Interview: Mainframe

In collaboration with We’ve Got The Jazz, we hooked up with Mainframe (Johnson & Jonson) for an interview. J Dilla, New World Color, music in general, upcoming releases by Johnson & Jonson, himself and BoB Smiles: we talked about a lot with the L.A.-based producer.

Music: Mainframe – Brand New Pharmacy

For those who are sleeping, can you tell us who is Mainframe, what does he bring to the table, and why should he be taken seriously?

At this point I’m whoever you want me to be. From now on everything I do shall be classified under “the NewJonRuh” and when you see me in the streets you could call me Jonny Depth … (Why? Because shit is deep)

Growing up who were some of your early influences?

Bruce Lee, Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, DR. J, Jim Henson, KRS-One, the Beach Boys, the Beastie Boys, the Bones Brigade, Mike Tyson, Bo Jackson, The Beatles, The Gonz, Nard Core Punk Rock scene, Wu Tang Clan, tons of Rock music, De La Soul, Jive Bunny Mega Mix, Public Enemy, & Bambaata.

What are some of the equipment you use to craft those insane beats?

It really all depends on the vibe I’m feeling, or the artist that I’m working w/ at the time. In the studio I always have an MPC & a turntable, my synths, a lot of old organs, & other pieces depending on whether I want something to sound analog or digital.

*(MainFrame’s phone starts ringing and he seems pre occupied w/ amusing himself with his phone. Every time it rings he sings along to his ring tone “Lemonade” by Gucci Mane but cuts it off in different places sending the calls to voicemail.)*

What are your thoughts on dudes making sample-free music & advertising the sample-free part like its somehow superior to sampling?

They could do whatever they want. I’m not trippin’ on other people’s techniques or their opinion of what they think is better.

*(He then stands up on the couch & begins responding to his texts, still verbally answering the questions while glancing out the window with a sense of wonder in his eyes as if this type of multi tasking is his daily meditation)*

Do you remember what you first sampled while you were still a rookie producer?

I don’t even remember exact titles of the albums or names of songs. Back in the days I was just swooping vinyl, diggin’ for loops & sounds to chop on the EPS. Even now, I still don’t remember most of the things I sample, unless I’m paid too.

You did some work with J Dilla, including A&R for the ‘Jay Stay Paid album of 2009, can you let us know what other work you did for him?

First & foremost Dilla was a great friend & will forever be an ultimate inspiration for my family and me. I will always remember him as a humble hard worker, an innovator, & creator of timeless music. On the business side of things, Dilla and I created a company called All I.D. (Dilla backwards). A lot of it revolved around music, but we also worked on plenty of visual projects as well. We would mainly just bounce energy around & execute what was in our mind, and then spend the rest of the time thinking of more ideas.

It was an amazing experience being able to have Dilla share his thoughts with me, what he envisioned in regards to how things will evolve, and what he expected of the future. It was nothing but respect, and I felt like we appreciated each others presence & were just helping each other develop our ideas into reality.

Can you tell us a little about New World Color? What is it, who’s on it and what are yall bringing in 2010?

NewWorldColor is a multidimensional entertainment company that John Barnes (aka Blu) and I created. It’s basically an outlet for us to release our art and products that we create through our own channel, using our acquired sources, in our preferred environment at our own time & pace.

*(MainFrame finally gets up to answer his phone that keeps ringing & disappears for 5 minutes. He casually returns & requests for the next question stating that we need to speed this interview up because he has a session w/ the Artist formerly known as Prince.)*

If New World Color is the new label, what’s Sound In Color and why do the logos look similar?

Sound In Color was the first record label that I started … it was more like an experiment that I created & undeniably an experience that we all learned from ultimately helping us approach the level of where we are now. The meaning of the circular SIC Logo is “all colors meet in the middle”. In the NewWorldColor Logo you can see the letters NWC, and such things as mountains & a bird flying through them or even a symbol for water with a fish swimming towards it, it all depends on what the season is.

The logos look similar because we wanted to expand the concept without losing the original elements of our first creation. For people to recognize the resemblance between the 2 logos is a great thing! We still want people to identify with our previous works & know that we are still here creating marvelous things.

What’s Mainframe been up to, and projects in the works?

Well, everyday it’s something new. I’m running New World Color with Blu and at the same time being an artist. As complex as that sounds, I feel like I’ve finally reached a Zen point, floating at a place of balance between being an executive & an artist. At the end of the day I’m an artsy dude about my money! In this business, I wear multiple hats and because of my many levels of involvement with the artist, my daily routine varies. Sometimes my job is to be an executive producer, sometimes its being a song writer, other times I’m a creative director or designer, I’ll even be their manager, psychologist, or therapist.

All in all, I enjoy bringing the best out of a group of people or an individual, and taking the steps in reaching a common goal that we all feel good about. For the past couple months I have been focusing on completing projects that I started last year. Hip Hop projects include an album with Danny Brown entitled “Danny Johnson” (the Purple Baby) and another project with an up and coming MC named Real Reid. Danny Brown and Reid are from Detroit & both are going to make a lot of noise in the music world in 2010. Another project to look out for this year is Bianca G. & Brooker T as Cherry Pop. These are 2 of my homegirls that I have taken under my wing & they are headed straight to the top. Cherry Pop sounds like no other. They are futuristic, sexy, controversial, and cutting edge, all mashed up and layered over big beats. They will make their debut in the next couple months.

One of my favorite artists that I m currently working with, is Gonja Sufi. He is like a spiritual gangster that will murder you for the right reasons while he is reading verses in the Bible! I’ve had the pleasure to produce his first single “Holidays/Candylanes” and a handful of songs on his album “A Sufi & A Killer” that Warp Records dropped recently. Producing for Gonja Sufi allows me to step out of the Hip Hop box and experiment more with my sound. Blu and I always stay busy & consistently work on new material. Right now we are finishing his next album, planning & shooting some heavy film & video projects and handling the day to day hustle of NewWorldColor.

Mainframe
Free Download: Johnson & Jonson – Up For Adoption, The Rare Babies EP
Info: EP with rare J&J tracks, compiled by Andrew Martin of Potholes In My Blog.

Everybody’s been looking for the answer to this question: will there be another Johnson&Jonson?

The next J&J release is a 10″ called “Johnson&Jonson is DEAD“. We have so many other things to focus on and are in no rush to create another album; however we have stacked up so much J&J that at any given moment, different colored babies will be falling from the sky.

Can you give us a little rundown of BoB SMILES and when can we expect a release from them?

Around the time we were wrapping up the “J&J” album, we felt like trying something different with live instruments. During that era, a lot of talented artists & friends would frequent the OXygen Tank (our studio), so it was only natural for a group of us to just get together and set it off. With the whole crew congregated in this small space stuffed with dusty organs and Blu running around with his tambourine, it almost felt like Church. Bling Bling, the vibe was bright and shiny like your new silver tooth! The band consists of Timmy and Toddy Smiles, John Smiles III (aka HerFavSmile), the amazing Alfred and Evan Smiles and me, Jonny Smiles. We are currently putting finishing touches on our first BoB SMILES album entitled “Tooth Paste“. The first two singles will be on NewWorldColor and out in the next few months.

Music: Mainframe – Fuk De Lux

Will Mainframe ever put out a solo record?

I will be releasing a record that is yet to be titled in May.

Are there any artists you are looking out for and who do you want to work with in 2010?

Artists that I would like to work with are Michel Gondry, Andre3000, Thom Yorke, Chloe Sevigny, James Murphy, Jay Electronica, the Beastie Boys, Goldwasser and VanWyngarden of MGMT, and Slick Rick …hmmm … but at the end of the day I am very content with continuing to work with everyone that I’m currently working with. I want to see my circle continue to develop their talents and grow as artists… we got next!

*(MainFrame then thanks me for the interview, gives me dap, and scurries out the loft. 5 min later he runs back in only to recover his cell phone that he left on the couch … whispering excitedly “Yeeeeaaahh, Its on G !”)*

Words by: Futura (WGTJ)
Interview by: Ian Foronda
More info: New World Color