He’s a musician of many guises. First Danimals, then Djanimals after a yogurt company forced a name change.
After being chosen to write the music for a Tooheys’ beer commercial with Mark Ronson, he’s just released his debut album Twirligig as Jonti and is playing Laneway Festival next year.
How’s living in LA going?
It’s absolutely surreal and awesome. I’ve been here nearly two months now and I’ve just got this mad fever as a result of this non-stop craziness. I’ve got to meet a lot of my idols, especially everyone at the Stones Throw office they’ve been super fun. I’ve just gotten to meet Mad Lib who’s my favourite musician of all time. He even knew my songs and everything.
Is there anything you miss about Sydney?
Sushi, I miss good sushi and of course the people. I miss the easier traffic.
What’s the story behind working with Mark Ronson?
My brother entered me into a competition run by FBI called The Lab, to work with Mark Ronson and write a song for a Tooheys commercial with all his friends. I ended up winning it and we spent a week on the song with all these crazy characters like Sean Paul and Sean Lennon and John Taylor from Duran Duran.
What was your reaction to being signed to the Stones Throw label?
It’s just such a blessing because Stones Throw are by far my favourite label and in one way the album is a tribute to Stones Throw and every song has a reference to something in the back catalogue. Stones Throw was my life before I signed anyway so it’s just incredible.
I saw on Twitter that you were recognised in the Apple Store yesterday. How does it feel to have reached that level of fame?
It was some New York kid who’s like, “Can I ask, are you Jonti?” and then played me his ringtone and it was one of my songs. I still think in the back of my mind that Stones Throw is a relatively humble indie label and I haven’t done anything so far in my life that has achieved celebrity status so it really tripped me out.
So your debut album Twirligig just came out- how does it feel?
That feels incredible because it was created nearly three years ago. It was just something I made for myself. I never thought it would come out in the public, I never thought it would be a proper release that anyone would really want to listen to. It started just growing and I’ve been on this wild journey for the past two years and now it’s finally out there in the world.
What was the idea behind Twirligig?
I had this idea of just trying to create beat-symphonies of pop circuits. I’m really into Mad Lib, he calls himself the beat conductor and makes these really short orchestrated beats like the Beach Boys; these really condensed pocked symphonies. I wanted to create this world, this audio-universe called ‘twirligig’.
What was your reaction to having to change your artist name from Danimals because of a yogurt company?
*Laughs* That was weird. I tried so hard to figure something out but they said they were going to sue me if I used the name. But that’s alright, at the moment I’ve been working on another project using Danimals as the album title.
How do you create your unique soundscape?
Rhythmically it all stems from whatever sounds like beat boxing; like the weirdest sounds you can make. You have to watch me record, it’s really embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve ever let anyone watch me record because it can go anywhere basically. It could be me recording the sound of my dog’s collar. When I was recording I had a balcony and you’d swing the microphone down and hope for the best. It created kind of like really cool swishing sounds and picked up a lot of insect sounds.
What music did you listen to growing up?
I grew up in South Africa and I wasn’t into popular music, in fact I didn’t really understand it at all. But I was always interested in African music. When I moved to Australia that was when I got really into music, like the Beach Boys and it just grew from there.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to experimental here in LA: Flying Lotus, Seekae.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I’d probably be drawing pictures of frogs. That’s all I remember doing before.
Are you looking forward to playing at Laneway?
I can’t wait. That’s going to be incredible. It’s like a dream come true. I’ve been to the last couple years and the lineup looks incredible: Toro y Moi, M83. To be one of the artists playing is pretty surreal.
We’ve actually got the second album recorded. Then I’ve created a studio, Sunset Studios. Seekae are here in LA so they came in and we recorded a track together. Time will tell what happens to it.
Sat 28 Jan 2012 – ALEXANDRIA ST, FORTITUDE VALLEY, QLD
Mon 30 Jan 2012 – SILO PARK, AUCKLAND, NZ
Sat 4 Feb 2012 – FOOTSCRAY COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE, MELBOURNE, VIC
Sun 5 Feb 2012 – SYDNEY COLLATE OF THE ARTS, SYDNEY, NSW
Fri 10 Feb 2012 – FOWLER’S LIVE, ADELAIDE, SA
Sat 11 Feb 2012 – PERTH CULTURAL CENTRE PERTH, WA
Sun 12 Feb 2012 – FORT CANNING, CANNING RISE, SINGAPORE