July 7th, 2011
Jhonny Russell interview
Written by Lee Hutchison
Jhonny Russell is a busy boy. Not only has he been involved in eight releases for his various projects already this year, but he is also a founding member of Gold Coast based synth explorers Hobo Obituaries. During his reasonably short career, he’s also worked with popular local musicians including Operator Please, Felinedown and Bowser. So how does Jhonny manage to pump out music at such an enviable pace?
“I don’t labour over them [his tracks] too much. I just like to get them out there. I record it as I write it; the take where I’m making-up the riff is the take that stays so if there’s some imperfections, they stay. Not going back and making a take perfect adds spontaneity to the staleness of electronic music.”
So what, according to Jhonny, constitutes this staleness? “You don’t have that human feel, it’s not always stale but it’s easy for it to get a stale sound. It’s getting easier and easier to make a slick production from home. Because even though there’s always been ways of recording yourself at home with tape decks or whatever, with laptops it’s getting easier and easier for anyone to make a really slick sound. And although I can appreciate good production, at the same time it just doesn’t appeal to me as much.”
But surely there must be times when recording a second take is a tempting proposition? “Sometimes I listen back and go, ‘Er, it’s not perfect’ but I grew up idealising the local dudes that were making cassette’s where they recorded it themselves and then would hand-draw the cassette cover.”
And speaking of hand-drawn cassette covers, a further bonus of purchasing one of Jhonny’s many musical offerings is his unique artwork featured on every release. These works provide a preview of the closest thing Jhonny has to a day job. “I attempt to make a living from visual art. I make no money but that’s what I do.” But having seen and been impressed by some of his pieces online, I’m positive things will pick up on this front. I enquire as to whether this multi-skilled maestro has received any formal training?
“I lasted maybe two months at Uni and somehow ended up in all these courses that had nothing to do with art. So I thought I’d be better off not getting an accreditation and spending my time getting deep into it. And with the internet these days and the fact that you can always just go to a library, it’s easier to learn things on your own and take it at your own pace.”
So what gets priority, the art or the music? “Lately I’ve been neglecting the art. I do one until I get sick of it and do another ‘til I get sick of that. Then I’ll start doing an animation or start working on some sculpture until I get bored and by the time I’m bored of three other things, I’m back to desperately wanting to do music again.”
Jhonny Russell's latest EP, CHANSONS DE GESTE, is available now via bandcamp.com. Check out www.jrmysteryschool.wordpress.com for more info.
This article was originally published in Rave Magazine: http://www.ravemagazine.com.au/content/view/27148/30/