Spotlight On: Johnny Trika
One of Canada’s newest techno exports is the talented Johnny Trika. Although he’s only been participating in the scene for a few years, his love of music is potent. He’s already played live sets around the world, and is proud to call Dubfire’s SCI+TEC label home and is hot off the heels of his deliciously funky minimal EP Punk Fools, the title track of which he just released an awesome video for. We got to chat with the promising producer about making music, playing live, and more!
RP: Just watched your video – very cool! Did you do that on your own or through the label?
JT: I did it on my own, it was a goal I’ve had from early on, and felt it was the right track to do it for.
What else have you been up to this summer?
Making a lot of music, staying away from the sun. I’ve been going out more, gigging more. Enjoying it but still doing a lot of work in the studio.
You’ve been playing all over the place lately, what’s your favorite gig of the year so far?
When I played here in Montreal, it was really good. These guys Bacchanale – an event company throws underground parties in warehouses but is really well-known – had me play with Ellen Allien in this really cool warehouse with close to 1,000 people. That was one of the best shows I’ve played, really fun. I like that warehouse vibe. When I finished playing, the lights came on, and there was dust everywhere!
So you’re from Montreal, how is the techno scene up there?
We have a really really good scene here. Right now, the east coast (Montreal, Toronto, New York, Detroit, and maybe Miami) are doing really well. In the last 3-4 years the techno community in Montreal has doubled.
You only play live – what is your setup like?
I use the CNTRL:R from Livid, Maschine Mikro, and a little piece which has extra knobs and faders from Livid. I run Ableton, and that’s pretty much it. I don’t have a crazy, complex setup, but maybe one day, who knows.
I had a talk with Matador a few months ago, and he told me to not over-do it, that the traveling will come and will wear you down, so keep it simple and light. Once I started traveling I knew he was right! I envy DJs who just carry little USB sticks – I have a full bag and luggage, and both of them are pretty heavy, so it gets to be a lot. But I love playing live, I get such a thrill from playing my own music, I get so much more into my sets when I’m playing – it just feels better.
Are all of your sets different? How do you lay them out?
I have a system – it doesn’t change dramatically from set to set but I have it in a way where it’s flexible. I can switch some stuff out and play around on the fly. Eventually I want to advance my system to a point where I have a lot of flexibility, but it’s hard to have both.
When I first started, it was very hard for me to arrange everything. I was talking to other live artists, like Marc Houle and Matador, and they told me there’s not one way to do it. Just sit down and figure out what you feel the most comfortable with. It took me 2 or 3 months to lay down ideas of how I wanted to break down my tracks, but now I have a system which is good for me. That’s what I tell anyone interested in getting into live sets – find your own way. I’m not going to tell you how to do it, because you might not like it.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
Usually I start a track with the kick and bass – laying out the drums to get a feel for the track, to know what direction it’s heading. I’ll do kick, bass, then hi-hats, snares. Once I have those in a loop it varies depending on what mood I’m in. Maybe I’ll make some percussion, some weird wibbly-wobbly stuff, something synths or pads.. Once I have that loop going it’s whatever flows from there. Then I’ll get a 32 or 64-bar loop of pretty much the whole track going, then I’ll start working on the arrangements, and it goes pretty fast.
Do you have a physical studio with a bunch of hardware or are you more about plug-ins and stuff like that?
I’m more of a plug-in guy. I have nothing against hardware, I like it, but I’ve found that some plug-ins that I use really help my sound, which is more saturated, more digital. If I get hardware my stuff might sound more analog. If you’re making house or techno techno, maybe hardware is the way to go, but for minimal – you could use hardware but with digital you can make weirder sounds. Plug-ins are easy, they just pop up in 2 seconds and there’s billions of choices. Here’s another piece of advice – don’t overdo it on plug-ins. Some people have told me they have over 300! I have maybe 50, and regularly use 10, tops. If I have an idea, I can make it happen easily. Less is more.
Do you have any forthcoming releases on SCI+TEC or otherwise?
SCI+TEC is my home, that’s pretty much where I release all of my stuff. We’re working on my third EP for next year, not sure which tracks will be on it yet, but for sure “Day Tripper.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Still doing this? Touring?
Touring is a privilege, but mostly I just like the music. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the music.