September 2020 was something of a rebirth for Joao Fragoso. After over 10 years operating as Fragz on the more brutalist side of drum & bass, he announced a brand new chapter as Jon Tho.
Wiping the canvas clean and starting from ground zero once again – but retaining his tireless work ethos and high level of production – the Jon Tho alias was a chance to show a deeper, more emotional side to his creativity and musical passions.
Not just for him personally but also across the Surveillance label as artists such as Audio, Vowel, Nickbee and many more explored their deeper sides on the imprint as it established itself.
As time has gone by the label has become an exciting home for new talent, too, with the likes of Circumference, DRZ, Sign, Lavance and many more have released music on the label – notably on the killer Surveillance Blacklist VA EP series that slowly building up.
For Joao, his first release on the label as Jon Tho landed in November 2020. The Sundials EP was a personal statement and a pivotal moment in his career, which he’s now returned to with an exciting, full-flavoured remix EP featuring a range of pioneers and new gen talent: Audio, DJ Ride, Circumference and Subcurrent.
You can check the Sundials Remix EP out here but first, check this exclusive mix Joao has made for 1 More Thing. A full studio video record, done in one take, it’s the first ever mix he’s done that completely comprises his own material and releases on Surveillance. Check the mix, read the interview and scroll down for the full tracklist…
I interviewed you on UKF to announce your Jon Tho alias this time in 2020…
Pretty much exactly to the day, man! I’ve released quite a bit of music since then and I remember saying to you before – I wanted to release less but be 100% happy with it, which wasn’t always the way before now. I take more time over it all, I choose the labels I work with properly.
Actually, before I forget, I want to shout out Soulvent straight away. I’ve been working very closely with them and have more new material coming up with them. But yeah, it’s been two years since the first Jon Tho EP and I’ve been super-stoked to get such awesome artists working on the remix EP. It’s been a big milestone for me to have legends and good friends like Audio on there.
Yeah it’s very personal EP! There’s the Portuguese connection with Tomas DJ Ride…
Oh yeah man, he’s another great friend and also a massive legend. We play a lot at the same shows locally and have known each other for about 15 years. He’s the biggest DJ in Portugal when it comes to hip-hop and turntablism so it’s so special to have something we can work on together. The same for Audio. He’s such a good friend and has been my biggest influence since back in the day. Then we have Circumference who are the best newcomers out there.
They’re on a different level aren’t they!
For sure man! Don’t be fooled by those silly kid faces, their music is so mature and rich. I’m not just saying that because they’re on my EP, I tell them this all the time. They’re going to take this music to some incredible places in the future just watch.
Amen! Can I quote you on the silly kid faces remark?
Oh please do man. I meet a lot of new generation artists coming up in the scene as a label manager, some of them are younger than Circumference but they don’t look as fresh faced as Fin and Kit. They have these typical kid faces – it’s such a mad contrast to see their youthful faces and hearing the maturity of their sound. I’m sure they do it on purpose!
And I also need to mention Subcurrent who is the final remixer and came through the Patreon remix competition. I got 12 entries which was really good and Subcurrent was the second entry I heard. It was like, ‘Dude! This is too good. This is going to be hard to beat.’ He’ll be releasing more stuff with us in the future, he’s so talented and it’s an honour to give him that opportunity. That’s what Surveillance stands for: having brand new talent alongside top end headliners.
Yes! That’s what it’s all about!!
Exactly man. That’s what keeps the genre alive. I don’t see this happen so much in other genres. I think it’s because in drum & bass we are focused on the sound. If your sound is good then I’ll promote you. We don’t care so much about gimmicks and image as much as other genres.
Definitely! So something that struck me about our first Jon Tho interview was that you said you want to make music that ‘hits the heart first, then the dancefloor’. That’s still very relevant isn’t it?
Oh totally. I’ve cemented that idea more and more over these two years, it drives me. It felt like I was at the right time to do so. I’m still with the same exact mindset when I’m on other labels, too. The release on Blackout, for example. That’s a heavier label but I still put the same ethos and signature into that music. As I said at the time, I won’t change that for other labels. If you like my music, then great. If not, cool. We’re still friends.
I think this reflects where D&B is at. Blackout’s sound has changed. A lot of artists who’ve been known for the heavier sound in the past have found deeper sides to their sound and I think D&B has matured in this sense. Even heavy stuff has emotion.
Yeah I think so. Even if you look at the mainstream dancefloor sound, that music is way more emotional now than it was 10 years ago for example. Everyone is getting way more personal with their music in all the subgenres and I feel like that’s the influence of what we’ve been through in the last few years. Also there’s so much music out there so people are putting more emphasis on their music being memorable. Artists aren’t churning out tune after tune as much as they used to. People are thinking about how their music stands out and that doesn’t have to be in the mixdown or in the sound design, it’s tiny details that can touch you in a different way.
Definitely! I think that’s also reflected in the recent new Blacklist V/A EP on the label, too. That’s another full circle moment for you isn’t it as Surveillance launched with a Blacklist EP…
Yeah for sure. I’ve loved curating both of these releases. The first one was great to showcase what the label stood for and was about and the new one involved a lot of engaging with my Patreon community. About 80% of the release came from Patreon. Not all of it, but most of it. It’s actually one of my proudest projects so far – to help new generation artists and motivate them to keep making music. There are so many things that make aspiring and newcomer artists quit and become uninspired.
It’s so important to give people opportunities!
It really is. A lot of labels will be interested in an artist and keep telling them to keep on the music and keep sending it over and that’s good encouragement for a while but for me, if the music is already getting me moving and inspiring me, then let’s get it out there. I don’t consider Surveillance a big label. I never want it to be, it’s too personal for that.
What do you think your original alias Fragz would make of all this?
That’s a hard question! Back then I was too involved in the projects I had going on. With the Yellow Stripe and other stuff. I think Fragz would have the same mindset as I have now but artists have their own egos and when I was younger and bursting out in the scene, getting releases on dream labels and being booked to play my first international gigs I probably wouldn’t do this because my ego wouldn’t allow it. I’d be thinking about my profile and where I am on the bill. I’m being honest. It’s normal for a 23/24 year old kid who starts to get some momentum to get carried away with their ego but over the years, if you’ve managed to stay in the game and stay relevant, then that ego comes back down. I look back and it’s like dude I was a fucking douche. So Fragz wouldn’t think differently but the ego might have got in the way. Any time in the last five years ago though – as Fragz or Joao – I’d understand because I’ve had a lot of personal development, I’ve matured as a person.
Love that. So finally… Big up on the mix!
It’s my first 100% Surveillance and Jon Tho material which I’m really excited about. It’s live and uncut too – what comes out of the mixer is what is on the mix. No audio edits. I also wanted to showcase some exciting material that’s coming out on the label with music from Kung, Sign, Nickbee, SLWDWN, Intercept. Archaea & DRZ and a lot more. I’m really proud of it, I hope you enjoy it.