Humble and prolific, the Stones Throw producer/rapper says he’d ‘ride that horse to the very end’ if he ever got a shot at the big time
Words Daniel Zuidijk
Photography Shane Sakanoi
JONWAYNE doesn’t actually hate Disney. Contrary to what his latest mixtape Jonwayne Fucks Disney suggests, the LA-based rapper and producer — real name Jonathan Wayne — believes his remixes of classic films like The Aristocats and Peter Pan are actually taking his career to a brighter place.
Wayne describes making his latest release as a “form of meditation”, and as someone who came to music via drama class at high school (and briefly university), he was never going to play to convention.
Recently signed to the Stones Throw imprint, the 21-year-old from Los Angeles is as humble as he is prolific. “I keep myself busy, definitely,” is the furthest we can draw him on the subject of his already impressive back catalogue (his forthcoming label debut will be his fourth release in 2012).
Wayne’s self-effacing patter makes his time at drama school even trickier to fathom, but he says it was his classmates’ luvvie pretensions that put him off pursuing his chosen profession: “They were all these wired little, fanatical, fantasy-indulged kids, who were all just lead actors in their mind.”
Involved in celebrated LA club night Low End Theory since its beginning (he still attends on a weekly basis), his first big break came at a benefit show for then-incarcerated DJ Kutmah.
“I’d just recently recorded some stuff,” he says, “but I wasn’t planning on showing anybody. I just figured that I had to do this, because I didn’t know if I would get the opportunity again. So while the DJ was playing, I went up there and asked if I could rhyme. And apparently [Stones Throw boss Peanut Butter Wolf] caught it, and later that night we met up.”
Wayne admits a preference for playing live venues and makes clear his disdain for the larger spectacles preferred by mainstream hip hop: “Let’s say a rapper goes up onstage and performs in front of 10,000 people. He has no set design, no big screens, no crazy-ass lights — only the minimal. How well do you think he could entertain those people? No matter how good he is!”
He does, however, admit that he’d “ride that horse to the very end” if given the opportunity to make it big.
Further digging reveals a collaboration with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow on his recent Quakers project (above) and a love of blubstepper James Blake (“He always comes off really original — I respect that a lot”), while a question about whether he prefers rapping or producing prompts a telling response:
“It really depends, man. It depends on what I want to say, you know? But I feel the MC stuff is like therapy for me — it helps me get stuff of my chest. I made a vow a couple of years ago that if I didn’t have anything to say, I wouldn’t say it. I didn’t want to be one of those MCs that just walked around and sang nonsense.”