The Come Up

Can you tell us something about yourself?

I can’t exactly ascertain when what I was doing was called was producing or called just dicking around, and eh, I don’t care to make that distinction. I started messing around with music programs when I was 14, and for a long time I was just dicking around you know, like, just experimenting and putting loops together and you know, i didn’t know how to sample so I was just through whatever was in FruityLoops basically and then when I was a senior I guess that’s when I started to learn how to sample and then from there I just kept doing it.

It’s a gradual process, I’m surprised at these people who like, “I wanna make beats now” and a year later they have an album. You know what I mean? I’ve been making beats for 10 years and it wasn’t until three years ago, four years ago, that I was making things that I was proud of. You know? It took a long time.

So I see these kids, you know, make beats for a year or two years and then think that, you know, they’re serious enough as artist or they can, I don’t know, I guess everyone moves in a different pace, but it just took me a while. But I made sure to spend time to learn everything, so when people will think I’m just some new kid or something, I’m like, no I’ve spent years learning things and you know, I didn’t just come out of the blue and pretend to know things I’ve been studying

It’s hard to put together a cohesive amount of work when you are just looking to do new things every day you know
— Jonwayne
So what was the reason that you haven’t put out music before 4 years ago?

Because I wasn’t proud. I kept changing. I kept, you know, reinventing myself and finding new things to do, and it’s hard to put together a cohesive amount of work when you are just looking to do new things every day you know. And I find that’s why a lot of kids put out EP’s now instead of albums because they’re unable to stay in one place for too long. Especially with the current trend of electronic music where every day they want you to do something different if you don’t do it, if you don’t succumb to the demands of the masses, then you no longer have a job. The power is getting into the hands of the people who don’t think which is dangerous. So a lot of people are trying to follow the trends to make money or else they’re out of work.

But to go back to what we were talking about, yea I was like giving friends cd’s and stuff but I didn’t feel like I had reached a point where I could make something that I was okay with. Plus, once you put something out there, it’s out there forever, you know? You can’t take it back. And there’s a lot of free downloads and stuff I put out there in the beginning that I wish I could take back but they weren’t official releases, they were just things that I wanted to give to friends. I still don’t think I’m ready, but now that I’ve jumped into it, I have you know fans to please and a quota to match and a label to deal with and you know, the pressure’s on.

Jonwayne in Plaatboef, Rotterdam, 2014.

Jonwayne in Demonfuzz, Rotterdam, 2014.

I want people to respect my name rather than praise my name. And If they happen to praise it, that’s cool as well, but I’d rather them respect me and understand my motives.
— Jonwayne
Do you feel that you have to keep up with the audience’s asking?

No. Because I made the distinction of leaders and followers towards the beginning of my career and I told myself I didn’t wanna do that. I forget where it was, well, I remember where it was – but I don’t wanna call out on the city cause I don’t wanna start any beef. But I was on tour somewhere and I did a show and I was doing like, the electronic stuff and then I started rapping – and people started leaving and booing and throwing stuff. And I told myself that night that this is not who I want to be, I don’t want to please anyone. Even if I take a smaller paycheck I want to be able to do what I do on my terms and I want people to respect that, even if they hate me. So, I immediately stopped what I was doing and I did a total 180 degrees shift and I stopped giving shows for a while, while I was working on ‘Rap Album One’ and it took a long time, but I feel like I’ve conditioned my audience into expecting anything from me. I’ve always made that clear – you may love what I do now, but you may not love what I do tomorrow. All I ask is that you keep an open mind and be appreciative of me experimenting and just being a human being. I don’t promise to make rap for the rest of my life, I don’t promise to make electronic for the rest of my life – I don’t promise anything. You know, maybe tomorrow I wanna start making folk music, I don’t know. Who the fuck knows man? I’ve built myself a kind of utopia where my fans appreciate what I do, no matter what I do. But even though it’s a smaller fanbase than I could have had at an earlier time in my career, I feel like I took the high road. I don’t want to take the easy paycheck, and in five years no one gives a shit. If I’m gonna be doing this I’m gonna be doing this for the long haul. I want people to respect my name rather than praise my name. And If they happen to praise it, that’s cool as well, but I’d rather them respect me and understand my motives.

I’d rather have a piece of work be cohesive and listen to it from beginning to end than include more content which may be more of like a bargain buy, but it’s art man. There’s not room for bargains in art, it’s about quality.
— Jonwayne
Your first release was at Alpha Pup, how did you feel by being picked up by such a label?

Well, the truth about it is, Kevin and I were talking about doing a record for a year or two and during that time I was noticed by Wolf at Stones Throw, so I’m over at Stones Throw and he’s talking about doing a 7 inch record with me and I’m talking with Kev about doing a record. And Wolf was talking about doing something for the long haul, and if that’s the case, that he wants exclusive rights to my work. Kev is talking to about doing a record you know, very laid back, non exclusive, just one album deal. Wolf’s over here is talking about he only knows me through my MC-ing and that he’s much more a fan of my rap stuff than my beats, and Kev’s primarily wants a electronic record, a beat record, but he would be willing to do anything with where I was at. And so, I think I was just at the time misunderstood by Stones Throw, they saw all my cards and in the midst of all that, I was having a freakout, cause I was like, shit man, my career could go in one or two very different ways.  And so what I did, was I made both of that happen. So I said, ‘Wolf I’m doing something right now that I really want to see to the end, and if you want to work with me after this, then let’s do it. But right now I can’t accept that commitment.’ So, I put that on hold for some time which took about 13 days. Not with music, but from Kev offering the record to it coming out on iTunes. So Kev was like ‘We’re gonna put a record out, we’ll put it out like, next week’, so the next day I saw him at Low End Theory, gave him a CD, I made all the interludes and the transitions and stuff and I gave him the idea of the cover and he put together the idea for the cover , he mastered it – and on Tuesday it dropped.

Wow, that was very quick. So you already had all the material?

Yea. I mean, from that era I had 15 to a 100 tracks. And all I had to do was narrow it down to 19 tracks. In hindsight, I should have taken out a couple of them, and maybe even made them shorter – cause I like shorter records.

If you think about it, when people first started making LP’s, albums weren’t more than 30 minutes long. What happened is that the cd era fucked it up. So CD’s came out, cause, fuck I forgot, I think it was Beethoven’s 5th? It was 78 minutes long, they wanted to be able to fit on one piece of media – and that’s why they made the cd.

I find it difficult to listen to an album longer than 50 minutes in one sitting and I’d rather an album be a one listen experience than like ‘here’s a bunch of music’ – that’s not an album, that’s a collection of songs.

So you prefer telling a story with the whole compilation?

The album format is amazing I guess the masters of that were Pink Floyd. They thought of it within a cohesive whole, Dark Side of the moon is one listen, amazing. And you know, size doesn’t matter – it’s about the motion of the ocean.

No but, Dark Side Of The Moon, that album feels like it lasts forever, and it’s what – only 40 minutes? It’s not about how long something is, it’s about the content that’s packed into it – if it works well together. So in that case, I think a lot of albums are overdone and over extended cause we’re accustomed to longer records in the cd era. If you think about all your favorite albums, they’re all short. Well, the only long album I like is by the Mars Volta ‘Frances The Mute”

I’d rather have a piece of work be cohesive and listen to it from beginning to end than include more content which may be more of like a bargain buy, but it’s art man. There’s not room for bargains in art, it’s about quality.

You just mentioned a lot of artists from different genres, can you name some biggest influences for your productions for example?

No cause there’s too much.

Jeremiah Jae’s – ‘Seventy 8’ produced by Jonwayne is taken from the ‘Bad Jokes’ mixtape released by Warp Records

What was your first record?

Oh shit. I wanna get this right. I guarantee you it wasn’t a good album. Haha, oh yea, it was Blur – it was the album with ‘Song 2’ on it. I thought, if it’s an album with a song like that on it, the whole album’s gonna be awesome. And it sucked, the album terrible man. I went back to Warehouse Music and I tried to return it. They wouldn’t take it cause it was already opened.

My dad had a bunch of cd’s and a lot of them were a bunch of greatest hits albums, so I just assumed if you bought an album all of the songs were good you know. I remember the one time, when I actually experienced a good album was Led Zeppelin’s Houses of The Holy, and I was like damn this must be a greatest hits album, so I looked it up and nope.

The fact of the matter is is that there’s a lot of people left over from the previous generations who got into the music business for money, because the music business at the time was a place where you went to if you wanted to have money. But now, it’s not. If you’re getting into the music business now for money, you’re a fucking idiot, cause there’s no money here. There’s no money selling albums. I make 95% of my income doing live shows. That’s why when artists sign, a lot of labels are signing them to 360 deals, which means that they’re taking a percentage of everything they do; they get their albums, their merch, publishing, live shows – it’s fucking ridiculous. And artists are getting bled dry and in about 5 years they’re gonna be homeless.

And in 5 years everybody also forget about them?

Yep. And big labels will still find ways to make money.

And how do you feel like the internet is playing a major part in the music industry right now? The whole music industry has changed, to allow more focus on releasing more independently through the internet. Do you think that’s a blessing?

Well, the infrastructure for the music industry has collapsed, because people have taken distribution in their own hands. And why shouldn’t they? The technology has been upgraded and it’s easier to bootleg and transfer the data by your own means. It’s not moral, but you know, what’s moral? Especially nowadays, things are getting more twisted and twisted as people appreciate comfort and convenience, rather than taking the highway. But that can be said for anything, any facet of the music industry is adapting to how things are released now. You can’t tell me that someone like A$AP Rocky or Odd Future didn’t have a hand from you know, someone high up, to guide their career to make it seem grass roots. People are just trying to survive, I mean the rules are changing every day. People gotta eat you know, whatever works.

Talking about releasing and the whole process behind it, and maintaining quality, there’s the Dr Dre – everybody’s waiting for his new album for like ages right now – what’s your idea about Dr Dre for that matter?

I think Dre is good right now. Dre has a legacy that he gets to cash in on, which not many people get to do. And why would he mess that up by putting out a new record? I mean, it’s not worth it. Why the fuck would he put out another record? What if it’s whack? What if people don’t receive it well? Then all of the sudden, his name is shit and no one buys his shit. He’s good right now.

A little question about your name; we’ve been searching around on the internet – of course it’s an reference to the actor John Wayne.

Ah don’t make me tell the story. If you researched it … I tell it too much man. I don’t want to tell it again.

There’s another question attached to the previous question; what would your great great great great uncle general Matt Anthony Wayne think about your work? And your approach of your arts?

Well, I mean, shit. I don’t think he would think anything. Imagine you’re somebody from that time. Imagine what he would think about rock’n’roll. You know what I’m saying? That would be the devil. That would be some kind of like some demons possessed fucking Elvis. You know what I mean? Anything electric would be so weird and foreign to him, that some rap shit would probably sound, man I don’t even know. But he wouldn’t be able to understand the context and it would be so far fetched for someone from that period. He wouldn’t be able to understand any of that shit. He would be just hearing the song, and be like ‘What the fuck is this? This sounds like some alien shit. I don’t understand it, I don’t like it.”

It’s an interesting question, but I think that there would be so many other factors that would be going into his experience that there would be nothing profound coming out of it.

Jonwayne live in BIRD, Rotterdam. 2014.

Which song are you most proud of?

The conundrum of this question is that when something is released in the world, it’s no longer my attachment. It’s for everyone else. I feel proud of it, but it’s like, this is now beyond a reflection of my personal chamber. This is like for other people now. So I just gotta worry about something else. The song I’m most proud of now, isn’t even out yet. Cause what I’m working on right now is what I’m proud of. I couldn’t be fucked with things that already came out.

It’s a very sedimentary evolution of lamenting and exploring and figuring out who the fuck you are through your music, and before you know, you have a record. It’s like oh shit this is tight, this is my baby you know. And then a year later it’s out and it’s like you know, gotta work on something else. So I guess I’m just proud of the process  rather than the music. Cause the music is just a reflection of who I am and what I do and how I feel. You can’t be too proud of that you know?

So, we’ve been talking about producing and all that – if you’re not producing, what do you do for relaxing?

Jerk off. I try to not do it as much cause then when you do it, it’s awesome. Quality over quantity. Yep. I read. I read a lot. I watch cartoons. Play videogames. What every other man does.

What game do you play most?

I just played Bioshock Infinite, which is a really good game, crazy story. I just got a PS4. So once I get back to the States I’m gonna buy a couple of games and sit down and not leave the house for like two months. And then in two months, I gotta be back out here – so I’ll enjoy that time.

Jonwayne – The Come Up – ft. Scoop DeVille. Taken from Rap Album One. Directed by Henry DeMaio.

Well you just answered one of the questions – ‘What’s your to do list when you’re back in LA?’

Oh shit, I’m in a mind reader! When I get back to the States, I gotta work on my album man. I wanna finish it by the time July hits. Cause there’s a lot that goes into an album, after it’s done. You make an album, then you gotta get it mixed, mastered, then you gotta get the art, then you gotta get the production times, figure out how you wanna release it, what formats, what you wanna use for the card and what you wanna use for the vynil, how much money that’s gonna take, how much you wanna do for the first pressing and all that kind shit man. Fucking headache! And videos. I fucking hate videos! I hate the fact that a lot of people listen to a song only if it has visuals. I hate that shit. That makes me so mad. Cause you’re not listening with your ears, you’re listening with your eyes. And you’re letting things other than what’s important take hold of your opinion. Which makes you a fucking idiot you know? Let’s talk about something else.

Well, you’ve made the Disney based album, so you watched it with your ears?

Well, I made that album in a day. I didn’t wanna go out on Labour Day, I wanted to stay in. And my computer wasn’t hooked up, so all I had was my iPad, and a 404 and a portable recorder. So what I did was I just sampled off YouTube, got drum off YouTube, made five or six beats whatever within a few hours. And then it was just put out the next day, like, fuck it whatever. I need to stop being so careless about what I put out. I was like being really wreckless, and nowadays I have to be even more careful. Cause now I made my mission statement with Rap Album One, and I’ve got to be consistent in what I let people hear. Cause I lose the narrative, it’s gonna be hard to gain their attention next time – so I gotta be careful. I wanna put out a shitload of music.

All I wanna do is just stay true to myself. If I’m happy, that’s all that matters to me. It’s very selfish of me, but fuck it, I’m selfish.
— Jonwayne
Can you tell us something about the local scene in LA?

The thing about LA is that, I don’t wanna go halfway across the world and hear somebody making beats that sounds like my homie back in LA. I wanna come to Berlin and hear some shit from Berlin and hear some shit that’s only here. I wanna go to Russia and hear and hear some shit that’s only from Russia. I don’t wanna go to fucking to Europe and hear a dude that sounds like Knxwldge or that sounds like Samiyam. Cause I have knowlegde of Samiyam, why the fuck do I need you? Like, if you’re not doing something original – then why are you doing it? Then why do we need you? So it’s my concern that everyone knows what’s going on in LA, cause if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be trying to replicate it. LA’s crazy man, it’s a bed of creative incest.

What’s the best place you’ve been on tour?

Well, that’s a difficult question because most of the cities that I get to go to on tour I don’t have the time to look around the city. So I get there, and then I go to soundcheck and then I’ll maybe have dinner and then we do the show and then we gotta leave. So a lot of places I’ve been to are beautiful and amazing, but I’ve just haven’t had the time to experience them. So I can’t say what’s the place I’ve been to on tour. The best experiences I’ve had on tour, maybe London. London was great. The shows were amazing. I’ve had a great time in Brussels. I’ve had a great time in Melbourne. Perth. Osaka was great, Osaka was a great one, Montreal. It’s probably because the population there is 2 to 1 female and they’re all beautiful. Like literally the show, I felt like I was playing for a tribe of Amazonian women – it was amazing. And I would have a longer list, but a lot of place I get to go to, I just don’t have the time to appreciate the city. So whenever I do have days off, I do like to go around and see how it is. Rotterdam is cool, the record shops are dope.

Which place surprised you the most?

In terms of the crowd? Denver. I thought Denver wasn’t gonna be cracking at all, and fucking destroyed it. New York too. You always see the stigma that New Yorkers are stiff and that they’re not gonna give you a vibe, it’s crazy. I love New York.

What can we expect in the future? Is this Stones Throw thing like a long term relationship or …?

I mean, I have a contract with them. I don’t know what I’m gonna do in the future. I don’t even know what they’re gonna do with what I’m about to give them.

But a thing like Rap Album Two is pretty sure?

Nope. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. That’s what I just said. Like think about it, I made Bowser and then I made Rap Album One. So if it’s like a pattern, what’s coming, I don’t know.       

It could be anything man. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out when I get back to California. All I wanna do is just stay true to myself. If I’m happy, that’s all that matters to me. It’s very selfish of me, but fuck it, I’m selfish.