Los Angeles native music producer and artist Jonathan Hakakian, better known as his alias Jonny Joon, has been living and breathing sound since he played his first piano key at four-years-old. His unique dreamy, mystical, tribal, electro sound can be attributed to his wide-range of musical influences and inspirations…
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, to Persian and Israeli Parents. I’ve lived abroad during college and even high school, but LA remains my home.
Tell us about your journey as an artist?
My parents always tell me how, when I was little, I would come home from pre-school and teach myself how to play the tunes I was learning in class on a toy piano I had. Luckily, they recognized my aptitude towards music from a very young age and supported this interest with everything they had. With every year, my devotion to the craft strengthened. I always knew this was my rightful place, my true life path, and that was never questioned or doubted. I was committed, and I had the unwavering support of pretty much everyone around me. Sometimes this was a lot of pressure, and although everyone else seemed to believe in me, I struggled with the faith I had in myself. I could have given up a thousand times because things didn’t look like I imagined they would. At a certain point, I realized my success was defined by my happiness; I realized I’m successful because I value the way I spend my time. With this re-contextualization of success, I learned to focus on the unfolding, so the journey can be a hard thing to describe. I’m right here, right now, in the present moment, and try not to dedicate much time building a narrative around the past. What got me here is allowing myself to fully experience my humanness; all the mistakes and pitfalls, all the triumphs and joy. I explored! I explored new places, new people, and new ideas. I fell in love a thousand times and probably got my heart broken just as many. I allowed myself to reach down into the darkness to discover the light. I reached new levels of emotional depth and intimacy with my loved ones, but most importantly with myself. And in every experience, music was central, setting the score to every blissful and hear trenching moment.
Tell us what have you been working on?
In the last year I’ve produced several electronic records with various artists/singers, composed orchestral parts for an acoustic/gospel project, worked on a Jazz-Fusion album, and written cues for a few television shows. In terms of my solo artistry, I just released ‘Ours’, which features my dear friend Natasha Agrama, and I’m gearing up for several more releases in 2018. One of the albums that I’m particularly excited about is a collection of pieces I’ll be releasing under the title “Lost In A Moment”. Each piece is meant to capture the feeling of a single moment in time, as opposed to the telling of a story. “Cafuné” will be the first release, which describes the act of running your fingers through your lovers hair. My need to experience musical variety, and similarly my desire to learn as much about music as possible, is insatiable. For that reason, I find it gratifying to work on many different projects at any given time. I believe that’s part of what makes me a good producer.
Share with us what other artists you work with:
Stanley Clarke is one of the artists I’ve been fortunate to work with for the past decade. I always appreciate our time together as I get to soak in his creative genius. Priya Deepika and I completed a full sound journey psychedelic dance floor project called, “Hear In My Heart”. It merges traditional Indian ragas with contemporary electronic production, and has been getting a lot of attention lately, even though it’s not officially released yet. The title song won an award in the Best World Music category at this year’s Global Peace Song awards, and a few of the songs have been licensed to televisions shows. Kelleia and I collaborated on a collection of songs in 2017. The first, “Majesty” was just released a few months ago. Im super excited about that project as well. Im also in the midst of an acoustic record with a long time collaborator and friend, Tony Moss and the LuvAmp Project. He showed me his song, Grateful, many years ago, and I secretly wished he would call me up to produce it. A few months ago he did, I think its the best of our work together. In term of past projects, I’ve been lucky to have worked with some really incredible artists like Thundercat, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Anastacia, Ruslan Sirota, Kamasi Washington… the list goes on.
What’s your creative process like?
My process is constantly shifting, and kind of spontaneous, especially when I’m in my flow. It’s usually a single idea that inspires me. It could be a pairing of notes I hear in the creaking of a door, or a naturally occurring polyrhythm I notice between the engines of two cars idling side by side. Often times, the ideas will come to me when I least expect them too and I’ll do my best to sing all the layers I hear into a voice memo on my phone. Retaining that magic; transcribing an idea I hear internally into music that can be heard and felt by another, is the hard part though. One thing I’ve come to accept about my process these days is that my first idea is often a steppingstone to something greater. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Sometimes you need to dig until the magic is unveiled. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve produced a track that an artist was super excited about, but decided to keep digging anyway… continue searching for that X factor, that feeling of uniqueness and rarity. In the end its always been totally worth the extra time, as they’ve always preferred the product of that creative experimentation.
Where did your sound come from? What are your influences?
I’d describe ‘my sound’ as dreamy, tribal, electro-acoustic, with neo-soul dance rhythms and deep soul-evoking chord progressions. It’s funny, for the longest time, I didn’t feel like my music had a sound. I felt like I was chasing something that my musical idols had mastered. This was contrary to the feedback I’d receive from others listening to my music, many off whom easily identified a certain musical consistency that spanned across the body of my work… across songs, across projects, and across genres. They noticed it, but I was blind to it. I was so close to the songs that I’d totally loose sight of the big picture. Like if you were to look closely at one painting out of a series, you might fail to recognize its relationship to the remaining body of work. Or if you’re too focused in on one specific attribute of a friend, or a lover, you might miss out on the magic of their spirit as a whole… the quality that captivated you in the first place… the very quintessence of their being. I started realizing my sound when I stopped trying to have ‘a sound’ in the first place. When I began accepting the fact that I don’t need or want to limit myself to a particular genre, tempo, energy, or experience. I know now that as long as I write music from the heart, any direction I take it in will undeniably be me because I’m the one writing it. I believe that “a sound,” is much more then a set of composited notes and rhythms, it’s a reflection of the whole of ones experience in this life (or other lifetimes, for those who believe in that). As far as influences go, music is the holy grail for me. I’ll hear something I’ve never heard before, say a harmonic progression, or something more sound design oriented like a textural element, and my first instinct will be to dissect it and learn how it was created so I can add it to my arsenal of creative tools. On a more macro level, all of life is an influence of some kind; love and consciousness being of the most significant and meaningful for me.
Other than music what are your interests?
Yoga. Dancing. Philosophy. Understanding the inner workings of my mind, heart, and body. Communing with nature. Phytotherapy. Chocolate. My dog, Tango.
Scoring augmented reality is one of my future plans. Imagine yourself watching a performance in Giza, within the sacred pyramids of the old kingdom. Pharaohs rising from their tombs to reunite with their Queens. Magic spells cast to regenerate and refresh their once mummified flesh. Their brains were removed long ago, so they have no use for judgement; they just meet you on the dance floor with pure hearts, pure intelligence, pure spirit. It’s a full sensory experience. Ever made love to an ancient concubine? Im also planing to expand my production company, Hear Color Music, into a creative incubator that promotes content creation and collaboration by designing a space for artists, musicians, thinkers, and creators of all kinds to assemble. There is something really unique that happens when people create in the same space, even if they are working on their individual projects. Conversations get started, new ideas are formed, inspiration flows, and ultimately goals are realized.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
My favorite thing about Dark Beauty is that the pairing of those words is somewhat of a paradox. The word beauty describes an appreciation for a physical quality that is generally visible by all, while the word dark is the precise absence of light and therefore invisible. So with that in mind, I’d say the truest meaning of Dark Beauty for me, is an acknowledgment of the beauty in all things, especially that which cannot be seen or understood. It’s everywhere around us, infinitely available and ultimately ubiquitous. It’s a sense of trust… a sense of faith in the unknown.