‘Dominion’ Artist John Odin Dishes on His Latest Project, the Industry, and More

John Odin, a Filipino DJ and producer, has been gaining a reputation for being one of the most prolific artists in the underground electronic scene in the nation.

John Odin, a Filipino DJ and producer, has been gaining a reputation for being one of the most prolific artists in the underground electronic scene in the nation.

This reputation is largely due to Odin’s work. He has kept his own with a potent mixture of trance, acid, and techno, and he has shared the stage with heavyweights such as Cosmic Gate, Markus Schulz, and Andrew Rayel. He has brought his skill-set to clubs and festivals all throughout Asia and Europe. We had a chance to sit down with him to talk about his most recent effort, “Dominion.”

First and foremost, when you announced the project on social media, we noticed that all the writers and engineers who contributed to the EP were clearly credited; as this is not the norm in the music industry, we certainly appreciate it – would you be willing to elaborate on how you all conspired?

Absolutely, I am by no means a production wizard so having someone be able to help translate what’s in my head onto the DAW was definitely the right move. Mark Thompson worked with me comprehensively on all 3 tracks of the EP, he’s a phenomenal producer and having his input was very valuable. I decided that the mixing and mastering should be done by specialists, and the label (Frame Worxx Records of the Netherlands) also wanted mixdown uniformity. My good friends Miguel Cortes, a seasoned engineer, and Herb Cabral who’s been producing techno and house for a very long time, handled this aspect.

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So, what were some of your inspirations and influences for the EP?

As corny as it sounds, the concept sparked in my head when I was in Tokyo last year, reflecting on how to approach the new year. The sights and sounds of the city, as well as the club scene, were my inspiration. I wanted to have my experience of the sights/sounds and club scene of Tokyo reflected as sound.

As for musical influences, with my background in trance I wanted to mix elements of both trance and techno but let the techno elements shine. I like how heavy techno is compared to trance; trance is all about the melodies, techno is very bass driven. To be quite frank, I don’t feel like I can produce pure trance – I won’t produce something I don’t know how to do. So, I’ll produce something that’s very close to my heart, that being techno. I also picked out elements from EPs by artists such as Charlotte de Witte and i_o. Other artist influences include SHDW & Obscure Shape, T78, Pan-Pot. There was also a bit of hip-hop influences from Mark Thompson, and a bit of synthpop influence as well. I actually thought the label was going to be hesitant to accept the project as it’s quite experimental, as far as categorizing the genre goes. Last but certainly not least, there’s also musical influence from the artists in my collective, ELEMENTS.

Where does the name “Dominion” come from and what’s the concept behind it?

A lot happened in 2019; “Dominion” is me taking more control with what I want to do and put out, a new outlet, a fresh start. Along with the EP, the project includes a nationwide tour (complete with new show visuals) and a music video for one of the tracks. I actually thought of the EP long ago, but I really wanted to present the project as a complete and well-rounded package. The tour will actually stop through all of the major provinces besides Metro Manila, and with each stop I’ll be having the local “champion” DJs of each respective province joining the show. The music video will be done by Cot Ramos, and for the track Je T’aime. It’ll feature Khai Lim as the muse of the MV, representing the track which has a more feminine energy. The MV concept itself can be defined by the word “conflict.”

We’re very much looking forward to the project’s full release. Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the industry?

I started DJing in 2012. I was first a student at Looper Beat Academy where I studied under Mark Nicosia, started off learning basic house mixing.

How was the scene [locally] back then and how did it evolve?

Hip-hop was strong at the time, but open format / top 40 was the standard. Electro and dubstep were still considered noise to the masses. Things started to change when David Guetta started mixing EDM with pop; EDM started becoming more accepted, and once the EDM explosion popped off worldwide, it became the trend. That was around 2013-2014.

Before the explosion of EDM, clubbing / going out to bars was more people-oriented, people went out to socialize and it wasn’t so much about the music (based on observation). With the rise of EDM, it became a conduit for DJs to be the center of the party. Venue dynamics became less socially driven and more music driven, people started going out to party.

What about the underground scene?

Well, the underground tends to keep to their own. Some people in the underground scene really don’t appreciate bandwagoning. For the underground, it’s always been about the movement, the music and its history and roots. And it’s all about guidance and passing of the torch. The underground moves more as groups and collectives.

So how does one become part of “the movement” ?

Start by going out to the nights, meeting people and expressing interest. Many of the OGs will be sincere if you’re genuine about it. Mentor relationships are important, but note there’s also a fine line with kissing ass.

Tell us more about your event series, “Pass The Salt.”

“Pass The Salt” is my way of contributing to the movement, putting on immersive and engaging events. There’s something special about the DJ being level with the crowd. People tend to put DJs up on a pedestal, literally and figuratively, so having the DJ on the same level makes for an aesthetic/environment where the crowd gets to feel like they’re really a part of the whole experience, surrounding the performer, a “we’re all in this together” vibe. It’s like a safe space. The DJ is no longer literally and figuratively out of reach, it’s more like a house party than a club environment, it’s more raw. All Pass The Salt events have to have this intimate ‘DJ in the middle’ setup. Currently I’ve partnered with Peps Laviña, Randy Salvador, and Herb Cabral from Deep Groove Collective to run a night like this together at Topic in Poblacion called “Konnekt,” and also at Apartment Poblacion called “Sundown.” And more to come!

What is your vision / what are your wishes for the industry as a whole?

I truly wish DJs would take more risks with music, whether commercial or underground. I hope that all the up-and-coming DJs are able to take everything with a grain of salt, it’s a tough and emotional industry, feelings get hurt. It’s essential to keep your friends close and have a solid support system. Though having enemies can’t be avoided, I really do wish people were more civil with each other (this may even be hypocritical for me to say, nonetheless I do wish this for myself as well in my current state). And I really hope that everyone finds the success they’re looking for, you simply can’t discredit the hustle and the grind, the work everybody is putting in. Everyone in this is making sacrifices. Don’t quit, don’t stop. I want to do this for as long as I can, and continue to grow through the process.

How competitive is the industry now?

It’s certainly heavier. Although I believe the young guys don’t really have to compete with the OGs. The OGs and the young guys have different battles to fight. For the OGs, it’s about staying relevant, evolving, finding something new. The young guys need to find their place in the industry, figure out and build their brand. A big break is relative, for me back then getting to play prime time at a bar in my second year was my break. Now you have guys playing prime time at super-clubs within the first few months of their career.

Well John, it’s been a pleasure. Any final statements?

Yeah, careful with the drinking *laughs* this industry, this lifestyle can be taxing. Never forget health is wealth. And I really want to thank all the people that believed in me, as well as those that did not. I wouldn’t have it any other way. You need both to stay on your toes.

“Dominion” rolls out April 10th, 2020 on all platforms.

Stay connected with John Odin on FacebookInstagramTwitter, & SoundCloud where you can catch his “Andromeda” podcast.