John Roman has easily got to be one of Canada’s best players in the EDM scene. At the tender age of 22, he’s doing what most aspiring DJ’s/Producers try to do as they sit atop an established podium. Since taking up dance music back in 2009, he has already accomplished climbing the charts of HypeM to the number #1 spot on numerous occasions and has been gaining support from the likes of Skrillex and Designer Drugs. His passion for tribal sounds is something you’ll hear often in almost every production, be it his own or a remix. His latest EP “Sala” got played multiple times by Laidback Luke, Carte Blanche (R.I.P. DJ MEHDI), Congorock and Brodinski. With new productions on the horizon, along with enormous remix duties for the likes of the Crookers, Sound of Stereo, Acid Jacks and Nouveau Yorican all in the upcoming year, John Roman is about to go in on the whole EDM scene. Recently, I had the good fortune of catching up with John and finding out what he has been up to since graduating University and what the next year has in-store for the young lad. Take a peep!
Few months back, you had released an electrifying EP called “Sala”, how has life continued treating you since the release?
Life has been good. The “Sala” EP was a long time coming, and since its release I’ve gained a lot of new support, doing some more ‘high-profile’ remixes and a small tour in the US with Mumbai Science.
Speaking of “life”.. what was “life” before turning to music? Tell us about yourself !
Well, I’ve been producing for a while now. Hip-hop since I was 13, and dance music since about 2009. But I never really took it seriously, or released much of what I did, until these past couple years. I just graduated from the University of Western Ontario in April (with a degree in Media Studies), so this is the first September in almost 20 years that I’m not going back to school, haha. Definitely a change, but it’s nice to have more time to concentrate on what I really love doing.
There is a difference in your sound between your “Sing!” EP and your latest release “Sala”, which brings me to my next question…What is your sound?
Right now, what I’m really after is trying to combine techno and tribal ideas into something new. Sampling plays a big role in my music. I really don’t like things that sound too clean, polished or “stock”. UK funky has been a great source of inspiration lately. I’m trying more and more to push myself with my rhythms, avoiding 4/4 cliches while keeping it danceable and natural.
How often are you in the studio?
Since I’ve graduated, probably about 8-9 hours a day. Even while I was in school, I committed myself to doing about 4 hours a day.
On the topic of studios, what are you using?
I recently just switched from Reason to Ableton, which was a long overdue move. I have a pretty basic setup: a Novation ReMOTE 37SL keyboard controller, Akai MPD32 pad controller, KRK Rok-It 6 monitors, AudioTechnica AT2020 condenser microphone and Native Instruments Audio Kontrol 1 interface. I have a few other toys, but that’s the setup I’m using 90% of the time.
I’ve seen you kill live shows a number of times, for those who haven’t seen you, can you elaborate on what your live performances consist of?
I play CDs, a mix of a lot of genres, but I think there’s a unifying sound to the tracks I choose. I like to play harder, darker music – whether its techno, tribal, UK funky – it has to sound raw and rhythmic. The idea of taking your audience on a “journey” when DJing is awesome, and that’s what I aim to do, however I try to pick music that gives the crowd some kind of reference point or familiarity. Not in the sense that they’ll necessarily know most of my track IDs, but the tracks in my set generally share some similar values to the dance music they know and love.
Has the industry changed the way you live? Do you stay up later?
Haha, I’ve always stayed up pretty late, but maybe later now. I definitely spend more time on a computer now. Whether producing, searching for new tunes, e-mails or iChat. More sunlight and/or fresh air would be nice.
Have you met any other top notch producers that have really surprised you?
I wouldn’t say I’ve really discovered any new talent through meeting them in person. I’ve got a lot of cool promos (which I always listen to!) in the past year from around the world though!
How do you feel about EDM in the modern day?
EDM’s in a great place right now. I mean, I could play the role of pretentious hipster DJ and complain that Guetta is getting played over Blawan on the radio, but that’s naïve and unrealistic. There’s the pop stuff, and that’s exposing more people to dance in general. Not that I really listen or aspire to any of it, but it’s a gateway into more interesting, thoughtful stuff for those who really take to it. And there’s underground stuff. So many creative and talented people are putting out music right now, expressing themselves in unique ways and from every part of the world. I know old house-heads might disagree and complain about the current status of things, but if you know where to look (and want to look), there’s some really inspiring stuff happening.
How do you think EDM will evolve in the coming years?
Well, it’s certainly rising quickly in mainstream popularity. That won’t last forever though. Whatever’s popular now, won’t be in the future. That’s just the way things work, and it’s for the best. Once we work our way through the dance pop phase, dubstep, maybe moombahton, I anticipate things will move back to hip-hop/r&b – with more electronic influences given the preceding years. In terms of within the genres that I play and listen to… I think the UK bass music scene is the most inspiring thing happening in EDM right now. Labels like Hessle, Swamp81, Numbers, and R&S have been putting out incredible, forward-thinking dance music. I haven’t felt this excited about EDM for a long time, and hopefully this energy is contagious. I think “noisy” will be increasingly replaced by “deep” and rhythm will be the most important element of making dance music.
Now for some fun. Do you like sports?
Haha, I do like sports. My favorite is definitely basketball. I played all throughout high school and I still play pick-up or shoot around weekly.
I don’t know about a favorite, but I always love trying new foods. I generally try to go for the most unique or local thing on the menu. I really got a taste for Mexican and Thai after my west coast US tour.
What’s your opinion on music blogs?
They’re such an important element of electronic music culture. Anyone who thinks of MP3 blogs as only music piracy is incredibly out of touch. Blogs are integral to promoting new artists and tracks. And if ever a blogger has posted a track of mine illegally, he/she is generally pretty accommodating in taking it down. The websites (some membership-based) that post links to full .zip releases without any writing are pretty bullshit though. Regardless, DJs are making most of their income from performing anyway.
Thank you so much for the time, it was certainly a pleasure to be host to a great interview. Do you have any final words to your fans?