St Andrews Sound: .jonathan//QUOW - Question Time
A new series: ‘St Andrews Sound’ will focus on the abundance of musical creativity that exists within St Andrews. Interviews will be conducted with talented artists around the town in the hope of exposing the quality that exists right on our doorstep. Please get in touch with music sub-editor Tom Hurst if you, or your friends would like to take part in such an interview or interview someone you think deserves more awareness for their music. The interviews will be released weekly starting next semester, but to give you a flavour, here is the first with the ever-professional and extraordinary .jonathan//QUOW.
By: Tom Hurst
Jonathan is a third-year student at St Andrews that spends most of his spare time producing, song writing, singing and rapping. From his home in New York, his show-stopping performances around St Andrews encouraged me to ask him a few questions about where he’s going and what got him to where he is.
What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?
Mostly, I’ve stopped listening to mainstream music in general and I’m either listening to things I listened to before, or I’m focusing on my own music. I’m really trying to take all influences from the things around me that are generally happening right now. So, I love trap and I’m focusing much more on a darker vibe, so I’m definitely getting into 3/4 rhythms rather than 4/4, as well as some interesting tribal aspects and percussions.
That’s definitely evident in your graphics; they’re getting a bit darker – does someone help you with those in St Andrews or is that all you?
That’s all me.
Were you into photography before you started doing music?
Uh, Matilda [Lucas] did the photography for the stuff that I posted on my Instagram most recently and then I really got into editing, myself. And then the stuff for the track ‘wake up’ I just did that myself in Photoshop.
‘Wake Up’ is your most recent release?
So, when did you start making and releasing music? Did you used to play instruments and then start producing?
From the beginning of my production career? All of it is DAW-based [Digital Audio Workstation], so it’s all electronic, it’s all samples that I’ve found, from everywhere, or synths that use like, real, actual musical instruments. But yeh, I just try to make the music sound as natural as possible using this electronic stuff, because I don’t even have my own midi keyboard. I literally go into the piano roll on FL [Fruity Loops] and move each key in the chord so that it sounds natural.
It is! But you get something that sounds beautiful at the end of it, that’s most real.
So, your focus is now darker but some of your older stuff – you’d sing as well as spit…
And that’s still going to be the tone of ‘Visions’. It’s going to be a journey from a more happy Jonathan to a more serious Jonathan. It’s not an influence that’s been like… I want to show that it’s not an impact of myself changing, but of my environment changing.
Is there any way in particular that you’re able to get across that it’s your environment, and not you that’s changing, in ‘Visions’?
Hmm, no particular way. I think the lyrics themselves speak volumes. The last two songs in ‘Visions’: ‘zion//Shango’ and then ‘Conjuror’, those two songs kind of go from like a very aggressive and dark vibe to something sombre; brooding. It’s a piano that was written in 11/12. So, I wanted something that was syncopated, but not completely off and there’s a reverberated electronic guitar in the background. That’s supposed to set the tone for something where you can listen to it and then go right back into the start of the album, which is extremely energetic.
When is ‘Visions’ coming out?
It should be coming out by the end of the month. There’s still supposed to be another photoshoot for the cover of the album and then I think I’m just going to stick with the cover of the album and then release it, because I already have another project on the way.
You do all of this yourself, releasing everything?
And you do most of your stuff on SoundCloud, but likely trying to get on other platforms and that?
mm-hmm. That one should be up on Spotify, maybe some songs might be rejected but…
Rejected? How does that work?
As in, sample work. It should be only an interlude though so it’s completely fine.
So, you release all of your music stuff independently here, but are there people back in New York that you have that you do bits with?
I was trying to contact some people, but I don’t know, I was talking to this one dude who said my sh*t sounded really dope, ‘would you want to collab?’ But he’s just never messaged me back. I mean, at this point, I love working with other people, but I don’t like working with other people on beats that I’ve already made, because it’s like sharing my child with another person and it’s kind of insensitive. But I love working with Casper [Sanderson]. If we can just sit down, jam, create something on the spot, and then turn that into a cool song. Casper uses Logic and mostly uses solely recorded stuff, which is a far cry from what I do.
Is there a big difference in terms of your ability to perform here and perform in New York and the access that you have to whatever it is you need in St Andrews?
Most definitely, it’s hard getting your foot in the door in New York. Here in St Andrews, students are always looking to engage with your music. If I started in New York, I would probably only get a crowd of 2 people, 3 people. I might hit up some friends about some clubs I can go to because I did go to the performance of a music collective last summer which was awesome. A really good show as part of the vibrant music scene in Brooklyn. But I have no idea, I don’t know them personally; I only know one person in their group and he wasn’t primarily involved in the music, so it’s just about properly getting connections.
Getting connections probably comes after perfecting your own sound? Do you think you’re at the stage where you’re totally comfortable with the music you’re releasing?
Not perfectly. I’d say like, 80%; the key in any primarily creative field is turning what you have perfectly in your mind into something that can be conducted to a wider group of people. And that’s always quite difficult. Any time you think of something, you’re going to sit down and try to write it or make the music flow out and it turns out completely differently, but that’s just the nature of it. I think I’m getting there.
Cool. Finally, couple personal questions to finish up – what takes up your time outside of music? Or is it really just production and work?
Uhh, production, work… I enjoy dancing, I haven’t danced that much here but I enjoy it, and I enjoy writing.
What sort of dancing?
Hip-Hop, just on a night out. I did Sitara last year and I’m hoping to do that next year as well.
And what sort of stuff do you write? Aside from lyrics
I’m working on a novel; a sci-fi novel. I’m about 150 pages in.
You got a working title?
I’m choosing between two because I don’t know if it’s going to be part of a trilogy or just a stand-alone. The working title is ‘Cybernaut’.
Do you manage to spend a lot of time on that when you’re here?
Absolutely not, I haven’t worked on it properly in about a year. I’m stuck on a chapter, which I think I have a good creative vibe for now, where, essentially, it’s a complete emotional switch. Something that’s a bit more playful to something that’s sinister.
In the way that you say your environment is having an effect on your music, is that having a similar effect on your book?
Most definitely. The next part of the book is where the main character enters a shifted part of Brooklyn, in the future, which has become disenfranchised and turned into, kind of a neo-afro-futuristic playground. So, essentially, there’s a lot of rebellion against the primary government. Neo-Corp takes over, so cities aren’t ruled by governments but rather by technological syndicates that provide enough resources for the people within the states, after a nuclear war takes place. Essentially, Brooklyn is kind of like a Marxist, Malcolm X-esque playground for self-exploration and a return to traditional practices. In this future, people have never even seen a flower.
And that’s just going to get worked on as and when you can?
But you’ve got Visions coming out at the end of this month, as you said, and a new project you’re working on already?
Yep, I’m hoping to release it in the Summer, but I already have the beats set up. It’s going to play off the end of ‘Visions’. It’s going to be a much darker vibe; I want like, hard-hitting trap beats, which, I have. And I want in a few R&B-esque songs.
Interesting that your music, as much as it is telling a story, it is a progression as well.
That’s partly why I changed my name from an alias to just my name. I want it to tell stories that are true.
What was your alias?
QUID. Like quid pro quo but also like, money…
And now .jonathan//QUOW…
Yep these are real stories from my real life and this is my progression as a person, not just an alias or something that I’m putting on.
Standard question to finish on: when I hear you at the BPM nights and at the St.Art launch that you did, (I hope this is a compliment) I get a very Frank Ocean vibe, like a soft voice but telling a hard-hitting story. Does Frank or anyone else influence your music significantly?
Most definitely. I’m influenced by Frank Ocean, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie… and Kendrick Lamar, of course.
See below for a link to Jonathan’s SoundCloud to see how these artists influence him and if you can recognise the change in his environment, through his music. Keep an eye out for ‘Visions’ at the end of the month!
ST.ART Magazine does not own the rights to any of the images used in this article.