Baeble caught up with US artist JNTHN STEIN
who traveled across the pond to perform at this year's the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. We chatted about his classical influences, producing, and his journey from California to Berlin.
You list a lot of classical composers as influences. What's your relationship with classical music like?
My parents both play piano and I grew up listening to them play a lot of Bach in particular. His style and existence is a few hundred years old, and is equally complex as it is simple, evoking a broad range of thought and emotion with just the tool of counterpoint, or simultaneous melody. This was a strong foundation for me from before I even knew what music was to now. I went on to study the broader catalog of classical music through the perspective of the string bass (looks and sounds like a giant cello) in college, and went on to use those skills, aesthetics, and ideals in recorded music production in any complimentary way I can to this day. The most important thing I will always hold onto from that world is the idea of development; the most simple one-measure loop can be made into any song.
Where else do you find inspiration for your music?
Where do all these crazy genres and subgenres come from? It's all just the genes of a single origin song whose babies have had babies and passed down endless variations till today and forever, and I like certain beats and toplines from all of them. I love nature too; the sounds of the chaotic wilderness, living things coexisting and/or eating each other, chirping, rustling, growling. There's pretty much only sound design going on in the forest and jungle. Humans have made some great synthesizers too: I love the mechanical industrial sounds of large machinery, all those different sized gears whirring and pistons pushing air at different overtones making impossible timbres, so futuristic and sci-fi yet the stuff is all around you in the city. Maybe there's the most music in the stuff that isn't trying to be music. Which is why it's fun and exciting to be a producer.
Which track that you've produced (and released or will soon release) so far is the most complex and why?
I like to make all my songs turn a simple idea into something grand and overwhelming, I think this approach mirrors the way the world works, from the cosmic to the psychological/personal level. It also mirrors my habit of overthinking things. That being said, fellow nerds and appreciators of music and development alike are welcome to analyze songs of mine such as "Cata," "Unbound," "Prime," "Time," "Everything Is A Drug," "Who Cares." Sounds pretty lame, right? It's as lame or cool as you wish to perceive it, based on how you value things like knowledge, competition with others and self, extravagance, etc. Complexity and simplicity maybe are the same thing, just different amounts of zoom on a microscope looking at the same rock you found on the ground.
What are your favorite sounds to sample?
I think my answer to 2 gave away some of the non-musical ambiences I like to sample most. I also like to sample myself or the vocalist I'm working with; pitching around and manipulating a single vocal phrase or even vowel goes a long ways as my fellow producers know, and same for guitar/bass. I like the idea of vertically integrating my sample sourcing. Why not bake the bread in house if you can? That's what all my fave restaurants do.
As a producer, how do you approach lyrics? Do you write them first, during, or after the production of the instrumental body of the song?
I've had experiences with all three of those workflows; sometimes you slap lyrics onto a track sitting on your hard drive, sometimes the two write each other together, sometimes you're writing words down in a note on your phone on a flight to NY out of nowhere. Out of boredom, really. Boredom is where all art starts. As for what I write about, I believe in songwriting through honesty; I'm a bedroom producer. My songs are about being a bedroom producer. Simple. It's a sweet life, btw. Despite the details that make me unique, I personally experience fear, love and everything in between the same as anyone else, no more, no less. These are the feelings that everyone in the world shares, and as long as I continue to feel them too, I'll have something to sing about to everyone, or at least someone.
What is Silvertown about?
I remember talking with Kenny (BXRBER) about this when we made the song. He wrote the lyrics, and this is my take on them; whether it's a romance, friendship or movie, it's never quite the same as the first time you experienced it. And yet we all re-watch our favorite movies and revisit our most meaningful friends and lovers, hoping to feel something new from them. That first time was gold, but if you're down, which you def are, you'll meet that person at the Silvertown for another try that will be a shadow of that gold, a silver shadow you yearn for nostalgically nonetheless. I also really like my friend Mike's interpretation, in which the Silvertown is actually just a dusty highway diner. No matter what, like the hazelnut-flavored coffee they serve at this diner, the song is bittersweet.
You're from California but recorded your first EP in Berlin- how did this change of location affect the songwriting process if at all?
I was in a foreign place, in every way imaginable, literally under the zoom lens of a half-dozen cameras and subject to the sustain of their battery life. Let me rewind here, I was filming a thang for Push with Ableton. Maybe all these adversities made me act with restraint, caution, theatricality. But honestly after a few minutes in it felt the way I feel any time I'm enjoying making music. Anyone with an Instagram knows that after a while you forget the camera's even on. I've made music in many cities and countries now. Being in Berlin at that time influenced me in ways I'll perhaps never truly know, although it most certainly did. Sometimes an EP is just simply named after where it was made, feel me tho?