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Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Huron John

Interview: 2020 Must-Know - Huron John

"At the end of the day, if someone’s life is better after hearing stuff, seeing my videos, or putting a foot into the narrative world, that’s awesome," songwriter, producer, and visual artist Huron John shared following the release of his new full-length project, 'Apocalypse Wow', last week on Earth Day.

Made between April and October of last year, the Chicago artist describes the project as "self confidence, self awareness, and navigating the transition from childhood to adulthood," with its closing track 'Use The Birth for All It's Worth' seeing John at his most honest, singing relatable lines like "I apologise for being selfish, on occasion that is me... Because it is the human way to feel invalid and lonely."

With each song acting as a chapter in Huron John's 'Book One', we can't wait for the sequel.

MUST-LISTEN: 'Andy', 'Maple Syrup Tears', 'Foxglove', 'Death By Flying Saucer'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Roy Blair, Dreamer Boy, Kid Bloom, flor, Gus Dapperton, Yellow Days… and scrapbooking all the cutest childhood memories from your family vacations.

COUP DE MAIN: A lot of the album tackles ideas around social media and the impact technology is having on our relationships. I love the line in 'Honor Tribe' when you sing, "People around me, but I still can't help but feel alone" - why do you think that people so often feel alone, even though they can be more connected than ever?
HURON JOHN: I think this whole internet-era thing is a blessing and a curse. Everyone is putting their lives on complete display (myself included), but it's harder to relate to one another than ever before. Whether they want to admit it or not, everyone feels this way. We feel more alone than ever because we are pressured to present this digital image of “What is beautiful?”, “What is wealthy?” etc. It is accomplishing the exact opposite of what was intended. They really should call it anti-social media. I’ve been guilty of this myself (I try my best lately to not be), but there are literally people out there that will go do something fun or some shit and only care about the Instagram photos versus the actual experience. That is a huge contributor to this tribal feeling of loneliness, especially in people my age. If someone is reading this who really does feel that Instagram or Twitter or whatever has truly connected them further to friends and family with absolutely no internal negative effects, please email my manager, I would love to hear the rationale hahaha.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
HJ: It’s weird because I’ve never actually written a song in a somewhat conventional format. One of my best friends Claire [Ernst] sits down and writes beautiful songs on the guitar or piano like it's nobody's business, and then fleshes it out into a listener-ready track with my other friend Luke [Prost] who produces it all. For some reason this has always been super difficult for me. My process has kind of happened backwards - I always make the beats first, usually the drums, then chords / other production stuff. Once the beat is fully completed, then I’ll write to it. I like to kinda craft the lyrics and theme of the song around the mood of the beat sort of. I think I’m gonna try and change that process up for my next move though.

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
HJ: In terms of lyrics, I keep this giant document on my computer that I write lines in whenever I get an idea. I usually keep the document specific to whatever project or thing I’m working on, like the 'Apocalypse Wow' document was eighteen pages of just single lines. Then when I’m writing to my production, I’ll write new stuff - usually the hooks are always new. Then I’ll kind of make all the verses like Frankenstein-style, piecing a ton of different lines together that I felt complemented the mood.

CDM: In the chorus of 'Maple Syrup Tears' you touch on the ups and downs of emotions ("People hate me when I get mood swings"), which is interesting because I feel like a lot of people go through swings in their emotions. Why do you think there can be frustration when someone is going through something like this?
HJ: Kind of back to the whole topic of social media, I think one thing we all kind of lack right now is definitely empathy. Social media and the very selfish culture we have been placed into has caused us to always prioritise the self. A lot of people break that mould through their actions, and those people are amazing. But, it’s not easy to be that way all the time. It can simply be frustrating whenever you feel like you are not being understood.

CDM: The line "I'm never gonna love again" recurs in a few different songs, in 'Death By Flying Saucer' and 'Andy'. Why do you think that line kept coming up when you were writing the album?
HJ: The original concept, before the whole giant robot story and stuff hahaha was that the album was a breakup album but not concerning a breakup with a human being. The concept was (and still kind of is) that the album explored the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the feeling of your youth “breaking up with you”, in a sense. I think that whole "never gonna love again" line wasn’t me referencing an actual relationship I’ve had that has made me feel that way, but it was more me referencing that thought of like, “Fuck, my youth is gone, happiness might be harder to achieve now.” “Never loving again” can signify feeling lost when you start to realise your early adolescence is starting to head out the door.

CDM: Heartbreak and love can cause so much pain in humans, but it's still something we continue to go through in life. Why do you think that we still crave love, even though we are aware of what it can do to us?
HJ: It’s human nature to crave validation. We want to be appreciated by others, and we want to appreciate others (I hope). It’s just like anything-- that weighing of risk versus reward. Shitty analogy, and don’t smoke cigarettes, but people can love cigarettes while still knowing that they kill people. Not comparing love directly to cigarettes, because love doesn’t give you lung cancer, but it’s kind of a similar concept. You know what the outcome could be, but you choose to engage anyway. We all need love, no matter the occasional pain that can come with it. Love is like the 4th dimension.

CDM: You also sing about being a Libra in that song - what other qualities of a Libra do you think are accurate about yourself?
HJ: Hahaha fuck. I am such a shameless Libra man, it’s kind of embarrassing. You can just google “Libra qualities” and I fit the mould for almost all, but the main one that applies to me is the whole debate/arguing thing. The whole, “Libras can argue so strongly for something they don’t even believe in,” that so applies to me. My Dad could say some shit that I completely agree with, and then I’ll tell him three reasons why some other group of people might think he’s incorrect. It can be annoying in so many settings, but I love that shit.

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
HJ: 'Use The Birth For All It’s Worth'.

CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
HJ: I don’t really think there’s an answer for that. Some songs that I love, other people may think are shit. I get where the question is coming from, though. At the end of the day, “greatness” can be measured by the metric of impacting others.

CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
HJ: It may not be the first ever song, but I have a first memory of writing a song if that counts. If not the very first song though, it was damn near the first hahaha. It was called 'Lou', and it was a really offensive rap-song that I wrote when I was fourteen. It about this dude named Lou who stole an armoured car and robbed a bank. When the police finally caught up to him, he escaped by using magic to open up a portal that took him back in time to ancient Japan, like with all the Samurai and stuff.

CDM: In the interlude of 'Butter' you sing, "Codependency, I'm happy when you're happy." Do you think that humans are naturally drawn to need another person to be happy, or do you think that it's societal conditioning?
HJ: I’m not really sure. Some of that could be societal conditioning, absolutely. The lyric itself was more about how I struggle pretty heavily with codependency. I think a lot of the times we feel that if those around us are not happy, we cannot be happy. It sounds very unhealthy, but it is quite a difficult cycle to break.

CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
HJ: That’s tough. There’s a ton of things I want people to take away from it, but when you’re putting any type of media out on the internet it’s not really in your control what people take from it. At the end of the day, if someone’s life is better after hearing stuff, seeing my videos, or putting a foot into the narrative world, that’s awesome.

CDM: If H.U.R.O.N. J.O.H.N. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
HJ:
H.ey
U.nsuspecting
R.esident
O.f
N.ow

J.oin
O.ur
H.eavenly
N.arrative

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
HJ: 'HACKER' by Death Grips.

CDM: What are your top five necessities for isolation/quarantine/lockdown?
HJ: My quarantine essentials include Orange Vanilla Coke, a bicycle for social-distanced neighbourhood rides, 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops 1' (2009), lots of eucalyptus oil, RAW pre-rolled papers.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2020… who are yours?
HJ: Claire Ernst, Ralphie Kent, Luke Prost, Eddy Esta and Trip Sit.

Watch the 'Andy' music video below...

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