Producer and DJ Jonas Rathsman has spent the last 12 months developing his newly-found signature sound while playing across Europe and the States at Outside Lands Festival in Los Angeles, Bacelona’s Razzmatazz and Hideout in Croatia. The Swede was in London ahead of an all-night show at Phonox on Friday, November 20th when we caught up with him to find out more about touring with five pals as French Express, the defining moment for his productions and why Bugged Out Weekender is a crazy festival he’s excited to go back to in January 2016.
There has always been an underground scene in Sweden, but it’s not that big, so I started as a disco DJ collecting vinyl and running a weekly night playing disco, funk, hip hop and R&B.
I met Jonas in a relaxed hotel lounge bar in Gloucester Road waiting for his room to be ready. It’s a bustlng bar, but Jonas looks relaxed in his hoodie, spending most of the interview with hood up, looking very comfortable. He’s in a good place musically, thanks to his remix of Sam Smith’s ‘Like I Can’ last year. Annie Mac premiered it on her Friday night show, it was selected as Pete Tong’s ‘Essential New Tune’ and was number one on Danny Howard’s Dance Anthems show. Jonas acknowledges the importance of this remix to shaping how he produces music now.
He said: “The remix I did for Sam Smith was the turning point [for my music]. I remember when I finished, I thought: ‘I really like this, this is me’. I felt good about it, and I’d never felt that good about finishing a track. I’ve used way more hardware since then. I want to keep on using more hands-on equipment in the studio as it makes such a difference.” Since then he’s released ‘New Generation’ on KX and ‘Wolfsbane’ on Method White with “more throught put into [the making process], more research, more equipment”.
Prior to his days as a solo DJ and producer, Jonas released tunes with DJ NIBC under the alias Stuffa and would later go on to tour with fellow French Express label mates such as Moon Boots and founder Perseus. He looks fondly back on his days touring with his pals. He said: “French Express was my first experience of touring - five guys on the road. I spoke to Leon [Perseus] this morning when I flew into London. We talk less and I miss those guys a lot. I don’t know if we will get back together, maybe in the future that would be nice, but not as French Express. That is a closed chapter. Everybody’s happy, we all have individual careers now.”
I remember when I finished Like I Can, I thought: ‘I really like this, this is me’.
For Jonas, his music has changed over the years, but none more so than when he ran parties in Gothenburg and invited a new DJ to become a resident. He said: “There has always been an underground scene in Sweden, but it’s not that big, so I started as a disco DJ collecting vinyl and running a weekly night playing disco, funk, hip hop and R&B. That ran for six years. That’s where it all started. We had this new resident DJ who was also doing house nights on other days. I started going to his shows and I was completely hooked. It didn’t take long to get into it.”
These days Jonas has veered towards a sound that’s ‘more techy’ and might one day make the move from DJing tune to performing live if he can get over the shifting of hardware from show to show. He said: “I’ve been DJing for such a long time and I really enjoy playing other people’s music. I’m just a regular DJ - an old school DJ. I’d love to some day do live shows, but it just takes a lot of time with a lot of equipment.” He’s played at major events such as Bestival, Wonderland Festival Outdoor, Tomorrowworld and Outside Lands Festival, and had such a good time at last year’s Bugged Out Weekender in Bognor Regis that he stayed an extra night in a chalet at the Butlins holiday park.
He said: “It was my first experience of Bugged Out. I had heard so much about Bugged Out before that. It was one of my favourite shows of last year, I actually stayed one extra night. It’s a crazy place. A weird, unreal location. Everyone is there for the music. The Chemical Brothers set was one of my favourite sets of the weekender. I was surprised because they were playing a DJ set, but it sounded like they were doing a live show. It was stunning.”
It’s so different in UK. The UK has such a strong culture of dance music and raves.
Jonas is a big advocate of Bugged Out Weekender, particularly because it is so unlike what’s available in his homecountry of Sweden. He explains: “It’s so different in UK. The UK has such a strong culture of dance music and raves. We don’t have that with the same meaning. Sweden took a turn to more EDM stuff so there is a dance scene but it’s mainly EDM. There’s nothing like Bugged Out Weekener in Sweden. The [closest] is one that had it’s first year this year called Into The Valley. It’s a pure techno festival made by promoters from Stockholm in a quarry in the middle of nowhere.”
Looking into 2016, Jonas has a trip back to Bugged Out Weekener in Bognor Regis the third weekend in January. He said: “I’m really excited to go back. Last year I missed the pool parties. I did meet my friends Axel Boman and Leon Vynehall, and saw them play. I still don’t know whether I’m playing Friday or Saturday, but I think I’m playing on Julio Bashmore’s stage. Really looking forward it, they are so much fun: you can stay in your room and drink while having a party. You can go back and forth, deciding who to see.”
Will he stay on for an extra night in 2016? “I’m actually still thinking about it. I have quite busy schedule in January and I dont’ think my wife would appreciate me being away.” He pauses and smiles. “I know my friends are staying longer, so I am going to try.”
Jonas Rathsman plays Bugged Out Weekender at Butlins Bognor Regis January 15th - 17th, 2016. For details go to buggedoutweekender.net.