Hailing from New York, Christopher Johannesen is the innovative vision behind Spundose and Ōmwom. With roots in worlds of breakbeat, IDM and downtempo, he continues to carve a distinctive path of quality bass grooves. Inspired by the simple things in life, he is also a metalsmith fabricator who is consistently evolving his craft through a variety of mediums outside of ongoing music releases. The following is a featured interview and exclusive preview of the upcoming release, Tones That We Broadcast, out 8/23/16 via Street Ritual.
What is your history as a musician?
I began playing guitar when I was 15. Playing a good 4-5 hours every day and dabbling as much as possible with bass, drums, keys. I love getting my hands on any musical instrument and seeing what kind of sounds I can make, while also developing my technical skills as much as possible. I am took a few lessons with a hometown guru of sorts, and learned the very basics of music theory and melodic scales. Through high school and college, I was in a couple of different experimental type of bands, nothing really panned out too much, it seemed to me due to lack of application/dedication in my band mates. My original intention in college was to be a jazz guitar major, but music theory was full that 1st semester, and the semester after that. It just didn’t end up happening.
A year after I graduated from college with an English degree, I visited a friend who had recently acquired Ableton live. It blew my mind I decided I could create bass and drums, etc., for my guitar pieces in Ableton. At about the same time, I was introduced to a whole wave of electronic artists such as Shpongle, Shulman, and Bluetech. Extremely different from anything I had heard before a la Moby, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers etc. When I ended up diving into Ableton, the primary focus very quickly became understanding how to use this infinitely powerful program. Guitar went basically completely out the window for a good two years. In the long run, it turns out that I use my guitar to supplement my Ableton compositions rather than the other way around.
What’s your setup and creative process like? Everything from inspiration to production to performance.
My inspiration is the fact that authentic expressive art is one of the most effective things in this world that will be able to break our humanity out of this pharma-military-industrial complex matrix. I work solely in Ableton live. The only plugins I use are for post-production (Izotope Ozone 7 for example). I will start every project from scratch. A lot of experienced producers will tell you to save your presets, save your project layouts, etc etc. That works. I find I have discovered a lot more and expanded my production style/sonic palette by starting each project completely from scratch. I start by plugging in a basic drum/bass/melodic synth line, just a couple of notes, and slowly building it from there with a basic “what’s next” approach. One small step at a time. There is a tipping point in each project when it becomes a lot more apparent what needs to happen, and the workflow goes a lot faster from there. It also becomes a lot less daunting to start from scratch, the more you do it with successful results.
When I perform, I keep it very simple. I’m a producer, not a DJ. I’ll create a set in Ableton with the songs I am going to play, and I use an Akai APC40 to play it. The “live” aspect is in the transitions between songs, some sound effects/samples I will cue during the performance, and some reverb/delay I can throw on to the songs in a moment to create some more spacey effects at times. I hope to expand the versatility of my live performance techniques, but right now after over six solid years in production, I have to say I am still learning sooo much about production itself. I am not as concerned with the performance aspect. The main thing there is getting to hear my sounds on a big worthy system, not about me telling you when to scream or put your hands up 😉
What direction do you see the EDM scene going?
I see “EDM”, as it is widely known in the media, going in the trash. I see superficial image/ego based ‘artists’ fading away. I see original sounding artists coming to the forefront, and an audience of people who are desiring and distinguishing REAL art from something that was produced for a money driven mainstream industry.
What is a constant inspiration and motivation?
To break ground in my own productions. From originality of the individual sounds/compositions, to the post-production mixing/mastering quality. There is never a shortage of production aspects to work on to keep you motivated
You won the Untz contest and have been hitting up many solid festivals all summer! How has the experience been thus far?
My schedule has been pretty overwhelming, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It has been beyond amazing. I am so grateful to be able to go to all these festivals, to meet a lot of new people and play my music for them. Thank you all!!
You released Relatives earlier this year -what was the vision and message behind that release?
I think the best way to catalyze social change is to put stuff out there with a sense of mystery. To get people to be interested in ‘digging deeper’, in whatever area of this reality you may choose. You’ll find rather quickly, there ARE deeper truths in this reality, there IS magic. The global elite who create and manipulate this mainstream matrix are doing all they can to make us cynical, skeptical, sarcastic, and apathetic about this stuff… I am doing all I can to catalyze open-mindedness, a “consider everything” attitude. The general vision behind Relatives is simply that everything is related, all is one. The cover art is based on the idea that advanced humanoid extraterrestrials designed our physical form “in their image.” So that is the scene that Jonah K did a ‘relatively’ amazing job of depicting, in my humble opinion. I would love to be a humble audio gateway into a world of much more open thought, intentionally testing our perspectives and our perceptions. As the X-Files puts it, “The truth is out there.”
Your music has an ancient-future vibe. What’s your stance on technology?
I think technology is a double-edged sword. For example, Facebook is an amazing social networking tool. We could organize social change on this platform in a way that has not been available as far as our recorded history. But it is saturated with cynical, sarcastic memes, pictures from “going out” this past weekend etc.. I bet they had technology like it in pre-history days, which is what my idea of ancient-future is. The ancient knowledge ‘they’ tried to burn away in the Library of Alexandria is coming out in a big way, doing away with the mainstream matrix, and creating a proper ‘future.’ So when you fuse the two together, Ancient-future!
Tones That We Broadcast is the first of a series consisting of three releases set to drop this summer, fall, and winter. Can you give us more detail?
There are three, five track releases covering where I have come from as a sound designer/composer up to this point. Originally it was going to be one fifteen song release, but I think more people will be able to make time to listen to the release all the way through if they are each shorter.
Tell us about the artwork.
I am working with a new artist on this one, Howell Golson. The concept was much more general than I have provided for the artist in the past. Basically I asked Howell to create whatever he wanted. He is familiar with my past album art and my music. All I asked for was that he incorporate quartz crystals in some way. The cover for Tones That We Broadcast is going to progress through the next two releases.
Are you working on any other projects?
I am pretty well focused on Spundose right now. I am going to be working on a new Spundose release as the next two releases are coming up for release. I plan on having a brand new EP past this trilogy sometime in the spring of 2017. After that I am going to dig into some more psytrance and create another Ōmwom EP, tentatively due out sometime Fall/Winter 2017.
What would you like to accomplish in 2016?
A successful journey to all these shows Meeting a lot of new friends and just keeping on with wherever Spundose takes me.
To have no regrets and feel at peace. I think when I am in my 40’s, I am going to turn to my writing. I want to write the next great American novel 😛 Something of a fusion between Nietzsche, Orwell, Lovecraft, Burroughs, Kerouac, Vonnegut, and my particular main man of the hour: Philip K Dick. I don’t know.. Lifetime goal is a weighty thing, I usually take things one day at a time. I want to look back and feel like I did the best I could for my part to raise us from this mainstream mire. Hopefully the mainstream mire will be all but a memory at that point in my life
What keeps you balanced? What are some other hobbies?
I have been an avid reader since I was about three. I can never get enough, I thrive like crazy on good books/stories. Mainly HP Lovecraft and Philip K Dick. As well as the others I mentioned. Also, William Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy, and Snow Crash/The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. I attribute much of maintaining my sanity to reading, and I think reading somehow gives me production ideas in an indirect way, or allows my mind to relax and become more abstract to come up with new ideas. Either way, it’s the best.
I also work part time in a custom metal fabrication factory. It’s rough, hard work, but it helps break up my production schedule and give me some supplementary finances. As much as some of us might like to, you really can’t sit and produce for ten hours a day unless you want to go blind and have your back go out >_< I like to get outside as much as possible of course, whether hiking or biking or what have you. I love cooking and trying new recipes. I also create little wood/crystal/copper necklaces, which is probably my main ‘hobby’.
How is the Ōmwom project different/similar to Spundose?
Originally Ōmwom was going to replace Spundose. I had been (and sometimes still am) frustrated by feedback about my name promoting drug abuse, or that certain transformational festivals etc. were reluctant to book me because of how my alias might be perceived. The initial conception was just a made up word that popped into my head, as hard as that may be for some skeptics to believe. I didn’t intend for it to fall into the drug slang connotation that it immediately has for people in the ‘scene’. When I decided to not let a few naysayers kill Spundose, I knew I had to differentiate the two projects sonically. The main difference going forward now is that Spundose will never have any “4 on the floor” kick drum on every beat trance style, while Ōmwom will be pretty much all “4 on the floor” psytrance. So, Spundose songs like “Neural Handshake” and “Urban Shaman” will be played in my Ōmwom sets, and Ōmwom songs like “The Synergist” and “Anima Patterns” will be played in Spundose sets.
Spundose has been selling pins of A Sacred Space and Relatives as well as gifting Relatives CD’s all summer.
Daily routines? What surrounds you and what is your atmosphere like?
I get up and go to work around 7:30 and work in the metal shop until about noon-ish. Come home and produce for the rest of the day. Take breaks to go outside/eat. That is the basic schedule. I live in a cozy apartment with my girlfriend Nicole in upstate New York (Greenville), and we are surrounded by nature, cats, crystals, tapestries, maybe a little burned sage… It’s a very nice, relaxing and cleansing environment
If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Wowwww………. The Coliseum in Rome? Ummm, the Sydney Opera house? The King’s Chamber in the great pyramid?? On a more realistic note, I would love to play at Ozora, Boom Festival, Burning Man – anywhere that my music is going to be truly resonant and appreciated.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Stay mindful, stay grateful, and remember to always consider everything!! If you feel cynicism, skepticism, sarcasm, or apathy coming on in your attitude about any topic… Know that these reactions are not YOU. The global elite, the 1% of the 1% who manipulate the mainstream matrix, have put a lot of time and effort into conditioning these reactions within us, in order to control us more easily. The only one who can re-write that programming is YOU. Love to all <3