Tell us about Movement – how was it having Kenny join you on stage?
Movement was a good time as always. I love that festival. Sadly our mainstage performance was sabotaged by technical issues. The turntables were bouncing all over the place and I had planned to play an all-vinyl set. Channels 1 & 2 on the mixer were bleeding like crazy as well so not only was I unable to play any of the music i had planned to play, we were only able to use 2 CDJ’s on two channels. As you can imagine that was a bit of a nightmare after so much anticipation about playing mainstage this year. Regardless of that it was really nice to do the show with Kenny. I heard rumours circulating that we did the show together because of contractual obligations but that wasn’t the truth. We decided to do Movement together because that festival has meant a lot to both of us and we’ve been going there together for the past 10 years. Wouldn’t have felt right – playing mainstage for the first time without him.
Unlike Kenny, who is now working under his own name, you have decided to continue on as Art Department. What made you decide to continue with this moniker rather than as Jonny White?
I know this was a questionable move in some people’s eyes. I get that. Art Department is Jonny White and Kenny Glasgow, not one or the other. I’m not of the opinion that AD is the same without either one of us, the project and the music as we know it was something very unique that I don’t think could be replicated so that’s not my mission. The AD that included Kenny was something very different from what it will be going forward. It will take a totally new shape in terms of the sound and the direction. I think that’s very apparent if you take a listen to the fabric mix, so there’s no attempt to replicate that Art Department on my own.
The real reason that we decided that I would keep the name is because we have put a ton of work into this, too much to let it die because Kenny has other goals that he needs to focus on. I have ate, slept and breathed Art Department for the past 6 years. I didn’t want to throw that away and Kenny doesn’t want me to either. I’m really excited about the opportunity to take what we’ve built together and expand upon that. I have a really unique opportunity here to use the profile of the brand to do some interesting things on my own and use it to take people deeper into the music that I’m more interested in.
Having originated in Toronto, can you speak to how the Toronto scene has evolved from your early days as an artist/fan to now? How would you equate the underground scene of Toronto to other dance music meccas?
It’s funny, I was sitting in a hotel room in Montreal early this morning with my partner in No.19 – Nitin, and a few other old school heads from Toronto chatting about how things have changed from when we came up in the city 15-20 years ago. When I was coming up Toronto had an amazing scene that was as good if not better than any city I’ve ever been to. I know thats a bold statement but having travelled extensively for the past 6 years and having been able to experience some of the best parties in the world, I can honestly say that’s the truth.
Toronto was known throughout North America as one of the most supportive cities of the underground dance music culture at the time, right along side NYC and Chicago and most of the DJs from both cities considered Toronto home. You talk to the Green Velvets, DJ Sneaks, Derrick Carters, Roger Sanchez’, Tenaglias they will tell you. We had some really special clubs like RPM, Exit To Eden, The Buzz, Madbar, Warehouse, The Guvernment, a really great rave scene and what I still swear is one of the best clubs to have ever existed anywhere, Industry Nightclub. It wasn’t just the venue’s though, it was a combination of the fact that we always had unbelievably good local DJs which I believe was the foundation of the scene back then, and then the fact that it was a “scene”. It wasn’t just a big name on a flyer, and a room full of randoms drawn in by the name, these were clubs in the truest sense of the word. Everyone knew everyone and if you didn’t already, you would in no time. you would see the same people from Thursday to Sunday and it could be Matt C, Mario J (owners of Industry) or Kenny Glasgow on the bill and the energy and numbers were there. I don’t like to even compare Toronto to that now because it’s a losing battle. There are a few cool clubs, but there are really no local DJs to speak of. I’m sure there are some, I’m not on top of what’s going on there, but from what I see it’s really moved on to laptop DJs, hitting sync and I don’t feel like there’s anybody to root for. There are still a couple of crews doing great bookings like the Coda guys, Platform, and a new spot called Nest that just opened but the only really amazing thing going on in Toronto at the moment is a crazy party called Electric Island that Embrace along with the aforementioned crews are doing throughout summer. The space is beautiful, the production is top, the bookings are hot and it rivals anything going on in North America.
How has life been treating you so far as a solo act?
Life has been good.. Not a lot has changed really. There’s been a bit of having to explain that Kenny and I do not hate each other and that we didn’t get into a fight or anything crazy which people assume was the reason for the split. There was a lot of commotion about it for the first week after the announcement but the truth is that the media just likes to latch on to whatever news might possibly become the most negative, which also seems to be what people get most excited about and when it isn’t as horrible or explosive as people assume, they forget quite quickly. Thankfully there are idiots like Ten Walls to appease everyones need for that shit. Watch how quickly even that will be forgotten. It’s a fast food mentality with high turnover and short attention spans. People just don’t care for long. The only people who truly matter are our real fans and our friends and all that concerns them is the music and the friendship between Kenny and I… both are intact.
How do you think the style / direction of Art Department will change as a solo act?
A little bit less showmanship during shows… ok a lot. As for the music I honestly couldn’t answer that. I can only say it’s pretty much a full boycott of anything that I don’t consider to be house or techno in its truest form. I want nothing to do with anything that isn’t representative of that when it comes to this project and I think thats an important idea right now. I feel like preserving the roots of this music is so important now with younger generations coming up, having not had what we had culturally and musically when we grew up on this music. I’m just looking at this as an opportunity to use a great brand we’ve created to expose people to the music I’m most interested in.
How do you plan on maintaining the Art Department sound? How do you expect it to evolve over the coming months?
Like I said, I’m not planning on maintaining it really. In fact I’m not really planning much at all. I’m playing what I play and it’s going to evolve the same way that my sound has always evolved, organically. I don’t know what I’ll be really heavily into stylistically in a year from now and thats what keeps me excited about the job. All I can say is that I’m not thinking about the media or any expectations that anyone might have. I’m doing what we’ve always done and just playing music I’m into until I decide I don’t want to play music anymore… just like any DJ worth anything.
I spend my life hunting for the best underground records and I’m going to play the best stuff I can find. That’s it!
After six years producing in a collaborative project, producing as a solo artist again must throw up some challenges. How much time do you spend in the studio—and how are you adapting to it?
To be honest, I can’t say it really presents any challenges. I mean, if I was trying to write songs that sound like what we’ve been doing for the past five years, especially vocal stuff…then yeah, that would present a massive challenge because a lot of those ideas came from Kenny, and I can’t fucking sing to save my life. But I’m not looking to replicate a sound that, quite frankly, cannot be duplicated without both of us. Right now, it just feels like freedom to make whatever I feel like making; I just haven’t decided what I want the sound to be going forward and I’m not really trying to figure it out.
Outside of Art Department, do you intend to produce as a solo artist under a different moniker—or, going forward, will Art Department be your only solo project?
Actually, I currently release music under other monikers and have done for years—but I have never let anybody know it was me. The reason for the aliases had always been due to the fact that I write several different styles of music and didn’t want to confuse any of the brands—especially Art Department’s. However, now that Art Department is just I, there might not really be any need for it.
You and Kenny will still be working together on certain projects, with his solo work being released on No.19 and the launch of the Social Experiment label. Do you foresee that either of you will have any input in each other’s solo work, or do you both keep the solo productions to yourselves?
We’ve been working together for so long and I don’t think that will ever really change. I like to think that one of my strongest suits, possibly even more than my own production, is an ability to bring out the best in the artists I work with. Kenny is probably the most notable example of that. I have always been so interested in and inspired by his music that I’ll always offer to work on anything he has going on, in whatever capacity he would like me to do so. We’ve always looked to each other for feedback on whatever we’re doing individually, the way everyone does with their friends who are also artists—and I think that will remain the same for life.
Do you think that by continuing the project as a solo artist, there is a risk of damaging the legacy that the project has already left?
Sure, I guess so—but I don’t think that either of us had thought of that at all until just now, so thanks for that. [laughs] Listen, whatever happens, happens—I’m not gonna roll through life scared to take risks; you do what you feel is right for you as long as you’re not going to harm anyone but yourself in the process—and you must deal with the failure or the learning experience if it comes to that. I know some fans are going to be upset with the change, simply because they want you to stick with what they love already—but if people are willing to open their minds and really listen, rather than just wait for an opportunity to critique, there’s an opportunity here for them to see what else I can offer as Art Department. I’m not about to turn commercial, or forget what good music is. I play underground records that are produced by some really talented, forward-thinking artists. If people lose interest in that, I would be okay with finding another career.
What else can we expect from Jonny White in the future?
Well right now all of my attention is on what we’ve been discussing here and staying alive through this summer tour… but I’m bored easily and rarely content so I’ll think of something…