Jon has just released Saturnine Opera, a new autobiographical and concept album about the mythological archetype of death and rebirth using the story of the Greek Kronos and Roman Saturn. We had the chance to talk to him about this project.
Headphones For Robots: Who is Jon? What will we read on your epitaph?
Jon: Jon is my moniker for my original music. My name is Jonathan, and most people always called me Jon, I used to hate it, but I learned to accept it. This acceptance turned into an alias for my music haha. Jon is iconoclastic, innovative, experimental without sacrificing song structure, and conceptual. My epitaph will probably be the same as Bette Davis’: He Did It The Hard Way!
HFR: What’s the earliest memory you have of music making music? Could you tell us a bit about your influences? Can we put a label on your music?
J: My earliest memory is writing songs. My brother was a guitarist, my mom was a protest singer in the 60s, and I was heavily influenced by those people in my upbringing. I started to play guitar at 12 and started classical training when I was 13, and this lasted for a while until I learned jazz and played in rock bands later on. I adore Bach and study him every day, not to say that he’s the only one I study. I’m also heavily influenced from a wide spectrum from David Bowie, Ween, The Flaming Lips, Jeff Buckley ( a major influence along with Bowie ), Fiona Apple, and Edith Piaf to Jazz greats such as Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Nina Simone ( I named my daughter’s middle name after her ), and George Benson. My label would have to be placed under pop because it is the glue that I use to bind all these separate influences together.
HFR: Who is Saturn? What’s his story?
J: I use the archetype of the Greek Kronos in this autobiography to symbolize the dying god in my own psyche. The fear of being destroyed by your own creations and the being the incorrigible rebel had reached the end of its life cycle for me, and I needed to evolve into a new phase. I used this drama as a dynamic force of change in my life. The Saturn elements really were a convenience of language since Saturn is similar to the Greek Kronos and Saturnine Opera was a great name for an album.
HFR: How does Saturn resonate into your life and music?
J: It resonated for this album. I had to make this album so I could be free to make many more after this one. I’m already about to finish an EP, and the next big album is already getting plotted out. In the story of Kronos, he was fed a stone that ultimately killed him, and I needed that stone removed from my own musical throat.
HFR: What was your approach on writing your last album “Saturnine Opera”? How long did it take you?
J: I wrote the base chord structures on my classical guitar and then went on to put those in my DAW and then would apply the orchestral instruments around it if it applied and then the beats. The piano parts were all written on my midi keyboard organically. My approach to songwriting is always fluid, and I approach it like a puzzle unless you get lucky and it all just falls into place. I say a puzzle because I never know if what I write is a hook, a chorus, or verse and I try to stay open minded so I can figure out where to place those parts. In The Mourning was written in a day and was one of those lucky things that just fall in place sometimes. I write lyrics after the song is written, although I’ll restructure the song around the lyrics once it is written. After that, I try to refine the lyrics and word choices based on the rhythm of the song and make sure the syllables fit the beat. I approach
HFR: Could you tell us a bit about your “go to” equipment? What do you use when writing a song and which are your favorite instruments?
J: my go to equipment is my classical guitar, I’ve sold most of my electrics save one mutant monster PRS copy that has a midi pickup on it where I perform most of my compositions on. Any synth solos that you hear usually have been played on that. I have a variety of processes that use after the songs have written and recorded. Fortress Of Broken Hearts was routed through an old Crate gx40 amp back to my DAW, and sometimes I’ll use my turntable to add different slurs or timing changes. I have a ton of instruments from my trusty midi keyboard, electronic drum kits, guitars, electric mandolin, turntables, m audio trigger finger pro, field recorders, and of course a laptop and custom built Linux computer that I primarily use for production. Moreover, I use a few DAWS including FL12, but mostly LMMS, Hydrogen, Ardour, and Audacity ( Mostly Linux based programs though ).
HFR: What can we expect from you after this master piece? Are there any shows coming up within 2017?
J: I’m repurposing my tracks now for upcoming shows. I’m in the process of writing more vocal songs to fatten up the setlists with music that is more agreeable to most showgoers. The upcoming EP and next full-length album will be combined to make a show very soon. I’m very used to performing, I’ve been a session guitarist and fronted a band in the 2000s; so I’ve been dying to get back on stage!
HFR: Last words?
J: Not all that wander are lost. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about my latest creation. À la prochaine!