Words: Jessica Howard
deno is the alias of West Victorian’s Jack Den Ouden, who has been heavily involved in music from a young age, starting his musical journey in a pop-rock band as a teenager and later progressing into a one-man show, who creates his majestic and futuristic sound through layers of synths, samples and beats from his home in the bush lands.
New Rhythms spoke to him about his transition into the world of electronic music, the process to finding the finished product and what’s in store for 2018.
NR: I’m aware you’ve been pretty heavily involved with music for most of your life – playing in bands throughout high school and producing under various pseudonyms including Milhowse. When and how did your love for producing/performing begin?
D: Yes! I did make music under Milhowse when I was 18-20. I’d been producing for a couple of years but I wall all about the jangly guitars and indie rock-band sound.
I’d been the lead singer in a pop-rock band when I was in my late teens, but couldn’t really vibe the working-with-others deal. I pretty much wanted to learn how to do everything myself, hence getting into production.
Like most Aussie musicians and music-lovers, my parents raised me by putting me in front of a TV with Rage on it. Dad always loved his Coldplay, Midnight Oil and Queen as well, so I was bound to get around the more emotive pop song writing.
NR: Who were your first music influences?
D: It’s actually so hard to say if I’m being honest. Other than Dad’s music I remember vibing right out to NSYNC when I was like five, and dancing on coffee tables pretending to be on the main stage. But other than that, I was always very much into James Blake, Angus Stone and Bon Iver in my teens, They’re the artists I first looked at and though “I could do that”. It’s a shame they’re all white dudes, but I guess we all subconsciously choose careers occupied by people that look like us at a young age.
NR: What about your influences of today?
D: My main influences are really hard to pin-point. I listen to a bunch of contemporary hip-hop like Travis Scott, Post Malone, Trippie Redd and 6lack, which you can hear a bit. My all-time biggest influence would have to be James Blake, in both his sound and the nature of his career. He has his own unique production and works regularly with a lot of amazing artists, like Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Beyonce. He’s someone I’d really like to replicate if I had the skill.
NR: Since you started producing your own music, how has your sound/style changed and what has inspired this change? How would you describe your musical style in three words?
D: When I first got into producing in late high school I wanted to replicate live instruments and portray the sounds of a rock-band, but once I started studying music at university, I became exposed to the late-night culture that reinforced my interest in electronic music. The possibilities of creativity are seemingly endless, but this can obviously also be a bad thing.
After going through my phase of electronic production, I decided to humanise my work again by honing my singing skills. I’ve been incorporating my voice in tunes for the last year or so now.
My three words would be DIVERSE / GROOVY / SADBOY.
NR: How do you separate yourself from other artists and producers right now?
D: I guess the main reason why I wanted to start singing again was because it makes the track so much more unique, and even if the lyrics are unintelligible, you can still feel a lot more than what you would listening to a repetitive instrumental.
Even when I was making instrumentals, my favourite songs still had some form of vocal attached to it.
I think it’s becoming more and more common for producers to decide to step-up their game and utilise their voice. People like Oscar Key-Sung and Nick Murphy did this wonderfully.
NR: What does your current setup look like?
D: At the moment I’m using the new Ableton 10 with an Akai APC40mkll for recording/arranging songs. Instrumentally I use a Dave Smith Prophet 09, some guitar and my voice.
NR: Tell us about your latest release. What’s the process you go through to find the finishing product and how would you describe Slowing to those yet to hear it?
I don’t have one particular approach to writing, it usually just starts with me going into my studio and playing around on the synth until I find something nice. I’ll record a few different sounds and mix-and-match. The vocals generally come later, then I’ll tweak the track to cater to them.
Slowing is a multi-layered, slow-building dance track that uses a lot of synth and drum samples. I lost perspective on this one a bit, but I’m hoping that people feel like it’s a sexy-playful track.
NR: What has been a highlight of your music career so far?
D: That’s a really hard one! I’ve played some cool shows with other Australian producers like Wave Racer and Young Franco, but they’re all equal highlights to me. If I play a festival gig I’m sure that would be taking the throne.
NR: How do you see yourself progressing as a musician in the next year? Do you have any particular goals you want to achieve, or are you just playing it by ear?
D: I’ve been wood-shedding away in my studio at my rents house for the last year or so, so I’m really excited to take my work out and perform it around Australia, mainly in Melbourne.
My main goal is to play enough live shows that I don’t need to work at my day job all the time! That would be amazing.
NR: What can we expect from you in 2018? Any upcoming live gigs?
D: HEAPS OF RELEASES! This year I’m planning on sharing an EP or three. No gigs as of yet, but during April and onwards I’ll be getting on my hustle and you can expect more performances.
NR: For a bit of fun, if you were the last person on Earth left with a CD that only contained five songs on it, what would those five songs be?
D: I’m going to be there for a while so I’ll have to mix it up a bit:
- Shigeto – Look At All The Smiling Faces
- Harvey Sutherland – Bermuda
- Blood Orange – Chamakay
- Khalid and Swae Lee – The Ways
- Nosaj Thing – Cols Stares feat. Chance the Rapper
You can listen to deno, here.