We’re absolutely spoiled for top class interviewees this week!
Jonas Rathsman is a name that feels like its been around forever – but it’s really only in a few short years that the softly spoken producer from western Sweden has become an ubiquitous underground star. Since 2014’s ‘Like I Can’ remix for Sam Smith launched him into the public eye, followed by the dark and powerful ‘Wolfsbane’ that’s become a tried and tested weapon for DJs the world over, Rathsman has only gone from strength to strength. Festival appearances just about anywhere you could care to mention, support from the biggest names in dance music – and not content with resting on his heavyweight producer laurels, Rathsman launched his own label and associated mix series ELEMENTS, as well as refurbishing a disused chemical plant in Gothenburg into a six room studio!
We grabbed Jonas for a few words as he was passing through London for his most recent sold out XOYO show – to discuss his nights, his favourite part of the job, and his inspirations. Now if only we’d asked where he seems to get his relentless energy from….
First off – how was ELEMENTS on Saturday night? Did everything go as planned, were there any standout moments for you?
Well, it was completely sold out so the vibe in there was amazing from start to finish! Absolutely loved the new DJ booth set up in XOYO, it makes so much more sense now. Almost feels like playing in a new club in a way. I had been looking forward to this one for a while because I’m a huge fan of both Kiasmos and Tom Demac so I knew it was gonna be good. They both played incredible sets. I’m already looking forward to the next one!
Check out Kiasmos heating up the Shoreditch crowd with his classic track ‘Looped’ over on Insta!
Your London ELEMENTS series last year was concentrated on four day & night parties through July across various venues – in 2018 you’re at XOYO throughout the year. What prompted the change, what are the benefits you’re seeing?
Last year was a lot of fun, and it was great to explore some new venues and intimate settings with my London friends. But to be totally honest, I found it really tough it in the end on a personal level – I was doing both the day and night parties plus other gigs around it internationally. I need to have balance in my life to truly appreciate life on the road to the fullest, and also to feel that I can give 100% in every set.
So this year we decided to spread the events out over a year instead, giving us more time and focus on bringing greater quality to ELEMENTS. It all comes down to giving the people coming the best experience possible and this year I wanted to bring bigger lineups and feel more connected with the fans.
You only launched ELEMENTS last year and it has spread out into the events, label, and the hugely popular mix series. What was the particular hole you wanted to fill with this project?
It all stemmed from when I did my Essential Mix – I put so much time and effort into shaping the mix, and speaking to friends and labels that I love to make it a journey of discovery with the listeners in a musical sense.
It was this process of discovery that made me realise that I have been missing that connection with my fans. ELEMENTS gave me an opportunity to do this regularly, and challenge myself to keep bettering the last mix. When I was thinking about launching it, I was in Gothenburg at the time and felt surrounded by the natural elements. In that moment it was the perfect time to start something where I could give more of myself and continue that connection with my fans and peers. It’s been really inspiring for me.
The label side was quite funny actually, as although I thought it would come later on but from episode one friends were asking me to release their music on “my label”! So that was a natural development and my aim was always to take it through to events and bring everything together in the live space – we have some big plans for next year, so I’m excited to share those soon.
While you undoubtedly enjoy all those separate aspects to the project – is there one that is particularly exciting and inspiring you right now? When you get up in the morning, are you label bossman Jonas, international club DJ Jonas, or new music discovery geek Jonas?
A lot of my drive and inspiration comes from producing music I’d say, so I see myself probably more as a producer than a DJ. Having the new studio up and running is a huge achievement for me so I’m absolutely buzzing every day I get to spend in there. Having all my producer friends in the rooms next door also plays an essential part to me. Having that instant feedback and just learning a lot from each other every day. There is a great togetherness about it.
That is what I also love about the mix series and the label is that it brings people together, it feels like a community is growing there and that is really exciting. I want the label to be a place where both new and established producers can feel at home, and I want to connect these releases with the mix series so that fans can listen to the music without realising what it is initially, as I don’t release the track list for a couple of weeks after the mix is released. It feels more natural that way.
I found a new act who is based in Berlin who is making amazing music! I feel happy that ELEMENTS can be their introduction to the music world.
Speaking of international, you’ve just returned from Russia on the weekend; you’re off to Dubai shortly after that, India, then the USA – are you still loving life on the road? Are there any particular regions you love playing in right now? How do you strike the balance between touring and getting some time to chill or work?
Yes, it has been great to discover some new places and meet new friends. Russia was great fun, and I am looking forward to seeing India for the first time!
The balance is a tough one, for sure. I am first and foremost a father of two! So make everything about them and work the touring around home life. I don’t tour as much as some other artists, maybe, because I like to have a weekend with the family. That keeps me well balanced.
But I still very much love touring and DJing. I have really loved playing in Germany more this year – I did Nation Of Gondwana Festival last month, which was really really special! And also Feel Festival, which is always great. I am returning to Watergate in Berlin later in the year, and playing in Cologne and Munich also. So I’m excited to discover more of Germany!
As well as getting time to chill, you must be dying to get back to that gorgeous brand new studio of yours! How long have you been planning it for, and are you pleased with the result?
I couldn’t be more excited about the studio, it turned out better than I could’ve ever imagine. It’s been a long process getting it done, and we recently decided to build 6 more studios so we’re not finished just yet 🙂 I really feel like we’re building something special here. A unique creative space with a group of amazing talents and just really good energy.
Have you got any rare or particularly special pieces of kit in there? Where do you stand on the hardware vs software, analogue vs digital debate?
Not really any rare pieces in the studio, but the stuff I have is all special to me. Regarding hardware vs software, I think there’s no debate needed. Just a waste of time talking about what’s best and what’s not 🙂 In the end it’s a matter of taste, what suits you best in your music making and your workflow. For me I like a combination of both. I prefer to record my hardware synths straight in which makes it harder to change later but the decision process becomes much easier. Some of the many softsynths these days can be equally as good as any hardware synth. For example, one of my producer friends in the studio is making amazing stuff using only his iPad and the thousands of music apps he owns.
Your latest tune ‘Nazca’ dropped August 3rd on the amazing All Day I Dream. It’s a subdued, hazy, tropical sound to my ears – what were your inspirations and how did you go about building the track?
It started out as one of those tracks you start on when you just need a break from finishing up other stuff. I wanted to make something captivating but yet simple in a way. After some time spent experimenting on it I quickly realized it had something interesting to build on. I remember it came together really quick after that point. I probably didn’t spend more than a day or two, which is quite rare for me. I knew straight away that I wanted to send it to Lee and his amazing All Day I Dream.
What has the next year or so got in store for you?
I wanna spend as much time possible in the studio making music! I have a remix of Bob Moses that is due to come out soon, which I am excited about. Love those guys, so was such a pleasure to remix them. And also some releases coming up on Rebellion and Crosstown Rebels.
I’ve got lots of shows coming up, so I am looking forward to getting some inspiration from new places and people. I am going to be back in London on December 15th for the final instalment of the ELEMENTS London series – save the date!
Finally – play us out! What’s your favourite set closer at the moment, and why?
I’ve been playing Sebastien Leger’s track ‘Naive’ a lot, which came out on ELEMENTS quite recently. It’s such a special and beautiful track, every time I play it I get goosebumps and a huge smile on my face!
Big thanks to Jonas for his time!