Stefan Jós: At some point I’m going to realize how dumb it is to use this many pseudonyms and just do everything as myself
Stefan Jós is Devon Hansen, a musician and video artist born and raised in Southern California but currently based in Montreal. He began producing electronic music at the age of ten. He has released material as Lotide and under his own name, as well as produced several music videos for friends like Clay Wilson and some artists of Syles Upon Styles both in America and abroad. Despite the number of projects he has at hand, all of Hansen’s work has in common a focus on texture and a knack for percussion, as well as the influence of world music, Japanese avant garde, and strange mid-century film soundtracks. Devon just released his first album ‘Primitives’ on flau/raum, which is a spacious and bugged-out sequel to his last EP ‘Things You Left Behind’. Careful restraint remains, but the sober crispiness is subsumed on ‘Primitives’ by loose and moody rhythms, wood and metal, weird noises in wet caves and other goodies for ground-dwellers and mole people alike. We are convinced that Devon needs to be more in the spotlight, so we spoke to him about his influences and his inspiring new project. He even prepared a banger guest mix to spice up your hot summer days!
You were born and raised in Southern California. How did you get in touch with music and what are your most memorable music-related memories from when you were a kid?
There wasn’t much electronic music to speak of in San Diego, so everything I learned about and discovered was through the internet. I also made friends in high school who had similar tastes, and we would recommend stuff back and forth. I almost never saw live music so most of what I remember is just driving around and listening to stuff, either by myself or with a friend. San Diego is mostly freeway so there was a lot of that. I’d find music that suited where I was going to drive or what kind of day it was and that’s what I would do all day.
You began producing electronic music at the age of ten. What were you experiencing with back then? Who was your inspiration?
A friend’s dad gave me a copy of the Sonic Foundry suite which had Acid and Sound Forge on it, so that was my introduction to editing and using a DAW. At that time I was following Prefuse 73 and Dabrye. I’d stick Prefuse tracks into Acid and cut them up in really dumb ways, then send them to people on AIM. Most people I knew then listened to hair metal or emo stuff so they were like, what the hell are you sending me?
You’ve been working under many aliases (d.hansen, Lotide), and this year saw the birth of another moniker: Stefan Jós. How did you choose this name?
I was living in New York and wanted to do something different from Lotide, and had started to work on the split with Austin Cesear. I finished my side and still didn’t know what the new project would be called so I just thought of the name as I listened to the material. It made me laugh a bit, which is probably why I stuck with it. There was never any humor in Lotide, I wanted a little bit of that in Stefan.
What is the idea behind this new project?
The main thing was just about method. I like to make new projects with new names because I like to re-set my approach and learn new things. Lotide was all sampling, and I was worried I had started to depend on good samples to make good tracks. So the idea with Stefan was to use synthesis more and edge it toward dance music rather than toward hip-hop. It’s fallen under a lot of words like “minimal” but that wasn’t an important part of the idea. I usually try to make things feel satisfying with as few elements as possible, regardless of the project.
‘Primitives’, your first album as Stefan Jós was almost exclusively composed of homemade sounds. Could you tell us a bit about the creative process behind it?
At the time I was living in San Diego, on the property of a company that my parents own. It’s a sheet metal fabrication shop so there’s a lot of scrap material and junk lying around. Aside from hi hats and a few other things, the sounds on that record were from recordings made with chunks of metal and wood, and some synthesis. I did a lot of processing outboard as well, which was a new thing for me. I had a DP4 and an old spring reverb, as well as a couple of pedals.
‘Primitives’ started out as a Lotide release but then you’ve changed your mind… what made you to take that decision?
I was working quite hard to get a Lotide full-length going, but at some point I hit a wall and couldn’t do anything. It may have been because I’d just finished ‘Things You Left Behind’, and just wanted to keep making dance music. The other thing was that Lotide had become very difficult to do properly. I could only sample from specific things for that project to keep the whole sensibility intact, and those limitations were starting to suffocate the project. As soon as I decided that the record would be another Stefan release, I felt very relieved and had suddenly gained a lot more freedom. I’m still riding that wave now but at some point I’m going to realize how dumb it is to use this many pseudonyms and just do everything as myself. Maybe.
Among your influences you’ve named world music, Japanese avant-garde, and strange mid-century film soundtracks. What could you tell us about these soundtracks? What do you find so fascinating about them?
Soundtracks from ‘60s and ‘70s science fiction and thrillers were some of the earliest things I heard when I was young. Stuff like Forbidden Planet, Fantastic Planet, Eolomea, La Jetée Vertigo, etc. I was exposed to a lot of Japanese cinema growing up as well. I think by the time I started making music I found I was leaning toward the kinds of sounds I’d heard very early on. They clearly made an impression on me because whenever I find soundtracks like that I’m usually quite affected by them. That stuff probably shows through in all the music I make.
You’ve recently performed at MUTEK in Montreal, how was your experience?
I had an excellent time at MUTEK. I saw a lot of what was going on and spent time with great people. I may be a bit biased but the night I played was the highlight for me. Everyone I played with was great, the lineup had a nice pace to it and the room felt good throughout. Excellent sound and visuals as well. Probably the best gig experience I’ve had so far.
GUEST MIX by STEFAN JÓS