Jonson's Dayz 12" released last fall is still receiving acclaim in electro circles and he'll likely be putting out more singles in the fall. Meanwhile, Cobblestone Jazz are in Berlin next month working on music and hoping to complete another album. Their gig during Sonar Festival in Barcelona marks the group's fifth anniversary.
Recently returning from a show at the Detroit Electronic Movement Festival, Jonson spoke with us about life in Berlin and how the scene there is changing. He performs tonight (June 2) at the Mutek Festival in Montreal with the Swedish duo Minilogue.
How is Berlin changing since you arrived there from British Coloumbia?
It's a city that is affected strongly by musical trends. There's a real sound of Berlin and that is somewhat dictated by the clubs booking the music. When I moved there at first minimal techno was really big, and then house music was more popular again... and now breaks and dubstep are getting quite strong. It's nice because there are always a lot of possibilities. As long as you like the sound that's popular you can be quite happy there.
Is there club scene still thriving in Berlin? Or are there issues with developers and nightclubs being evicted? There's a Guardian article which detailed some trouble with developers and nightclubs recently.
I don't know about the issue with nightclubs. I only play in Berlin two or three times a year. There are always new spots popping up and clubs are open longer hours in Berlin than anywhere else in the world. It seems like they're packed 'til nine in the morning almost every day.
Developers are always coming up with ideas. The building my studio is in is going to be getting torn down, which will affect many of us for studio space and we will have to find a new place to go at the end of the year.
What about the freelancer tax that's being proposed in Berlin? We heard that 50,000 people signed a petition against it.
If that goes through that's going to be terrible, because Berlin is a city that's a great place for artists to live and it's very cheap. I'd be surprised if they pushed that tax through. Berlin has always made it easy for artists to get visas. And so, if they add that tax, in a way they're pushing a lot of artists out, which I think isn't what the city's mandate is. I think if that happens it'll force a lot of the young people who are responsible for bringing new life to the city to leave. They wont be able to pay that (350 Euros a month) -- because that's the same amount that a lot of people pay for their rent.
How do you feel about the resurgence in dance music festivals in North America with more young people seeking out the various sub-genres of electronic music?
It's really nice. For a time it felt that there weren't many clubs booking people anymore. There is a lot of energy in the US and Canada now and it means that I come back more often. The reason why I moved to Berlin is largely because I had to fly to Europe to be able to work and if there had been more shows and possibilities in North America I may have stayed.
When I lived in Vancouver, even if it was a direct flight it took 12 hours to get to Europe. I actually spent as much time on a plane as I did in Europe. At one point it was 55 hours a week, and I started getting back problems. So the lifestyle wasn't very nice because of that.
My lifestyle in Berlin is much better. I can fly on a Friday with a t-shirt and pair of pants and my equipment and be back on Sunday.
How did you start working with Minilogue?
We've been friends from playing at various festivals and clubs together over the years and we have similar ideas about how we produce music. They also really like outboard equipment and synthesizers and we even use a lot of the same synthesizers and drum machines, so it's quite natural for us to play together because we understand how we each play. They like to improvise in the same way that I do.
We don't spend any time before. We show up and we play. There is preparation in the sense that all three of us bring things to the table to be used in the mix -- little drum beds or bass lines or melodies. It's almost like we are all taking turns putting in sounds and they're intuitive as to what sounds good... They're also good about leaving space when playing with other people. It's similar when I play with Cobblestone Jazz. We don't actually need to practice. We make up everything we play, as we go.