Jon Connor Exclusive InterviewJanuary 27, 2021
Interview, Editing Mike Moggi Mannix
Transcribing Kate Eve Senior
Jon Connor is an uncompromising underground Techno DJ hailing from Wales in the UK. Hes been on the scene for over 20 years as a DJ, Producer label boss and event promoter. He doesn’t suffer fools and speaks his mind, hes got no time for bollixolgy or arse lickers.
I sat down with him and had a great dynamic natter ..
MM: Hey man, how is it going, what you doing with yourself seeing as the gigs have dried up because of Covid?
JC: All good man, just boxing up my studio into storage and preparing to head back to Taiwan, I will back there in February and will remain so for the foreseeable, as my other business and day job is offshore engineering and is doing quite well over there now.
I work on behalf of the customers buying the wind turbines to oversee the construction of the site from the manufacturing stage right through to the last turbine is installed, I found myself in this position after spending many years as a commissioning engineer for Siemens, however, unfortunately, was made redundant in 2014 which now with my unique skills I am hired as a freelancer around the world. Usually, this job is a great balance for me with two weeks on two weeks off rotation, however, it can get boring most of the time waiting around so I just flick my phones out and pop out the mac, and write techno in a wind turbine.
MM: Haha so you are getting paid for your music production then essentially.
JC: Yeah, keeps you busy on the days we are offshore. We must work to maximum wave limits, wind limits, etc for safety issues so you do get a lot of downtime. I do not have to rely on DJ gigs these days and make a good wage, have fun, and most importantly have a good life balance.
MM: It is a good mix. A lot of people today understand the reality on the ground about the music industry.
JC: Yeah. and you can enjoy it more because there is less stress. The freedom to be more creative because you do not have to chase after gigs. I was doing more a few years ago, around eight gigs a month, it was nonstop. Then as soon as the more commercial EDM sound started becoming more popular, gigs started to slow down.
I then had to find another career and worked myself up in wind engineering, in a position where I have the best of both worlds without solely relying on my DJ Income. I always think about my underground friends such as Craig (Phutek) and how they get on especially now during this pandemic because you’d think for example artists like Carl Cox would do a bit more to push him and give him a little leg up, even though he plays many of Craig’s tracks, I don’t see him giving Craig any gigs, it’s mad, I am not sure what has happened to loyalty these days within the techno community especially from those at the top? I guess sometimes people need a little reminder of where they come from?
Quote Cox “YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST WAS ONCE A LOCAL ARTIST, DON’T WAIT UNTIL THEY BLOW UP TO START SUPPORTING” Carl Cox,
Yea sound that mate unless you are playing exclusive unreleased tracks for twelve months without giving that artist any support booking him on those events you are running. But never mind, I am sure his management and pr team do not mind artists like Craig then sharing videos of their tracks getting played on all social media platforms, nothing like a bit of free promotion ha!
MM: It is unbelievable, I have had this conversation with Craig a few times. Like at this stage of his career he should be up there, A listing, do you know what I mean? Obviously that just drives him up the fucking wall, and how it is very clicky.
JC: The problem is that
we have now what I call a techno mafia
where this collective of agents/managers who have pretty much got this new business techno scene sown up. These guys have the monopoly and anyone that gets popular will be grabbed by these people.
They just swallow up all the gigs and then you find that most of these line-ups are almost like copy pasted line ups, they are all over the world. And then you are like WTF what do you have to do to get in this?’ Then you have these PR gurus, they are super-powerful and exceptionally good at what they do with these Instagram accounts through various hashtags it’s power spamming
they can make a fucking dog famous and go viral overnight if they so wish
You see these DJs that seem to have endless gigs all over the place and then when you ask them in green rooms where do you get the studio time to write those tracks on all the big labels you are on and
you realise within five minutes of chatting to them, they are clueless and a million miles away from knowing even their basic onions regarding studio production, they are all mostly ghostwritten!
They make it difficult for guys that write their tracks, but people follow trends you know, it is the way of the world now with social media and the big tech age.
MM: Well, it’s fantasy! It is built on nothing and certainly not built on talent!
JC: Haha! it’s funny you should say that, I have had a good chuckle to myself whilst this COVID-19 pandemic has been on the last year with no events,
you see there is nowhere to hide now when you strip back all of the glamour the lights right down to the bare bones you can see who is real and who are the pretenders
Instagram, for example, lots of cooking, kitchen videos modeling shoots, and dancing behind decks with zero technical abilities purring like a cat or in some cases pointing to the sky like some sort of messiah-like Solomon! That guy would send even a glass eye to sleep with that pretentious shite, and wouldn’t you just like to get in the studio and show us all how you constructed these top tracks on top labels over the past years, or maybe construct some tutorial videos like the amazing artist’s Anna, or Rebekah for example?
See these kinds of things will not go unnoticed, to be honest, most of them are looking like a fish out of water or in some cases like small children craving attention from mummy and daddy please look at me, have you seen the social media stories of these guys lately lol! Cringe.
One thing that annoys me the most, and not only for DJs you see this across all art forms is that we are now in a time where we are losing our characters and creative minds, as well as slowly our technical skills, are being suppressed and flaked out. You probably noticed it these days, it is lots of dancing behind the mixer now rather than bloody using it and its designed functions, the same as studio productions are now ordered from their world tours from the ghost producer like a fucking pizza or an Uber taxi,
that will probably be the next app, dial a fucking track lol!
I mean what is the message here. Yea you have the fanboys and girls who will smoke their rod all day long and defend it, but I immediately inform them WHO are you? WHAT are you? WHAT are you trying to represent? You are not pop stars you are supposed to be electronic musicians and artists. I might come across as a bit of a bastard online, but I fight for the right reasons if you have truth on your side it is too powerful and people just cannot take it, within seconds you will be labelled anti-something or ism you, just cannot criticise anybody anymore.
For example, the shit online with SNTS that just last year, I got abuse off his fans for calling him out on TWTMGEP, savage I know but he stole from some big people legends like James Ruskin and labels like Tresor under his former name Unam Zetineb, these people I grew up with looking up to they are techno royalty to people like me who have been students of techno for over 20 years.
The guy was a fucking fraud, but he’s come back, he was clever about it, on bookings, no one is allowed to talk to him, they drop him off at the hotel, they put money on his room so he can eat, brought him back before and after the set and all this kind of bullshit on his ryder playing in a mask on a touch screen with what looked to me like a 90 min ready mixed wav?
Fuck off mate you would have got more respect from me if you just apologised, said look I’ve fucked up won’t do it again and cracked on, we all make mistakes especially when we are young but no,
it’s another coward in a mask with a new name trying to hide
But anyway, like I said we are losing our creative characters and DJ technicians, they are being suppressed. Then you have the incredibly talented and honorable Craig (Phutek) playing at Awakenings in Manchester, that should have been a platform for him, I do not know what happened there its a shame, he should be top of the bill.
I will be bringing him for sure to Taiwan to introduce him to my newfound techno family in Asia as our Mad Hatters resident!
MM: So, tell us a bit about your background, coming up as a kid, musical influences, what got you started on dance music?
JC: I come from North Wales. When I was growing up, around 16 years old, on magic mushrooms microdots, and everything else we rammed down our necks in those days, I was lucky enough to grow up in the welsh free party scene in north Wales, which was quite big back then,
we’d get anything from a few hundred to 10,000 people especially in the earlier days, we would have parties in quarries, in train tunnels from the old mines, the forest and old disused ammunition war bunkers
which used to go down 4 to 5 floors underground. After attending my first RAVE I was pretty much hooked on this it was an infection and, in my blood, forever lol. I got involved with people like Tribal Twat, Spiral Tribe, Dosse Posse, and various crews from around the UK, etc.
At 16 I got my first set of decks and started learning on the old belt drives, when I was first given a go live one spangled morning when no one was arsed going on the decks, I could not even mix properly! I remember mixing stuff like ‘Man with no name’ on dragonfly and things like that, I was just blending the breaks because I could not even beat match back in those days I only had about 20 records if that. I was playing things like Old Noom records, Time unlimited Nostrum, etc, it was not techno or tech trance, it was a mix of everything and lots of acid house mixed up.
When I got to 19, after reaching an elite level sort of free party DJ in Wales, a friend of mine told me there was a competition at North Radical. North Radical Technology was a huge UK wide underground Hardcore hard techno club brand, I was asked by DJ Vortex if I would like to get into the competition, so I had to put a tape in and I won it. It was bad boy stuff back in those days,
it was about turntables skills, you had to be a fucking badass because if you were not you would get fucking destroyed!
I used to listen to and watch Jamie Bismier and Umek they were my 2 idols because of their skills on the turntables, I mean
Umek blew my mind away
He was in Jon Berry’s shop Eastern Bloc Records (Manchester UK) where I used to purchase my records, the shop was like a tin of sardines and an absolute sweat pit, it was always kicking right off! Umek did a demonstration on 4 turntables and he just blew my head off and then the same with Jamie Bismier (Space DJz) with the double scratch drops and super slick cutting skills, I mean these are all old vinyl skills now. I learned from them. Winning that Dogs bollocks competition propelled me in the UK club scene by becoming a resident at North Radical Technology in both venues the Void in Hanley Stoke on Trent and Lakota in Stokes Croft Bristol, I ended up getting gigs in smaller events around the country, then festivals growing my product and I sort of grew from there in the underground scene.
MM: What was the first dance track you thought “fucking hell I’m having that?’’
JC: I remember it vividly, it was the original of Dreams by Quench. which was recently remixed by Umek, and earlier in fact by Phutek & Ben Kean, When I first went to this illegal rave on Bangor beach, we used to call it the White House there was a car owned by a guy called Ken. He was infamous in the free party scene and this car was almost something from the future because the car transformed into a full rig with a trailer behind and a sound system, all controlled from the car. I will always remember dancing around this car fuelled by microdots and our wonderful welsh mushrooms of course.
MM: Do you think the generation today will still be talking about any current tracks 30 years from now, like we do about Joey Beltrams Energy Flash, considering that a lot of tracks these days are made on copy and pasted templates and sample packs.
JC: Well, the problem is that these kids all follow trends, what is popular, what hashtag, etc. They could be shit on the decks but because their mates are into it they will be popular and so on.
Originality needs to come back
There are some guys out there making their own thing without using templates, they seem to be suppressed and squashed and almost drowned out in this never-ending recycled copy & paste media/PR. That needs to stop! Example! ADE in Holland that I attend every year should be the place for these kind of people to come through and get seen and heard, instead it becomes all about corporations like Awakenings and Drumcode this is what annoys me every year!
MM: Do you think that we need more localised smaller versions of these events, where we could go back to the up and coming artists?
JC: I have done that myself, I brought back Andrea Signore after a few years, he used to work with Wehbba many years ago. And now he is flying! I also took a few young kids on like Damian Cassar, a 19-year-old, he is just as good if not better than Enrico Sangiuliano. He has just got an insane talent. If you listen to his Bubblejam release it is just so good. It is like finding a Ronaldo but in techno production.
I have also spoken to people living in Liverpool and half suggested that the UK should do some smaller localised versions of ADE, Liverpool would be a perfect place to do it, with the musical history and another perfect place would be Bristol, where I run the Mad Hatters techno parties. I have been working in Bristol for the past 20 years and it is one of the best places to do music and arts, the people are amazing there.
MM: Where is the dance scene evolving to?
JC: I think that in the future everything will be about influencers. I follow a few of them, Track ID on Instagram, Hate, and Youtube, for example, What I found was that if a trend from DJs like Dax J, Hadone, Hector Oaks, Shlomo, Regal, and more underground labels, these guys influence them. This means influenced
customers go on Bandcamp and pre-order before that the vinyl is even cut, the thing is pretty much sold out
I think the same thing could happen for clubs in the future, where they become more privatised and you will need to have a subscription membership. And what will happen is that people will eventually get pissed off paying all the crazy DJ fees. I mean one female star wanted 35.000€ to play for my friend in Ireland, plus she wanted business flights, a five-star hotel. Clubs do not have this kind of cash, only festivals. I think that in the future the dickheads that are overcharging people, eventually, will have to lower their prices.
MM: We will get back to your music and productions. When you are in the studio, can you give us a bit of a breakdown from getting the initial idea to the final product?
JC: Sure! I always like to find a theme before I write a track, so the theme for Supertech 1 my latest album on Bandcamp is pretty much dark and devilish and gothic it has mostly 80s horror movie John carpenter soundtrack samples. I spent a lot of time on YouTube going through lots of videos, it is funny because I was looking for devil worshipping samples and I came across Satan’s speaks out, and because I was looking at so many gothic and dark things the algorithm picked up on it and I started getting ads of Christian preachers telling me to repent ha-ha! I think that doing that this way, the old way, is more original, rather than relying on sample packs entirely.
These days I put fewer tracks into my techno than I used to do before, where I used to put 30 tracks. Now 1 techno track could be 12/14. I write my track in 8 bars, which is the start of a track, the only thing I must do is the arrangement after that, which is easy. Your main track is in 8 bar loop and once you have it, it is just a question of copy and paste. And then you use your mute tool, and you decide where you want to put a break or a drop. Once you have muted everything, you do a little edit, little filter, reverb, and other effects, etc.
This method simplified the production, the one problem I do have when at work offshore is, I cannot use the UAD plugin software, so I swap that over onto my Apollo once I return home because I have a nice collection of UAD plugs and they make a huge difference. When I make something on a regular synth-like Sylynth Diva or Dune etc, I swap that midi voice over to the Moog to make it a bit stronger.
I have been producing for so long and was so lucky to have two amazing mentors that taught me a lot over the years, Glenn Wilson & Andreas Kraemer. The main thing they taught me was to not overthink things.
Some things are amazingly simple and are just in front of you, less is more!
MM: What are you currently working on?
JC: I am enjoying the energy again, for some reason during the pandemic we have wound back to the late 90s early 00s I have around ten Supertech releases already, three of those are available on Bandcamp, the rest I will stagger releases and play myself then put them out when I feel ready, I don’t like to saturate the market I find that it gets boring for your fans and the tracks sound to the same, you need to take production breaks for that reason try to keep them wanting. I want also to put those out on vinyl.
I am going to focus more on the raw, old style of techno and acid trance I used to do back from 2001 to 2006. I am going to bring back my old label Supertech, as the faster BPMs are coming back into techno with the likes of Dax J, I hate Models, Kobosil, Perc, and Hadone upping the pace and using the raw old sounds in their sets!
MM: Just how I like it, man! And what is the plan with your label Bubblejam?
JC: It is going well now. It has taken Daniel Hart, and myself about 4 and half years to build up a worldwide network to give young talent and producers a chance. We have been a steppingstone label if you would like to help people to get out there and get their tracks to some of the big boys. Guys from Russia, South America, Australia, etc. One rule I have about Bubblejam is that I do not want this flooding saturation culture. I used to work in a record shop back in the day and got a lot of records from certain labels I used to particularly appreciate. One of those record labels was Universal Prime Breaks from Drizzly Company, Construct Rhythm, Jerk, these kinds of labels were sort of rare, you would not get them very often and this is what I want.
I have changed Bubblejam demos and put a message out to the artists saying I will not accept any tracks under 133 BPM for the main label because it has more energy.
Right now things are great in Taiwan I have a new techno family and our Bubblejam team has grown even larger,
when you work in a certain way and you keep your house and business in order along with your reputation goes a long way
My now very good friend Vertigo in Taiwan (who happens to be one of the most respected underground techno DJs in Asia) and his lovely wife Celine have looked after me immensely, I couldn’t thank them enough for their genuine kindness and generosity. They have an amazing team at REBOOT TAIPEI who run superb events and are also the main Pioneer equipment suppliers in Taiwan. They have involved me with some amazing parties like Black party where the crowd was amazing, and also had me up the top of a sky scrapper in a private club with Mixmag Asia and Pioneer that was crazy!
Unfortunately, the nature of my day job with my offshore company can be a very lonely one, I am not sure I could do it without my long-time friend and all of the joy it brings to my life TECHNO!