MUSIC  .  February 10th, 2014

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UP! / Now known as Joni Void

Hi Jean, you are a french music maker from Lille and now living in Montréal.

What are you doing in Canada?

I’ve moved to Montréal a bit more than a year ago for film studies, in the hometown of the National Film Board of Canada. but also because I knew a few people here, and I felt like it was time to experience being a stranger in a strange land and discover another culture. I don’t know what drew me to this place originally, but the more I stay, the more I find reasons. Moving here has made me much more attached to Lille though, i suppose you never realize how much you love a place until you’ve left it.


How did you get into music production and where this name, ‘johnny_ripper’, comes from?

I discovered Garageband when I was about 14 and was fascinated by the idea of making songs on a computer. I’ve had no musical education, so my first songs were pretty awful but I just kept composing more and more, until it became somewhat listenable, until I got a general idea how to “make a song”. I’ve used the name “johnny_ripper” from the start, it’s from a song by a band I used to love back when I was that age (that i’m almost embarrassed to mention here but a quick google search should satisfy anyone’s curiosity), and I always told myself I would find a better and more suited name when I got more serious with music, but I’ve never felt like that has happened. I wonder if I will ever change it, people are so used to it, and I kind of like it that people address me as “johnny”.

Can you tell us more about the process you apply to create songs?
Even if you don’t have a specific process, just your thoughts on that.

this is usually a different question because, yes, it’s never the same from one song to the other. but recently i’ve been into my process of making entire songs from just one melody/sample, altering that main source over and over, and only adding very few other elements to it. i believe that restrictions are a benefit and are almost essential to creativity. minimalism has always been an important part of my music, and i’m always trying to find new ways to put it into practice. i’m also trying to not use any software instruments except rhodes and piano, everything else i find in samples, field recordings or, as i said, in altering a same sound into other parts that sound nothing like the original bit when it’s played with the rest of the song.

How did you get the chance to work with all the artists on this collaboration set?

the wonderful place that is the internet. all those songs were made just through exchanging files over e-mail or other websites. i’ve only met a few of those amazing people in real life, and still, none of those songs were made with both of us being in the same place at the same time, just sending parts back and forth. and the results are always fascinating, it always adds something new to your song that you couldn’t visualize.

Tell us more about this great song, called ‘Julia’ + who is this ‘George.’, on the vocals?

Julia is a cover of The Beatles, a song from The White Album that John Lennon wrote for his deceased mother. I was surprised by how whimsical and dreamy the song sounded when transposed from guitar to piano, compared to how honest and melancholic the original is. I was originally going to do the vocals myself but my singing is not very good, so I only did the background vocals and asked George., with whom I had previously collaborated, if she was interested and this was the result. Her real name is Pauline, i’ve always been amused by the confusion “george.” causes. She’s currently recording her first album with her band The Part-Time Friends. I’m a bit sad that her voice is not on my other albums, but I definitely plan to collaborate with her again.

Have you thought about a collaboration with Ricky Eat Acid? I think it would be really nice.

That’s funny, I actually sent an e-mail to Sam recently, offering to remix one of the songs from his latest album. I’ve had no reply, so he probably hasn’t seen it or just ignored it. But, yes, I love his music, especially “seeing little ghosts everywhere” and even feel a strong connection musically with him. and his new album deserves all the praise it is getting.

‘Linoleum’ is a fabulous track from your album ‘Outsider‘, released in May 2013. This song is a cover of NOFX – an American punk rock band – how the idea of adapting this song came to your head?

I used to listen to a lot of punk rock around 12-14 years old. NOFX was a band my brother and I particularly loved. the song Linoleum stuck with me, even though I was well past my punk rock days. obviously, because of the nostalgia, but i’ve always loved the lyrics too. I don’t know how exactly I got the idea to cover it, but I started playing it on the piano, and it was a revelation, everything fell into place after that. 
i’ve always loved unexpected covers, covering unusual songs, that don’t fit with “your kind” of music, changing the mood or making something completely different. so there’s that, but also a very personal side to it. i’m always scared of what the band or their fans would think of it, i guess that it’s hardly punk anymore. 

Give us some of the favorites songs you created.

i don’t actually have favorites, i like to think that every song has a different story to tell. but it’s true that i’ll always have songs that i’m drawn to more at different times.

currently, my remix of cuddle formation’s lullaby for twenty-somethings has been a song that i’ll often play when i’m feeling down, it’s almost like a refuge to me. it has a very peculiar mood, obviously enhanced by Noah’s vocals.

i am error is also a song of mine i find myself going back to a bit too often. it’s a very personal song, almost like my own theme.

moon river is one i’ve rediscovered recently. i was severely depressed at the time i did it, so it’s always a weird experience hearing my voice from back then, as if it’s an echo from the past. i also used to listen to a lot of psychedelic music, and did quite a few psychedelics, i think the song reflects that well, it’s probably one of my most surreal songs. i remember struggling a lot to make it work, and i still have no idea how i achieved it in the end, but it always feel like the kind of song i will never be able to make again.

Do you live from your music?

financially? no. however, if I live from my music in the sense that it gives me meaning, an identity, and generally influences who i am and what I do, then yes.

What where your favorite activities when you were a child?

it’s strange, i think about this a lot. when i was a child, and right up to when I began creating music “seriously”, i would draw a lot. there were even times where i was drawing over everything i owned. i got in a lot of trouble at school because i was drawing everywhere, all the time, on my tests, on my school furniture. it’s not even like there was anything remarkable about what i was drawing, i just had to do it out of a “creative urge”, and boredom, i guess. i also began painting, before this whole drawing habit died when i started making music, and i fell victim to the 21st century condition of using my laptop for practically everything. i often tell myself i should start drawing again and build something consistent from it, maybe even integrate it to my music, but unfortunately, i’m too obsessed making songs and watching movies to ever actually do it.

A huge part of the songs you share on soundcloud are downloadable, free to share, copy, and remix (under the condition that you are credited and that the song will not be use for commercial purposes, obviously). I would like to thank you for that! and ask you, why this choice?

making money from my music has never been what I wanted. I don’t want to sell my music. I don’t think it’s worth it, as it’s only music I’ve been making on my laptop, and that I’d still be doing it even if I wasn’t gaining anything at all from it. I just want people to listen to it, and a creative commons license permits that accessibility.

What’s next for you Johnny?

currently finishing my next album. it’s called “don’t”, it will have more than 20 songs, more than 1h30 of “new” music (if i could have controlled myself a little and not have released almost half of it on soundcloud already). it’s strongly film-related, but also very personal. i can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world.

i’m also going to buy a sampler soon, which will be my first step into attempting to play live shows. it’s very exciting, and feels like a logical step for my music, but it’s also terrifying since, as i mentioned before, i’m not really a musician, i don’t actually know how to properly play an instrument, let alone perform without messing up all the time, and i’m full of anxieties that make me very afraid of playing in front of a crowd of people. but i’ll still give it my best shot. i’ve talked to some friends about it, so there’s even the possibility of playing with a full band which would make me much more comfortable.

Finally, what are you doing just after you answered this question?

i’m going to watch a movie. or i’m going to spend so much time scrolling the infinities of my hard drive, that i’ll give up, and end up watching a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode instead.

Merci beaucoup pour tes réponses Jean.