Interview: Aron Magner and Aaron Johnston Talk About J.E.D.I. and More
(Writer: Tammie Eller)
On Saturday, March 23, the former drummer of Brazilian Girl’s, Aaron Johnston brought his relatively new project called J.E.D.I to Putnam Place in Saratoga Springs on the final night of the tour. Johnston joined forces with keyboardist Aron Magner and bass guitarist Marc Brownstein from the Disco Biscuits for a four-night run called the Spring Equinox Tour.We managed to snag a few minutes with Aron and Aaron before the show:
First, we spoke with Aaron Johnston.
J.E.D.I is a departure from what we’re used to hearing from you, what was your inspiration?
“It’s maybe new, but coming from an old place. Even with Brazilian Girls, how we started, in a little club in East Village and we were playing off a lot of DJ music. So, late night clubs and a lot of New York crowd and we would trade sets with DJs. So, we would actually end up playing with the DJs at times. That kind of how I think I got into electronica music and dance and I have always been a lover of jazz. And I always thought that the original jazz, back in the day was a very fun, dancing, social kind of event. So, I’m trying to keep that alive today and not necessarily make it nerdy, but make it interesting for the listeners, but also fun.”
(Photo: Billy Francis LeRoux)
Does J.E.D.I have any more tour dates scheduled and, if so, who will join you?
“I’m playing Jazzfest on May 3rd. That’s gonna be Marc [Brownstein] on bass, also Nate Edgar is gonna play some bass from the Nth Power. It’s also gonna be Michael Kang and Jason Hann from String Cheese Incident, and DJ Logic from Logic. I’m also playing the Philmore in Colorado with the Big Melt and a couple other bands on April 13th and we’re doing Aggie Theater before that on the 10th”
Can we expect to hear new tracks from J.E.D.I?
“There’s a series coming out, there’s a track being released every month with Color Red. There’s releases of music that I recorded in the studio in Colorado with Eddie Roberts and a couple other people rotating in, Garrett Sanders is playing bass. They’ve been releasing a track every month. They’ve released two tracks so far. There will probably be a total of around four to six tracks for that. It’s all pretty live and in the studio. It’s all very organic and we’re in stage one.”
At that point, I sat down with Aron Magner from the Disco Biscuits.
“Do you enjoy doing things like this outside of what you’re used to with the Disco Biscuits?”
“Yeah. I think any musician at any age probably one of the smarter things you can do is play with as many people as you can and it’s definitely not something that I push myself to do but pushing myself into different environments where I am playing with other people and learning from other people is definitely going to make me a better musician. But also, the concept of this band, even just the acronym, you know, the branding of it is something I subscribe to. It’s a fantastic name, number one. But the improv, and the jazz, and the electronica, and the dance. You know, that’s what I have made a living off of and it’s still live, eat, and breathe in almost all of the many projects that I do participate in. What’s interesting is doing this as a trio, which I don’t really do often, in a trio environment, where there’s not a guitar player, so that’s interesting.
(Photo: Frankie Cavone)
Aron Magner went on to talk about what it’s like to work with Aaron Johnston.
“There’s a lot of flexibility, but it’s also cool playing with someone like Aaron that puts in a lot of pre-production work to be able to have different drums on triggers, and samples all triggered on Ableton and everything like that. There’s no backing tracks, just whimsical fun things to play along with. What we’re doing is improv-based, so he’s got this whole bag of tricks, right. The same way that I’ve got a bag of tricks, this keyboard does this, and this keyboard does that, he’s got a whole bag of tricks aside from his regular drum kits and his talent with being able to play the drums. You know, having it triggered and being able to manipulate what’s being triggered is really cool. Respect for the time that goes into figuring out how to control it.”
Can we look forward to another collaboration with you guys and J.E.D.I.?
“I hope so. I mean, this has been a really fun run. I mean, what we did that first time in Albany, it was fun, but it was one long show. So, it was kind of cool to be able to, like in New York, which was the first night. By the time we got offstage we were like, ‘Wow that was really cool.’ An hour in, once we were all like ‘Ok, this is what we’re beginning to sound like,’ now we’re kind of getting comfortable with each other, so it kind of felt like we were taking our clothes off and we were like ‘this is what I look like without a shirt just so you guys know,’ and, as these things tend to do, they get progressively better night to night.