Super Drama's Jon Arnold tells about his vision of post-pandemic London night life at clubs
Jon Arnold is one half of Super Drama and Super Drama Records, a queer techno DJ/production duo he formed with Jerome Slesinski. At the end of 2020, in the height of various Covid restrictions, Jon and David Plaisant, the host and creator of the From the Moon podcast discussed making a ‘theme tune’ of sorts. What resulted went far beyond that, Jon created a brand new musical identity for Triennale di Milano’s ambitious audio project.
It all started in 2017 when Jon Arnold and Super Drama released “Drama Theme”, a track which amassed a loyal following in and around their stomping ground of East London, and got the attention of various other DJs and promoters. Their catalogue now has eight releases of their own amongst releases on other renowned labels such as Phantasy, Freeride Millennium, Moshi Moshi Records and more.
Jon Arnold spoke to David Plaisant on how to go about creating a theme tune that is both meaningful and catchy, and about the club scene in London, just as it is re-opening.
DP: Jon to start, can we talk about the fantastic theme music you created for From The Moon, it really fits the ambitious and conceptual nature of the podcast. First of all Complimenti! (As they say in Italian), but can you tell us how you go about creating something like that. What’s the first step?
JA: The first step for me was to really find out what From the Moon was about, we spoke at length about what your ideas were and what you were trying to create with it. It's a very in depth and informative podcast. It’s about, in part, looking at how we as humans are ruining the planet, but there is also a lot of hope there too. So I really wanted to create something optimistic and a little sci-fi too, I wanted to get a little bit dystopic with it basically. I tried for a long time to get it right but I kept going in a ‘too serious’ direction somehow . I was fully aware that as a podcast, it is kind of ‘serious’, but I also needed to catch the listeners' ears right away, so it was a balance. Once I came up with the melody, I knew I had what I needed to complete the theme. And I'm glad you like it. Grazie!
Theme song by Super Drama for From the Moon
DP: From the Moon explores many issues of social inclusion, representation, identity politics and intersectionality, and your experience is very much centred in the alternative, queer club world of London, where diversity is not only celebrated but is mandatory. Can you describe that environment and how it has informed your music?
JA: The queer club scene in London (East London especially) is a place where you can really let go and be yourself. You can look as insane as you like or as normal as you like and no one cares. There’s a place in the scene for everyone. It's informed our music in a huge way, as it is a scene that has so much room for improvisation and experimentation. Without venues like Dalston Superstore there probably wouldn't be Super Drama today; these places give anyone with an idea a chance, and give them the tools to flourish. The music you hear within these parties is very diverse and we take huge inspiration from that.
DP: The pandemic has hit musicians and those working in the night economy like few other sectors, so obviously we don’t want to ask glib questions like: how has your pandemic been? !! But maybe you can tell us how your sector has reacted - maybe chart some pandemic phenomena that came and went….(remember club nights on Zoom for instance)?
JA: The nightlife sector was hit so hard by the Coronavirus, DJs lost all their income as did all the people who work at the venues, especially casual staff that couldn't be furloughed. At the start, for a few months, there were a million live streams that started as a way to try to make staying at home fun and also getting some money to the performers and dj's who took part in these shenanigans. It was fun for a minute but then, eventually it just made people realise how much they missed the old normality we had. One big plus though is that a lot of people took up music production and also producers really got to hone their craft. You can get really amazing at something if you don't need to go to work for a while! We've heard so much great new music in the last year and it's so encouraging for up-and-coming artists to have these people who are relatively new to music production make music that is so great. It really keeps you on your toes!
DP: How important do you think it is that the live music and nightclub industries are supported during these difficult times?
JA. Without getting into how much I hate the Tories [UK Conservative Party], I will just say these spaces give people, and especially marginalised people a place to be themselves and really have a good time. Without clubs and queer spaces I wouldn't be who I am today, and that is the same for a lot of queer people. Many spaces did get funding from the government, which is great, but a lot did fall down the cracks, some closed and lots of people lost their jobs. In the UK we need to start taking culture more seriously and give it more of a standing.
DP: You were saying that as clubs closed their doors you were busy making music. Can you give us a flavour of what’s coming out soon?
JA: We were very busy indeed. We've got some super hot collaborations to release, including one with an up-and-coming Italian superstar which we can't wait to bring out. We’ve also got part two of our charity compilation series "Family Drama'' out in September on our Super Drama Records label. It’s eleven tracks of diverse dance music that we are extremely proud of. It's really exciting for us as we have four artists who have never released their own music before, and we love giving them a platform to showcase their music. All the funds are split between Mermaids, a charity helping gender diverse children and their families in the UK, and The Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy Fund.
DP: Clubs in some countries such as the UK have begun to re-open, with some trepidation it has to be said. Can you tell us about that atmosphere?
JA: People have been dying to go out to clubs for such a long time now, it's crazy. We have had so many false starts already and everyone has been disappointed so many times that everyone was unsure if we were ever going to be allowed to legally rave, ever again. One of the biggest queer parties in London is called Adonis and they opened their doors at the stroke of midnight [when the UK lifted Covid restrictions] and the feeling of love and thankfullness for being able to feel normal was everywhere. Apparently 1500 people were there throughout the night and although of course some people were cautious and there was a fair amount of online trolling about such a big event happening during covid, generally everyone was so grateful to be able to have fun again. We never know when we're gonna be back in lockdown again so at the moment, the atmosphere is very much rave whilst you still can!.
DP: Finally, as you probably know the Triennale’s 23rd International Exhibition is entitled Unknown Unknowns so...What is the unknown you would never want revealed?
JA: There's so many, it's hard to know where to start, so I won't! It's probably best you don't know to be honest
© Alfonso Scarpa from Unsplash