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On January 30th, Calgary artist JHNN, who’s real name is Johnn Arum, had his first official release on Beatport, a two-track EP titled Electronic Circus.

Releases of this nature are typically met with little fanfare. Two-track EPs are a frequent occurrence in the world of dance music, and every day the new release page is inundated with them. They’re the Harlequin romance novels of the electronic generation, rapidly consumed pieces of checkout-isle art.

For JHNN, however, this two track EP represents a lot more. Electronic Circus is the culmination of seven years of growing, building, and climbing. More importantly, it represents what many in the world of modern dance music consider to be the holy grail of the art: the movement from “bedroom DJ,” to having an official release with a label.

The title Electronic Circus is a nod to the T.V. show “Electric Circus,” a live dance music party that was broadcast on MuchMusic throughout the ’90s. The dance music that was prevalent in Canada at this time was originally what got Arum interested in dance music.

Early Life

“Dance Mix ’95 was the beginning of dance music for me,” says Arum.

The “Dance Mix” series was an annual compilation of dance music released by MuchMusic in conjunction with Quality records. Although Arum was only five when the 1995 installment was released, his older brother, who was going through a rave phase at the time, purchased the album and flooded the Arum household with the sounds of 90’s dance music.

“My brother used to put it on repeat, so it was like, in my head. I remember it so clearly,” says Arum.

Instead of developing an aversion to it, Arum was fascinated by the stylings of artists like Haddaway, Livin’ Joy, and Technotronic. It was at this point that he began tuning into Electric Circus regularly, and listening to the radio shows of Canada’s legendary dance music DJ Chris Sheppard.

“That was my only way of finding dance music, Eletric Circus, and Chris Sheppard, which was on Power 107 back in the day for like an hour,” says Arum.

“Those were the only two sources.”

Ironically, Arum found the world of dance music more accessible during this period than during the onset of file sharing networks like Napster and Limewire.

This setback caused Arum to leave dance music for almost a decade.

“ It was just hard,” says Arum.

“I’d be searching for it [on Limewire], but I couldn’t find it, so I got out of it.”

2008-2012: The Bedroom Dweller

As Arum was finishing high school, he began contemplating the prospects for the rest of his life, and none of them seemed appealing.

“I didn’t want to be an engineer, but someone was telling me that I had to be an engineer,” says Arum.

It was at this point that Arum was introduced to the new generation of dance music.

“That Kid Cudi song ‘Day ‘n’ Nite [the Crookers remix]’ was pretty big back then, Black Eyed Peas were doing that whole electronic thing, and they kind of got me into it,” says Arum.

From there he went on to discover artists like A-Trak, Cut Copy, and The Presets. These artists not only renewed Arum’s interest in dance music, they inspired him to create it.

“I just felt like I needed to make music,” he says.

“Those bands just made me want to make music.”

In 2009 Arum made the decision to abandon the idea of an engineering degree. Instead, he now had one sole resolve in life: becoming an artist.

“I was taking a physics course to upgrade for my high school diploma,” he says.

“I really tried to pay attention, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about DJing, I just couldn’t stop.”

Arum purchased a rudimentary piece of hardware and spent the next six month learning how to DJ. Inspired by A-Trak’s mastery of both DJing and production, Arum also started to attempt making his own music, learning the craft through YouTube videos and hours of experimenting.

“I wanted to make sure that I learned this on my own, figured out my own sound,” he says.

“I tried to stay in my room and figure out how to make music.”

2012 – Present: On the Wings of Valkyries

For the next three years Arum’s activities as an artist were confined to his bedroom. Then in 2012 he started playing at “open decks” nights, the DJ equivalent of an open mic night.

By this point, Arum had an album completed, he was teaching himself advanced skills like setting levels within tracks, and he was voraciously attempting to develop a presence on social media with the aim of moving out of his bedroom and into the club scene.

I was making remixes, and my goal was to make a song a month,” he says.

“From 2012 to 2014 that’s what was happening, I was making a song a month.”

In 2013 Arum entered a DJ competition at Calgary’s Habitat Living Sound. It was here that the five year journey, the sacrifices, the decision to give up a traditional career path, and the constant push to learn more were all validated.

A label representative who was judging the competition approached Arum after hearing him play, and asked him for music. This was the beginning of the process that led to Electronic Circus being released.

The EPs release symbolically represents JHNN’s graduation from bedroom DJ into the citadel known as the music industry. Yet, he still continues to harbor the same work ethic. At the time of this interview, Arum admitted that he began 2015 by barricading himself in his room.

“I’m just trying to stay in my room and make music until I actually get something,” he says.

Arum is currently working on a forthcoming album and a tentative EP. Shopping them around to labels, an act that was once a distant dream, has now become an established part of his modus operandi.

The term “bedroom DJ” has often been used in a derogatory sense, however the journey of JHNN has shown exactly what can be accomplished in the bedroom in the era of modern dance music. It was in those four walls, on a laptop with a browser open to YouTube tutorials and a workstation running in the background, that Johnn Arum was able to transform himself from a wayward highschool graduate into JHNN the artist, and this is all still only the beginning.

By: Jonathan Crane

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2 Responses

    • John arum

      indie RNB…it took 3 days. I handed it over to the label in november 2013…Thats business for you mang.

      Reply

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