This site might use cookies. Check our privacy policy. OK

John Object’s Heat EP is a difficult pleasure.

Published August, 2018
by Easterndaze

Timur Dzhafarov aka John Object is a producer based in Kiev, Ukraine. We met & interviewed him in autumn 2017, while waiting for a gig in Kiev’s Plivka. He recently released his debut EP Heat on the Ukrainian label Bio Future Laboratory. Heat sounds like a frenetic rebirth of IDM (even though Timur refuses to identify with the genre and instead proposes the term “pop musique concrete’) mixed with a tint of breakcore composed of rapid-fire dust of samples (in the vein of Xanopticon’s seminal release Liminal). Some tracks of the EP, such as “Bellwether” use sounds of vomiting juxtaposed with strings specially composed for the EP, while others, like the immensely catchy tune “Drake/Future” feature infectious hooks on top of complex polyrythmic structures composed of myriad of sonic shards.

Can you describe how you came to produce music as John Object?

As a teenager I used to be into minimal wave and synthpop music. It was the best I could do at an emo/goth phase, being the nerd I was. Later I transitioned to ambient – mostly through Brian Eno, and then I discovered the modern experimental electronic scene, which kind of blew me away. To learn production early on I kept trying to make cover versions of the songs I liked, mostly Kraftwerk, and that was my main thing for the last couple of years at high school. I was just doing it obsessively before I even had any music of my own, and in fact, Kraftwerk are such a great skill test that I still do it sometimes – I’ve been trying to recreate the bass from “The Robots” once a year for the past eight & I only nailed it this year! 

These days I can only hope I’m doing something experimental. I’ve had this idea for a long time of attempting to develop a new musical language, for lack of a better word, to update and replace the staples of modern electronic production and hoping that it circumstantially affects pop music as well. I don’t get and I’ve never been able to enjoy a huge amount of modern dance music, which is really based on tradition started by people who are all deaf or dead now, using sounds from instruments which are no longer made, and mimicking limitations of gear which no one uses anymore. It would seem a good place to start in the search for “newness” now is to look for the true limitations of digital gear/the DAW, and to embrace the true limitations again. It really feels like you could do everything, but everyone settles on just doing something. I truly do believe in a DAW there are ways to get more emotional tools out of a sound other than just timbre, pitch, volume and rhythm, even by simply playing things out of tune and off beat, which can give the sound, if done right, a certain “hysterical” quality that feels right for me right now.

Can you be more specific about how you search for the limits of digital gear?

A good start is to look at the parameters you wouldn’t change, like BPM, time signature or global pitch. I think changing those often lends an unusual feeling of fluidity to tracks. Many of my tracks speed up and slow down all the time, then go off tempo at times. It’s also a good practice to try and make your sounds untraceable to instruments or plug-ins, because knowing or at least having a vague idea of how the sound was made can really fuck with the magic, maybe more for other producers than listeners, but isn’t everyone a producer these days anyway? I’ve been experimenting with blurring things lately, melting everything into one big mass of sound instead of a bunch of sounds playing over each other, which is really just so boring now, isn’t it? That might explain why I feel nothing from most of club or techno music at local parties. I have no emotional response.

Are you trying to elicit some kind of non-standard emotions in your listeners?

I suppose I am trying to elicit emotions that are not really caused by music, especially electronic, yes. Some of my pieces I would consider torch songs or ballads, and if I could sing I definitely would. Sometimes I try to go the other way around, my work can get pretty disgusting/gnarly, purposefully so. There are certain things and topics which are now off limits for electronic dance music, and I think it would do a lot of good for all of us to fuck with the tyranny of being made to feel “cool” at the club, honestly.

Can you describe your music-making process, and are you using software or hardware?

I have to admit, I have 4 keyboards right now, and they are all for sale, I haven’t used them in my music in years. Easy mistake to make, starting out I got obsessed with gear pretty quick, I’d stay up all night watching synth demos online. It seems so obvious now that a computer, any computer, is the way to go – the limitations are unimaginable and the music gets so wonderfully extreme when you finally begin to approach them. I’m so glad I never got around to getting a modular, I’d be using it as a chair at this point. And there is something perversely masturbatory in a big modular synth all plugged in and playing itself/with itself, no?

How does all of this relate to pop?

My goal really used to be to get to produce someone like Beyoncé or Kanye, but it seems I’m a bit over that now. Pop does seem like the ultimate, unachievable dream for someone considered an experimental musician, the perfect platform to prove you had good ideas all along, and if you could only get those ideas on a big enough record, you could change the norm – when a new Beyoncé record comes out, it really affects everyone. But I’d probably settle for any mention or influence on a record like that, that would probably be enough of an ego trip. If we view pop music for what it is, the amalgamation of cultural baggage of civilization, everything we ever came up with, in three minutes, it would seem incredible to get yourself in there somehow as well – I mean, if you play a single note on a Beyoncé record, you’re immortal, you now exist forever, as long as we all do. Which, of course, might not be that much longer.

I think pop music is interesting also from a neurological standpoint. Imagine future pop that is not composed but “designed” to cause the highest dopamine rush.

Yeah, definitely, the goal of pop is to please you as much as possible by any means necessary. I’d love to throw in something disgusting in there as well, I’d love to see what that does to someone. I imagine there would be a market for these so-called difficult pleasures as well, something that’s both powerfully attractive and quite repulsive, similarly to how some people enjoy harsh noise, some enjoy listening to tapes, and most of us, probably, avoid most pop because it’s just “too easy”.

Can you briefly speak about your new release ?

Most of the EP was born either out of pure sonic experimentation or out of necessity – “Bellwether” was feverishly written for my gig at the Brave! Factory festival in 2017, and “Cum/Blood” was an attempt at recreating the melancholy of throwing up at a club as a Cxema set opener. The rest were exercises in preparation for the recording of what I expected to be my actual debut EP, which will now have to follow Heat. Over the course of the recording I realized that “a club night gone wrong” became the narrative of the EP, perhaps, starting at track two, “Steroid Bath”, and looping all the way back to track one, “Cum/Blood” as the finale, with its subdued coda hopefully capturing an experience of falling asleep in an irregular state of mind.

I hear a lot of strings on the tracks, are they composed for the EP or sampled?

Yes, all the string parts were written by me for the EP. My laptop couldn’t really handle me writing string parts within the original tracks’ projects, so I’d often spend days just working on the strings separately, which felt like a guilty pleasure – I’m no good at writing proper melodic parts, but with strings often it is deceptively easy to make things sound really pretty – so I played around with them for a while.

Also I hear a lot of breathing on the EP…

The breathing goes back to the idea of recreating an experience of a bad club night, once again – you may have noticed none of the music on the record is particularly “club” in and of itself, but a lot of it utilizes hyperreal equivalents of the physical sounds of clubbing – heavy breathing, feet stomping, throwing up, coughing and liquids being poured. If sweating had a sound, I’d use that, too. While working I was also under the experience the breathing could also serve as an instrument to disrupt the listener’s perception of the loudness of the music – hearing a really quiet sound such as a person breathing next to your ear, mixed in with grenade explosions and gabber kicks seemed to point out the absurdity of the combination of violence and intimacy expected of a perfect club night.