04 Sep Jon Casey Pushes the Envelope [Exclusive Interview]
Hailing from South Africa, Jon Casey pushes the envelope on a daily basis with his music. He has been supported by GTA, The Glitch Mob, Moody Good, UZ, and a ton more artists. He has signings on a variety of record labels such as Noisia’s Division, RL Grime’s Sable Valley, UZ’s Quality Goods Records, Borgore’s Buygore, and Craze’s Slow Roast Records.
This producer has been releasing ingenious tracks and remixes left and right. His latest EP Catharsis is out now on Quality Goods Records and you can stream it everywhere! Jon Casey is fast approaching to being one of the biggest acts in the trap scene, which is exactly why he is not an artist you want to sleep on.
What was your childhood like? How was music a part of your life growing up?
I grew up the youngest amongst four brothers including me. Music was always a huge integral part of my life because my mom and dad love music. I grew up listening to guys like Eric Clapton, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, and Aaron Neville through them. Anytime I think about that kind of music I go back to my childhood where I’m driving on the long road to see family and you know, just jamming those tunes.
My dad was telling me the other day about a story where I was two or three years old and I was sleeping in the car then he played Lionel Richie. I woke up and I said, “Dad, can I dance?” I think that shows just how innate music has been to me.
I’ve always had a lovely curiosity for music. I used to go crate-digging just for new stuff and my brothers as well. My brothers are definitely and a large part of my music. We used to live next to a friend of ours named Johan and he was into Apparat. One of my brothers put me onto his album Walls, which came out in 2007, very experimental, very electronic. Like it’s the epitome of electronic music.
Back then in 2007, I embodied that album. I’m not going to say that affected my production side, but it definitely threw me into the electronic world of music. Then it got me into the more contemporary stuff. I started listening to Pendulum as well when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Around my adolescence, my music taste was hip hop when Chris Brown came out and Lil Wayne was at the peak of his career.
In high school, I was sort of becoming the guy people would go to for music. Chee and I went to the same high school together and we got into heavy electronic music together back when Casper and Rusko were killing the scene. Then I took it further listening to Skrillex and Mr. Carmack. All of those dudes were pushing the envelope and that’s always been parallel to the music that I make.
Who were your biggest mentors growing up and why? How did they influence you to make music that you want to produce?
My brothers were the introduction. Definitely Chee inspired me because he took music more seriously before I did because he went straight into anything. I went to go study for Herbert and I was producing, but the music wasn’t my main thing. Zayde Wolf was also a mentor.
Outside of the music industry my best friend Mohamed. He’s been a mentor for me with general things. He used to see the potential in me before I sort of saw it in myself. I was making music and he would ask me, “When are you gonna start DJing bro? You have this amazing music. You should have a platform to play it out.”
He said, “‘Stop sleeping on yourself” and one day I got hit up by a club in Cape Town for a show and I said to myself, Alright, cool. Let me start doing shows. I played my first show and ever since then it was uphill. So, Mohamed has always been my biggest fan. He saw my potential before I did and he pushed me to keep going and see different perspectives.
What is the bass scene like in South Africa?
The industry has always been leaning towards the commercial side so house music, as well as hip hop, is huge here. When it comes to bass music there is a scene. I’m not going to say there’s no scene, but it’s small. So fingers crossed we have more people coming out of this pandemic with a more broad perspective on music.
How would you describe your sound without using any genres?
I would say very rhythmic, heavy, and energetic!
Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
Art, definitely. I love good cover art for real. I realized this about myself a while ago, but it was a nice realization because every time I see a good cover I can think of a beautiful project. If I look at 3D renders, doodles, and all that kind of stuff I can draw inspiration from it. I’m a very visual learner and draw inspiration from a lot of visual content.
I also draw inspiration from the underground. Kids in the underground scene are new kids and old kids. I’ve found some producers whose sound is very unique. What inspires me from their production is that it sounds fun. I’m on the pursuit of getting back to having fun in making music because it’s very easy to get caught up in the seriousness and following what people do or want to make it sound like a, b, and c.
I’d say silence as well. I read the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle a while ago. Actually, I bought it again the other day and I’m going to start reading it again, but he says something along the lines of, “Appreciate the silence that allows the sound to be right so silent is always there.” Understanding the concept of silence is a very important aspect or prospect in my life.
What is your process like when creating a song?
It differs I will say, but I start off with my drums. 60-70% is me starting with the drums because it gives you that rhythm. Other times I’ll have a melody in my head and I have to go and quickly just get it out and then follow up from there.
The concept of not thinking is one thing that I really find important when it comes to making music because you can’t think your way into production. You can’t think your way into creativity or anything creative. You cannot think your way into it because when it comes to thinking it’s a more methodical approach.
When it comes to me creating I try to put all thinking aside. Let’s say for example my mind is really clouded. I’m trying to work to get to a point where it’s clear.
How do you choose which artist tracks you want to remix? Are there certain things in a song that you’re looking for?
It’s very important for me to be able to distinguish if I can remix this song. There’s a lot of songs that I love that I think I would butcher and I don’t think I’ll do it justice. I think liking a song is important when you want to remix it.
It’s been over two years since you’ve released “Laundry Money” as a thank you to your fans for hitting 5,000 followers on Soundcloud. What were your expectations while producing this track?
I felt that that song embodies my production because I had fun making it. It’s hard, groovy, and trap. For me, that’s one of my favorite projects and when I released it I got the sense that it would get people’s attention because it’s a very simple melody. It’s just the rising do-do-do-do. That’s all it does. And I was like, oh this will pop off in clubs. So, I definitely wanted it to do what it did.
I think the release of that track was also a highlight in my career because I was very early into being an artist and I was very pure. I was creating the song for the sake of creating something and moving forward. This song definitely embodies an aspect of that mentality.
Now that you have 10,600 followers can we expect another ‘thank you’ release?
Oh yeah, I didn’t do a 10,000! The reason I didn’t do it was because I was sitting in a hotel the night I hit 10K and I was actually in the pursuit of getting my current MacBook Pro because they don’t sell them here in South Africa. Let me tell you I was jumping through hoops and went to hell and high water to achieve this thing. I was in Philly then had to go to New York and from New York to Washington because my flight was in Washington.
I also wasn’t in the right place to release any music at that time because I was dealing with a whole lot of other stuff before we got home and since COVID-19 just started it was a weird time for everybody, but I’ll probably do a release for 11k!
What is your favorite track you’ve created and why?
The concept of a favorite has always been a wavering thing for me. To distinguish what makes a song my favorite track I will say listening ability is important. At this moment in time, I will say “Cliche” is my favorite because I had fun making it. It’s very simple with the rhythm and then the drums hits and you’re like, “Oh, yuck! (Stank face)”
How many unreleased tracks are you sitting on right now?
Let’s see. I have 184 private tracks. There are some duplicates and some edits in here, but I’m sitting on a lot of unreleased. For me, my general scale of success and general productivity is the reserve that I have for the release. So my reserve needs to be way more than my actual release projects.
If one day God forbid a label hits me up and I have no music to show them then I’ve failed as an artist. You have to be ready. You have to have content. So yeah, I’m sitting on quite a lot of content, but how much of that is releasable. As I said, some of it is just ideas, but some of it is full projects.
Last year you joined RL Grime’s Sable Valley. What can you tell us about the track “All Push, No Pull” that’s coming out on Sable Valley’s Summer Vol. 1 Mix that’s releasing?
First and foremost I’m super hyped to be on this project because the Cosway collab that I worked on with Cosway was an amazing project. The reason I’m excited about “All Push, No Pull” is because it’s all Jon Casey. It’s unapologetically Jon Casey because it’s grimy beats. The fact that he’s very picky with his stuff and he liked this track is a blessing.
This was an impulse beat. I was actually in the kitchen and I had this rhythm in my head. I was like I need to get it out. Then as you create the tempo I was like, okay, let me make it right because I need to remind people I’m a trap artist and I’m that guy that can make beats. Then I was like okay, I want that rhythm right and people who hear this thing I want it to be an anthem.
So, I went and put the melody down and I finished the general skeleton of it in about a day literally because it just flowed. I left it for about a month or two because I like to let things marinate so I can come back with fresh ears. So, let me be honest. I thought it was almost finished. And he’s like, “Can you finish it?”
I realized I needed to switch it up so I went in and just carved out a bit of the middle section and sent the second version to him. They said it was dope and wanted it on Sable Valley Summer Volume 1. This is their first compilation so I said, “Yeah, take my stuff!”
You used to make music under It Hz with Chee, but now you have both been producing music as your own artists. What was the deciding factor that this duo should instead be two amazing producers?
So we used to make beats together under It Hz, but we always wanted our own aliases. We wanted our own identities from the get-go. Our priorities were our individuality as artists. He had his first alias and I had my first alias, but I had an identity crisis when it came to my name so that’s definitely one of my weaknesses.
However, we always wanted to stand out as individual artists and we learn from each other. We went back and forth ever since we started, but yeah the side project was just that; a side project.
Where in the world do you want to play your dream concert, and why?
For me, let me be honest, I think festivals and big stages are cool, but I think intimate shows packed full of people are hype. That’s where I’m at. My dream venue to play, which I would have if COVID-19 didn’t happen, is in Australia at Chinese Laundry. The energy looks insane and I will play there I know I will!
When it comes to my dream festival I think it’s Lost Lands because they are more welcoming of the trap scene and because I love dubstep. I have such a sweet spot for dubstep and riddim. I would love to play Lost Lands where you just drop trap beats in front of thousands of people and you just hear that roar of shock.
Man, I miss seeing bass faces for real. Coachella is definitely up there as well. The shimmer that comes through from the crowd is insane. I’m gonna get there. I’m gonna do something like that!
What are your interests outside of making music?
Fitness is definitely my second biggest interest. I really focus on keeping fit because I used to study personal training before (after high school.) So, along with making music when music was still a hobby, I was studying personal training and I studied psychology. The human body has always been an interest of mine. I think fitness is definitely something that keeps my trifecta going as well.
I think every single person should have their three centrifugal forces and what those are is your work, your creative side, and your physical side. People should get out and do stuff physically because first and foremost the benefits are infinite and that will balance out your work. So let’s say for example you have a 9-5 job which is perfectly fine.
Everybody needs to make their money. They need to put food on the table. That balances your creative side so you can push yourself creatively and pursue your passion. If you’re not doing that then you you need to re-evaluate some stuff in your life. Luckily for me, my work and my creative side are together. If I’m active it keeps my creativity up and if I keep my creativity up it keeps my work up so it’s all just synergistic.
How do you as an artist make an impact on your fans?
I’ve thought about this and I’m still juggling this concept, but I think first and foremost your content speaks for itself first. You need to be consistent. I utilize my persona, which I’m an extrovert. I’m out there and I like to speak. So I use that like I like to have my face on the front page of my music instead of a persona.
As an artist, I like to be myself and I don’t mind being myself in front of whoever. I think that the best way I can impact fans is through just me being myself and pursuing my goals and making sure that whoever wants to join me can and whoever wants to take a leaf out of my book and learn then we can all learn from each other.
What advice do you have for people who are just getting into music production?
You have to have consistency because you won’t truly ever find yourself unless you’re consistent. People always ask me, “How did you find your sound?” I don’t know what my sound is. I think that there is a golden thread because I enjoy what I make and I enjoy what I release and that enjoyment comes through as a certain sound.
What goals have you set for yourself that you want to accomplish?
Financial independence is number one. To me, financial independence is a motivation for me to make music and just enjoy it. Then I think constant growth in every single aspect. Also, I want to be a powerhouse in the industry and have people say, “He’s been in the industry. He knows what he’s doing and his content speaks for itself.”
What kind of legacy would you like to leave as an artist?
I think firstly, I’d like to be seen as an artist who’s had my hands in many different parts of the industry. Whether that’s in front of the camera, behind the camera, making sample packs, etc. I want people to be able to see that I know what I’m doing because I’ve done so much.
I think if I just work my way in many different things while also not spreading myself too thin then I can stand strong. Having my personality and the inspiration behind my music and then my music speaks for itself people will see okay, he knows what he’s doing.
What do you have in the pipeline for the rest of this year?
What I have in the pipeline are releases! A bunch of releases, but I’m mostly working on sample packs and working with companies to push the financial envelope. I’m focusing on gaining different revenue streams throughout the rest of this year so that once COVID-19 kicks it I can do what I want to do. I’m also going to be working on my brand.