Jon The Dentist – Exclusive Interview
Interview Alan Lumley
Been on the seen since the cave men figured out how to use fire Jon The Dentist has stood the test of time. With multiple record labels and releases under his belt Jon is no stranger to the dance music industry. A truly international DJ who has been involved in some of the biggest events including the famous “Love Parade”, of course we were intrigued to hear from the man himself, so we sent DaGeneral along for a couple of ciders and an old chinwag with the man.
DG – Way back before Global Phases and “Imagination” tell us what inspired you to become a DJ and how the path was made?
JD – My influences are very varied and probably far too numerous to put into a paragraphed answer! That said it goes something like this: Since being an 8 year old I have been passionate about music when my dad introduced me to opera, no less. After that, like most young people from my generation, music became inextricably linked to identity. I have been a Punk, a Mod, a Rude Boy (Ska), a New Romantic, a B-Boy and a raver! So it is fair to say all of this has had an influence on my music and my desire to play and produce it, not least my love of film scoring with which I fell in love with strings and deep textured symphony.
So to name but a few how about this list: Puccini, the Sex Pistols, Paul Weller, Jerry Dammers, Nick Rhodes, Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash, Hans Zimmer, John Fox, Vangelis, Maurice Jarre, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Frankie Knuckles, Tony De Vit, Vincent de Moor, Mike Push, Yves de Ruyter, Public Enemy and I’ll save my most important creative influences till last, A Tribe Called Quest with a special tribute to the recently departed Ffife Dawg.
I know I have missed loads but those are the ones that stand out for me. As far as my path to DJing is concerned that was a real slog, but getting my big break was playing at Mayday for Westbam, without which I am not sure that I would be here doing it still. The very first time I performed to a crowd and played the music I loved was the day I knew my path was DJing – there is really nothing in life I love more, outside of family.
I thought I’d also throw Paris Hilton into the mix – she’s no DJ and it is shocking that the Ibiza scene has sunk to the level of booking her to be one!”
DG – With a long successful career over the years you will have met and seen some amazing artists, but in your eyes who are the top 3 DJ/Producers that you have had to take a step back and say wow?
JD – Well that sort of links to the above question but let’s give you those three, again, difficult to just leave it at only 3 though, but I will try. In terms of production it has to be Vincent de Moor, far and away the greatest music writer to have ever graced trance and dance music, with beautiful melodies and great production, the guy inspired me to write trance, though of course I can’t do it anywhere near as well as he did. As far as a DJ goes, that really is a close call because many DJs have excited me with what they do, but I am going to pick one that I was honoured enough to see at Trade way back when, and that was the brilliant Tony Humphries.
I mean, I rarely go to house clubs because of what I play and how everything is so genre pigeon holed, but fortunately Trade, with the Sharp Boys, had a brilliant second room, and I saw Tony play the best set I have ever heard. Perfection personified. My final choice is going to be Hardfloor. I love acid house (which is NOT the same as acid techno!) and Hardfloor just did something super special with it in the early 90s, giving it groove and depth and I am still in awe of how they layer those 303s. I get completely lost in it, I could just listen to their stuff for hours on end.
DG – Over the years you have played at some massive events across the world, which ones stand out most and why?
JD – Again, another question that could have an answer as long as a book. Still, that said, a few obvious ones spring to mind. Mayday in Germany is top of the list, if not for the reason that it got me from small club warm up DJ to a headliner, plus playing to over 30,000 people is always going to rock, which it did. Then I guess I have to say Amsterdam’s Dance Valley where I played a couple of times, again, over 30,000 people in attendance. I played Love Parade in Berlin, a million people all told, and then there was Qdance and Climax in Amsterdam – great guys and great events.
In the UK it would have to be Loco in Bristol, as well as LaKota there, and who could forget the legendary Turnmills in London (home of Trade). Away from Europe I have to namecheck the WEMF festival in Canada, from 5000 people in 94 we took it to over 10,000 a few tears later, that, after experiencing a Tornado in 1995. I played on a beach in Dubai, a tent in Jerusalem and a glass dome in Vancouver; all locations that inspire. I certainly won’t forget the legendary Buzz club in Washington DC, wow – what a venue and city. Also, I would pick any event in NYC because who doesn’t want to spend time in the most exciting city in the world (though London might give it a run for its money these days).
But you know what, I feel like the best is yet to come because in May I do my first Tidy weekender which I have been told is something else as an experience, and being back doing what I love and playing to a crowd I love should be a new and brilliant experience.
I got bored of the politics of dance music and the ridiculous amount of boot licking you had to do to get anywhere”
DG – Over the last couple of years you have been back in full swing with both General Surgery Records and Tidy Trax, what triggered the involvement with both labels?
JD – General surgery came about from Alan Lumley, aka Da General, finding me on-line (as you do!). Before you know it we realise we have a love of techno and we start a record label (in no small part due to our investor Cassy). To be fair, with my commitments with other things, and now particularly with a focus on all things Tidy, Alan is the guy running the show, and I have to say he is doing a brilliant job. The quality of music is going from strength to strength with releases from him and various blue chip artists on the techno/tech house scene including the likes of Phutek. When I make techno – this is my go-to label!
With reference to Tidy Trax, well that is built upon many years of a strong relationship with the label. As some may know I released a couple of biggie anthems with them back at the end of the 90s, ‘Imagination’ and ‘Feels so good’. Once I decided to leave my desert island (!) and return to music, working with Tidy was a no-brainer. An artist/DJ could not want to work for a more switched on organisation and they understand the music I play and the music I produce, and that is the most for which an artist can hope. Plus – the guy that runs the label on a daily basis, Amadeus Mozart (from the Tidy Boys) is one of the nicest guys I have ever met in this industry – and that is the most important bit.
DG – Where did you go for a few years, is there a reason why everything was quiet from Jon The Dentist?
JD – Ha ha! Well, I want to say I retired on my millions and spent the last ten years on a desert island eating Bounty bars and sipping Pina Coladas but that just wouldn’t be true – for a start I am no millionaire. The simple fact is this: I got bored of the politics of dance music and the ridiculous amount of boot licking you had to do to get anywhere, ringing ears, drinking and late nights, but mostly because of the first thing.
I started DJing for a laugh and when it wasn’t anymore I didn’t see the point in doing it anymore. The rest has done me good though. Yes, it’s taken a few years to get back into it, but, through recently working with Tidy Trax again, it is fair to say I am fully involved and excited about what may happen with some of the new ideas I have, and the cooperation I will get with a blue chip organisation that know how to put them into place.
DG – Who are the new ones to watch this year, on both a production and DJ level (in your opinion)?
JD – Hard question for me this one as I don’t really A and R, and asking me to remember who is new and who has been around for a while is hard, and as you have correctly observed, I have been out of the scene for a while, but apart from the observations I have made from watching the Tidy crew (whom I love!), a few have caught my eye : AJ Batutta, Exosun/Casey Baldwin, and that Da General geyser. These are all people who I know are going places and have the talent to back it up, in my humble opinion.But as I say, what influence I have on that would be fairly nominal, and I generally only judge on a track by track basis.
People are fed up on the rather ‘beige’ coloured 128bpm EDM/Trance – its days are numbered”
DG – What can expect to see from you over the next year, anything special coming up?
JD – Well, that would be an understatement. In terms of DJing there is of course the Tidy Weekender and the performances at their new club in Northampton, the Roadmender. I will also be doing various other Tidy events which I am sure will then lead to quite a lot of other UK work. I have already played in Holland this year and have had offers from other countries – one of which was the States. Sadly with the U.S I will only ever do gigs in non-capital punishment States which limits where I can go. I am passionately against the death penalty which I think is barbaric and casts shame on the U.S, and though I am just a small voice this is my way of making a small protest.
Anyway, back to the music, the great thing is that I can feel a resurgence of hard dance coming on – people are fed up on the rather ‘beige’ coloured 128bpm EDM/Trance – its days are numbered me thinks! As far as producing goes, well no doubt I will do the odd abstract techno/acid house thing for General Surgery, but my main focus there is of course with Tidy. I have a track in development and that let’s just say it gives that racist twit Donald Trump a bit of a bashing (and I thought I’d also throw Paris Hilton into the mix – she’s no DJ and it is shocking that the Ibiza scene has sunk to the level of booking her to be one!).
We also have plans to release an album that won’t be my material per se, but is a good old fashioned DJ mix with a pile of brilliant licensed tracks. I am also working with a brilliant artist in the US, Exosun, and that will be a relationship that is the springboard for what I hope will be some superb banging trance. After all that – who knows, but it’s going to be fun and after such a long time in the wilderness I am just thoroughly enjoying, with a HUGE smile on my face, the opportunity to write and perform again on a scene that I love and has given my life so much richness, despite some of the problems. It’s all about positivity for me moving on from 2016.
I am still in awe of how they layer those 303s”
DG – What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
JD – Probably the number 1 asked question in interviews this one and I have to say I never quite know what to say. First off, there is no formula to success I have found, it’s all luck and being in the right place, with the right people, at the right time. What I do believe you need, is an individual style that you don’t change just because this and that are popular at any given time. I have stuck with hard trance as my core sound for a very long time and, given the quality out there still, I see no reason to change that. But, again, you should show interest in other genres too and take a wider interest in music generally. Also – learn from other people and get them to help you, and respect them for their knowledge, skills and experience.
DJing, in my opinion, is NOT about fancy mixing tricks etc etc – it has always been about sourcing tracks and programming sets – that cannot be taught and is a bespoke skill, but one you must have in order to succeed – then again there is Paris Hilton, so maybe you just need to get your tits out!
Interview Alan Lumley