“When it comes to albums, I feel the whole album needs to share some sort of theme and take the listener on a journey from the very first song to the last one”
Emerging from the dust of the southwestern United States, Phoenix-based producer Juheun opens the doors to his introspective world in this exclusive interview for MDM, where you’ll learn about the influences behind his music, his style, his perception of the current electronic scene, and more.
The iconic techno producer is coming off an incredible 2022 with milestones ranging from launching his own event promotion company, releasing several critically acclaimed singles, to touring the world playing at renowned and emerging clubs and festivals.
Creator of cinematic and futuristic sounds, Juheun has a 360° perception of music in general, but especially clubbing and techno. Under a deep analysis, his way of understanding who he is and what surrounds him, he explains through this intimate conversation that we invite you to read below.
Hi, Juheun. I thank you for the time you give us for the interview. Our first question, as you can guess, what were those moments that made you connect with electronic music? How would you describe the beginnings of your career as a DJ and producer?
The first time that I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do was when I experienced my first underground rave party back in high school. That was the first time I got to witness a DJ fully control, not just the dance floor, but the entire room. It was mind blowing to witness the ability to seamlessly blend music for a nonstop musical journey while elevating everyone at the same time.
After that experience, I basically just decided that DJing was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The production side of stuff wasn’t that important for me in the beginning, it was more about honing my skills as a DJ. It wasn’t until years later the natural progression was to eventually start making my own music and playing it in my own sets.
For most producers, musical identity is preceded by phases of learning, self-finding, and often, emulating others. How would you describe the whole process you went through to find your musical style?
The side of actually making music wasn’t important to me in the beginning. I spent years just focused on becoming a better DJ and just taking the time to appreciate it and to find music and artists that I really liked.
I think part of me felt that I needed to really understand the music and learn the history and genre, the artists, etc, which I knew was one day going to be important when it came time to produce it.
Sometimes I wish I never even started producing because once I started making the music, it changed the way I listened to it and gave me a whole different perspective on things.
Sounds are clearly the basis of everything. Today, what is Juheun’s process for creating, developing, organizing and implementing sounds into his creations?
A lot of my sounds are influenced by things that I see in movies and my love for sci-fi and technology. When I am sitting in the studio I’ll have one of my favorite movies playing in the background and the audio won’t even be on, I use what I see visually to help inspire me in the writing process. This is why you hear a lot of cinematic and futuristic sounds in my music. I don’t really have a process per say outside of that.
Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the couch, and something will trigger an idea, sometimes I’ll be at a party, and I’ll hear something that will spark an idea. At times I’ll be playing around with a synthesizer or drum machine, and I’ll stumble across an idea. I think this comes from my passion and background for art in general, where ideas and inspiration just come at you unexpectedly.
Let’s talk about emotions, what weight do emotions have in your creations? Do you consider them as an objective in front of the public?
Personally, I grew up in a very strict first generation Korean family. I grew up in a household where we didn’t really share a lot of emotions, at least personal ones. I think a lot of that leads over to who I am now, and I think that allows me to take the personal side of things out of my music as well as my social media presence.
I look at making music more subjectively, and how I am going to invoke emotions out of someone else with my music as opposed to the emotions I put into my music from my personal experiences. I’m always thinking about the end listener. I know that in a lot of other genres of music, producers tend to try and translate their emotions into their music, but I feel like when it comes to electronic music, my job is to let the machines do the talking.
With experience, trajectory and obviously the years, we explore and find the ideal tools to create music, what do you consider to be the essential programs, technologies and instruments for your productions?
I think the computer at the bare bones of what we’re doing has really helped revolutionize what we do both in and outside of the studio. Part of me wishes that I was around in the early years of recording where the computer wasn’t even a thought.
Unfortunately, I grew up in a time where computers were becoming more and more important in everyday life. Without the computer, I don’t think we would have progressed to where we’re at currently in dance music, or even as fast as we have.
That’s what really excites me about this whole process and electronic music in general, because technology keeps us at the edge of our seats which makes us always feel like we have to push the boundaries and not get complacent because it’s always evolving.
We like to talk about the musical process, but we don’t forget that there is a human being behind it. Is there a balance between your personal life and your musical career? What do you do to maintain that balance?
I’ve always been an artist as heart. Even though my parents pushed me into piano lessons growing up and wanted me to become a lawyer or doctor, my true passion was a pencil or paintbrush in my hand. Drawing and painting has always been a big part of my life growing up.
I’ve always considered myself an artist/creative no matter what medium I’m using. It’s great for me to be able to step away from the computer and using my ears to create, but it’s a whole other thing to be able to create with your own hands in a way that’s very analog in a sense. Where the only tool that I have to translate my thoughts is a pencil and not a machine.
As a producer and DJ, what were the most transcendental moments that 2022 has left you?
2022 was a crazy year for me, for obvious reasons, but it really allowed me to realize that ultimately, I didn’t need to rely so heavily on what I thought was important. My partner Michelle Sparks and I spent most of 2022 laser focused in our hometown of Phoenix, as we felt that there was something was missing and techno and underground wasn’t being represented in a way we believed.
During this time, it forced us to really take control and almost create our own destiny. Now in 2023, our promotion company Circuit has been operating on a level we would have never thought of.
Our team is connately growing and we are throwing some of our biggest events. At some point in your career, you have to trust in yourself and your abilities from all the years of experience you’ve gained working with others and not be afraid to do things on your own. That was the best decision we ever made of 2022.
We want to know your opinion regarding albums, do you think an album should be each song the sequence of the same story, be all part of a single narrative? Or should each single be a different world? Also, is Jeheun cooking up an album or is it still some time away?
I grew up in the world of Cassette tapes and CD’s and for me an album has a deeper meaning than this newer generation that has been bred on online streaming services. When it comes to albums, I feel the whole album needs to share some sort of theme and take the listener on a journey from the very first song to the last one.
At the same time allow the listener to pick their favorite songs and listen to those individually without feeling like they have to listen to the whole album to understand. These days I think things are a lot different and with the speed at which people are releasing music and the accessibility for anyone to produce music and upload and release it themselves, I feel the album concept is getting diluted.
I think singles, especially in dance music, is what keeps artists relevant. It’s almost like a flyer for a party. You can put together and release an album but the amount of time and effort you put into that may not equate to the longevity and lifespan of that album and the current rate of consumption of music.
You can lose a lot of listeners if your album doesn’t hit a certain way or it takes too long to come out. So it might be better to release a new single every other month, or a few singles a year rather than an album every 5-10 years. I’m still personally having too much fun releasing and working on projects that have a shorter lifespan so that way I’m onto the next project to keep things fun and exciting.
I’m still exploring my sound to this day and its ever-evolving and Im enjoying the process still. I don’t have any plans of putting out an album currently, but I would like to put one out eventually when the time is right.
If we could open your Spotify playlist right now, which 5 songs are you listening to the most?
That’s a very tough question to answer because on my own time, as much as it may be hard to believe, techno isn’t the only thing I listen to. With the abundance of so many amazing artists and genres, I’m finding myself spending more time listening to a broad range of different types of music and artists. So it really just depends on my mood at that moment. But what I can say is I do love listening to hip-hop, rock, and even sometimes more mainstream stuff that I grew up on.
There are many young producers who are not sure how to start, what style or genre to follow, and the fear of not achieving relevance or popularity has blocked them, what message can you give them?
Follow your passion! When I started this journey, I didn’t do it to be in interviews like this or to become popular or for any of the clout. It was more for me, almost therapeutic, and a way to release stress. I just enjoyed it so much, I just enjoyed DJing.
It didn’t matter who I didn’t it for, how many people were there, it was just a way to help people release and lose themselves in the music. Even to this day, I don’t feel I’ve gained any sort of success and I measure my progress based on working with other artists that I look up to. If you take an approach more on that level, you’ll never have to stress about not succeeding or failing because it’s only measure by your happiness. So at the end of the day if it doesn’t make you happy, then it’s truly not your passion.
Covering all your facets as a musician (releases, events, collaborations, etc…), what can we expect from Juheun for 2023?
I’m really looking forward to hitting the road again with my live setup later this summer/fall. I’ve been working on revamping it with all my latest releases as well as some unreleased music that Ive been working on.
I love DJing and that will always be my main, but something about performing your own productions live for an audience just hits a bit differently.
We’re also currently working on developing our own label and going through the final processes of that. If everything lines up we should be launching that in the very near future, so be on the look out for that. Aside from that, Circuit our local promotion brand I mentioned earlier will be a continued focus here in Phoenix, while juggling time in the studio working on my follow up to ‘Open Door’, my latest collaboration with Japanese techno duo Drunken Kong that just came out on Tronic records.
Finally and from your own perception, how do you think the electronic scene will do this year? What changes or evolution do you notice within the electronic scene and what is your opinion about it?
I’ve seen this growing trend where it seems like electronic music is becoming more and more generational here in the States. There’s a lot of people who grew up listening to dance music that are starting to seek a more mature crowd and seasoned listener experience.
The exciting thing about dance music is that its always changing and evolving, edm seems to be slowing down a bit and shifting to more substance. One of the cringiest things over the past few days is how diluted dance music has become with the popularity of EDM, things got really mainstream and almost plastic-like.
People cared more about their outfits, attractions at festivals, who was going rather than about the actual music and who’s Djing or performing. That’s something we really noticed here in the Phoenix scene and I think were going to see less and less of the bigger festival/commercial side, and things will begin to go a bit more underground and intimate.
I feel like we’re at a time right now where the EDM bubble is bursting and a lot of the people who were getting into it for the wrong reasons are slowly leaving. The tides are shifting again.