The electronic music producer known as J.Viewz (aka Jonathan Dagan) is just 35 days and $50,649 left to go on his Kickstarter fundraiser for his unique DNA Project. What’s this DNA Project, you ask? The DNA Project is a website that will be launched towards the end of October (if the project gets funded, so go ahead and reach for your piggy banks now). On the website, J.Viewz will present each song as a strand of DNA. Along the helix there will be nodes containing artwork, musical tidbits, and fan-crowdsourced soundscapes. Basically, it’s a dissectible journey into each song’s aesthetic logic. There will also be a timeline documenting the making of the DNA Project, with sounds and images logged that J.Viewz will later use to piece together ten tracks for his next album. J.Viewz took time to update FDRMX on the progress of his project.
“It’s going well, I’m amazed by our people,” he says. “Right now we haven’t started press or anything so it’s only our closest people, which means direct fans, but I’m really really grateful. There’s such a good vibe around this. I just realized I have many friends in the electronic music scene,” he smiles. “Usually the interaction with the fans is like, ‘Yeah party tonight!’ but I’ve realized the fans reflect what you give to them, you know what I mean? Because many many times fans are like ‘Ya!’ or they can even be a little aggressive or violent – but that’s why I’m really grateful for all the positive support. It’s a reflection of what I’m doing. I’m so proud to be setting up something like this.”
It’s absolutely true – fans are down and are just as supportive of J.Viewz as he is of them. Although there’s still a considerable way to go before the project is officially funded, he’s still happy about the response they’ve had so far. “The response is a as big as I would expect from my first radius, or ring,” he observes. “It hasn’t gone to the next level of reaching people who haven’t heard of J.Viewz before, so right now I think it’s as large as it could be based on people who actually know J.Viewz. So we’ll see, if it goes to the next ring, who knows what’s gonna happen? So far we’re at the first circle.”
He’s no stranger to fan-funded projects, as his last album was also made possible from followers’ support, and it worked out beautifully. “It started as a fan-funded project also, outside of Kickstarter, because we didn’t know about Kickstarter unfortunately,” he explains. “We made our own membership engine on our website. It was a huge development undertaking. Like codes and all that. So eventually it just went live, and I was like, ‘Hey people I’m gonna release a new song every month, you can pre-order, you can not pre-order.’ I said that I was gonna have an empty track list and every month I just released a new song. It was a very alive, current project. By song number two, Revlon reached out to me through their MySpace back then, and they took the song to their Halle Berry campaign. And this is where it wasn’t free. You know what I mean?” he asks.
“Because if you want to use my music for commercials and stuff like that, brands have the money, and I’m sure that every fan of mine, if asked, ‘Hey guys, would you mind if there was a giant Pepsi logo above the stage at my next show – it’s not gonna interfere with the music, it’s not gonna interfere with the artistic message, but would you agree to have that if I gave you free entrance?’ Ninety-nine percent of my fans would be like, “F*ck yeah we just wanna see you, we just wanna experience the music!’ So then you go and cash in from Pepsi, because the corporates have this money. So it’s a win-win situation,” he explains. “Not that I’m in to commercializing my music too much, you know, I’m not changing anything of the art itself, I’m not gonna rewrite a song for Pepsi. They can use the song as it is, if it fits their brand. My fans gets the music for free, and brands pay for the platform.”
So what happened after Revlon came into the picture? “I put my music out there, Revlon came, I was like, ‘Wow this is amazing!’ Basically they paid for the completion of this project, either through their licensing and/or the campaign, and then there was Victoria’s Secret and a Microsoft Bing campaign… And the beautiful thing was that they used my music as it. My fans were not affected by the brands involved in a different world. But they were positively affected by getting my music for free. So that’s my take on that. I say just make the jump, make it free, as much as you are able to,” he smiles. “Or whatever, follow your heart. It’s gonna be good.”
With his new current project, some musicians might still criticize J.Viewz for technically giving away his music for free. After all, how’s a person supposed to make a living in this failing music industry? “I guess, even if I were to do it without Kickstarter, the album wouldn’t necessarily be for free, because it’s hard to make a living like that,” he admits. “This Project, this website, the whole thing is so expensive,” he agrees. “I do believe that information is free. And music as a non-tangible thing is information. And I believe you can delay the time it’s gonna actually be free, but you cannot prevent it. That’s what I think,” he says determinedly. “You cannot prevent water from getting through the dam. Even if it takes 500 hundred years, at some point in time, it’s gonna happen because thats the nature of things. You cannot prevent sound waves from getting from point A to point B and music is sound waves.
“I think, in my heart, that’s what I need to do” he describes. “Then again, a lot of people get frustrated when I say that because they think, ‘How can that work?’ And I don’t know. But I believe that we need to update the tendency to go, ‘All right, I believe that this is the right thing to do, and I’m gonna make it work financially. And so far, the first time that I did it, was with my previous album.” Which, as we now know, worked wonderfully. As for the DNA Project, “Right now, with the DNA Project I’m trying to do something else, totally independent no brands, no anything but we’ll see if it works.”
Working primarily with digital music formats, J.Viewz is keen on the temporal nature music is taking on currently, but he’s also aware of the importance of the way physical products represent you and your music. These, of course, add to your tab when working on a project. “Tangible things cannot be free right now,” he clarifies. “You’re using actual things. And I know that because I designed and produced my last CD package. I insisted on getting the right materials, because the CD has no meaning. People don’t buy it for the CD,” he says, shaking his head. “So I made sure even the texture of the materials was good. And luckily, it was even nominated for a Grammy! I was like ‘Wow! This is amazing!’ And it was expensive to make those products….
“There’s something really beautiful because music is temporary. Our connection with art, is right now…” he elucidates. “We were raised in the 80’s, which was a period where music was epic and albums are there to last forever, they’re bigger than life, and I think there’s something deceptive in that,” he muses. “There’s something deceptive about the ‘mystery’ of artists, and being huge and being a stadium band that is untouchable,” he points out. “Albums are not there to stay forever. They’re here now. I make music and that’s why I want to release the song I did this month, today, so that you and I, the artist and the listener, are in the same contextual form. I’m gonna release a song I wrote this month, not a year ago,” he expounds. “Usually people release songs that they wrote like, two years ago and they worked on them – these are old songs.
“I think it’s really cool that music is becoming temporary and I think it’s cool that you have to make a really badass physical product in order to make sense of it. It’s like everything,” he beings to clarify, “When it’s easy to make, and everybody is making it, like CDs, you have to step up your game, no more joking. People go like, ‘Ok, let’s produce more CDs!’ No! If you’re a rock band, think about the physical product that represents you. Set up your own brand.” After a pause, he offers the other side of that argument, “Then again, CDs are the way to go for many things. But design your own package.”
In conclusion, J.Viewz just plain cares and is proactive about it. “I’m very passionate what’s happening in music, I think it’s a good time for us,” he says, nodding excitedly. “I’m a big fan of just doing things. Technically I’m a recovered perfectionist,” he confesses. “I was perfecting my music to a state of not being able to release it. It wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t perfect enough. That kind of pushed me to the other end – just doing it,” he explains. “Having a certain discipline, having a deadline – that’s the reason why I started my previous project, because I wanted to have a deadline of every month. I felt like, ‘Oh sh*t, that’s gonna be very stressful,’ but it ended up being very fruitful, because you have a deadline, you don’t have time to dive into the false concept of perfection,” he points out. “You just put your heart out there without too much conceptual thinking. Music is like very complex – not very – but technically complex. My philosophy there is to be in the moment. Just do it, I guess,” he laughs.
The idea for the DNA Project has long been in the works, and just continued to evolve as it got started. The idea for using a DNA strand as a visual came to him almost instinctively. “I remember writing a note to myself a year and a half ago about my music DNA,” he recalls. At the time, he was trying to define his style of music, since so many people would ask him to specify, since EDM is now such a large, overarching genre. “I was like ‘Wow, it’s a very eclectic thing’ because its really hard for me to define my own style,” he says. “I would call myself an electronic music producer,” but as he points out, his work is not nearly as electronic as some other artists. His reaction to this change in electronic music was, ‘Well, my music, my musical DNA is made of a lot of things, it has a little bit of that and a little bit of that, so it’s a very simple concept of finding something that is eclectic and that’s made out of many different elements.”
In regards to the DNA Project, it’s a very cool sharing concept: “I wanted to also be able to kind of give people not only the access to the DNA as an artist but also the DNA of the tracks, because every sound, or the combination of a few sounds is like a combination of a few worlds. And I was intrigued by the option of showing that accessing the code that makes a final product what it is. So as for DNA, I don’t remember exactly choosing that, but it was like, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna be the DNA Project.’
“The cool thing about that is,” he goes on to say, “on the website, the users are gonna actually be able to download the pieces of my song, and use them in their own songs. So even before I have the chance, to use a recording that I’ve made, people can use it already, in their own interpretations. So it’s like they’re using a part of the DNA and they’re forming it and using it in their own DNA. I’m sure I could go way deeper than this, about final products, but yeah that’s the main reason I wanted to look at it like the code, the code inside the final product.”
The website will only go live if it reaches its funding goal, so check out the DNA Project Kickstarter for yourself. J.Viewz posts updates as it goes along on his Facebook and Twitter pages as well. If you’re still not convinced that this project is indeed most amazing, just know that the website was designed by Hello Monday, the same company who designs websites for NASA, the Guggenheim, MoMA, and they (in the words of J.Viewz) “are mind-blowing.” They even crafted a mechanism that allows J.Viewz to document everything and put it on a timeline, even if it’s not part of a song’s track yet. He’ll be able to collect sounds, demos, and images, put them on timeline, and then look back at them a few weeks later and decide if they’ll be part of a song. Once the site is live, the people who supported will be able to download super high quality versions of the songs from his next album; they’ll be able to hear them the same way J.Viewz does in the studio. He’s going to release one song every month for ten months until the as yet unnamed album is out in its entirety! Watch his music video for “Far Too Close” on the Encyclopedia of Music below.