"I don´t think there´s another more influential person on my Djing career really" – high praise indeed from the world-renowned DJ Sasha who was taught to mix by Jon Dasilva. Jon´s story begins with his long career at Manchester´s famous Hacienda nightclub where his mixing skills and innovative style were so impressive that he was promptly invited to become one of the club’s resident DJ’s on what was to become the legendary HOT night. Upon discovering that Jon is a fan of Rob Papen synths, we caught up with him to find out more...
Hi Jon, so you were a resident DJ at the world-renowned Hacienda, how would you sum up that time of your life?
It was the start of everything for me obviously. I´d been in bands and stuff, studied film, but had made a pretty conscious decision to get into DJing in 86, inspired by stories of New York and Chicago etc. and moved back to North West and ultimately Manchester for the Hacienda and its rep for playing House Music which was a rarity around this time in London where I´d been based. I started with HOT night which has kind of gone down in clubbing folklore as one of the great nights, and for me it was a baptism of fire as I had hardly ever played to a crowd, certainly not to 100´s, and then 1000´s.
I remember Lauren Garnier who was a good friend around this time showing me the set up on my "warm up" night and that alone had me shaking with nerves! I soon got into it and had a lot of fun playing different music early on into the night, just to be able to hear it LOUD! The BBC sound effects LPs came into their own in that year (1988) and whatever other mad records I could find to add drama and impact to my sets.
How have those times influenced the person/DJ you are today?
I certainly still have the eclectic attitude that characterises the period and haven´t lost my love for Acid House... still love sound effects and use them as well. Otherwise, it was a very long time ago and I like the here and now!
You´re now living in Stockholm, how does their dance music scene differ from the UK?
It’s a smaller scene in many ways, population and geography make their mark, but a very credible scene with such luminaries as Jesper Dahlback, Minilogue, Adam Beyer, Tiger Stripes, Samuel L Session, The Knife, JJ, Familjen coming from Sweden and staying based in Sweden. A lot of studios in Stockholm for sure, and club wise there´s a great cross section of nights here, although Swedish Techno dominates with many semi legal and legal events happening every weekend. There is a lack of international DJs coming through which is an issue. I have a night starting in August at Slakt Huset (Slaughter House) with Weatherall booked for the first show...
Moving on to your studio, what´s your current set-up?
Current set up is ultra light with a 17" Mac Book Pro, MOTU sound card, Maschine, Arturia controller keyboard and various guitars and amps and strange outboard. I actually move around our apartment depending on my mood; using Sennheiser HD 650 headphones when away from the Genelecs. We plan to build a mixing space, a good acoustically treated room, but my songwriting partner / main collaborator, Jonas Nilsson, and I rarely work in the same room. I would just appreciate a space I could trust to mix in and then add a dozen or so hardware synths I want to (re) buy!!!
What´s been the biggest technological change for your studio/gear since you started out?
Obviously the audio recording revolution and the arrival of virtual synths and outboard... if only I had this in 82!!
What is it about these synths that you find most appealing for your music?
SubBoomBass has been a revelation... so much sonic potential and yes, sooo much BASS. Predator and Blue have often been a go-to solution for arpeggio ideas and RG has also come into its own where recording acoustic guitar has been out of the question at that stage in the songwriting. I do like using it as simply a percussive element where I have mixed out a lot of the melodic info.
You´re currently working on the soundtrack for an upcoming Manchester film “Rose Gold”, what type of sound/s does this call for?
I´m supervising the music which means both choosing and licensing tracks that fit the specific scenes (it’s a movie based in Manchester and to some extent, it’s club circa 1994) and the composition of "incidental" music so the vibe is electronic to a large extent as befits the music scene covered. I don´t start writing music until I´ve seen the cut scenes which won’t happen until later in the Summer. Mixing and 2.1/5.1 issues relevant to cinema have yet to be addressed but certainly, these also will be an issue.
Which software/plug-ins are you finding are key to this project?
I use Logic as an allrounder but rely heavily on non-native plugs particularly the Arturia V, Rob Papen, and G-Force collections, synth-wise, and various Wave and Softube plug-ins processing-wise...
What else have you got coming up over the coming months?
I have 3 album projects on the go with a release for my UK band The Virgo Mechanically Replayed´s album, "Factory Fatigue" in September, and two more here in Stockholm and there is the straight House production stuff where I have a release on Rush Hour Records at the start of July with "Love is All We Need" by myself and Donald Waugh... a future retro Chicago House thing happening there.
Finally, what would be your top 3 production tips for those of our customers who produce Electronic music?
1 - Learn a little old school board wiring techniques... think buses and parallel techniques rather than piling stuff on individual channels (because you can).
2 - I avoid volume automation until mixdown so I can keep going into the mixer and select all minus output and bringing the channels down below 0 dB... too may scrunchy sounding tracks out there already (some of them mine).
3 - Invest in a good mastering compressor/eq. Chances are the label won’t have it mastered if it’s a digi-only release so learn to do some comparative mixing and get your track sounding fat without brick wall limiting.
See Jon talk about his Hacienda days in part two of this History of House documentary...