Last October, Jon Gooch – better known as Feed Me – released his debut Calamari Tuesday album on his Sotto Voce label. On the week of the album release, Life + Times spoke to Jon about the making of the album and his decision to take a break from performing live. In this nine month gig hiatus, Jon took advantage of the increased studio time to rediscover his love for DJing, reignite his creativity, and evolve the Feed Me project. The result? Last Friday marked the release of Jon’s four-track EP, Feed Me’s Psychedelic Journey (via Sotto Voce). Each track contains the signature high energy synths, rhythms, and effects that are distinct to Feed Me’s production style – but a noteworthy enhancement is featured on “Alarm Clock.” Jon takes the melancholic singer-songwriter concept of his side project, Seventh Stitch, and fuses that inspiration into Feed Me through “Alarm Clock” – the unexpected gem of the EP featuring Jon’s very own lyrics and vocals.
Beginning on August 2nd, Feed Me will embark on the Psychedelic Journey Tour across North America. Here, Jon boasts of a completely new redesign of the Teeth stage structure for his live shows (I speak for everyone in stating that we’re happy he didn’t “quit” performing forever) and discusses the ideology behind the entire Psychedelic Journey motif. Since Jon answered the final DJ-producer question related to an artist’s musicianship in the last interview, I switched it up and concluded our conversation with an even more pressing inquiry. It’s a question Jon has indeed been dying to answer since June: What if the Attack on Titan was real?
Life+Times: I can’t believe it’s been nearly nine months since the release of your debut Calamari Tuesday. When we last spoke, you said you were taking a hiatus from deejaying live because you wanted to figure things out artistically. So, are you happy with how Psychedelic Journey came out? Tell me about the project.
Feed Me: Well, I suppose it’s a combination of a live tour and also releasing some tracks that I worked on in that space. I worked on a lot of music in the gap, but releasing some tracks that kind of represent what I did at the time I was off I guess. That was the idea. So that’s what I’ve been working on really. That’s where it’s at.
L+T: That’s cool. Well, what you mentioned last time regarding taking time off in the studio, you said that a lot of the things that make your DJ sets special is the fact that you get to spend time in the studio, prep, and make different versions of tracks for the shows. So, how will that be manifest in this upcoming tour?
FM: Well, everything in the show – at least to some small degree – is custom produced just because they have to kind of blend together and be kind of malleable in terms of the tempo that they’re played at and the keys they move through. The tracks had to be dynamic to a degree to incorporate into a live show – some of the versions I can DJ to and that gives me more options. Things where I know people know the tracks really well I try to make sure there’s some sort of new element to them to keep them fresh also for my own sake. Some of my tracks I don’t ever want to hear again. (Laughs) I want to keep it interesting for me too. I feel like I’m actually bringing something new with everything that I’m doing.
L+T: Yes! I also think it’s pretty cool that you designed the tour posters and cover art. I love it. What is the idea behind Psychedelic Journey?
FM: I like pushing the kind of weirder aspect of the visual side of Feed Me like with the character and stuff for it to kind of loosely represent my imagination as well as with the music. In terms of the style of artwork that I normally see within the industry, I thought it would be fun to do something a little bit more retro and classic. I really like all the colors, kind of like the old tour posters, like Jimi Hendrix posters – silk screen and beautifully done. Also, clever use of color and contrast. It had, like, this kind of timeless appearance. I thought it would be fun to bring some of that sort of element. We’re using a lot of the same venues that some of those sort of shows were played at, especially in California.
L+T: Oh, yeah? Which venues in California?
FM: I can’t remember. (Laughs)
L+T: That’s okay. I shouldn’t even expect for you to know. You just focus on the DJing!
FM: Well, when I’m actually on the tour, I like, load that disc in my brain. Right now, I’m actually currently in a hangar in the North of England with a team of people. We’re finalizing rehearsals for the build of the show. It’s a quite interesting place. There’s a lot of bits of Iron Maiden stuff around here as well because they’ve built things for them. A lot of metal and wires and somewhere in the middle of it is my show. We’ve had the whole thing completely rebuilt from scratch. It’s totally re-engineered.
L+T: Wow, that’s a lot of work.
FM: Yeah, it has been. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it myself so… (Laughs) We’ve been supervising it and added a lot more new elements to it. So we’re always building on what we already have.
L+T: I read that the new Teeth stage will light up and each song played will appear as a separate music video. Is that accurate?
FM: That’s kind of how its’ always worked. Not so much the set, the way the software works is that each track I play is intrinsically linked with its’ own visual. Every light on stage and every LED screen is linked to a track. If I speed the track up, slow the track down or loop it – all the lighting [and] all the LED screens are linked and will do exactly the same thing in coordination with the track. For each track I write, we storyboard a visual for it too. Then when I mix from one track to another, the visuals are mixing too. If one track’s got blue lights flashing, I’ll mix it in with a track that’s got green lights flashing. You’re gonna have both over the top of each other as they transition.
L+T: Mmm. That will be awesome.
FM: It’s always worked this way. That’s what makes it such a fun live show to play because I have control over the visuals. Pretty much if I stop the music on stage, all of the lights will turn off as well. Most rock and other dance shows will have a guy at the back of the stage or back of the venue kind of coordinating lights by hand; but we don’t need that. It all runs off Ableton. The way I write music is quite visual when I’m doing it in my head. I move my arms around a lot and think of it as movement and color. So this was the only way to have the lights accurately synched with music. It all kind of looks like it’s working together.
L+T: There’s a term for that: synesthesia. Seeing colors through music, huh?
FM: I don’t think I’m quite that far!
L+T: Going back to the EP, you mixed things up. With your side project, Seventh Stitch, you’re singing and songwriting. You kind of meshed that concept with Feed Me on “Alarm Clock.” What motivated you to put a more personal feel on the Feed Me project that you ordinarily reserve as high energy?
FM: I guess, I’m just trying to move the sounds forward always. The album (Calamari Tuesday) I did kind of felt like an encyclopedia of all the kind of noises [and] styles I’ve written in – and kind of documented them in that. It was almost overwhelming I think looking back – being self-critical. Over the time I’ve been producing, I’ve been trying to refine and advance my sound which I think is learning how to express myself in more personal ways and still be relevant to the dance crowd. It seems kind of interesting, I guess.
L+T: It is.
FM: So, that’s what I was going for. Does that make sense?
L+T: Well, actually, no.
L+T: (Laughs) Overwhelming in what sense?
FM: It’s intense music, you know. It’s a lot. I think when you’re writing albums, you’re asking for an hour of someone’s time. I think brevity is sometimes appropriate, but I had so much to say. I had so many different things that I’d written that I wanted to include. So, when I look back at the album – 16 tracks or something – it’s almost too much I think. I guess if you like my music, then you’re getting your money’s worth.
L+T: Exactly. Those lyrics in the song. I usually hate asking artists about lyric meaning because usually they’re like, “Oh, it’s the interpretation of the listener.” But for you particularly, Jon, the lyrics for “Alarm Clock” – what place was that coming from?
FM: I’ve got to do so many good shows and play to so many good audiences, but it’s exhausting. I took time off and had to re-address my situation. I’m not the most stable character, so it’s like personal management; but also I’m grateful to be doing what I’m doing. I do think the one overriding factor and something that’s really motivating is seeing how music brings everyone together. So, it was a way of kind of expressing that and reminding myself and trying to translate a message. That’s kind of what it’s all about. Even if things are going wrong, it’s an opportunity to kind of forget and unify.
L+T: That’s right. Last year, you were in a completely different mindset. Do you feel that this EP and the time that you took to focus in the studio helped rekindle the initial passion you had for producing, and particularly deejaying live?
FM: Yeah, I’m really enjoying myself at the moment. It feels very transitional still because doing this show has been an enormous undertaking. I don’t think even the people that knew early on that I was going to be working on it knew quite what it was going to be. It’s being shipped to the States tomorrow and I can see someone welding right now. That’s why we’re here though. This is why I keep hands-on with this stuff. In terms of production, over the last few months I felt the need to go to LA and borrow some amazing studios [and] work with some great singers and songwriters. I worked with some great vocalists recently. I guess I’ve started to find a new sound really – something I’m excited about. So, that’s great! Every time I sit down I make music now, I’m having a great time. Getting this show together – the actual live show – I’m pretty psyched actually. I’m really excited about it all. This is exciting stuff.
L+T: It’s important that you still enjoy it and not get burned out either.
FM: Yeah, that’s what I think I was saying before. I don’t ever want to feel burned out on doing things special. I think there are so many people that would quite happily jump at the opportunity. I’ve always really resented seeing that sort of miserable DJ in the backstage that looks like he doesn’t want to be there. There’s plenty of them. I think it’s so important to stay positive and realize you’re getting to do something really unique and [it’s] a gift.
L+T: I like your positive outlook. That’s great! I will put that into practice. For my last question: What if the Attack on Titan was real?
FM: (Laughs) That would be awful, wouldn’t it? That would be awful. I don’t know. I don’t think I’d last long. I look like quite a big snack.