With his debut album ‘Sidetracking’ set to drop on Alex Niggemann’s Aeon this Friday, we talk to Berlin-based producer Jona about the release and give you an exclusive taste of the album.
Hi Jona, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk to us!
Thanks for having me!
Can you tell us a bit about how you got started making music, and where your career has taken you so far?
I really got into music when I started playing the guitar at the age of 11. I went to a music school for several years, learning about theory and harmonies, before myself becoming a guitar teacher. Meanwhile, still in my teenage years, I was discovering electronic music and started going to techno events like ‘Kozzmozz’ and ‘I Love Techno’ in Belgium. I loved everything about it and eventually that pushed me to get into DJing and producing. After a few years of getting the hang of production techniques and attending an audio engineering school, I managed to sign my first record to a Belgian label and a little later, another one to Get Physical Music in Berlin. That was a big push for me and things took a turn that I would have never expected. I’m very grateful I got to tour places in the world I had only dreamt about, like Tokyo, and work with labels and artists I hold in high regard.
This album’s been a couple of years in the making, and clearly it’s involved a lot of people, with a guest featuring on virtually every track. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the album, and the process of turning it into a reality?
At the beginning, this project was meant to be a DJ mix with only exclusive tracks from my producer friends. In the process David K (who took part in the album) and I thought it would become even more special if each one of the tracks was a collaboration between my friends and myself. That’s how the whole concept shaped into an actual artist album. Diversity had to be an inherent part of this record in my mind, and with all the guest artists coming from very different horizons and cultures, it helped me achieve this goal – from housier tracks with French producer Varoslav or Bolivian percussionist Daniel Aguilar, to more ambient sounds with Giovanni Verga on the piano. The way we did it was, each of them would receive a track with ideas I had already pre-arranged and where I left room for them to add absolutely anything they felt like.
The album’s ‘diversity’ really is certainly one of its standout features, with the tracks ranging from minimal to lush orchestral techno, dub and abstract electronica, and more to boot. What musical influences did you draw on for the album, and what do you think gives the album musical unity, despite this range of styles and sounds?
A lot of these influences come from other musical genres I’m into, like ambient, drum ‘n’ bass or even jazz. Living in Berlin, I’m also lucky to have a large choice of parties, concerts and festivals to go to, and that allows me to draw inspiration from these experiences. For example, the ’Atonal’ festival keeps inspiring me year after year. Some of these acts have been eye opening to me!
My friends’ musical backgrounds and their talent influenced me the most on this album. It was a very positive experience where we all pushed ourselves and tried to get the best out of it. Each of them brought their own touch and created their version of a track through their way of producing, through improvised piano lines, or even live percussion. Each of these artists took their track to their own world and that is exactly what I was hoping for by working with them. It was important to me to have both live musicians and producers on there, broadening even more the way the album would sound.
Through that I think we achieved a certain flow, along which I hope the listener travels and gets surprised, going through a different mood, track after track. I see it a bit like a movie where you watch a new actor appearing in every scene, and you’re excited to discover his character and what he’s bringing to the story.
There has been increasing scepticism about the place of LPs in the digital download age. Why do you think albums retain their importance today?
I think an album is important in the way that it can showcase a longer story with more diverse influences, things you maybe wouldn’t try otherwise. It’s a medium where you can express different sides of your music, sometimes slower, weirder, or just more musical. I took this opportunity to explore territories like ambient or electronica, which I don’t usually do on my EPs.
You’ve released music on some pretty amazing labels over the years, including the likes of Planet E. What made AEON the right home for ‘Sidetracking’?
I’ve known Aeon’s owner Alex Niggemann for many years, and one day played him the album as we were talking about getting some of my new tracks out on the label.
He liked it and gave me the great opportunity of releasing it as my first big collaboration to the label. His trust and the choice he left up to me to decide the format, tracklisting, etc. really showed me this was the right home for this project.
What are your goals for the future, now that the album is done?
I keep working on a lot of new music, getting tracks together for future EPs. I’d like to go further with this new ‘edit’ project I started a few months ago, when I made an edit of a song from African band Amadou & Mariam. The idea is to keep making these and offering them as free downloads on my Soundcloud. It’s fun and a good source of inspiration for my other tracks.
My pleasure and thanks for supporting my album 🙂
‘Sidetracking’ is released 11th March 2016. You can stay in touch with Jona & Aeon here: