Art Department aka Jonny White (fabric 82)
I was born in the suburbs north of Toronto, Canada. I grew up there as a child and in Toronto as a teen into my twenties. I lived in Israel for a short time, then in London and finally Barcelona where I have spent the past 5 years.
My mother's name was Shelley, she was a teacher for children with special needs and a great pianist before she fell ill. My father was division manager for A&M records throughout the '70s and '80s before Polygram took over the company. My father was named Ray Rosenberg and his career was undoubtedly a major influence on me as a child. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and wanted to work in the record industry, although when I was young, I had always imagined myself working behind the scenes in some capacity, as A&R or something, never as a musician or a performer. I was naturally gifted at visual arts so my parents always focused on nurturing that talent and music was never something that I had an opportunity to explore.
Growing up around the record business, I had always been exposed to a huge array of different styles of music and genres. I imagine it was a bit like how growing up with a DJ for a father might be like. My father had over 3000 records in his collection and always had really great high fidelity audio equipment in the house for us to listen to music on. From a very early age I was a fan of just about everything, from Talk Talk to The Boss, but as a child I was really into Motown, a lot of soul music alongside whatever pop records that A&M was releasing at the time, like Janet Jackson. I'm talking when I was about the age of 7. Pop was so different back then. There was some really good, undeniable cheese. As I got a bit older I got really into the more obvious rock bands as that whole movement out of Seattle was happening just as I became a teenager. Hip hop was also exploding when I was around the age of 10 but I didn't really get into that as much until I was about the age of 15 and discovered the more underground east coast stuff like Nas, Black Moon and Mobb Deep. Finally at 16 I was introduced to house music through a friend named Carey Berdock who was a nightclub promoter... it's all been sideways since then.
The beginning of my career was as a nightclub promoter which I started at the age of 17. This wasn't long after I had discovered house music, which is what sparked my interest to get involved with this world in some capacity. That had to be around 1995-96. I had dropped out of school and was hanging out with older kids who were promoting rave events and nightclubs already and who introduced me to the music and the clubs that I would have an opportunity to hear international DJs play at. That was important because that was the first time I really had a chance to become more discerning as a listener or a fan of any kind of music, and was given a glimpse into what was happening all over the world through this music. Having never travelled or had access to the internet the way kids do today, that was an exciting way to see the world, through the music. From there I became more serious about promoting not just nightclubs, but the music that I was interested in and began to buy records just to collect. I actually got into DJing while promoting at the age of 18 simply because my friend had purchased the gear and he was going to be thrown out of his house by his parents if he didn't get rid of it. I took it off his hands...
Because of the fact that I had been out of school for so many years, moved around quite a bit and made the relatively new house scene such a huge part of my life, I knew a lot of the right people to kickstart my local DJ career. I was invited to play music at well-known nightclubs quite quickly and connected with a lot of the right people in Toronto.
After years of promoting clubs and being heavily involved with that world straight out of high school at quite a young age, the lifestyle and scene had taken its toll on me and I found myself quite lost, no longer working in the business for about 2 years. I finally found my way back to it all and began promoting clubs and DJing again when I was offered a job as a booking agent at Toronto based booking agency Most Wanted Entertainment representing acts like Luke Solomon, Honey Dijon and even doing some bookings for Kenny Glasgow, who was on the roster at the time. From there I connected with a crew of promoters that I had always wanted to work with called YYZ Entertainment. They were bringing in a lot of talent to the city and had been responsible for a lot of the shows that I had attended when I first discovered the scene. Part of that crew were Eddie K, who had started the company, Jazz Spinder, who is currently my agent for the world at CAA, Nitin and Teeloo who would later partner with me in my No.19 Music label and Kenny Glasgow - who needs no introduction! That was the real turning point for me. Finding a really tight knit crew of individuals who were all equally interested in a very different style of underground music and promoting it when there was essentially no market for it in North America. We began throwing parties dedicated to pushing this more European sound that was already making waves on the other side of the world.
"You know that this is something that will be listened to (or not listened to!) forever so you have to achieve quite a bit with the mix if you want it to stand the test of time."
LABELS & PRODUCTION:
It wasn't long before I decided to try my hand at producing music and got everyone in the crew to explore that as well. I had given myself a deadline of one year from the time I had hooked up with that crew to make this whole music thing work and if not, I was going to hang it up and look for another career. Almost one year to the day I signed my first record, a release that consisted of one collaboration with James Teej and one solo effort to Connect Four Records, sister label of Tic Tac Toe which was important at the time. That kind of put me on the map, so to speak and made it all seem real and possible as I was the first artist from the crew, or really from any local (Toronto) producer at the time to sign music to a European label. I had kind of a sense that signing that one record really mattered to a lot of us in Toronto at the time. From there I continued to work at my production and saw everyone in the crew seemed to be making some music that I considered to be exciting and on par with some of the music that I was buying, so rather than rely on shopping music to labels to ensure our success, I started No.19 Music. I worked with a few Canadian labels like My Favorite Robot (which I also managed for a time) and labels like Akbal Music which all belonged to good friends of mine but I was really just focused on releasing music for my own imprint. My first big release following the Connect Four record was the first release on my label called 'Rainsong' which I released with a second version and a remix from Adam Marshall. I also began working with Ripperton who was a big supporter of what I was doing at the time. I released another collaboration with James Teej called 'Narco Ballada' on his Perspective label and another for his other Split One concept imprint called 'Tikkun Olam'.
Production kept on this way, everything dedicated to No.19 until Kenny and I did a remix together of Riz MC for Crosstown Rebels. Signing to Crosstown at that time was a landmark achievement for me because I was very influenced by the music on Crosstown and had grown to become good friends with Damian. Not long after, Kenny and I decided to revisit the idea of collaborating and writing some original music together to see what might come of it. We did another remix of Zev's 'Don't Break It' for Wolf & Lamb and I guess everyone knows the rest. As Art Department we've done work for No.19, Crosstown, Get Physical, Hot Creations, Turbo, 2020 Vision, Tsuba, Supplement Facts, Simple, Skint, Southern Fried, My Favorite Robot and Circus Company.
My first trip to fabric was to play, as is the case with just about every club in Europe. fabric is one of those institutions that are the stuff of legend when you're trying to make it out of a city in North America. fabric was one of the first stops on our first European tour as Art Department. I believe this was summer of 2010 and we were set to play Room 3. It's one of the "big 5" along with places like DC10 and Panorama Bar where you're almost intimidated by the club even before you set foot inside. You just have the sense that what you're about to do in there really matters and I still have that same feeling to this day 5 years later every time I play. At the same time, I'm so completely comfortable there due to the staff. Everyone behind the scenes there are real music people and there's always been a really welcoming, family vibe there. Judy, Andy and Craig Richards have always made a real effort to work with me and support everything that I do, from booking Art Department to hosting Social Experiment label showcases and being completely open minded to booking lesser known artists who are coming up on the label to help us further our mission.
I first recorded the mix at my home in Barcelona from vinyl but unfortunately I wasn't comfortable enough with the sound quality for a fabric mix, so then came the process of re-creating the set with digital files, while trying to keep the mixing as close to the original recording as possible. For me a mix is always an absolute headfuck. You know that this is something that will be listened to (or not listened to!) forever so you have to achieve quite a bit with the mix if you want it to stand the test of time. To me that means it has to have a classic feel to it, there needs to be some real depth, the deeper you go the more room it leaves for interpretation and the more potential the mix will have to change for an individual over time so that it doesn't get stale. Can you tell how OCD I am about programming a mix yet?! Then there are your fans, who know and love you for what you've done in the past and while it may not be where you are currently, you can't completely disregard that, you're making it for them. Beyond that, you have to do what you feel and trust yourself and your fans the way that they trust you. I like to think that the people who are listening to a fabric mix are up for something interesting, unexpected and less safe than what they might expect from another compilation series. fabric - the club and the mix series - are still going strong all these years later because they deliver a real, creativity-driven product, night after night, year after year and because people support them the way that they support us, the artists. They've given us a unique platform to work with for so many years and that's what makes the opportunity to record this mix so special. I've included some new records, old records, unreleased records. I've tried to include music from artists who have really influenced me personally like Basic Channel, Matthew Herbert and Fred P, to artists I'm currently working with like DJ QU and Jonathan Lee, and I just tried to stay mindful of what kind of message fabric is trying to convey with the mix as well.
The next chapter for me as an artist will obviously see Art Department take a new shape now as I'll be on my own and that's a big change; and an exciting prospect. The music that I've chosen for the mix is a glimpse into the direction that the project will go in when it comes to playing music. I'm about to launch 3 new record labels, alongside two charity projects I'm working which will run in tandem with the Social Experiment imprint, making it a non-profit label to help conserve wildlife in Africa. I've got a year littered with global Social Experiment events, a full touring schedule with festival season in full swing now and not much time for anything else. I have a slew of remix packages for the Natural Selection LP set to be released throughout 2015, that will include mixes from Jamie Jones, Mathew Jonson, Tennis, Soul Clap, Radio Slave, Maher Daniel, Nitin and Martinez Brothers so lots of AD music still to come. Aside from that I have somehow managed to book in some time off for writing this year, which is a bit of a change and for the first time I'm not planning what I'm going to write. For the past 5 years I've been lucky enough to have loads of work to do which come with their own pressures, deadlines and boxes to fit into. I'm excited to just write and see where my imagination takes me.
fabric 82 is out on 22nd June.
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Photography: Jimmy Mould