He only made his production debut last year, but this Washington-based producer is starting to make some serious waves
If the name J Swink isn't familiar to you yet, there's no need to beat yourself up about it – the Washington DC artist still has just a handful of productions to his name. But on the available evidence so far, it's probably best you get acquainted now…
Like many aspiring producers and DJs, Swink still has a day job. But while most other producers are working in record shops, freelancing as sound engineers, selling washing machines, mending gas boilers or keeping busy as electrical contractors (those last three are all real day jobs of some pretty well-known DJs, by the way!), J Swink spends his days giving drugs to children. But in a good way – he's an anaethetist at his local children's hospital.
All those hours spent in theatres haven't dulled his enthusiasm for nightclubs, though (see what we did there?), and last year he made his production debut with the Autonomic EP on San Francisco's Fierce Animal label, to whom he returned with the follow-up Transport EP. But it was his last release, Man On The Moon on Cerebro, that really pricked up iDJ's ears.
Man On The Moon features one of those plainitive, indie-style male vocals that are so popular in dance music these past few years. Bafflingly popular, to our ears, and to be brutally honest, on first listen Man On The Moon didn't grab us at all. On second and third listens, though, it was starting to grow on us, and by the time we'd played it four times we couldn't stop singing the damn thing!
Stylistically, Man On The Moon is quite an accessible track that could slide equally into house, tech-house and techno sets. It also has the kind of pop sensibilities that mark Swink out as an artist who could well be destined for crossover success. So with the follow-up Higher Power EP already out, we figured we'd best grab him for a quick chat while we still could!
There isn't a huge amount of information about you online, so tell us a bit about how you got into making music in the first place?
"I started listening to electronic music about 20 years ago, which I guess means I’m either old or seasoned, however you want to look at it! I started DJing in 2003, and then in 2016 I decided to take the plunge into music production. Nobody warned me about how painful it is, in the beginning, learning music production. Still to this day the more I learn, the more I realise there's still so much more to understand about this complex process."
Last I heard, you were still working as an anaesthetist at a children's hospital. Is the plan to move into making music full-time, or do you actually prefer to keep it as a sideline, as many producers tell us they do nowadays?
"Yes, I'm still working at the Children’s Hospital doing anesthesia. Ultimately it would be great to make music my full-time career, but I love my job at the hospital too, so either way I'm happy. I get to enjoy the best of both worlds – I just don’t get to enjoy too much sleep!"
Washington DC probably isn't the first place people might think of when it comes to 'musical' cities, but it's thrown up its fair share of famous names, from Bad Brains to Troublefunk to Deep Dish. So what was the music/club scene like there as you were growing up, and what's it like now?
"Well, I didn't actually grow up here, but when I moved here eight years ago the electronic music scene was okay, but definitely nothing great. But fast-forward to now, and you can go to a great party four days a week minimum if you wanted to. Obviously I don’t get to enjoy those weekday parties, but everyone else does!"
Let's talk about your last single Man On The Moon, and that killer vocal. Firstly, is that actually you singing, or… ?
"That vocal is actually not me singing, so I can’t take the credit. That is the first vocal track I made, and my next vocal track called Hypnotized will be coming out on 20 May so look out for that one. It’s a female vocal track with a very heavy techno foundation. It’s like if Drumcode and Anjuna had a baby… that’s the best way I can sum it up."
There don't seem to be huge amounts of vocal techno around right now. Was the aim specifically to create something of a dancefloor 'moment' with that track?
"Actually, my aim with these tracks is to make them kind of a blended genre between trance and techno. I grew up on trance but now my love is for techno, so my focus with all of my upcoming tracks will be trying to hit the sweet spot between those two genres."
Your Twitter profile describes you as a "techno, minimal and tech-house producer". Is that still a description you're happy with?
"Not really, so I definitely need to change that – thanks for calling me out on it!
"I'm happy just being called an electronic music producer. Honestly, I hate genres and I think people get too caught up in them. Good music is good music and electronic music is electronic music."
Your current single is the Higher Power EP, which sees you collaborating with Charles D – tell us about that one and how it came about…
"The EP's on Dense Audio, which is Maksim Dark’s label, and I first met Charles via a music training programme that I took called Cosmic Academy. I’ve actually taken a few different courses/programmes to get to where I am today: Dark Star, Cosmic Academy and Bass Kleph’s online course. All three have helped me incredibly, and all of them are a huge reason of where I am at in under three years when it comes to music production.
"Charles and I decided to work on a track together and we came up with Higher Power, and quickly after that we made the B-side, True. After we had them polished off and mastered, I sent them over to Maksim and he said he wanted them for his label. It was a matter of luck in the sense of when preparation meets opportunity. We’ve had a lot of good feedback from the EP so I'm hoping it does well, but only time will tell."
Finally, what else is going on in J Swink's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"The biggest thing to look out for besides the Higher Power EP is my next vocal track Hypnotized, which is coming out on 20 May. I do actually have a couple other releases set up. but unfortunately I can’t say anything about those just yet. But definitely expect more tracks to be coming out from me all year long. Thanks for the interview!"
Words: Russell Deeks
The Higher Power EP is out now on Dense Audio