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Breaking Barriers: An Interview with a Sober Musician Artist on Their Latest Single Release

Non Binary sober musician red back ground wearing all black

J9, a seasoned figure in Toronto's music scene and sober musician, presents a bold reinterpretation of the electronic track "Pleasure & Pain," originally by Djedjotronic and Miss Kittin. This release marks an adventurous departure into a more textured and dynamic exploration of sound, showcasing J9's mastery in blending dark, industrial rhythms with the enigmatic vocal prowess of Peril Erinyes from Phantom High. As their first single released independently from an album, this track not only highlights J9's innovative approach to music production but also celebrates their journey as a sober artist reshaping their creative expression.

"I felt compelled to fill the space with a blend of sounds and beats that resonate more with my musical identity and artistic preferences." - J9

Q: What inspired you to reimagine "Pleasure & Pain" and how did you infuse your unique sound into this classic track?

J9: The original song, by Djedjotronic with vocals by Miss Kitten, is known for its minimalistic approach, which, although effective, doesn't align with my style. While appreciating the track's vibe, I felt compelled to fill the space with a blend of sounds and beats that resonate more with my musical identity and artistic preferences. This urge to reinterpret the track motivated me to explore new avenues of sound design and composition, viewing the existing space as an opportunity to craft a new musical narrative that embodies my artistic vision.

Q: How did your collaboration with Peril Erinyes come about, and what was the creative process behind blending her unique voice with your music?

J9: I can’t quite recall the exact moment I discovered the music video "Black DIVIDE" by Phantom High. It might have been during an interview or stumbled upon it on YouTube. What struck me was the enigmatic allure and dark mystique of the visuals, coupled with the deep, sultry vocals that drew me in. Intrigued, I found myself on Instagram, following Phantom High, the band led by Peril Erinyes. It was around the beginning of the pandemic when I started following their journey. We engaged in casual chats back and forth, sharing our musical interests.

Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon the track "Pleasure and Pain" by Djedjotronic featuring Miss Kitten's vocals. The idea to reimagine this piece sparked a creative fire within me. The first person who came to mind for the vocals was Peril Erinyes. Without hesitation, I reached out to them, and within a night, we had the vocals recorded. Though the timing wasn't quite perfect for the project then, that initial connection marked the beginning of a musical collaboration that felt destined. Our meeting and the compelling energy Peril brought to the track solidified my decision to have them on board.

"There's a newfound sense of purpose and intention behind the work I produce. I approach my projects with a structured workflow, leading to more refined and polished outcomes." - J9

Q: As a sober artist, how does your decision to abstain from alcohol influence your creative process and the way you engage with music?

J9: Since embracing a sober lifestyle as an artist, I've noticed a significant shift in my creative process. There's a newfound sense of purpose and intention behind the work I produce. I find myself approaching my projects with a structured workflow, leading to more refined and polished outcomes.

There has always been a common misconception among musicians that substances like alcohol or weed could enhance creativity and spur innovative ideas. I used to believe this notion as well, thinking it could expedite the creative process. However, with sobriety, I've come to realize that my mind operates more efficiently and cohesively.

When I set my mind to a project and start brainstorming, ideas flow naturally and seamlessly. It's as if my thoughts align effortlessly, allowing my visions to manifest swiftly and clearly. This newfound mental clarity has not only streamlined my creative visions but also brought them to fruition more promptly.

"As I transition into releasing singles, I've come to realize that the world's consumption of media has evolved." - J9

Q: "Pleasure & Pain" is your first single released independently of an album. What motivated this strategy, and how do you envision your future music releases?

J9: Since I decided to finalize and release my music to the public, I've always had this picturesque vision of creating a full album. If I'm the one producing it, why limit it to a single or an EP? Why not gather enough tracks to shape an album, complete with cohesive thematic artwork? This idealization perhaps stems from being what some call an "Xennial," straddling the line between Gen X and millennials. However, as I transition into releasing singles, I've realized that the world's media consumption has evolved. Even TV series are often structured like extended movies, a format not far from standalone films. This shift in approach occurred a few years into my music journey, following a couple of album releases, where the realization dawned that consistent singles releases align more with current trends.

Looking ahead, I will focus on releasing singles more consistently and frequently. This strategy aims to liberate my ideas swiftly without overthinking or feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of work yet to be done. While this approach may expedite the release process, it also intensifies the workload, particularly regarding artwork, promotional write-ups, and outreach to various media platforms. Despite the increased demands, prioritizing the completion of regular releases ensures my music reaches the audience promptly and regularly.

Q: Your work is at the intersection of visual arts and music. How do these two disciplines complement each other in your music videos and performances?

J9: I believe that music and artwork naturally intertwine in today's creative landscape. The artistry involved in crafting an album, especially in the final touch of releasing its artwork, takes center stage. In the past, the excitement of acquiring hard copies and exploring the inserts for hidden gems was part of the album experience. Additionally, music videos and media presence have gained importance, serving as essential tools to engage with audiences, followers, and listeners. The expectation for artists to be more accessible aligns with the interactive nature of social media.

Artistry extends beyond music into various visual mediums like posters, magazine shoots, and high fashion visuals. From day one, I envisioned incorporating art into my projects, drawing from my background in multimedia design and production. The opportunity to infuse my creativity into my own art rather than designing for unrelated businesses has always fueled my passion. From producing music videos in diverse ways, including seeking assistance and creating audio-visuals through software like Ableton Live, to designing logos and promotional materials, artistry permeates every aspect of my creative process.

Collaboration stands at the heart of my creative journey, whether working with others on music or art projects. Engaging with graphic designers for album covers has been a rewarding experience, infusing a fresh dimension into my projects. The amalgamation of multimedia elements, from blinking lights to visual aesthetics, not only serves a functional purpose but also contributes to a visually appealing setup.

Q: How does your Metis Canadian identity shape your music, particularly in the themes you explore and the sounds you create?

J9: Regrettably, my family history is intertwined with a legacy of alcoholism and deep-rooted ancestral traumas. These legacies, coupled with the intergenerational impacts of trauma that Indigenous communities often grapple with, including high rates of substance abuse, have played a significant role in shaping my journey. I have navigated through these challenging themes, engaging in a healing process that finds expression in my music.

My music serves as a channel for these experiences, translating them into different forms of artistic expression. One of my earliest tracks, "Occupy," was born from the inspiration drawn from the controversies surrounding oil pipelines traversing Indigenous lands, leading to environmental protests and societal upheavals. This track delves into themes of environmental injustice, government negligence, and the resilience of Indigenous communities in the face of adversity. While my music typically explores diverse soundscapes, "Occupy" uniquely incorporates Indigenous drum rhythms and experimental vocals, intertwining elements of Indigenous musical traditions with contemporary sounds.

Q: Reflecting on your journey from Dunnville to Toronto's music scene, what have been the key milestones and challenges in your evolution as an artist?

J9: Graduating at the top of my high school class in music and art, along with achieving Grade 8 in piano, set a solid foundation for my artistic pursuits. Transitioning to Toronto, I immersed myself in the music scene, where I honed my guitar skills and found my voice at open mic nights. Playing keys in bands like The Good Ideas and Tripping Hazard broadened my musical horizons through collaboration and performance opportunities. Venturing into piano composition and electronic music production with Ableton Live marked a significant evolution in my musical repertoire. Releasing my debut solo album symbolized artistic growth through learning composition, collaboration, and live electronic music performance.

Opting for an art college path over music posed an initial challenge, requiring a shift in creative focus. Playing in electric bands exposed me to the importance of sound dynamics and self-audibility within amplified settings. Transitioning from substance-influenced creativity to sober musical expression posed a profound challenge, initiating a journey toward rediscovering musical expression without alcohol and weed. Exploring electronic music production demanded a steep learning curve and the need for continuous growth and adaptation in the digital music landscape.

Musician J9 smiling
Musician J9 wear all black and black background

As J9 continues to forge a path as a sober musician through the realms of music and visual art, their single "Pleasure & Pain" is not just a song but a declaration of artistic independence and a testament to their growth as a creator. With each note and lyric, J9 not only challenges the boundaries of electronic music but also reflects a deep commitment to personal and artistic authenticity. Their work, rooted in their rich cultural heritage and personal convictions, invites listeners to experience the convergence of sound, art, and transformative storytelling.

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Purpose & intention✨ love that sobriety has brought this to your work.

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