In a large motor coach barreling down the freeway toward the Big Apple, Jonathan of the LA music duo Jogger rides along with his Magical Properties tourmates Nosaj Thing and Daedelus and their equipment. “One of the saving graces of electronic music is that equipment has certainly shrunk quite a bit. It’s not like we’re carrying around drum kits or anything like that, so they manage to cram us all in here. We have the most gear out of anyone else though with our guitars, violins, amps, and the such, but even then it’s pretty do-able.” Jonathan says in a voice that sounds weary from the road.
I didn’t realize just the two of you used so many live instruments.
We narrowed it down for this tour. It’s just Amir who uses the guitar and violin running through a traditional guitar rig with his pedals, amps, effects and stuff, which runs into my computer system so I can get parts of him and record them on the fly and everything else I’m doing is beat manipulation, looping, stuttering and sampling.
What hardware do you use when you’re recording music?
We use far more than what we have on tour. For the last record at least; it took a long time because it was recorded pre-linearly like a regular record. We do a lot of vocal and guitar recording, but few live drums made it on the record. We used a lot of old analogue synths and funky stuff like that. Of course, that stuff is impossible to take on the road so we have to come up with a makeshift version of that. In the studio, we like to have a building full of equipment. We love messing with stuff and I own a lot of equipment for sure.
How did you get involved in the Magical Properties tour?
Daedelus started the imprint [also titled Magical Properties] and he wanted us to be the first on the imprint. Prior to the label coming together, because he knew it was coming together and he wanted to start it out right, so the idea was to continue working on the full length [album] that we had laboriously been working on before, then head out on the road and do some shows. When it all finally came together, we tried to launch the first insertion of this concept. We’re thrilled to be under the name Magical Properties. It’s been awesome.
What do you find the most tedious part of a national tour is? What about the most rewarding?
Just the grind of being in cities you would like to go around and see the area or some restaurants or awesome art galleries and wake up the next day and be ready to share as much as of yourself as you can with those people [at the show]. Sometimes you come in and its two hours before sound check and you want to blow your brains out but finding that energy reserve is a classic dilemma. Ask anybody whether it be a musician or an actor or, I don’t know, a gynecologist. Just the grind of going city to city. You feel like a crazy person and you have to re-find yourself before a show every night. It’s a small price to pay for not just the exposure but just the communal aspect of being, like, “oh my god, I’ve just been in a bajillion cities and I met all of these great people.”
It sounds like you’re constantly engaged in one task after another.
Yeah. I think everyone on this tour is quite approachable and has interest in the music and not just their own careers so the conversations struck up are of interest to everyone and they want to talk about it. They want to talk about what we were doing up there. They are blown away by Daedelus’ machinery that he’s using. People haven’t even seen it before, they’re like “I don’t even understand what this guy is doing, he’s crazy!”
What triggered you to go from casual music listener to music producer?
Maybe not so casual but a little overwhelmed by the possibilities presented to us when we started making these types of track and to fuse what we knew about vocal and guitar music with electronic music. I think it was more daunting more than anything else. As I got older I felt there was this urgency growing within me that I have friends who have made these amazing pieces of work and amazing records and have had these great times out on the road and I felt like I may have been missing something that was like a foregone conclusion that I was going to be doing, so at some point I think just the frustration of that forced it out there. Also I think the music is starting to make more sense to people a little more than in the beginning when we were making it. The response we get now is like, “Oh, you’re music is awesome!” instead of, “Oh, I really like that pretty music you make.” But ultimately you can’t make the music for anybody but yourself.
What do you think separates you from other electronic music DJs in LA?
To put me in front a turntable and I think I would clear a dance floor pretty quick. I’m not much of a DJ per se but I think the band itself comes from a basis of traditional song structure. There are verses and chorus and lyrics and sometimes it isn’t our first priority to keep people dancing as much as it is to keep people listening and hopefully whatever atmosphere we’ve built with that stuff we can introduce the beat element and get people moving. It seems to me that there are a lot of people who go to our shows who don’t have the need to go to a crazy rave and sweatily trance it out for four hours; they are going to have a musical experience and dancing is certainly a part of that.
You have great synergy as a duo, but do either of you plan to do any solo content?
I think both of us realize those wings are going to spread inevitably anyway. Amir is in high demand in LA, doing sessions and going on tour with other bands. He is an incredible player and is getting a lot of pull on his ability, which is taking him away for months at a time. While that’s happening I don’t know what I’m going to do; I definitely want to do more DJ oriented stuff and maybe some stuff on my own but to be honest with you I love making music with Amir so much any track I end up making on my own I ultimately end up passing to him. The only thing would be in between our time of being able to make music I would try to come up with something satisfactory for a crowd to see me play but no interest in a sole project.
Do you have any plans to release content in the immediate future?
Jogger is going to release an EP later this year. Something focused away from the full length that other DJ can grab and throw into their mixed. Other than that we’re just trying to have fun in the new studio that we have and concentrate on making the live shows better and better and better.
Do you have a name for that new EP yet?
No, not yet. It’s still a work in progress and once we begin to trim all the fat and see what we have we’ll name it.
Do you find yourself engaged in music when you’re not making music?
Absolutely. I’ve always listen to a lot of music. I do this podcast that I’ve been doing for four years now and I have a lot of music on that thing while I’m constantly trying to digest new material in whatever small way I can. As far as being on the road with these guys, we’re the opening act so I get 2 ½ to 3 hours where I get to be an audience member because once I’m done I can just get hammered and just watch Daedelus perform. I’m thrilled to do it. The pay isn’t as good in that slot but the luxury to have of just being able to hang out for the rest of the evening is nice to have.
Do you get called out a lot in the audience? Are people like, “weren’t you on stage earlier? Is that Jogger?”
For sure. People come up to me and are like, “Did you change shirts?” and I’m like “Yeah I was sopping wet, it was disgusting. But that was me up there” and people go “We caught your last song, it was crazy!” But it’s lovely and people are really receptive. Sometimes we just move into it and have to find our footing because we play a live show, and I think a live show has an ebb and flow to it. When it’s right and people are getting the connection we’re trying to make and the wires we’re trying to cross together of all the beat music we listen to and people are getting it it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, this is awkward, we’re throwing a lot of stuff at you and you guys don’t really want it right now” but certainly in the states and in Canada on this tour I’m blown away by people’s wide range of musical interest they have. I think that’s something that’s a newer development in young people’s music right now; that they listen to a shit load of types of stuff and that’s my favorite thing in the world.
Everyone has their 160 GB iPod nowadays.
Exactly. And it’s so easy now to be like, “oh, I have a bajillion songs to put on.” And in that your musical knowledge you have and your musical glossary is expanding.
What is a lavish musical feat you would love to accomplish if you had all the resources in the world?
I talked about doing a cirque du soleil one, then I started thinking we should do our own cirque du soleil one with our own traveling circus where we become second to whatever the actual show is. I’m a big fan of live shows and the way some people can play with the audience, I’ve always been envious of that and it seems more and more that people want that kind of stuff. If you give me the budget I’ll definitely find a way of wasting the money. Absolutely, I’m down for absurdity.
That cirque du soleil stuff is pretty awesome, isn’t it? I was at Paul Oakenfold’s Club Rain at the Palms in Vegas last week and they had a similar show during a Markus Schultz set. Sirebreathers, people on stilts, the works.
That’s what I’m talking about. Somewhere there has been a turning point where people are up for something like that. People are just down to be around a crazy ass party. Pyrotechnics are making their way back into the world. Stuff like that is always fun.