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Recognise: Jonny From Space

Jonny From Space’s percussion-fuelled and psychedelically hazy take on electronic music has made him a core figure in Miami’s percolating underground. Alongside a roasting hot Recognise mix, Bruce Tantum catches up with the ascendent artist about the DIY spirit and sense of community in the city's scene, and the evolution of his sound

Miami’s electronic music underground is bubbling. It’s not the first time that the city’s been an epicentre of creative club music  — there was the explosion of Miami bass in the late ‘80s, for instance, and the humid house of Murk in the ‘90s. The Magic City was a hub for IDM in the same decade, and it has played an ongoing role as a locus of electronic iterations of Latin music, from freestyle to reggaetón and beyond. But something supremely special has been percolating in Miami for the past half-decade or so — and the producer and DJ Jonathan Trujillo, better known as Jonny From Space, is one of the people in the middle of it.

There are many reasons for the city’s current status as a hotbed of cutting-edge electronics — but one of them, Trujillo says, stems from a reaction to the kind of bigger-than-big sound that the city has sometimes been linked with, thanks in no small part to the Miami-based Ultra Music Festival. “There have always been people that were doing things,” Trujillo, 29, explains, “but it kept getting overshadowed in the public eye because of all this other commercial stuff that was going on. Unless you were local and really tapped in, you wouldn’t know about it — and that sucked. But at the end of the day, that kind of gave us the opportunity. It gave us the drive to do things, to be DIY. We’re just trying to use our resources by any means necessary to create something that doesn’t really get tapped into very much.”

Throughout his conversation with DJ Mag, Trujillo drops names of the scene’s loose confederation of friends and associates — people like Nick León, Coffintexts, SATURNSARii, INVT and Danny Daze, whose Omnidisc label serves as one of the scene’s focal points. Trujillo’s worked with many of them, in one way or another — co-producing, co-promoting, DJing together, running labels and more — but to hear him tell it, it feels more like a family situation than it does work.

“A lot of us have grown up together — and even if we didn’t, we’ve all been working together very closely, and we became very close friends,” he says. “Miami is a very small place, so we all essentially overlap a lot. It’s nice because we all support each other. We all show out and cheer each other on. There’s no competitiveness. We all just want to see each other grow.”

Black and white photo of Jonny From Space DJing in a club

The Miami underground may operate as something of a self-contained milieu, but there’s a massive amount of musical variation within that world. Listen to Omnidisc’s ‘Homecore! Miami All-Stars’ compilation, which features work from a slew of the city’s newer artists along with Miami vets like DJ Craze and Otto Von Schirach, as it rambles through an impressively wide range of club-adjacent rhythms and styles, defying anyone to pin down a Miami sound. The same can be said for Trujillo’s own music — his latest EP, ‘Heat Wave’, cycles through percussion-fueled techno, spongiform breaks, near-ambient electro and more. The common thread — as it is with much of his output — is a hazy, vaguely psychedelic aura, as if recalled from a half-forgotten reverie. It’s an entrancing vibe.

“That’s just what resonates with me,” Trujillo explains. “I pretty much realised early on that was the sound that I gravitated to when I worked on music — this kind of ethereal, dreamy sound, whether it’s in the way that I make the bleeps, or whether it’d be from a very dreamy pad or an ambient chord or whatever.”

Trujillo was born in New York to Colombian immigrant parents. Growing up in East Harlem, he was surrounded by the sounds of salsa music, merengue, bachata, vallenato and the like. His first exposure to non-Latin styles was via an older half-sister, who turned him onto “early punk, metal, hardcore, stuff like System Of A Down and Deftones,” he recalls. The family moved to Broward County, just north of Miami, when he was in middle school, where the freestyle and Miami bass of the Power 96 radio station was a revelation. “2 Live Crew, Debbie Deb — but then also stuff like trance,” he recalls. “That’s where my music knowledge just began to expand.” 

By his teens, he was checking out dubstep and drum & bass parties. “And from there, everything just kept spinning,” he says. He tried college for a while, but that didn’t really take. “So I dropped out of school and never looked back. I just kept going. I just kept pushing.” Trujillo fell in with David Sinopoli, the founder of III Points Festival and co-owner of Club Space, among other claims to fame. He became Sinopoli’s right-hand man at the club, which eventually led to him spinning there; Sinopoli also handed the keys to the associated Space Tapes label over to him, León and Adam Ovletrea, a.k.a. Bear. Picking up Ableton tips from León and Bear, production came next — tracks like the skewed liquid d&b tune ‘Euphorique’, (from late 2019) and the flowing ‘R.E.M.’ EP (which came a few months later) were among his earliest releases.

Trujillo, who currently heads up the Objects Don’t Dance party with Sister System and True Vine, has no plans to let up anytime soon. “Nothing is guaranteed in life,” he says. “Like, I could die next week. But I’ve always been a music nerd, and this is just what I’m good at. So yeah, I very much enjoy it right now, and I would very much like to keep it like this, having fun and enjoying the process. As long as it feels like that, and it continues to go that way, I think I’ll keep doing it for a while.” We have a feeling he’ll get his wish and then some.

Listen to Jonny From Space's Recognise mix, and check the tracklist, below. 

Dorisburg & Sebastien Mullaert ‘Deep Water Branches’
Andy Martin ‘Plato & Caves (Foggy Jungle Dub)’
4E ‘Gentle Killer’
2Lanes ‘My Simulacra (Jialings Big Club Mix)’
Doctor Jeep ‘Mad T’
C++ ‘Angie’s Fucked’
Sam Goku ‘Spirit Beat’
main(void) ‘Feint.0’
Mosca ‘You Smell That Marsha?’
Mick Jerome ‘Garden Groove’
Rinas ‘Chaos Inside’
4E ‘Mind Frames’
Danny Daze ‘In Contact’
Atrice ‘V-Rin’
New Jackson ‘Sanyo Shinkansen (Lumigraph Remix)’
Pink Freud ‘Musica Suave’
DÆMON & Cassius Select ‘Honey pt. I & II’

Want more? Read our feature on the New Miami Underground

Bruce Tantum is DJ Mag’s North America editor. Follow him on Twitter @BruceTantum