Gather.ly caught up with John to discuss the beginnings of his journey into sound, musical influences and his investigations into pushing the boundaries of what is truly achievable with the violin.
I didn’t really like the violin for about fifteen years. It has only been in the last two or three years that I have realised that it is the thing for me.
John's musical voyage sparked into life at the age of seven as a classical violinist. Through time, his array of sounds has expanded to span multiple genres across the world including, Folk, Jazz, Indian and the electronic violin, an area in which John has passionately dedicated himself to explore and break down the limitations of.
"I take classical, Indian and Jazz violin and fuse them together through electronics and screw up the sound as much as possible from what you would expect from an acoustic violin."
John’s vision for the violin is boundless. Stemming from a classical background, John pushes into a contrasting world of electronic music using a selection of pedals, synthesisers and a plethora of cabling. In a few tweaks, John can complexly warp the sounds into a new dimension, binding the organic tones into something pulsing with energy and ultimately unique. These simple steps open up a world of opportunity, expanding upon what you can truly achieve with a violin. The raw sound is funnelled through multiple layers of filtering, delays and multiple EQ’s until the violin produces something that can only be described as a Tesla coil summoning the almighty Zeus from the Heavens above Mount Olympus.
There aren’t many people really taking the sound of the violin and doing the same as what ‘Prog Rockers' did to the sound of guitars in the 1960's. I am curious about what you can do and what I can do.
We spent time with John in the rehearsal studios, whilst playing with a group he plays with called Polaroid 85 – a disgustingly talented live 4-piece band resonating from the depths of North London.
Polaroid 85 use their musical genius to forge layers of striking keys, orchestral blends of guitar and violin that flow delicately through pulses of deep bass. Every element is meticulously processed, filtered and manipulated using an army of glitchy electronic gadgetry, melted together with hard hitting break-beat drum patterns and soul stripping vocals that vacuum the melanin from your body. Complete, Polaroid 85 arrange beautiful, sonically refined masterpieces that aim to seductively drag their claws down your back like that kinky girlfriend you wish you had.
In the studio we were treated to a variety of live performances all from Polaroid 85's new EP which were a sensory delight. Close your eyes and traverse the cinematic arrangements from start to finish, vibrant verses are complemented by cataclysmic choruses surging with electricity and relentless energy, sending serotonin laced sound waves across the studio that nest deeply within the listener. Polaroid 85 are your finest Colombian coffee brewed with a defibrillator.
Shockingly, for one piece, John was creating the baselines solely from the strings of a violin, wired to an effects pedal. It doesn't sound like much, but it is pretty staggering to experience during the flow of a track. The ability to switch out from the delicate intricacies found in the classical violin to a sound that is so abstract and distant from the original at the click of a button is a potent auditory experience.
"One of my early influences was Nigel Kennedy, he did a really cool album called the 'Kennedy Experience', which is the music of Jimi Hendrix, arranged for electric violin and an orchestra. He was the first one I heard really screwing up the sound of the violin using distortion and a lot of delay."
We discussed with John his creative process and how improvisation and spontaneity forms the blueprint to the majority of his music. By taking a small idea you can open up multiple pathways that can develop it into something with substance.
We aim for something we call a ‘golden moment’. It's like a 'golden photograph', you might take a thousand photographs and have that one ’golden photograph’. That one amazing photograph that no-one is ever going to take that again. That is what you’re looking for. That is what I'm looking for in music.
John is an absolute musical monster, with an unnatural ability to absorb melodic material like a sponge to water. He has a very promising career ahead of him as a solo musician and as a part of the groups he plays with. We are hoping to get John set up on some really interesting projects for the future including a Gather.ly Crossover with The Last Skeptik. Who knows what will happen, but it will be impressive no doubt. We for one are certainly excited about the outcome.