Techno Tuesday: Jonas Rathsman
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
French Express conductor Jonas Rathsman is a wizard when it comes to house music of the melodic variety. His love for such sounds runs deep, beginning at a young when the Gothenburg native got introduced to underground electronic whilst organizing hip-hop parties. By 2011, he’d been fully broken into the international scene, having made his name over singles like “Tobaggo” and “Love Is My Middle Name.”
Rathsman’s organic, heartfelt approach to music is more than working for him. He was named “Future Star of 2013” by Pete Tong on Radio 1, and has since climbed to the upper echelons of the house and tech realm with consistently high quality releases on labels like Crosstown Rebels and Diynamic.
His future is only looking brighter as he continues to grow into himself not just as an artist, but almost a “jack of all trades” type of participant in the electronic music industry. Having created his ELEMENTS brand initially as a mix series, it’s now grown into a full-on label, as well as a name for one-off parties around the concept that have been met with success.
The Swedish icon graciously provided Dancing Astronaut some insight into his career explosion and ELEMENT’s growth ahead of the newest podcast episode’s release.
You’ve always had a tendency to enjoy music that is more on the melodic side; whether soulful, piano house or melodically-infused tech. What has drawn you to this type of music in particular, and would you agree that these sounds are beginning to come “back into fashion?”
I feel like right now it’s very much about banging techno, at least in Sweden it is. For me, I need something with some sort of melody – uplifting or dark, it doesn’t matter. I can’t really listen to rolling, generic tech-house for more than a few hours as it doesn’t really speak to me. I guess I’m an emotional person and I need to have emotional music to be satisfied.
Innervisions is one label that I think is doing everything right and have been doing so for a long time. Every track on the label has its place – they worked out a winning recipe which is the perfect balance between romantic techno and emotional house. They’ve released so many amazing classics like Frankey & Sandrino’s “Acamar” or the Âme remix of “Howling”, priceless!
Tell us about your ELEMENTS mix series – did you start that up as a way to almost force yourself to seek new music from unexpected places? Or have you always had aspirations to create a consistent mix show?
I’ve always enjoyed making mix tapes. It’s tough and challenging, but it’s a really good way to keep you updated on new music; it’s easy to be lazy and just keep playing the same tracks over and over (this has never worked for me).
I wanted to make an ongoing mix series for a long time, it just didn’t work while having really young kids and touring – any spare time I had I want to spend with my family. Now that the kids are a bit older, I have some more time on my hands. About 18 months ago it was a good time to launch the ELEMENTS series and I wanted to do something that was an extension of my personality in a way. We are surrounded by so much nature here in Sweden, and I’ve always felt a connection to the natural surroundings – I miss that when I am away in big cities! So this is where the name ELEMENTS came from.
It’s really gone above and beyond my expectations as I get so much new music sent to me now! I listen to everything that is sent, so much of it is really amazing – it’s a really nice way to come across new talent. A lot of the artists who have submitted their tracks I’ve ended up signing on the label and because of that they keep coming back and sending me more material. I really feel like these newcomers who understand my family vision for ELEMENTS.
One guy that I’m really excited about is Mario Bianco that I recently signed and another is Mimram. They both make incredible music and will be featured in the next mix – I’m really excited about their stuff.
Where are your favorite places to find the best new music?
A lot comes from demos and promos, but I also buy a lot of music. I use WhatPeoplePlay a lot. Their staff picks are usually really good and it just suits me better. I also often reach out to DJ friends to see if they have anything fresh they’d like to share and that usually works quite well.
Speaking of ELEMENTS, you also launched your own record label by the same name. What was the moment that made you realize it was time to venture into this territory? What are some of the obstacles that have come as a new label owner, and how have you overcome them thus far?
Since day 1 I’ve wanted to turn the mix series ELEMENTS into a label, but I wanted to build the brand organically. We decided to launch it as a mix series at first and let people get to know the sound so that the connection with the releases would feel more natural.
People started to send us music for the mix series that was unsigned, and there was just so much good music that I really felt a need to start the label. When Kincaid & Sinal sent me “Long-Haul Flight Bathroom Romance Scene”, I knew it was time, it just had to be the first release on the label that didn’t have my name on it! My management team also provide a promotional service so it’s very easy for me to work with them in-house as they do all of the promotion for the label on top of managing me. It is really exciting what we can do for artists through the label with that in place. I want to help make a difference to artists careers and I feel that we can do that through the label, mix series and events. It was great to see Kincaid & Sinal get to number one on Beatport with their release – it is a testament to the quality of the music.
Setting up a label does come with its challenges though, as I feel it takes a lot of releases to become that ‘established’ label that every artist wants to release on. It’s up to us to do our work on the records and build it organically. I am really excited about what is to come with ELEMENTS.
Aside from your own lovely label, what are some other up-and-coming labels we should keep our eyes on?
There are a few for sure. Kindisch, MoBlack and Rise to name a few. A label that keeps coming back in my mixes is Oleeva – there is probably one track from each series that comes from that label as they are doing amazing stuff at the moment.
What does a day in the life of Jonas Rathsman look like? How do you balance out your label, mix series, studio time, and all your increasing gigs?
It is tough at times, I have to be honest. I have two boys aged eight and ten, so first and foremost I am a father and I really try to spend as much time with them as possible. The oldest one likes to sing, and the younger one likes to play bongos on pretty much everything. My youngest also wants a banjo and I was like ‘what?!’ I will buy him a banjo one day, probably when he’s grown up and moved out! They are so much fun at this age though,we’re best friends!
As I said, number one priority is always my family, so the day revolves around them really. I get up at 6:30am to make breakfast and take the boys to school. I try to keep my working day in the studio to 9am-5pm – I can’t be in the studio 24/7 and stay up all night, it just doesn’t work! I like to be back at home in time to cook in the evening, and I help the boys with their homework or whatever needs to be done, so my working day is actually quite short.
Between the hours of 9-5, time flies by so fast so it can be hard to find time to finish music. During these hours I have to make time for management talks and label planning as we speak regularly on planning the releases and what’s happening with my career. Plus, for the last few months I have been building a new studio space, which is finally nearly finished! If you follow me on Instagram, then you might have already seen some pictures and videos, but I’ll share something properly once it is done. The day is just way too short for me, but I try to make the most of it. I make sure that I stick to deadlines and get the mixes, label tasks and my own music done within them.
I also don’t like to be on tour for too long, so I try to make sure I’m never away for more than ten days in a row because I miss my family and of course they want me back home. It might sound strange, as a large part of my career is touring, but I try not to take gigs every weekend as I like to also spend time with the kids on the weekends. I always feel a greater sense of balance when I am at home more, and that helps to drive everything else.