JHNN: Canadian Electronic Musician Profiled

Updated on February 12, 2018
JHNN (Photo credit: Leigh-Anne Hazard)
JHNN (Photo credit: Leigh-Anne Hazard)

John Is Open to a Wide Variety of Musical Genres

Dance Mix ’95 was the CD that started John K. Arum (JHNN) down the path towards making electronic music. He explains, “I have to give it up to Dance Mix ’95! Everyone says it's cheesy, but when you’re a kid and that’s the first thing you hear, it’s amazing! After that, my musical tastes changed and were more about indie electronic, which was a genre that was really popular at the time I turned 18.”

John is open to a wide variety of musical genres, but he mentions a few that have had a stronger influence on him. He says, “I was heavily into hip hop at one point, but I just got tired of it. They were always talking about the same things. I realized that I was more into the production side of hip-hop than I was the other side of hip-hop. I follow a lot of hip-hop producers and I have my favorites, but I’m more into indie dance.”

He continues, “My biggest influence was Cut Copy. They’re from Australia and they’re more on the rock side than the electronic side. I guess they’re my biggest inspiration because they do music that sounds like rock, but also sounds like dance music at the same time. I like that combo.”

In his own music, his goal is to make digital music sound like it’s analog. John elaborates, “I always believed that if you spent enough time with one program, you could make it sound as good as analog. My approach has always been to work with what I have. I work with FL Studio."

John’s Music Is Difficult to Classify and Categorize

He continues, “I’ve worked with it since 2008 and now I’m learning the more analog side of FL Studio. I was just using the digital points of it before but I realized that it has automation that makes it sound more analog. It makes it sound like it’s moving more, so that’s my new technique right now. I’m going more towards live music as opposed to making songs for DJs.”

John’s music is difficult to classify and categorize but he says, “Right now the closest genre to describe what I’m trying to do is indietronica. Caribou is a good example of that because he makes music that sounds like deep house, but feels like he’s playing it. I just like electronic music that still sounds like it can be played live. I like that element of live culture.”

There are a few challenges that he mentions when discussing his musical career. John points out one of the biggest and says, “One of the hardest things is getting people to listen to local music in general because they think it’s a thing that’s made for hipsters. That’s one challenge that not just me but every single musician in Calgary faces in trying to get people to listen to their music without having outside help.”

Why He Started the DMK Collective

The major challenge that John has with marketing his music is trying to classify it. He explains, “To get billed, you need to classify the music properly and they need to put you with the right people. I had to be the person who put myself with whoever I wanted to be with, so I started the DMK collective not just for me but for other live artists and for the indie and the electronica that I’d been wanting to create for a long time.”

John talks more about why he started the DMK collective and points out, “I’m just trying to get people to listen to local music without any image or any representation of what you’re supposed to look like or anything. I really want people to listen to the music first to hear if it sounds good rather than looking at some amazing graphic design. I want to make sure the artist is known a little bit more.”

To further these goals, he’s started a series called Presents at the Nite Owl club. John says, “I’m trying to do a synthwave night, I’m trying to do a night for the indie rock crowd and I just want to specifically focus on them and not how cool my collective is. I’m trying to build on that as much as I can. I also do a podcast which showcases people who are doing making films or hosting radio shows on CJSW. I feel like what’s missing are more media personalities to interview the artists. I like that journalistic culture and I wish it was stronger in Calgary."

How John Feels About the Calgary Electronic Music Scene

Generally, John feels that Calgary’s electronic music scene is in a good place. He says, “I do think we’re onto something and I do think there are so many talented people here in the electronic music scene and it’s so awesome to see. I’m really happy to hear these people!”

However, he adds one note of caution when he says, “I just think that people aren’t taking advantage of how good of a place it’s in. It’s hard to get everybody to figure out the business side of things. People just assume that you’re supposed to hire somebody to figure that out, and it’s just a new concept here. We don’t have those media personalities that they have in Toronto or Vancouver, so we have to be those media personalities. I think we’re just missing people to help us do this job.”

In the immediate future, John’s working on a tour with another Calgary electronic artist named Ryan Hall (also known as Soulier). He explains, “We’re trying to figure out a tour across western Canada for live electronic musicians. There’s a big scene in B.C. but it’s quite hard to get people in Alberta interested in live, electronic music. I’m trying to work on my next album and I’m also doing a live show. I’m in this mode right now where I just want to do more live shows and more of my music as opposed to doing other people’s music.”

In terms of inspiration, he keeps up a process of constant learning. John says, “It’s about not being afraid to learn and trying not to be that person who thinks they know everything. I don’t know everything and the whole point is to learn as much as I can. If you think that you’ve learned everything, you just stop progressing. When you haven’t learned enough, it keeps it interesting.”

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