Interview by Alaric Hobbs
Stray Light is the latest alias of DJ John-Paul Denton, known for his work under CODE:MANTA, People Get Real and XY-Me, through which the artist aims to release music that bridges the divide between lo-fi beats and introspective pop.
‘Before Another Autumn’ is an indie-pop cut featuring wistful vocals over warm synth pads and a shuffling lo-fi house beat. Following on from his darker and deeper first release ‘Once I Was’, ‘Before Another Autumn’ is a more upbeat offering exhibiting more of what can be expected from this exciting new project.
The video for ‘Before Another Autumn’, premiering right here at The Playground, plays out like a hazy night on the town, complimenting the dreamy melancholic vibes of this danceable cut.
Watch below, and read on to get some insight into the artist’s creative process, influences and outlook.
Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?
I’m currently sat looking out into the courtyard of my Bali getaway working on new material! I decided to take some time out to write new music and thought it might be nice to do it somewhere hot.
Tell us about your journey in music, how long have you been producing? What inspired you to start?
I’ve been making music for around 15 years now, I began working in the industry for the Global Underground record label many moons ago and had the amazing opportunity to travel with various DJs like Deep Dish, John Digweed, Steve Lawler and Sasha. It was while being in the presence of such legends that sparked my interest in taking what was then a hobby to a more professional level.
You are no stranger to the music scene, what important lessons have you learned along the way?
I think the most important one is perseverance, throughout all my time there have been years that nothing has happened and others that have sky rocketed with work and releases, be true to yourself and confident in your ability. It’s hard when you get disheartened, but much harder to carry on.
How long has Stray Light been in the works?
It began about 2 years ago, I was working full time running a label and continuing to make music in my free time, I’d decided to take a new route with my output and one weekend made the basis for 4 of the tracks. Once I’d set up my stall so to speak the rest all came from that. I write from time to time with the songwriter Rob Davis (Kylie, Spiller, Toca’s Miracle… and countless others) and thought it’d be great to bring him on board to get lyrics and vocals on the music. From there it was a longer process in tweaking and perfecting all the music into an album
Take us through your favourite gear, tech or software that has accompanied you with this project.
The main leap for me recently has been getting my UAD Satellite and PCI card, there really is nothing like them on the market, they model all the gear into VST perfection. The EMT 140 Plate Reverb for instance, which is an industry standard in big studios, is a dream, it just makes vocals sound like a hit record. The Camel Crusher is on everything I make without fail, it’s just such a simple yet effective tool to give things bite and jump out the mix. Synth wise it’s a combination of Sylenth, Serum, Massive and Kontakt…. pretty much the industry standards for electronic music.
Where do you gather song writing inspiration?
I’m around music all the time so I think in some way it goes in my head and gets stored for later, but normally it takes a lot for my ears to get excited. Production and sound design are what makes me stand up and listen, over the past 5-6 years there has been an amazing influx of ridiculously talented young producers that seem to make sounds picked from an imaginary wishing well. Flume, Whethan, Tycho, ODESZA, Louis and The Child for instance, but all their music is backed by this pop sensibility that makes their tunes so catchy!
Do you experience creative block? How do you deal with this?
Yes, probably just as much as anyone else. It depends on what’s blocking things I suppose, sometimes it helps just to not do anything, there nothing worse than wasting 2 days on something that ultimately you end up just scrapping. Perspective is always helpful to me and having a good set of reference tracks of the ‘type’ of sound you are aiming for gets me over most hurdles. If I get even 80% close to the feel/shape/tone of what I’m trying to achieve then I get excited and it spurs me on to finish the material.
What kind of relationship do you have with the internet? How does this inform or affect your artistic expression?
This is a hard one, I was a full time producer for 12 years making music for labels/TV/Film trailers etc and in that time I had to court the internet like a social media guru, from building my own websites to designing my own artwork and keeping all my social channels up to date…. it was draining and ultimately took me away from the core of what I was supposed to be doing which was actually making the music. BUT I also totally understand the necessity of how our world works and how it’s been shaped by the internet. I think I’ve made my peace with it in the last few years and feel much more comfortable using it to get my art out to the world.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
So there are a string of singles set to be released over the next 6 months which will lead us to the release of the album either late this year or early next.
Famous last words?
Live long and prosper!
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