1 More Thing is proud to be signing out of 2022 with a very very special mix from Jon1st as he presents his latest end of year megamix.
An annual tradition dating back to 2010 when Jon decided to make a mix of his favourite tracks from the year to give away at his old club night, Jon’s retrospective sessions are a festive fixture as firm as cold cut sarnies, family fall-outs and that weird feeling that you don’t quite know what day of the week it is, only they’re a hell of a lot more fun… Especially this year’s mix as it concludes a game-changing year for the Leicester-based artist.
Following two years off-road due to lockdowns, Jon’s been busier than ever taking his unique high energy style around the world. He’s also found time to drop two massive EPs with Shield and Arcane respectively, collaborate with folk band Stick In The Wheel, and he’s been working in the classical realm for an impressive community-based project that commences next year. These are just the headlines.
We caught up with Jon just before Christmas while he was putting the mix together. Find out how he goes about organising and creating his megamixes and everything else he’s been up to while you take in this mindbogglingly super-charged session…
2022 has been a big year for you. The one you were longing for during those weird lockdown years…
Definitely! It’s been really lovely to have a few projects I’d been working on over the last couple of years be released, and to start playing shows abroad again.
The year started with Shield and I releasing an EP that we made in the 2020 lockdowns. That was a record we’d sat on for a little while and it was really nice to get that out there finally. We put a lot of effort into how we presented the music too with some split screen performance videos with Shield on drums and percussion and myself on decks, and create some artwork with some photos I’d been taking at the time.
I also released a track with Fixate for the Boost Tape Volume 3 compilation and then some collaborations with Stick In The Wheel, a London folk band, as part of a collaborative EP they created with Nabihah Iqbal, Olugbenga and myself where we explored what tradition means to us, digging into the folk archives of Cecil Sharp House in London, which was a really fun and different experience from projects I’d worked on before.
For my tracks, we dug into folklore from Leicester and sampled a recording from a Leicester folk club from the 1970s, of a song that’s around 600 years old. Experiencing a physical library of music and literature like that was a really special experience and we had some really interesting chats while making and promoting the record too.
Around the same time I had the opportunity to DJ at Ila Brugal’s Keep Hush takeover, which was a really fun gig, and across the summer and autumn I had the opportunity to do a couple of small tours in the US, played a few shows and festivals in the UK and Europe and recently played in Seoul in South Korea which I loved.
And then, most recently, Arcane and I released a collaborative EP with Defrostatica this month, more on a dance floor 150/160 BPM tip.
What a year. Love the Stick In The Wheel collaborations, too. I’d say it’s been your most prolific year release-wise, would you agree?
It’s definitely the most varied year I’ve had to date I think. When I look back at the projects I just listed there’s beats, D&B, jungle, dubstep and folk(!) in there. I’d say the main thing for me has been being able to play internationally again. To get back to America has been especially great. That was one of my most popular places to be booked before the pandemic, so to be able to get back there and see a lot of friends I’d made over the years was really nice, and something I’m incredibly grateful for.
Before the lockdowns I had a very privileged opportunity of not being in the same place for very long due to touring a fair bit and working with Shield in Denmark too. We’d spend a week in Copenhagen writing and rehearsing our live project followed by a week here in Leicester, then be on tour for a few weeks, take a week or two off where we were doing our own projects and then doing it all again. So to go back to that type of free movement and lifestyle has been really refreshing. Not that I didn’t appreciate it before, but I definitely have a renewed appreciation for it all now.
Massively! We spoke for DJ Mag exactly this time last year and it’s such a different vibe 12 months later!
Totally! We still didn’t know how things were going to work out at that point and there was so much uncertainty. We were about to go into that last lockdown and we were unsure whether winter lockdowns would become an annual occurrence, and from a more selfish work perspective what international travel and touring would look like in 2022 after an off and on and off again 2021. It was very uncertain wasn’t it?
Madly so! Give me some US highlights. They love a bit of turntablism there don’t they? I guess it’s the hip-hop connection?
Definitely! Turntablism and hip hop DJing has been such a big part of the music culture out there and a huge influence for the turntablist scene here too, and there’s nearly always some turntablists coming down to the shows and wanting to organise jams etc.
In terms of highlights, on a cheesy level just the experience of seeing lots of old friends, new friends, dancefloors full of people was the highlight of the trips these time. Specific gig-wise, playing in Pittsburgh for the first time was a really great energy. It was a smaller capacity club and was absolutely rammed from 11pm. Playing Blackbox in Denver was very fun too. I was asked to curate the line-up for that one, too, which was a huge pleasure. I asked Sinistarr to play.
He’s so awesome, a huge influence on me musically and a really great guy. I also invited Mux Mool and Maggie Despise, who runs Recon which is a proper drum & bass institution there. That was one of the best nights for me this year. The club is a joy to play. The monitors are better than a lot of soundsystems in some other clubs. It sounds that good!
Would love to go there one day. Was the Seoul show you mentioned your first time playing in South Korea?
I played there four years ago but it was at the end of a tour and was a very brief visit, so this time I spent five days there. The crew who brought me out there were Kimchi Factory Homies, who are a great collective and lovely people. They’re really pushing bass music at different tempos there, and I felt really at home playing for them at Cake Shop, which is a club I’d heard so much about and wanted to play for years. Proper basement vibes! Then I went to Japan for a short holiday and caught up with some friends over there, which was another huge highlight of the year. I can’t wait to get back out to Asia next year if I can.
Sick. And amongst all this, you also found time to link with Arcane!
Yeah! We started that EP in 2021 and wrote the tracks across a few sessions and it all came together very naturally. I love working with Mike. Samurai Breaks showed me his track, Discharged, on Soundcloud and I was blown away instantly by his way of combining dance floor and cinematic sound palettes. We got in touch with each other a bit later that year, he liked some of my stuff so we decided to hang out and see what would happened.
There’s a lot of shared interest in making cinematic dance music – tracks that really hit hard with lots of percussion and heavy drums but also have that melancholic or uplifting side of things too. We developed a question/answer theme throughout all the songs. Every four bars we’d try to incorporate a switch up where we try to answer the previous four bars and the breaks would switch up as well.
I’ve taken that approach with Shield in the past, too. Taking a theme and seeing how many times we could flip it and this was a different way of doing that. It was a lot of fun writing with Mike. He’s a very talented guy, he’s a drummer and plays a lot of other instruments too.
So many drummers in this game!
There are aren’t there? Both Shield and Arcane program their drums really precisely, whereas in the past I’ve tended to throw things in the mix and side chain to my main kit until it feels right, but there’s another level with drummers programming drums.
Interesting! This is definitely your most jungliest record isn’t it?
I’d say so. I’ve been waiting to make a record like this and it was a great opportunity to do this with Mike and Defrostatica.
Sick! Let’s talk about this end of year megamix!
Yeah! So, I’ve been doing this series every year since 2010. I call them megamixes, which are essentially multitrack mixes with me throwing in a lot of elements of music I’ve really liked over the last year.
Right now I’m still sketching the mix out but I’ve made a crate of favourites and I think I’ll be focusing on more of a multi-tempo approach this time round. In recent years I’ve been mainly DJing between 80/160 and 85/170 BPM, but I’m finding myself playing a broader BPM range again in the last couple of years and the mix will probably reflect that this year. There’s a lot of producers I really rate who are writing across a range spectrum of tempos and I want to reflect that a bit more this year.
A few that spring to mind are Nikki Nair, Sam Binga and Ivy Lab. They’re producing so many styles of music incredibly well and I think it leads to really musically diverse sets and events too, which I’m always a fan of!
Yeah it’s not random is it, I’d say Fracture is in that category too right now. Do you think this variety is a lockdown silver lining? Taking the club out of the question meant producers were back to doing what they wanted.
Yeah! I’m a big Fracture’s recent LP too and the LP he released with Sam this year too.
I think you’re right. I think it’s fair to say that most artists start out thinking “I’m going to make music for me with no rules” but it can be easy to fall into a trap of limiting what you make somewhat to market yourself easier and create DJ tools for your sets too, but I think the lack of clubs for the most part of 2020 and 2021 and the extra time on their hands allowed producers time to explore some projects that they might not have had the opportunity to in the past.
Have you been caught in that mindset?
Not for the type of music I make but in terms of trying to ensure I’m performing somewhat technical sets for sure. I often overthink that I need to proving my worth as someone with a someone with a scratching background, and sometimes if I’ve not done much technical stuff in a set a set then someone who was really looking forward to that might bring it up. People make an effort to see me so I want to make sure there’s a bit of everything I’m known for in each performance as well as pushing new music etc.
That’s such a fine line – you’ve got to assess that as you go along, right?
Yeah there’s a lot of reading the room going on and I don’t overthink it as much these days. Saying that, I felt it a little more this year before my first shows back in America because it was my first solo tours out there for a long time. My previous few tours were with Shield where we doing live sets which were very performance orientated and this time I was thinking, ‘Are people going to expect the same thing but with just me?’ But after the first gig I really got into the groove of it.
Definitely! So what’s the next step? You’ve got your crate together, you’re making sketches, how does it come together?
I sort my big crate into moods and sketch out a beginning, middle and end and thenhope that something good will come out the other end after I’ve finished it!
It’s been an inspiring year for music. What started this tradition?
I made the first one for a joint New Year’s club night I was playing with my old house mate, Richie K. I think we were doing an all night b2b set, and we decided to each record a 35 minute best of 2010 mix and burn a few of them to CDs to give away. I uploaded mine the next week and it was quite popular, so I continued to make them and put them out through my old DROP club night, and later, after I won DMC Online in 2013, I started being asked to record a lot more guest mixes, so from then on I’ve had them featured on various radio stations and websites.
On a mixing level, the style of multitracking I do is highly influenced by hip hop multitrack mixtapes, in particular Mr Dibbs from Cincinnati and Buddy Peace from London. Mr Dibbs has made a lot of excellent mixes over the years, but one called Turntable Scientifics was a huge influence on me. It’s a breaks and funk mix with samples and scratching, but it’s so well put together that it felt like an album.
Buddy Peace’s mixes are joy to listen to if you’re into that approach – Common Wealth Kids, Wolf Diesel Mountain and Watch and Repeat Play with Zilla are some of my favourites. I met him when I started DJing when he worked at my then local record shop, Banquet Records in Kingston, and he introduced me to so much music when I was starting out and really took the time out to put me onto new stuff and he and Mike from the shop gave me some some of my first DJ experiences and he later hooked me up with an amazing gig playing for LEX Records a few years back too.
I don’t often push the multi tracking to the same amount of detail as those guys, but the whole concept of doing 3/4 + deck edits etc and really planning and presenting a mix as a real journey is definitely influenced by listening to them.
That’s wicked. Do you ever take the time to listen back to your mixes over the years?
From time to time I do. What’s always interesting when listening back to any old mixes of mine is hearing how genres have evolved over time now that some time has passed. One that always inspires me is the UK take on footwork and juke that happened in the 2010s and all the different ways people interpreted it and how different styles have formed and come in and out of fashion over the last ten years. Also my own relationship with music as I’ve got older has altered over that time, of course.
Your relationship with certain styles of music changes doesn’t it?
Yeah it has to. You hear something new for the first time and it has a magical quality to it. Over time that magic turns into something else, but it doesn’t make it any less fun, it’s just a different understanding and experience. But back to the question, looking back, there was something very special about those late 2000s years musically with lots of different styles of music being innovated in a very short period of time. A few people have said it’s a combination of internet culture changing and the dawn of social media, Myspace etc, and also DAWs were becoming more accessible and affordable. You had dubstep…
You had the Brainfeeder type of sound and acts like Flying Lotus and movements like Low End Theory
Yeah totally! Plus the European takes on that like guys like Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Debruit etc, post-dubstep, the different takes on club music, future garage, all the takes on juke and footwork etc. I can remember listening to Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC in particular and being totally inspired by so much new different music every week and things not seeming like they were adhering to any set rules, it felt like an ongoing conversation, which was really refreshing.
I wasn’t making music at that time but it seems that things move a lot quicker now in comparison.
There’s such an abundance of things, all the time.
You’re right. And from the perspective of a music fan that’s great because there’s always new things to hear. From an artist point of view it’s frustrating because it can feel like a rush to keep writing more work to try to appease the different ways we consume media now, but the accessibility of putting records out is awesome. It’s a very exciting time still though, just different!
What else is exciting for you coming into 2023?
Aside from writing new music, I’ve been working with the local school district here in Leicestershire. I’d been working with a charity here doing some tuition and through that I’ve been invited to co-compose an orchestral performance for students, with turntables as the lead instrument. It’s a 20 minute piece about space and it’s purely performed by primary and secondary school kids. Form January to March I’m teaching the students how to play the parts and rehearsing it with the orchestra and then there’ll be a performance at De Montfort Hall here in Leicester in March.
Wow! That’s an exciting new territory to explore!
It’s early stages and I start teaching it next month. Elizabeth Kelly and I have spent a lot of time this year writing it. It’s been new territory for her, too. She’s a composition lecturer at Nottingham University and mainly writes classical and jazz pieces. She likes hip-hop but has never created anything in that world before, and likewise I’ve never worked in this way either – so it’s been incredibly fun and has opened me up to other projects: I got to play one of my tracks with Shield with an orchestra earlier this year through the same organisation.
That sounds brilliant.
Yeah! I’m really inspired by the whole project. I’ve got really inspired in the studio in general. I really want to put out a solo record in 2023. I do really love collaboration, and while I’ve put out a few solo singles in the last couple of years, I’ve not made an EP or a longer project on my own, and it feels like a good time to focus on that and explore my own sound and themes. When I’m writing with someone I find it’s very easy to agree on a concept for a record together, but on my own I can overthink that. So yeah, hopefully I’ll get to release some of that and be back on the road too. Thanks for having me, Dave, and everyone who’s come to shows or checked out my music this year. See you all in 2023!