Jonas Rathsman is late. Almost a day late, in fact. He arrives backstage smattered in glitter, deeply apologetic for getting the day of our interview muddled up. He’s literally just walked into Secret Garden Party 2016, an SGP virgin and his eyes are wide with beginners delight. His sole endeavour, aside from playing to a crowd of thousands three times over the course of the weekend, is maintaining the glitter level in his freshly gilted beard and seeing to it that his manager, Owyn gets as trashed as possible on account of his birthday.
Photos by Alex Welensky
The Swedish-born DJ needs little introduction. With a series of successful releases on French Express, Defected and Damian Lazarus’s Crosstown Rebels, his latest work includes bi-monthly mix series, Elements, as well as a stellar new release, ‘Cobalt’ on Solomun’s imprint, Diynamic.
He’s a big, mischievous hunk of a man. He’s also a bit of a darling. After the interview we hang out and spend the day ricocheting around the festival, stopping at intervals to top up the beard. So sweet a soul is Rathsman that he’s genuinely concerned for the commercial welfare of the glitter girls with whom I try to negotiate a cheap fix on account of his celebrity. He insists on paying full whack. Elsewhere, I catch him kneeling down to buy water for a random punter who one day in, looks like he should have gone home last month. Your typical celebrity DJ, he is not.
Rathsman’s sets during the course of the weekend are sometimes challenging, although this possibly has more to do with aggressive programming than anything else. Set times at Garden Party and indeed many UK festivals are succinct, such is the appeal for acts looking to play, that programmers tend to cram in more than is perhaps palatable for DJ’s and music lovers alike.
Emphasis is more on crowd experience than the music itself. Set and staging have somehow transcended musical output in terms of relevance. Whatever way you look it and you’ll hear little complaint, Secret Garden Party remains world class: A heavy accolade now in light of the recent governmental closure of Fabric and its antecedent implications for the UK club scene. SGP is and continues to drive landmark: a uniquely British and very special brand of fun.
This particular Friday night, Rathsman is playing The Drop, a feast of visual magnificence curated by Andy Ellis-Clarke and Rejenr8 visuals in which the DJ is suspended in a projection mapped cube atop a funnelled out valley. It’s ridiculously cool. An epilepsy-inducing smorgasbord of fun which, along with the gorgeous sunset vibe over the Pagoda stage, proves the biggest attraction for electronic music fans over the course of the weekend. Rathsman plays a few classics and after a little while, the crowd warms up.
Anyway, Jonas Rathsman of all people should be well acquainted with waiting: this is after all a guy, who knocked out the sensational ‘Complex’ in around fifteen minutes.
Well, he says so anyway:
Electronic Groove: Are you entirely responsible for the composition of ‘Complex’ or was it a collaborative effort?
Jonas Rathsman: This was probably the first and definitely the most successful session I’ve had in my whole life. I’d done a lot of sessions with vocalists and other producers but I’d never really got it right before. This was a case of two really strong wills coming together. This one was just right from the very beginning – me & him (vocalist and songwriter, Josef Salvat) just jelled. I think he wrote that song in what felt like fifteen minutes. We used the first take. I really felt when we recorded it “this is something special” and I think he felt the same thing. He’s super talented.
Electronic Groove: You’ve had releases in recent years on French Express, Defected, Crosstown and Method White. How do each of the labels vary and was there one you had a particular affinity with?
Jonas Rathsman: It varies. ‘Complex’ felt so Crosstown from the beginning and I’m happy they picked it up because for me it was the perfect place for it. Since day one he (founder, Damian Lazarus) was really supportive. He told me it was one of his favourite tracks in a long time which was really exciting.
The one label that I really want though, is Pampa Records. Its my favourite, always has been. Its well considered, very credible and they have strong artists. They know exactly where they’re going. Innervisions are also of course, very credible. They have a tight team and they tend to look after one-another.
Electronic Groove: You’ve just released a track ‘Colbalt’ under Solomun’s label Diynamic. Do you have any plans to join the Dynamic team?
Jonas Rathsman: I haven’t. I would love to though. I played Space Ibiza a few weeks ago and I knew Solomun was playing Pacha so I went down to check it out after my set. It was so good, he just doesn’t give a shit. There’s a specific crowd that goes to Pacha but then you have a different crowd going there for Solomun. There’s all kinds of people there thrown together but he’s just doing his own thing. Really stripped back. I love that.
Electronic Groove: There’s a lot of hot talent on Diynamic. Who is your favourite in terms of sound?
Jonas Rathsman: I think H.O.S.H is really talented. I’ve seen him play a couple of times now and he’s really good. I prefer Solomun’s style though- he’s playing so many gigs and because of that he lets his guard down and doesn’t give a shit – he plays what he wants to. Be it disco or a techno track. The stuff that Diynamic are releasing now is a lot more techno which you didn’t see before. Its still very romantic techno, the tracks have melody. Techno but with the same arrangements as a house track.
Electronic Groove: Your sound has evolved quite a bit in recent years. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Jonas Rathsman: The disco has always been there in the background. That’s where I come from. I don’t do disco music but I try to keep a spice of disco in whatever I do.
Electronic Groove: ‘Cobalt’ has quite a textured, layered quality to it with lots of competing elements – how long does a track like that take you to produce?
Jonas Rathsman: From inception to release, probably about a year and a half. It was something I started a long time ago. I sent it to Solomun and we got nowhere. He probably had it for eight months before he replied but I was really happy with the outcome and I think he was lucky: I could have sent it somewhere else in that time.
Electronic Groove: What kind of advice do you have for young artists, starting out?
Jonas Rathsman: Patience is so important. Especially if you’re dealing with the big labels – they’ve got schedules up to a year in advance so if you send them something, its going to take time.
Electronic Groove: What do you make of the UK club scene?
Jonas Rathsman: The UK crowd are really into their music, they have a long history of dance music, they know whats going on and they’re very responsive. Sometimes you’ll play elsewhere in Europe or the States and people will dance, but they don’t necessarily know their music as well as the British.
Electronic Groove: I see you have a pretty hectic tour schedule – what’s in store for the rest of 2016 and what are you most looking forward to?
Jonas Rathsman: We’ve got South West Four Festival coming up and a six hour Phonox London gig in November which I’m really excited about, although its pretty tough drinking for six hours and not going to the toilet. Looking forward to Watergate too.
Electronic Groove: What should we expect from you in the near future?
Jonas Rathsman: I have a couple remixes coming out, one for Tiga and one for Booka Shade. All out now and available here.
Electronic Groove: What can we expect from you during Secret Garden Party?
Jonas Rathsman: I usually don’t play my own music. I feel scared playing my own stuff. My manager fucking hates me for that.
Jonas Rathsman is a humble man. He’s Complex that way.
Follow Jonas Rathsman:
Secret Garden 2016 Gallery.