Classical dance shows are all the rage right now, but they can’t happen without men like Jon Craig.
He works on Cream Classical and Gatecrasher Classical and has helped make them universally acclaimed thanks to his production and engineering work. Spending months on each show, Jon is also a DJ, producer and remixer who has had plenty of his own house hits and runs his own high end Courthouse Studio. Here we talk to him about all this and more.
“getting to see it come alive on the night with the whole orchestra and thousands of people having an amazing night is probably the best feeling”
How did you get into production at first? When did you start, what did you do early on?
I always knew as a kid that I wanted to do something in music, and was a house DJ for a number of years! So I suppose I just made the natural progression in to production. I always wanted to be able to play my own music in my sets.
I started producing around 10 or so years ago, mainly making house tracks with cool vocals on, and I was lucky enough to get my 2nd track signed to Robbie Rivera’s label Juicy Music, and then it being licensed out to a CD compilation on Blackhole Recordings.
How did you get involved with the classical dance shows? How did you feel when you got asked?
I was asked by Cream to work on the 1st dance classical show they had planned at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral in early 2016. It felt amazing to be asked by them. Obviously the caliber of producers they have access to, and to be getting chosen over them all, it was a pretty special feeling!
Explain what it is you do exactly for each show.
I essentially dissect and recreate all the classic dance songs in the show, listening out for what drums, bass, synths etc were used in the songs by the original producers, and then recreating every song from scratch to sound as close to the originals as possible.
What makes you so well trained for this job, why do you think your shows are the best out there?
I suppose it’s a combination of things really! Years of hard work, dedication, uni definitely helped me learn the reasoning behind what I do, training my ears to hear the smallest of nuances, but I suppose the main thing is having a couple of the worlds best producers and mix engineers of the past 25 years as mentors. Plus Courthouse Studio is very high end with lots of world class equipment, which definitely makes life a lot easier. Combine this with my pure passion for my job and it’s led me to where I am today.
I believe Cream, Gatecrasher & Colours classical’s are the best out there sonically mainly due to how much I lived and breathed the songs growing up, and I just get the music! For me, the new remakes/covers I do that sit along with the orchestra in the show have the same vibe as the originals. Most people at the shows tell me they thought they were listening to the originals with an orchestra over the top!
How long does it take, what gear do you use, where do you do it all?
It takes around 3 months per show for me from starting the production process to finishing the final mix downs. I use a huge combination of analog and soft synths for the building of the tracks, along with the vast array of analog rack gear available at Courthouse Studio to mix it. The custom built SSL EQ’s out of a 5000 series desk I have had racked up are particularly nice.
What are the best and worst bits of working on these shows?
I love the whole process to be honest, it can get a little stressful deciding what kick drum or hi-hat etc to use trying to get it right, but I thrive on it all if I’m honest. I would say getting to see it come alive on the night with the whole orchestra and thousands of people having an amazing night is probably the best feeling in the whole process! Its totally incredible knowing you’re a huge part of that!
And what makes you most proud, what the standout moment so far of doing these shows?
Again, probably seeing anywhere between 2000-12,000 people per show dancing away to your work is the thing that makes me most proud. Standout moments have been:
Eric Prydz – Pjanoo in last years Cream Classical at Liverpool Cathedral, and Faithless – Insomnia in The Steel Yard in November.
For Gatecrasher Classical, it was the opening and closing tracks of the show. I won’t say what they are so not to ruin it for anyone, but it they’re very special indeed.
And for Colours Classical it would have to be getting to meet Christina Novelli and watching her tear the roof of with Concrete Angel
What else do you do aside from these shows?
Away from the shows I am a producer, mix engineer & remixer, I work on various electronic music acts/artists, with lots of chart success on my work on iTunes & Beatport etc. I also keep my foot in the door with DJ’ing with a set in the Curve Arena at Creamfields last year, as well as my own productions. Feel free to go check out my latest track Jon Craig & Mix Mode ft. Leitita Gray – In The Deep End, which has been getting lots of support all around the globe by radio stations and djs.