After years of producing music under various guises, Jon Charnis found his true calling in the slower, darker, and deeper spheres of House music. The re-invention manifested beyond music as the former DC native relocated to the city of Los Angeles while launching his new moniker (his actual birth name). From then on it didn’t take long to make his impact felt. His track ‘Prophecy’ was spotted by Innervisions boss, Dixon, who signed the track to his prestigious Berlin based label after road testing it at some of the world’s premier parties.
He followed this up with an official remix of Art Department’s Burning Man anthem, “Robot Heart”, a collaboration with production partners Lovecraft and Prab K. And with upcoming tracks on No.19, Supernature, and All Day I Dream, 2013 will be a year to watch for this fast rising producer. This momentum also carries itself to the DJ circuit where Charnis’ schedule has him touring internationally to Berlin, New York City, Barcelona, and the mighty Club Space in Ibiza.
Jon Charnis has received support by world renowned DJs such as Dixon, Steve Lawler, Ame, Tale of Us, Audiofly, Anja Shneider, Daniel Bortz, Thugfucker, Matthias Meyer, My Favorite Robot, & Matthew Dekay to name a few.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born In Israel. Moved to Germany when I was 4 years old. Then moved to the US when I was 9, grew up most of my life in the DC Area. And then finally moved to Los Angeles in early 2012.
What do you think about the scene where you live today?
I might be a bit under qualified to sum up the scene in Los Angeles given how new I am to the city. But it seems to have a very strong mainstream “EDM” scene countered with a small but fast growing niche underground scene. Its an exciting time because we can bank on the fact that more and more of the mainstream kids are going to end up coming to our side of the club world eventually. And even since moving here, it seems we have so much talent coming through in 2013 compared to 2012.
We have underground staples like Culprit doing big things at Sound and of course the Standard Rooftop. We have lots of amazing “secret” warehouse parties and hidden events people might not know about. Like Voodoo, for example, where we got to see my Innervisions boss Frank Wiedemann (Ame) play an unforgettable live set to an intimate crowd.
We also have LOTS of locals doing big things on the production side. I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends and working with the very talented duo Dance Spirit on a track for their debut album on Audiofly’s Supernature imprint. I’ve also made a track with a local staple, Jimmy Maheras that we signed to the label as well. And working with vocalists like Cari Golden has been great. This city is very conducive to meeting talented locals who are all pushing their art and putting LA on the map
What was the music scene like around you growing up?
I grew up in the rave scene of the early 2000’s in DC. We had the best party bar none on the entire US east coast called BUZZ @ Nation. We would go every weekend and see multiple headliners of all genres. Progressive, House, Trance, Drum N bAss. Back then we were into everything electronic. We would have lines for blocks down the street to get in, something thats pretty amazing for a small scene like DC. Back then the scene was all unified because we treated it like our own special secret.
When the rave scene started getting too big and it was hard throwing parties without the police intervening, things started moving to proper clubs. I remember taking many pilgrimages to the legendary club Twilo in New York to see guys like Sasha play legendary marathon sets. It was a special time and had a big impact on the way I view music to this day.
How would you compare and contrast the west coast scene vs. the east coast scene, and which do you prefer?
I see more similarities than differences in our “scene” to be honest, whether east coast, west coast, or even in other countries! This music really is universal. I think one difference though is the weather. It seems people on the west coast are more chill and friendlier. And we love our outdoor parties here. It seems the Burning Man mentality is more prevalent on the West Coast. I moved to the West Coast for many of these reasons so I am going to go with my new home in terms of preference.
How has it influenced your music and shaped you into the producer/dj you are today?
From the DJ perspective, it taught me that sets should be a journey with peaks and valleys, not just a marathon of hits or obvious tunes. I miss hearing long sets where DJs can take you to different places which seems to be rare these days. On the production side I am not sure DC had any specific impact on the type of music I made as I was always more influenced by what was coming out of Europe.
I will say though that the diversity of the scene in DC definitely helped me appreciate various styles and its partly why I have had various monickers in the past writing different genres of music. It’s hard constantly evolving and changing your sounds but hopefully people will agree that music is pretty versatile.
When did music production become a serious part of your life?
When I was young, I would always write improv music on my piano, not seriously but just for fun. Looking back now I guess I always had this desire to always create something, whether on a piano or a drawing on a piece of paper. When computer music technology became accessible to everybody I couldn’t resist but to try it. When Reason came out, I spent 4 months perfecting my first ever song and put it on a Reason messageboard for feedback. Somehow somebody heard it, passed it to a big DJ in London and the song ends up on radio. While I wasn’t ready to make a career out of it, it sparked a serious interest in becoming a proper producer.
When did you know that you were going to continue on doing this professionally?
When I moved to Los Angeles I was forced to quit my job in DC and had this crazy idea of taking a small break to try writing music full-time and seeing what would happen if I dedicated 100% to it. I can’t even pretend I truly believed I would accomplish that much in that time frame. However, the idea of regretting not having tried it fueled my desire. So I took the plunge and here I am.
Since releasing on a major labels like Innervisions and No.19, have you noticed the difference in daily life or way other people treat you?
Difference amongst my friends? Absolutely not. Difference amongst new people I meet? yes. People instantly take you seriously or listen to what you have to say. Online is where you really notice the difference though as you start getting hit up by so many labels and producers who want you to work with them. Its kind of stressful sometimes because I hate being the bad guy and saying no. There is no way you can make everybody happy
What advice would you give to aspiring producers?
It sounds almost like a paradox but you need to be current yet original. Like all art or fashion, your music should have context and fit into some sort of scene, unless of course, you want to make it on your own. It really helps collaborating with other similar artists and engaging with your peers. And yet, your music should sound original, your own take on a certain sound. Many producers try to emulate their favorite producers but usually you won’t find success this way because it won’t sound as genuine. Although the actual production is important (and some can get away using just that), having new ideas and creativity are more important to make you stand out. I realize this is much easier said than done.
Also, its great to learn techniques from youtube videos and blogs, but at the end of the day, you are limiting yourself to copying what people are already doing. In my experience, experimenting with music is much more important than reading about it. Most of my biggest breakthroughs were happy accidents or things I tried doing that I wasn’t supposed to be doing.
Finally, my biggest advice that I learned from my struggles finishing songs is to separate the different phases of the music making process. Organizing samples and making patches ideally should be done in one separate phase. Then when you have a pallette of sounds available and organized, you won’t be stuck searching for things during the creative/writing phase, something that can totally ruin your momentum.
Also, I found my music became much better the more I moved out of the box and stopped using the mouse. Try mapping your synth knobs to controller knobs, do automation live, play keys live, even if you suck. This all might sound obvious but its surprising how many people don’t treat the music making process like writing a rock song with a band. Oh and don’t be so fast to hit quantize. Playing things live and keeping them a bit “off” the grid works wonders.
Can you tell us one record or song that has changed your life?
Prodigy – Firestarter. I heard it on a trip I took to Europe and it was the first time I listened to non pop-based Dance music. It blew mind because it was so different and edgy at the time. The album wasn’t out yet so I ran to Tower records and picked up the Jilted Generation album which really set me on a new path musically and I still consider it one of the best dance albums of all time.
When you are not listening to or creating electronic/dance music, what are you listening to to get inspiration or just for leisure?
I get inspiration from all sorts of music across the board. From popular well known, but great acts like the XX, to soundtrack music, where Clint Mansell is a hero of mine, even classical music. I don’t listen to the radio almost ever though.
Is there anything special coming up here in the near future that people should know about?
Well my official remix of Art Department’s Burning Man anthem “Robot Heart” came out this week on No.19 Records. It was a collab with my great friends Prab K and Lovecraft, who you will hear a lot more from in the near future. After this I have my track with Jimmy Maheras called “Lunar White” coming out on Supernature’s loaded Kolors compilation, as well as my collab with Maher Daniel on Lee Burridge’s All Day I Dream label.
Also, my collab with Dance Spirit on their new LP which I believe is going to be pretty special. Finally, I have a remix I did with Prab K coming out on Silky and Climbers’ new label Faceless Records in the near future. As you can see, 2013 is the year of collabs for me! But a bunch of solo originals are well underway and hopefully will be landing on some top labels soon. On the DJ side of things I am playing club Space Ibiza and Sonar in Barcelona both in June. Then I go tour to various hotspots including Berlin, NYC, London, etc.
What is your preferred method of music production?
I’m a rare PC user <ducks> . Cubase 6 is my DAW but sometimes I will do some things in Ableton and rewire inside Cubase. For synths, I love both analog and digital. The digital stuff is catching up super fast. But there is something special about doing things in real life on an analog machine and being forced to commit to an idea. I am in the process of hunting down more analog. But overall, its more about how you use your tools than what tools you use
Can you tell us a little bit about this particular mix?
This mix aims to be a journey of sorts between my different styles of deep house music and features many unreleased and/or forthcoming tracks by me and some of my good friends in the scene. The first half is what I would consider night music and the mix then slowly transitions into day time sounds.
01. Matthew Burton and Kate Rathod – Light Pink [Supernature]
02. Clockwork – First Floor [Life and Death]
03. East End Dubs – Broken Illusions [East End Dubs]
04. Jonny Cruz – Purple [Supernature]
05. Doomwork – Untitled
06. Mihai Popoviciu – Call Me [Poker Flat]
07. Hands Free – Untitled
08. Art Department feat. Damian Lazarus – Robot Heart (Jon Charnis, Prab K, and Lovecraft Remix) [no.19]
09. Danny Daze – The Calm [Ellum]
10. Jona – Master Plan [Leena]
11. 10 Walls – Gotham [Innervisions]
12. Christian Loffler – Slowlight [Ki]
13. Square Room Heroes & Seidensticker & Salour – To Real Time [Visionquest]
14. HVOB – Always Like This (Andhim Remix) [Stil Vor Talent]
15. Unreleased – Untitled
16. Ripperton – Farra [Green]
17. Jon Charnis – Prophecy [Innervisions]
18. Unreleased – Untitled