Jonson’s approach to music has been shaped by his formal training in drums and percussion from a young age. He has also had periods performing clarinet and classical piano. However, it was his exposure through his father’s interest in early electronic music and instruments that drove his interest. He has developed one of the most distinctive voices in dance music – you know a Mathew Jonson track as soon as you hear it. I reach Jonson after a long journey but he is in good spirits.
“I’m good thanks. I just got back from a trip to Vancouver, NYC and Medellin.” The travel element of musicians’ careers is particularly challenging. When I ask about the hardest thing he has had to cope with, Jonson believes travel has been the biggest thing for him. “Transit takes away my creativity and grounding,” he explains. He’s still looking forward to returning to Australia – even with the long journey to get here. Jonson has toured Australia a number of times and has a great following over here. “Australians are generally quite friendly, open people,” he reflects, “and we Canadians seem to have similar ideas about beer!”
Seeing Jonson live is a true highlight. He has been performing that way for a number of years now and doesn’t do plain DJ gigs any more. He steps up with an array of equipment on stage that gets tech heads drooling but he translates it into a techno sound that gets the crowd into a frenzy.
Many of Jonson’s track titles seem to carry meaning: Symphy For The Apocalypse, Learning to Fly. His tune, In Search of a New Planet with Oxygen, on the new Crosstown Rebels compilation, Day Zero – Sound Of The Mayan Spirit, seems to imply a strong message. I wonder if the title was inspired by the theme of the compilation (the Mayan prediction about the end of the world) or if it already written and just happened to fit the message? “It was already written but seemed to fit the idea so I gave it to Damian,” he explains.
Jonson agrees that dance music can convey emotions as effectively as other music but sometimes expressing a message is harder. “The title is meant to spur thoughts of support for the green movement,” he elaborates. It’s a strange contradiction that dance music is constantly dealing with – the fight between hedonism and a more thought-provoking state of affairs.
However, Jonson’s approach to making music is very much based around feelings. “It’s pretty free form. When I’m in my studio I’m not concerned with structure. The fact that I use electronic equipment and mainly analog gear does dictate a certain method though.”
He teamed up with Minilogue at this year’s MUTEK festival in Canada. The pairing was well received and I wonder if there are any new collaborations coming up in the future? “Me and Guy Gerber are talking about a project but its not solid yet. We had a good couple of days in the studio last month so it could be promising.”
Wagon Repair, Jonson’s label, has become a well-respected outlet. He explains that the focus has changed over the years, “We only release projects directly connected with myself now. Cobblestone Jazz, MDLQ, Midnight Operator etc.”
Asked what’s coming up, Jonson says, “Lots of albums!” – many people will be hoping for new releases from all of his projects. It all comes back to his passion for his art. “Music is my life. I draw my energy from nature though so it goes hand in hand.”