Minimal house producer John Dimas on the making of his debut album and the sacrifice he had to make to take his music to the next level.
Dance music is full of Catch 22s but never more so apparent than in the life of a producer. The dance music scene may be based around socialising, but acquiring the chops to become a competent producer often requires locking oneself away in a studio and adopting a life of monk-like solitude. This particular approach is the one that has taken John Dimas to where he is today.
The Greek producer and Berlin resident has been connecting the dots between an impressive list of taste-making and bubbling-under labels in the field of minimal house for the best part of a decade. In addition to releasing on Taverna Tracks, Raum… Musik, One Records, and Metereze, he launched his own vinyl label, Elephant Moon in 2015. Now on its eleventh release, it has been gathering a loyal audience in the vinyl community aided EPs by ascendant artists like Zendid, Sonodab and S.A.M. (recording with Dimas under his original name of Samuel André Madson).
His debut album One Against Time has been well received by the dance music press and captures the sound of an artist liberated from the restraints of conventional EP writing. The atmosphere and vibe are densely woven into the abstract musical tapestry that makes up clubs like Club der Visionaere or Hoppetosse in his adopted hometown. Touching on electro and featuring down tempo broken beats and hip-hop amongst the more spaced out house grooves, it’s a panoramic sonic photograph of an artist that has survived the solitude of the studio to achieve another major career milestone.
Albums are difficult to sell, people don't seem to have the attention span to listen to them but why are producers still drawn to the process?
Most producers, especially in my genre of electronic music don’t write albums because they want to sell them nor do they write them for people that don’t appreciate the artistry of an album. It’s about expressing yourself creatively without the constraints of either of these particular points you have mentioned. It’s the feeling of being free to create something different than the usual that people know you for.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in getting to where you are right now?
I sacrificed a personal life for five years when I moved to Berlin. Anyone or anything that I felt might interrupt my path towards where I wanted to be I just blocked. This included social life, relationships and even friends. I’m much better now though as have finally been able to find a balance between focusing so hard on my goals and also enjoying the ride we call life.
What have you learned about yourself in the process of writing your album?
That I am not limited in writing just 4/4 dance records, and by expanding into other sounds, it has also helped inspire me even more for producing the club records.
What places or spaces played a part in influencing the sound of your album and how/why?
Well I am obsessed with all things space, sci-fiction and the universe. These things were the biggest influence for the sound of this album.
Which song are you most proud of and why?
Riko’s Trip as I never wrote a trip hop record before but I went into the studio with the challenge in my head to do exactly that and managed to complete it in five hours from the first idea to the final mixdown.
Do you have any personal or adopted philosophies that guide your music? If so, what are they?
Usually I just enjoy experimenting with sound design in a playful environment and don’t follow technical rules. I trust my ears and also know when to take a break so I don’t get stuck.
You've been in Berlin for a few years, how has it changed for you since moving there and what's it like for an artist in 2018 compared to when you first started going there?
Berlin has been paramount in making me the artist I am today. This city is full of creatives and it’s very inspiring to be in the kind of environment where people from all over the world come to be at the hub of the electronic music scene to share ideas, influences and processes with each other. I think it’s exactly the same for an artist coming to Berlin now as long as you are not delusional about the city creating your success. Only you can do that but it does feel great to be in such an encouraging and tolerant place.
What is the hardest challenge for an artist trying to make it in your realm of music today?
A lot has to do with luck and also opportunity. There are so many incredible artists in the world trying to make it but unfortunately have just not had the right exposure due to so many varying factors. It is a big advantage to do the miles so to speak and be able to put a face and personality behind your name.
What are your thoughts on streaming companies like Spotify posting record profits when artists like yourself don't earn a penny from them?
We are just plankton in the world’s oceans so to speak. I don’t even think you can make a comparison with what we do and these giant companies like Spotify.
The world seems to be more connected than ever, but the minimal house scene is constantly bucking that trend, disconnecting from digital platforms like Beatport and prioritising off the grid experiences and an under the radar approach. Is this important to you and do you remember any pivotal moments in music/clubbing that brought this idea home?
This is the underground scene and we are all doing it because we love it. We don’t care about making money from selling records as those days are ancient history as far as I’m concerned. I make music because it makes me happy, if other people like it that is just a bonus. I don’t care if every DJ in the world isn’t playing my records, it doesn’t make me feel more successful, that feeling comes from within.
'One Against Time' by John Dimas is out now on Elephant Moon. To follow him on Facebook please click here.