While the internet is full of people making mashups, it's rare to find a legal and licensed CD that is primarily based on samples of other people's music. Sonny J's "Disastro" is just about as random of an electronic music CD as you could imagine. Listening to it, there is simply no way to imagine what will come next. Sonny J's talent is finding seemingly random records found in second hand record shops and blending them into sonic masterpieces reminiscent of Fatboy Slim and Mylo. The CD is more than a sum of its parts and "Hands Free" and "Can't Stop Movin" are just two of the many highlights on this diverse musical project. For all you trainspotters out there, this CD will definitely stump you.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Were you a DJ first or a producer first?
Sonny J: A DJ or a producer? I was a musician first actually. Before that I was a singer/songwriter, I played keyboards. To answer your question properly, probably a producer, I'd say.
RS: How did you make the move in to dance electronic music?
Sonny J: I made a demo called "I'm So Heavy," it's on my album, and that was the one track that I didn't sing on. All my friends told me that track is the bomb, so basically I just went with that. So I thought, they're all telling me one track I don't sing on is the one they all love, I thought charming. So I went down that route, why not make a whole album, no rules, just sample other peoples' records and that's what I did.
RS: Were there any artists or bands that inspired you to go in
Sonny J: Beck, Sly and the Family Stone, Prince, DJ Shadow, Cat Stevens, Ike and Tina Turner, Swiss Family Robinson, the list goes on and on. Actually to be honest, the people who really inspired me were the people on the records in the secondhand record shops that I'd never heard of before. By looking at their faces and thinking, no one's buying their records anymore and I'm going to take them home and give them a bit of love and sample them up and give them money.
RS: Very cool. So do you DJ also as part of your show or how do
you perform live?
Sonny J: Yes. If the record company really wants to do a gig and they'll say we'll give you the money then I've got a five-piece band that's multiracial, multi-gender, we can all sing, a bit of gospel, a bit of punk in there, a bit of trash, but also I DJ as well. When the record companies don't want to shovel money out, they send me out as just DJ. Like today I had to DJ in a record store, five in the afternoon for the grannies. So yes, so we do both.
RS: There's so many great records out there, how did you choose
the ones that you sampled?
Sonny J: You always hear that you must have a good ear for music – no, not at all, I think a good eye for music. Because basically in a secondhand record store, you can't hear a record you want to sample, you have to look at the record covers themselves and think OK, there might be some psychedelicness in this, there might be some vocals in this one. So you look at the record cover and reckon there might be some beats in there, there might be a little bit of harp going on this one, there might be a drum break on this one, and that's how you do it. It just means a visual eye. I suppose looking at a Cliff Richard record you see in a secondhand store, you're going to go Cliff Richard, well I like some of his tunes but I'm thinking I can't sample that one. So you see some of them and think oh it's probably psychedelic writing, you go oh there might be some beats go on there, I've not heard the name before. So you kind of get on that trip. Visualizing things is important to know because visually, if you look at a record cover you're going to know what year it came from and what the drum sound is going to sound like. The late 60s is a classic cliché or you want a disco sound, you look at the cover and you see it's going to be 78, they're all in roller-skates or what have you.