Fehrplay is in a league of his own when it comes to producing progressive house. His music is spiritual in ways that make you dance, and ethereal in ways that make you appreciate his subtle complexity in synthesizing sound. When I realized that Jonas was playing in New York—an intimate set at Marquee nonetheless—I knew it was something I had to see, but I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw, and what I experienced, solidified Fehrplay as not only one of my top producers of 2015, but as a genuine guy with an amazing management team. After his three hour set, which was unforgettable in its own right—beautifully evolving from progressive house to hypnotic techno through the night—Jonas and I discussed his experience in electronic music and reminisced about UK dance culture. Hunker down, we spent over an hour speaking at the afterparty for one of DanceDeep’s most extensive interviews yet.
If you could sit across from eighteen-year-old Jonas right now, with all the current knowledge you have, what advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to not be so naïve. Everyone is in the beginning; there’s a learning curve, and I’m sure I’m going to look back in five years and think, “Ah shit, what an idiot I was.” But it’s all about thinking hard about choices, and sometimes—in the beginning at least—as soon as I got an opportunity I was all about going straight on with it. Sometimes it didn’t turn out good. And you learn from that.
What software did you start out on?
In the early days, I was always into music, and I heard tracks where I was like, “Ah, I can do something like this.” When I was twelve, I started out on something called eJay—it was a very cool software where you were given a lot of small samples, and you had a sequencer, and you drag the bars of the sequencer and make tracks out of those samples. I don’t think there were effects or anything; everything was samples. Back then it didn’t matter. I started making music on that software, and then went from eJay to Magic music maker and then Fruity Loops for a couple years, then Reason, which I stayed with for about five years, and I still love it. And then I went over to Logic, which I’m still using.
Do you mix and master as you go?
Yes. If you deliver something to a label, you want to get it mastered, just because it’s always good to have a second opinion on it. You have to find the right mastering engineer for your sound; I’ve found a studio that works great with my music. When I try stuff out though, I do it myself.
I mix everything myself. I think that a very big part of being a producer is that you mix it yourself. There’s all this talk about ghost producers, and I think there’s a thin line between what’s not and what is ghost producing. You can make good melodies, then go to someone to mix it for you, and I think thats kind of ghost producing too. Because every producer has their own sound. I struggle with the mix sometimes, but in the end it’s very rewarding when you are satisfied.
What’s your favorite sample pack? Do you synthesize your own sounds?
I used to love the XFER sample pack, but I’ve used it all. I’ve synthesized my own sounds a lot lately. I sold my synthesizer though, and looking to buy the new moog. It’s amazing. Incredible bass sounds, and on this one you can layer sounds. Other than that I really love the sample packs from Waveform recordings.
Do you need to be in the studio to produce?
I do prefer having a full studio setup, but sometimes traveling can help inspire the creative part; you have your headphones and your laptop and that’s all you need. I could never finish a track on the laptop. I’ve tried that many times and failed. You think it sounds good, but the bass levels won’t be perfect. You need studio monitors. Creativity wise, it’s good to travel. On the subway, in a café, wherever, and just getting inspired.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Right now I need to give it to Maceo Plex. Even though it’s not always the sound specifically, it’s his consistency and creativity in producing and DJing. He keeps pushing himself to be better and better. It’s amazing to see. Other than him, I’m really digging Chymera, Cid inc. and SQL. Proper prog house/techno.
The techno in your sets is incredible—do you get any inspiration from Gesaffelstein?
I don’t really listen to his stuff that much—it’s a bit too electro for me—but even saying that, I feel like I shouldn’t be saying anything because I haven’t properly listened to his stuff. I should give it a try. There are just so many good artists to listen to these days. As of tomorrow, I’ll give him more listens.
Tell us about your experience in Manchester.
I’ve got to say that I learned a lot at uni, but I learned much more from just living in England. It’s such an amazing country. The best dance music culture in the world, in my opinion. I haven’t lived all over the place, but I was just blown away by how melted into the culture this music was. I came from Norway, where this music was only heard by a few people. I studied in Manchester, then got an apartment my last year, then just went clubbing for a year. And then I moved to London with my girlfriend and stayed there for three years, and that was amazing as well, but Manchester has some of the best clubs I’ve ever been to. It’s great to go to a club, or even play a club, where that atmosphere is like that. There’s one particular club in Canada that really, really stuck out to me: Stereo in Montreal. Wow. As soon as I walked in there, it was like flashbacks from Manchester. It’s kind of a little bit dodgy, but still it’s so raw… it’s a bit scary almost. It’s just like everyone is in their own zone. Dancing. Aww man, it’s such a cool place. And it’s the same thing in England.
I’ve always been curious—what makes the club scene in Manchester and northern England so good?
I know that the club scene in the UK kind of started in Manchester, in a place called Hacienda. And I think that’s kind of where the movement started. But in general, I think it’s because they party hard. They are a bit nuts. No, but it’s very hard to put a finger exactly on why it is like that. They work hard and they play hard. That’s kind of the UK mentality. Manchester’s crazy, and it’s such a small town as well. I remember reading tweets from DJs who played the clubs and they all said the same: Manchester, you people are crazy. Everyone said the same thing. I still go back all the time.
Have you thought about why it is that Scandinavian countries produce such talented electronic music artists?
I think that as soon as someone breaks out and does something good, a lot of people follow and seek the same thing. The guys like Axwell, Eric, Seb and Steve embrace the young people. In Norway you have guys like Kygo, and he’s doing what he’s doing—he’s putting Norway on the map in many ways with tropical house, and now everyone in Norway wants to do that now. And now radio stations start looking for similar music, it’s great.
If you wanted to start your DJing career now, in 2015, how would you start?
Try and be as original as you can. I really owe a lot to YouTube. Just the basic stuff is so important to get right from the beginning. You can go to YouTube and see how to put a kick in a compressor, get that straight, and you’re on a good path already. Referencing music is important, too. Listen to music you like, a lot.
What are your favorite plugins to use?
I would say the Vintage Warmer from PSP. It works wonders on bass and kicks and really saturates and pushes it in your face.
Do you still use Reddit?
Yeah man, I’m hoping to do another AMA soon. I love Reddit. I’m a Reddit fanatic for everything. I use it whenever I’m on a break, I go on r/aww whenever I need some cheering up. The kitties and puppies are too good!
Do you have any advice on promoting music?
I get a lot of stuff sent to me that’s not up my street at all. They’ll say it’s the new EDM hit of 2015, but it’ll sound like crap. Right away, that takes me off that track. You should let the music talk for itself, rather than big it up with stupid words. And another thing that’s really important is don’t say, “this is just a demo, it isn’t mastered.” So many people say that because they’re not happy with it and they think it will help them. They might think, “oh, it’s not mastered? It’s going to sound so much better when it’s mastered.”
What producers have impressed you the most in the last year?
Maceo Plex. I love what Richard Knott is doing, too. I’ve known him for years, but he still hasn’t had a breakthrough yet. I really think he deserved it; he has so much amazing music. I played three of his tracks tonight, and from the reaction from those tracks I wonder, “why is this guy not playing anywhere?” Richie G is starting to break out. I got a track sent to me from a guy in Germany named Faust, I played it tonight actually. He’s just a bedroom DJ, but the track is awesome. It’s not perfect, but still… the melody and the creativity is there, which I care much more about than if it’s not mixed right. It means I get something that might sounds a little different, maybe it’s not professionally mixed, but it still catches your ear. But yeah, Faust. He has a track called Triton, he sent it to me like a year ago. I’m expecting some new stuff from him.
What’s your favorite set you’ve ever played?
I played Output a few months ago, and it was my first six-hour set. I was very nervous; I had never played that long before. For me, that was a big milestone. And it’s such a legendary club. I had such a good time. It was the most fun time I’ve ever had. So I’ve gotta say Output. Other than that, Roseland with Eric was mind-blowing. The DJ Mag Canada party was also really cool; I still watch the video. That was more of a hanging out, having fun kind of party.
Photography by Oh Dag Yo.