Jonas Saalbach is our kind of artist: incredibly talented, a true musician and thoroughly unique in his approach, he really does embody all that’s great and good about the contemporary electronic music scene. With his new album, Headlights, about to drop via his Radikon release, it felt like a good time to check in with the man himself, as we talked label pressures, exiting Berlin during the pandemic, the process behind his new album, as well as the first single from the album, the absolutely brilliant title track — which alone is worthy of your attention. Anyway, without further ado, here’s what happened when we checked in recently with the Berlin-based artist…
How are you, what’s good and bad in your world?
I am very good. During the summer in Berlin I was mainly in my studio and worked very intensively on my new album, Headlights. I’m just happy that it’s finished and am personally happy with the result, which is not always the case. There is nothing really bad in my personal little bubble, but the many negative events in the world have a bad influence on my mind from time to time. Nevertheless, I try to start the day positively every morning.
Why did you head to Gran Canaria in March for six weeks? Was it a good time?
I think around January I started to work on my album and produced a couple of tracks but it was difficult to fully focus on the project. The endless winter in Germany had only just begun and constant bad Corona news and some other things that I had to sort out caught my attention too much. I felt like it would be great to pack some synths and drum machines and produce somewhere else on headphones. Gran Canaria was an amazing place to do that. I could really focus on my music and also spend a lot of time without social media which is mostly distracting for me. Hikes in the mountains and the sunshine were very inspiring for me.
The PR text with your album says you were free from constraints of producing for others – what are those?
My album is coming out on my own label Radikon and that gives me so much freedom. When you release on external labels, there are always several people involved, which is absolutely fine, but with this project I wanted to make all the musical decisions by myself. At Radikon we have been friends for a long time and it’s just great to work with your closest ones every day. My partner David Guzy, our artwork designer Simon Kneip and I for example have known each other for 15 years. I love that!
Why did you want to do an LP, what inspired or influenced it?
I was curious to release an album and be responsible for every single step and decision. I also like big projects, even though I know I’ll get to the point where I’ll go completely crazy. But the feeling when an album is finished and you hold it in your hands is just incredible. To be honest the biggest influence for me are the artists from my label.
was there a plan for it from the start, did you know how you wanted it to sound? What was the aim generally with it?
Yes! Before I started the first loop, I made a lot of notes about how I wanted the album to sound. I think it still has my signature, but it’s deeper than my previous productions and fits well with the current sounds we’re releasing on ‘Radikon’. The label has definitely influenced me and my sound in a good way. When I was producing the first track on the album, Transformation, I had some mystical, spacey-looking videos playing on my second screen in the studio. These are perhaps the key words I would use to describe the sound of the album. And if the music matches the video, then you know you’re producing in the right direction.
Did the pandemic affect its style, being at home more and not on the road?
It only affected my style because I had more time to develop it. But I still have parties in mind when I produce. It’s not, as you might think, an album for the living room. I’m still true to club music, even though the album tells a story and is produced in a way that you can listen to it from beginning to end.
Any key gear used in the making of – do you care about the tools?
I had a small but effective set-up in Gran Canaria and in my studio I work a lot with hardware. Currently I have just recorded a masterclass with ‘Production Music Live’, which shows the work of one of the album tracks. This will be released in October and will give the viewer a very detailed insight into my work.
How did you find the process? is it torture or enjoyable?
Both. Producing this album was a bit like a long relationship. You have moments that make you infinitely happy, moments that push you to the limits and you doubt everything, but in the end you’re just happy to have put so much work and emotions into it.
What’s next, what else you got coming up?
I have just recorded a new live set with TIME:CODE. I’m really looking forward to presenting Headlights to you in this way. After the album I will release two tracks on Fur Coat’s Oddity and then an album remix EP too.