. UTC are hosting the saturday night at Shambala with guest sets by Om Unit, Jo Def and Esgar among others!
Here’s a video of what we got up to last year at Shambala:
So, we hear you also dabble in production? What sort of music do you produce and what projects are you working on at the moment? Are there any releases in the pipeline?
Yeah! Production is something I’ve been dabbling with for a while but I’ve only started to take it seriously recently. I’m producing mainly ‘beats’ at different tempos and just having fun with it. I’ve been working on a few collaborations with friends and am really enjoying the new challenges. I can’t speak about those too much at the moment but I can confirm that I’ve recently shot a video for a scratch routine produced with EAN that should be online soon.
What are your plans for the next year in music?
Aside from gigging, I’ll be making lots more mixes and hopefully some solo and collaboration productions will appear in the near future too and eventually lead to some ideas I have for a live set. I have a few plans for some other related projects too that I don’t want to jinx in case they don’t happen, but best bet is to watch this space or follow me on a social network of your choice to find out more as and when things happen!
Tell us about your mix that you’ve recorded for us.
The mix is a selection of tracks I’m really feeling at the moment, with a slight feeling of summer warmth in there! I wanted to put together something people could listen to on headphones as well as for dancing to, so it’s more on a ‘liquid’ tip. The mix features some forthcoming tracks by Alphabets Heaven, Danny Scrilla, Landlord’s House Coat and Touchy Subject as well as a few of my favourite tracks that have been released recently. The Mark Pritchard track is one I’ve been after since July 2012 when Africa Hitech played it on Youngsta’s Rinse FM show, so it’s great to finally include it in a mix!
Any final words?
I’d like to thank you guys again for this opportunity and send out some shout outs to anyone who’s booked me or seen me play this year as well as the UTC gang and all my DJ and producer buddies.
Sideswipe - Be With You
Sinistarr & Silent Dust - The Chant
Sango Goldlink - Wassup
Landlord’s House Coat - Chasing Cats
Manni Dee & Deft - This One, The Art Of The Possible
Alphabets Heaven - Everything Stays The Same
Fracture - Werk It
Touchy Subject - Kill Her With Kindness
Sully - Charms
Danny Scrilla - Higher Plane
Machinedrum - Heavy Weight
Quarta 330 - Hanabi
MP - U Don’t Know Me
Austin Speed & Calculon - Get Murked (Deft Remix)
Deft - Faded
Dj Rashad - Pass That Shit feat. Spinn & Taso
GDNA - Think Twice (Jo Def Edit)
Souleance - Rendez Vous
Dubkasm - Heartical Stories