iDJ meets a Sydney-based newcomer that you'll likely be hearing a lot more from in the future…
Based in Sydney, Australia, Jonny Reebok is a relative newcomer to the scene. With just a handful of single/EP releases to his name, he doesn't yet have a high-profile Ibiza residency or a weeky radio show, he hasn't spent lockdown doing livestreams that get 50 million views, and an album remains (by his own admission) a distant pipe-dream for now.
In short, he doesn't tick any of the usual boxes that might warrant a full-scale artist feature on these pages. It's just that, in the form of the Aphrodite Dub/Ghost Town Riddim EP, he's just released two of the finest slices of deep, dark, headnoddin' dubstep we've heard in a long time.
Which is doubly surprising, given that his earlier releases were mostly in the house arena, while his best-known track to date has been a D&B remix of Australian alt-pop artist ALTA. We're not the only ones feeling the EP, either: Rinse FM were so impressed that they recently invited him to put together his first mix for them.
That's an impressive landmark for any young producer to reach, but we suspect for Mr Reebok it'll prove to be just the first of many. So we thought we'd best grab him for a quick chat before every bugger else does…
This is your first time in iDJ, so let's start at the beginning… tell us a bit about how you got into dance/electronic music, DJing and producing in the first place?
"I’ve always had a love for music, but for me producing started on my 16th birthday when my dad bought me GarageBand. Straight away I was obsessed and started making beats all day, every day. I remember my dad had a big Korg keyboard that I would record the sounds out of into GarageBand, which was a full-on headache!
"My interest in electronic music started with Mike Skinner, who I was a huge fan growing up, I was especially into his more garage-influenced tracks. Also around that time I was obsessed with the People Just Do Nothing YouTube series, which put me onto a lot of the classic garage tracks from the 90s."
Your music seems to take in a wide range of influences and is quite hard to pin down in terms of genre... how do you describe it?
"I think, so far, my music reflects my obsession and research of UK club scenes and musical culture from an outsider’s perspective. For me, it seems for the most part these scenes tend to only make music for that scene, which is sick and I think that is why the UK has such strong scenes that grow so quickly. But by not being connected first-hand to any of the scenes, I’ve been able to float and around and try different stuff out."
If the hype sheet for Aphrodite Dub is to believed, you started as a rock guitarist, then started making hip-hop, then moved into garage and jungle and have recently been getting heavily into dub... that's quite a journey. Do you feel you've now reached the summit of that journey, or is there further to go - are you still a work in progress?
"For most of my childhood I only listened to the music my dad had, which was mostly bands like The Clash, The Cure, The Specials etc. Around the time my dad bought me my first guitar I remember being really into the Arctic Monkeys, so that’s where my ‘rock’ music roots come from I guess.
"Then when I started to explore music for myself it was a lot of hip-hop, probably because that’s what a lot of my friends were into. From then I started making hip-hop beats for my mates to rap on. Ratking was a huge inspiration at that time for me. After that I remember going over to my manager's house and him showing me [2017 Nicholas Jaar album] Against All Logic an saying, 'You should try making some house'. A week later I made Tyrone and that’s where it all started for me.
"Definitely haven’t reached the summit, I’m still figuring things out and open to experimenting with new sounds and ideas."
The same hype sheet quotes you saying that a newfound love of dub has inspired a change in your working methods, so tell us more about that...
"Yeah, dub switched how I made music on its head, pretty much. Before I would always start with a sample and work from there. But I was watching a documentary about dub's origins and Lee 'Scratch' Perry said that drums and bass were the most important part of making dub, because if a rhythm is good the track kinda makes itself – I'm butchering how he said it, but you get the idea. So now I pretty much always start with drums and bass. Something about taking the focus away from instrumentation and leaning more on the rhythms really interests me.
"I've also become obsessed with delays and echos. I used a couple of guitar delay pedals on Aphrodite Dub, which gave the track a more human feel as opposed to just using a stock Ableton delay or something like that. When I have some money I would love to purchase a reel-to-reel tape echo, for that authentic dub sound. With that being said I also discovered the H-delay plug-in, which is really great for dub style delays. I also purchased a AKAI MIDI mixer which opened up the world of live-dubbing stuff, which is super cool!"
You got a fair bit of attention last year for your D&B remix of ALTA last year... how did that mix come about, and were you surprised by the reaction it got?
"That came about through Soothsayer. They reached out to me and asked if I wanted to remix that ALTA track. Big love to ALTA, and thanks again for dropping me at the airport last time I was in Melbourne! And yeah, I was definitely surprised at the attention it received, it still trips me out how many plays it’s gotten."
How do you see your music evolving in future: is it about stirring multiple influences into a melting pot to come up with a unique sound? Or do you see yourself continuing to flit in and out of different genres – the "keep 'em guessing" approach?
"Yeah, I think exactly that. I want to try take all these influences and production styles and form them into something that is uniquely me, but right now I'm still figuring it all out and experimenting."
As far as I know there's been no Jonny Reebok album to date, but the full-length seems the natural format for someone such as yourself who likes to mess with different styles... so, any plans?
"Um… I think that’s a little down the line for me still! But obviously I'd love to do that one day. In the meantime, I'm currently working on a new EP, so keep an eye out for that."
What do you do when you're not DJing/producing – are there any labels, club nights, anything like that we should know about?
"I honestly don’t go out heaps and haven’t really found a scene in Sydney that I feel really attached to. If I do go out, I usually pick a night that someone I’m super-into is playing. I saw Gabber Eleganza last year which was amazing, but for the most part I have a great group of mates that I hang with at the pub, cafes and that."
I don't mind admitting, the Aphrodite Dub EP blew me away. But what's the other feedback on the record been like – have you had anyone's support that made you stop and go "Wow, I can't believe X is actually digging MY music!"?
"I really appreciate that, thank you! And yeah, after Aphrodite Dub came out I got the opportunity to do a mix on Rinse FM, which was a dream come true for me. I’ve been listening to them for ages and have a lot of respect for what they do."
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I have a track called Kinky Dub coming out on on a complication put together by Deep Scan Radio (Sydney’s best). There's also a new project called 700 FEEL with myself and MySpace Juan which I’m super excited about, and there's another project AREA CODE with myself and R-T-FAX also in the works. And like I said before I’m working on a new EP as well."
Words: Russell Deeks
The Aphrodite Dub/Ghost Town Riddim EP is out now on Soothsayer