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On Cue: Jon1st

01 Jon1st - Hari Datta 2021 - blossom.jpg
01 Jon1st - Hari Datta 2021 - blossom.jpg

Turntablist and producer Jon1st delivers his annual end of year megamix via the On Cue series: a tempo-shifting set of hyped-up breaks, turbo-charged drum & bass and breakneck genre fusionism. After a year that saw him launch a weekly A/V mix series and drop an impressive run of releases, he tells DJ Mag about how learning audio-visual skills sharpened his production scalpel, and how turntablism should be fun, not just technical

Something special happens around 160bpm. From an eclectic mixing point of view, it’s an ideal vantage point: jungle and drum & bass stretch over the next 15bpm, dubstep is only 20bpm behind you, and hip-hop is literally on the same beat street. Shove it into halftime gear and a whole range of styles are also 15bpm blocks away, from broken beat to electro to UK funky.

From a production point of view, 160bpm is just as ripe. Fast enough for that high-energy rave impact, but roomy enough to include samples and references of almost anything your imagination can stretch to. It’s no coincidence that jungle was galvanised at this speed. It’s also no coincidence that erstwhile DMC champ, 20/20 LDN resident and renowned beat-fuser Jon1st is happy flexing along this axis.

“One hundred percent! That’s exactly what drew me to it,” exclaims Jon, a London-born, Leicester-based DJ who frequently uses 160bpm as an anchor for his wild-style beat bonanzas.

“I discovered footwork and juke in 2011 through Planet Mu’s ‘Bangs & Works’ compilations and, like many others at the time, loved their influences on different genres within club music. It was so much fun DJing with the halftime and double-time grooves of those genres mixed with other music around that tempo. It was a really exciting time.”

This magic moment in musical time caught Jon at the perfect stage of his DJ journey, and he’s remained excited to this day. Then in his early twenties, fresh from an upbringing on 2000s-era instrumental hip-hop, primitive internet, nerdy forum foraging and endless hours of turntable studies, it’s a melting pot mindset he’s carried ever since — as a club DJ who can keep you moving, and as a competitive showman turntablist who can dazzle you with mixology madness.

“I’d say that the concept of playing with lots of different grooves at a fixed tempo has influenced me a lot with my end of year megamixes, too,” says Jon. It’s a tradition he’s held down since 2010, more often than not on Ninja Tune’s hallowed Solid Steel series. This year’s end of year megamix is hosted via DJ Mag’s On Cue series, and you can check it out below. “I’m still taking that approach of trying to blend and chop up records together into new contexts, but taking the selection to a far wider tempo range than I have for a while. Finding all those connections between tracks and creating a journey for a mix or a set is one of my favourite things about DJing.”

Jon1st - Photo Credit - Josie Parr.jpeg
Jon1st - Photo Credit - Josie Parr.jpeg

Jon is a consummate turntable-and- technology-inspired artist for the modern age. Armed with his Pioneer DJM-S11, Serato and the needle-free Phase devices, his head is in the science, but his heart is in the performance. In his solo sets, and collaborative ones with fellow 20/20 alumni Shield, he’s constantly looking for the sweet-spot between cutting-edge and accessible.

“I often use metal as an example,” he says. “Bands can have amazing virtuoso soloists, but that kind of playing shines best when there’s balance and dynamics in the performance. It was the same with the performances with Shield. They’re something we wanted people to get into on the dancefloor, but also have moments where you could look up and enjoy the set as a performance, too.”

With Shield’s musicianship and Jon’s dexterity, their shows were a feat to behold pre-lockdown. A fluid motion blur of hands, machines and well-maintained facial hair, the pair break down their tracks to their core elements and use each instrument to perform and mutate the phrases live. To the dancers, it’s seamless. To the chin strokers, it’s matchless.

Not even Covid-19 could quash their collaborative spirit. Jon explored how to create a similar experience online using post-production editing, while the pair were over 1,000 miles apart, between Leicester and Copenhagen.

“The move to streaming and doing things remotely has been a nice creative challenge,” says Jon. He’s always had a strong presence in the digital realm as a DJ — having won his DMC crown in 2013, as the third ever Online World Champion — but made a concerted effort to boost his online game this year, with a successful application to the Arts Council England for creative development to learn how to produce A/V material with After Effects.

“It’s a grant intended for development outside of your existing skill set, to expand your creative horizons. The grant was an incredible opportunity to practice and learn through taking online courses and weeks of personal development time.”

Jon1st - Josie Parr 2021.jpg
Jon1st - Josie Parr 2021.jpg

The fruits of Jon’s new A/V chapter are already ripe for the picking. He’s launched a weekly series, ‘AV Minimix’, where he unleashes a brand-new routine all wrapped up in a fittingly busy visual style. “I’m just a beginner at it, really — I feel like I’m in the first year of uni with it all,” laughs Jon. He’s currently flexing the Adobe Suite for most of his video productions, but isn’t averse to treating himself to the impressive 3D particle animator Trapcode every now and then, when he’s feeling flush. “I’m having a lot of fun in the process.”

While plans for any large scale, live A/V spectacular are still a long way off, Jon can already see how visuals could be incorporated into his work as a producer. A more recent addition to his musical vocabulary, Jon1st studio releases can be spotted on Leipzig experimental bass label Defrostatica, Anna Morgan and Bell Curve’s Worst Behavior Records and Craze’s Slowroast Records. Mirroring his performances and routines, his tracks smack of turntablist energy: not just in aesthetic and energetic, blink-and-miss fizz, but in how he’s knuckling down his production chops in the same disciplined way he practised his DJ skills.

“I’m putting the hours in not only because I want to push myself to improve, but also because I respect the quality of the work of my peers, whose music I play,” he says. “I want to be able to engage in conversations in the scene on a similar level.”

Even just a quick whiff of his Noisia- endorsed ‘Pantone Suplex’ on Defrostatica’s ‘Hybrid Hooks’ collection earlier this year suggests he’s on, or very close to, that level already. More level-ups are expected, too. A self-released two- tracker – ‘Seems Like/Cinnamon’ – lands on Bandcamp imminently, and another EP with brother-in-tone-arms Shield will come in early 2022. Following 2019’s wide-armed collaborative assault, Jon promises more of the same kinetic energy that he and Shield share on stage, and an anticipated feature with Manchester MC Strategy. “It’s representative of what we were striving for with the live show,” he explains. “Multi tempo, big drums, tasty subs, lots of live modulation.”

Plenty more modulations, both sonically and visually, will land later next year, too. Just like his mixes, his roots and the melting mindset he’s always had, we should expect the unexpected. “I’ve always been most inspired by conversations between disparate styles and drawing influences from different genres,” Jon smiles. “That’s where the most interesting things happen for me.”

Listen to Jon1'st end of year megamix for 2021 below.  

Tracklist:

EVM128 - Understand
Stereo Mars - Bruk Wile
Dismantle & Van Basten - Smack The Door
SOD-90 - Abe Sada (Assembler Code Remix)
Rhyval - Footcell
Monty & Visages - Hardware feat. PAV4N & Strategy
Lag - Twitch
GOALS - 2211
Yoofee - Seek & Move
Ivy Lab - Suzuki
Muadeep - G Jabbar Is Dead
DJ Ride - Takethisway
DJ Swisha - Self Charging
Coco Bryce - Luv Ain Ez (L Major Remix)
LV & Joshua Idehen - Not My House
Mosca - Proximo Dubplate
Ivy Lab - Oxford Diagnostics
Mel G - From The Bakk
Koreless - Black Rainbow
Redders & Hyroglifics & Sam Binga - My Style
Rochelle Jordan - Love You Good
Sam Binga & Addison Groove - Drop That, Pop That (Hyroglifics Remix)
Visages - About You feat. Laville (Alix Perez Remix)
Yoofee - KiBa
Sam Binga & Particle - Stand Tall feat. Redders
Jon1st - Pantone Suplex
DJ Deeon - Sleazy
Deft - ???
Om Unit - Sleepwalkers (Mahakala VIP)
Particle & Klinical - Cul Process
Watch The Ride - Road Runner
Jana Rush - Moanin’
Fetus - Loneliness
Big Dope P - Ugly feat. Mighty Mark
DJ ADHD - Pulse X Refix
Fracture - Biscotti
Sully - 5ives
Sam Binga & Chimpo - Draco Gas
Watch The Ride - That’s Da Shit
Addison Groove - ???
Kouslin - Dem Nah Want It feat. Riko Dan
Anakta - Cautivo
Otik - Garuna
Deft - ???
Stones Taro - Quiet
Client_03 - UR_LUV
Emz & Sam Binga - HEA
Overmono - Pieces of 8
Leon Vynehall - Mothra
Seb Trillo - Faith
Azifm - Take It Back
PAV4N - Karma (Yung.Raj & Nate08 Footy Flip)
Ivy Lab - Options
Jon1st - Seems Like
Breakage - Untitled Dubplate
Proc Fiskal - 8 Mgapixel See Thru Phone
Kiefer - Loving Hands

Want more? Check out The Sound Of: Worst Behavior Recs here

Photo credit: Hari Datta, Josie Parr

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