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?The Eddie Van Halen of broken beat is back and he's got the grooves on lockdown. Seriously... this is not to be missed"
"This new album is nothing short of phenomenal"
"When I make music, I feel like it's coming from my soul. It's a gift. I'm pretty much the doorway for a greater purpose, so the more music I write, it's just something else speaking through me, and the more knowledge I learned, the more eloquent my voice was, the more I could express that gift," John Arnold, Detroit 2002.
Detroit resident John Arnold is currently working on a full-length album for Ubiquity, channeling his eclectic musical influences in a forward thinking electronic style and collaborating with peers from the motor city. Multi-talented Mr. Arnold is equally happy playing guitar with his acoustic jazz combo Blackman & Arnold or, as a club DJ, spinning jazz, broken, techno and house, or in the studio making beats. His interest in music started early on. He took piano classes before his tenth birthday but eventually grew bored as he discovered rock 'n' roll and, like most young kids, fantasized about being in a band.
After a brief stint with a drum kit Arnold took up the guitar in his teens and this became his primary instrument. "I loved everything, but I think at first, like a lot of young kids, I was really into rock 'n' roll music," he recalls. When his parents gave him his first album, a copy of Stevie Wonder's 1970s opus "Songs In The Key Of Life," Arnold was introduced to world of soul music. "As I got older, I had started discovering different music - I really started to like jazz, funk music and world music." Arnold may have majored in jazz studies at Michigan's Wayne State University but, as a hip-hop head (and aspiring breakdancer), he'd long been curious about electronic production - ever since hearing Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" as a pre-teen. "I think that's when I first started to get a real interest in the electronic sound, and I've always tried to make a connection with what I do now and my childhood. I remember even when I was doing heavy metal and rock I was using drum machines to make tracks. It wasn't necessarily for the dance club, but it was experimental music that involved drum machines."
The precocious instrumentalist was laying down his own compositions as early as 13. "I think I peaked at 16 or 17," he jokes. "Sometimes I break out the old tapes that I used to do when I was a kid and it's tremendous!" In 1996 Arnold formed the band Jazzhead and began to acquaint himself with Detroit's electronic fraternity. "My whole vision with the group was to really try and emulate what DJs were doing, but do it live. We'd bring in a lot of the great DJs in town who'd play with us before - Alton Miller came, DJ Bone... All the Detroit guys would come through and play and it'd be a great experience, 'cause we'd have this jazz band and then we'd have the DJs as well, so it was a really well-rounded educational thing about music, but people dug it 'cause it was dance music as well."
In this way Arnold met future supporters - Carl Craig, who invited him to perform his first-ever live electronic gig at the inaugural Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), and Derrick May, who picked up his Sparkle EP for Transmat Records' sister label, Fragile. In 2002 Arnold released a second Transmat EP titled "Four Minutes?" and a new 12" single on Ubiquity records called "We're Not." Meanwhile, Arnold has lent his talents to others - jamming on John Beltran's "Aztec Girl," which was licensed by British drum 'n' bass innovator LTJ Bukem for Good Looking's Earth 4 compilation, and on records by the Detroit Escalator Co and Recloose. Arnold is also a member of the "world music" five-piece Blackman & Arnold. "It's a lot of different world music sounds. It's all acoustic. We do Brazilian music, Afro-Cuban music and Latin music, and all in a jazz setting, and so it's highly improvisational, but it's really cool."
Within electronic music circles formally trained artists often struggle to reconcile their academic backgrounds and the unconventional DIY ethos of club culture, yet Arnold's education has expanded, not limited, his imagination. "When I make music, I feel like it's coming from my soul. It's a gift. I'm pretty much the doorway for a greater purpose, so the more music I write, it's just something else speaking through me, and the more knowledge I learned, the more eloquent my voice was, the more I could express that gift."
This outlook forms the basis of Arnold's progressive manifesto. "I'm very interested in making tracks that can easily be played in the dance club and that people can dance to, but I want to use that as a tool to express different ideas that people might not necessarily be trying in terms of different harmonic ideas and time signatures and rhythmic ideas - like maybe using 7/4 as opposed to four-on-the-floor all the time or doing 15/4 or just doing different ideas, so almost educating people to another level of music, but doing that in a way so it's still a party and everybody is dancing."