A born and raised Montrealer, Johnny Trika has taken his talents as a live performer and producer past the Island of Montreal, onto the stages of internationally renowned clubs across North America, South America, and Europe. Influenced by the sounds of Richie Hawtin and Dubfire, it was a meeting with Dubfire in 2013 that gave him the chance to release his debut single onto the Sci + Tech label, and has watched his EP’s reach number 1 on the top 10 of Beatport. Johnny recently had his track, “One Rainy Wish”, featured on Dubfire’s 10 year compilation release alongside artists Carlo Lio, SHADED, Hector, and more.
He’s toured globally with his elaborate, complex, and driving live sets, featuring exclusively original productions decorated with sound experimentation, and will be headlining this weekend’s second edition of the Illusion Festival. We had the chance to sit down and chat with Johnny about his life as a globally touring artist, his friendship with Dubfire, what to expect this weekend, and playing for crowds in Montreal and across the world.
Toronto never ceases to amaze me! Thanks for the love ❤️ banger night playing with the homie Matador 🙏
Posted by Johnny Trika on Thursday, February 22, 2018
Check me out live at Ancient Future Festival !! 👏💪
Posted by Johnny Trika on Monday, September 18, 2017
HS: Thanks for taking the time for this interview!
Johnny: Of course! Happy to speak with you.
HS: Congratulations on headlining Illusion Festival 2018! Out of 45 DJs performing at Illusion, how are you feeling about headlining and representing a festival aimed at promoting Quebec-based artists?
Johnny: Honestly, I’m truly honored. I’ve never really headlined a festival before, and from what I understand, Illusion is more of an underground festival; it’s not big lights, big stages, and the audience will be Montrealers. It has a pretty special vibe from what I’ve seen so far!
HS: Where did your interests in techno, underground electronic music, and production begin? What were some of your original musical inspirations which led you to where you are today?
Johnny: Well, I’ve always liked rap; it’s my musical foundation. I listened to a lot of 90’s, old school, punk, etc. In high school, I was always “that guy” who knew all the music. Back in the day I was always researching new music, developed a passion for it, and my long time passion led me to all sorts of different genres…and here I am where I am today. I would look at what electronic music producers were pushing out and thought to myself “Hey, maybe I can do this too…might as well do it myself!”
HS: So did you come across techno immediately?
Johnny: What got me exposed to techno was going out at 17 and 18, and having my mind blown by what I was hearing at clubs and after-hours in Montreal. I first got started just listening to trance music, which lasted a year or so, and then I transitioned to listening to really heavy techno. I just liked it a lot. It was what was going on in Montreal at the time! Trance was popular, but then this really heavy, driving techno popped up, clubs started booking those types of artists, and I was hooked.
HS: This weekend, you’ll be performing a Live set for Illusion festival listeners. What does your live setup look like?
Johnny: My live setup consists of a Livid CNTRL:R, made by a really cool company based out of Texas, which controls everything that’s going on in ableton; knobs, faders, processing, etc. I also use a Maschine Mikro for added drum loops that I can use on the fly. It would be really cool to add even more stuff, but just for travelling purposes it’s not quite possible. I have to have a backup of everything that’s part of my set, in case something breaks, or else I’m completely screwed!
HS:What are some unique properties a live set can bring to any show?
Johnny: The most unique thing it can bring to a show is showing the crowd that this is truly who you are as an artist and musician. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this and a lot of other live acts. When you play live, and it’s good, and people are enjoying it, it’s a 2 for 1 complement! They’re complimenting you on not only your set, but the music that you’ve spent time producing. From what I feel, it’s extremely satisfying. Audiences respect live acts a lot!
HS: A few years back, you and Dubfire were connected through music you had sent through his tour manager – you guys began to speak online, developed a friendship, and have since released three EP’s on Dubfire’s label , along with spinning alongside Dubfire at our hometown temple, Stereo. What changed for you and your career after developing this special relationship?
Johnny: Pretty much everything! At that time, I was making music recreationally as a pastime. To put it short, one of my friends who I went to Stereo with was kind of encouraging me to pass my music off to Dubfire saying “you have nothing to lose! Just give it to him!” So I did, and he messaged me back around a week after that.
HS: Were you surprised when he messaged you back?
Johnny: Yes, yes I was very surprised, kind of shocked actually. Receiving that message back and the affirmation that went along with it helped me mentally. I started thinking to myself “Alright, maybe I’m not that bad!”, and that really inspired me. It allowed me to push out a ton of music, and from there everything just skyrocketed. It was a very key moment in my career. To do things with Dubfire, meeting other people who also helped me out, was a key turning moment. I owe a lot to him for trusting my insights and visions!
HS: After this key turning point in your career, where in the world has your music taken you?
Johnny: Oh man *pauses*, I mean I’ve played in Berlin, New York, Amsterdam, Miami…so many places! Barcelona, Porto, Cyprus, Greece, this list could keep going on and on.
HS: What were some of your most memorable shows you’ve performed at, and in which cities?
Johnny: I think one of my favorite shows I’ve done was at Baracca in Valencia – it was insane. Something about Spanish people, they’re just amazing. It was crazy! That was two years ago I think, and it was right during a spike in my career; my name was buzzing around Europe, people were wondering who I was and who I played with. It was one of my first Euorpean tours, and that show at Baracca was my first stop on this tour. So many people came out to see me, and that was the first time time where I felt I was living a surreal experience.
Pretty much every show I’ve done with Dubfire has been fantastic. Solo shows aren’t as big, but they’re certainly more intimate experience for myself and the crowd. I’ve had a decent amount of people come out to my solo shows throughout the years, so I can’t complain!
HS: Here in Montreal, we have a fantastic electronic music scene with incredible promoters and artists. What does being a Montreal artist mean to you?
Johnny: Well I definitely owe a lot to our strong underground scene, the scene that really built me up to get me going. But I didn’t have a traditional artist ascension. I pretty much never played a show before I got signed with Dubfire. I was a producer first and foremost, so it didn’t really interest me to initially start off DJing and playing shows.
HS: So how exactly did you become so well versed in ableton, gear, and production?
Johnny: All self taught! A lot of youtube videos. A lot of artists come to me saying “how did you do it then?”, and I just tell them “Man, sometimes it’s too good to be true, but this is just how it happened, through my producing!” It took a lot of hard work. Never doubt the hard work. When I was 18 through 20 years old, it was a tough time for me because I was really, really focused on music while a lot of my other friends were always going out…and I did almost none of that! Friday nights I was at home making music and I remember my friends would text me saying “come out and party!”. Sometimes I would go, but nowhere near as often as everyone else.
HS: It sounds like you really spent a lot of time prioritizing your music over your social life!
Johnny: Honestly it sounds crazy but that’s exactly what I did! I had a lot of patience to stick being dedicated to my work. It’s not for everybody. As cliche as it sounds, I just said to myself “Look, I have a passion for this, and I’m just gonna do this.”
HS: You’re known to your listeners as someone who embraces minimal techno sounds. How would you describe or characterize your sound?
Johnny: I like minimal techno – I do some melodic stuff which I enjoy a lot as well, but I really don’t like boxing my sound in just one genre or category. I’m more than just one genre, and can push out many different types of music. I have a lot of unreleased stuff that some people hear and think “what is this?!”. I make sure the music I push out as Johnny Trika is well rounded and touches all the bases.
HS: This is something we’ve been asking all of our interviewees recently: mental health is a hot topic issue among both touring DJs and performance artists of all types. What are some of the ways you manage your health on and off the road to be able to to what you do?
Johnny: So when I’m touring, my pattern is based on constantly being pressed on time. Everything is scheduled down to the T. I do what a lof other DJ’s do; I get to the city, I do sound check, leave most of my stuff at the club so I don’t have to lug it around, and either sleep if I need to or go on a little tour of the city with the club or event promoter. Playing live is so mentally draining for me; I’m running 16 channels at once while performing, so it takes a lot out of me for even a 2 or 3 hour set. After any given set, I’m totally wiped. If I’m opening for someone, I might stick around after the event, but if I’m the main act and there’s no one after me, that’s it, I’m going back to the hotel!
HS: Do you ever get tempted or distracted by people you meet on tour after you’ve finished playing a set?
Johnny: Oh, I’ve blocked that out completely – I just do not care anymore. I used to say “let’s keep on partying!” or whatever, but at the end of the day, those who I’m visiting are going to wake up in their own beds, and I have a flight to catch the next day. I’ve put down the drugs and alcohol.
HS: So just how important is your health while on tour?
Johnny: On tour, my health is super important. Getting enough rest is absolutely crucial. It’s true what they say; touring will kill you, it’s not a joke! People on the outside think it’s fun and games! It’s exciting with new cities, but you’re really sacrificing your mind and body if you’re not doing it right. I’m a perfect example between when I first started touring and the way I tour now. I was super excited, didn’t pay attention to what I was eating, not sleeping at all, drinking – it was bad!
HS: Do you remember the turning point or realization you had about your health on tour?
Johnny: Yes, I really did have a realization around last November, which wasn’t too long ago, where I came back from the tour that I did and wasn’t super happy with myself and the way I was on the tour. What has been awesome about my friendship with Dubfire is that he’ll send me things here and there like “check out this yoga thing!” or “check out this meditation regimen!” because he’s someone who has been through the woodchipper of touring. A lot has been happening with artists committing suicide and reaching major low points. People are starting to take health on tour more seriously, both mental and physical. It’s awesome to see artists taking charge and putting their foot down!
HS: Last year we saw you perform at Ancient Future Festival as well as Stereo. What do you like most about performing for Montreal crowds?
Johnny: Here’s what I’ll say – the people in Montreal are really cool, but my music isn’t exactly made for Montreal. My music vibrates much more in central and South America, and Europe – minimal techno stuff. Not quite as big in Montreal. But, what’s really cool and what I’ve noticed playing Stereo and playing Ancient Future was that when I would play, people were just mind blown because they don’t often hear what I do, ever! Especially a live performance, it’s pretty intense! I remember the first time I played with Dubfire at Stereo, people were blown away, saying things like “what is going oooon” and “I can’t believe what I’m hearing”.
HS: One final question before we go! Are you working on any new music or collabs? What can we expect from you this weekend at Illusion?
Johnny: Honestly, I’m doing everything solo right now. I’m doing things with a few artists, but nothing confirmed just yet. Solo projects are definitely on the way though! I have a ton of unreleased stuff I need to send out, but it’s the same old same old, more projects are always on the way.
HS: Johnny, thanks for talking with us today. We can’t wait to see what you’ll bring us this weekend at Illusion 2018!
Johnny: Thanks so much! Again, I’ve never headlined a festival, so I’m excited and grateful to be playing this weekend. Montrealers never hear my type of music live, and that’s what I really aim for in a performance; having an original sound, tying it all together, and pushing it out to an audience who hasn’t heard the music I play!
Johnny continues to represent Montreal on a global scale, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the vibes this weekend as the headliner of Illusion Festival 2018!
You can purchase tickets for Illusion this weekend HERE
See you on all possible dance floors at Illusion 2018!