MynameisjOhn: the emerging ‘thinker and prover’ and top class DJ and producer

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

HIS name is John. He makes progressive, eye-opening music through turntables, laptops, mixers and samplers, currently loves cheesecake and check shirts.

HIS name is John. He makes progressive, eye-opening music through turntables, laptops, mixers and samplers, currently loves cheesecake and check shirts.

John Lillis - aka MynameisjOhn - aka Johnny Doobs - will make two rare outings behind the turntables in Bourke’s Bar this week. He will support both Jape and Windings over different nights, both of which are surprising reference points for the eclectic producer, more regularly associated with hip-hop and electronica.

“Jape has been a massive influence for me going back to when I was 16 with the Redneck Manifesto - one of my favourite bands of all time - and Jape’s output, particularly the album last year, was probably one of my favourite of last year, so I am really excited to be playing with them,” explains Lillis. “The same goes for Windings, I was a massive fan of Giveamanakick, have seen Windings play many times and know Steve quite well, so they are two great gigs to be involved in,” he adds.

Lillis’s appearances have been rare in recent times, as he has been working at home on his own original music, so to be playing not one, but two gigs, is something to look forward to. If you haven’t seen this man behind a set of decks, you should be rushing to see both, if possible.

“There is an opportunity to play two very different sets,” he agrees. “One of them will be far more up-tempo than the other, probably the DJ set, using Cerrado, looking toward more current forms of music and focused towards electronica. The other will be a case of rooting through the vinyl collection and pulling out more laid back, older stuff.”

Lillis’ recent EP The Thinker and The Prover opened many eyes as to the Clare producer’s burgeoning talent after the excellent yet slightly more raw 2011 debut There Is A Policeman Inside All Of Our Heads. Both have thrown up comparisons to DJ Shadow, such is the sample stuffed nature of the records, particularly the recent EP, a shimmering electro, jazz-tinged psychedelic hip-hop offering that is as easy to pin down in a genre-sense as a wriggling fish.

He cares not for the word genre, mind you.

“I have never been too pushed on trying to categorise music, it is literally just good and bad music. I like to think I play good stuff, but I’m sure some people would disagree,” he laughs.

He is fond of throwing in samples as wide ranging as Bowie’s Nature Boy, words from the actor John Leguizamo and ramblings from Irish trad-folk.

“To me there is as much reference in playing a very old folk record, that is as important to me as playing a Hudson Mohawk record that is only out four days - that is the thing to try and maybe link the two together and show that they are not that far apart.”

Lillis is keen on the album experience, and making something that “reflects your own personality”. Thus, his samples have meaning, if perhaps only to him.

“I don’t like making music and throwing it out, I like listening to albums the whole way through. For me the whole context of the music is very important, that you are trying to make some kind of statement.

“Normally I try and take certain ideas from another source - a documentary or book - and apply them very loosely to the music. There are references there that I thought, ‘everyone will get this’, and then you realise that you are the only one,” he laughs.

There is a sample on Portals - from the recent EP - that declares: “I always thought of a DJ as a non-musician, I couldn’t tell you what a C-chord is; I think sometimes it is good to explore music without having any boundaries, hindrances, or fixed formations”. These words, while not spoken by Lillis, could very well have been.

“I have been DJing for 12 years on and off but producing stuff has been a much more recent thing. I still really feel like I am only learning the ropes of that,” he explains. “I am the most musically un-talented person you could meet. I am at the age now, while most people were forced into piano lessons at the age of 8, I am trying, at 30, to learn how to signal process something from a turntable.

“I am a critical person when it comes to my own music, and I don’t think I am at a stage yet where I would be able to charge for it. But each time I go to make an EP or an album, I feel like it is going to get better than the last. I am confident now that by the time I am 50, I will be making kick-ass music.”

‘MynameisjOhn’ plays in Bourke’s Bar this Thursday with Jape and on Friday night with Windings.