A Closer Look: Bohno

These past few weeks have found me very excited to provide some more directed pieces about community current events so that you hear the stories behind the art and events that are going. I feel this is important because it provides you a means to develop a deeper connection with the richness of the community we are all a part of. It also is a direct challenge to any person who tries to dismiss the artistic endeavors that anyone is engaged in within our city. That is one reason why I decided to do a post in the lead up to last night’s Standard show to show people the ideas and feelings behind the event (READ HERE). Without hearing what the people behind the event have to say, Its too easy to just say: “OHH, I don’t like those cliques, or their not playing my genre, or I WON’T step foot in that building.” However, once you see their side of the story, its much harder to just dismiss them.  Through their words, you can see they have larger goals of scene building and bringing new people into the community. Don’t we all have that same goal, but often get lost in our own devices to achieve it?

I think our scene should stand for a belief in the validity and beauty of art and dance events in its widest form and will not tear people down for trying to express themselves or provide experiences for us to dance in dark. This means letting go of metrics of scene success or failure and thinking about the acts of creating, learning, and community building as outcomes in their own right. Our community is not a for-profit corporation, we deal not in money and hype, but in sound, art, and human emotion. We are not concerned with flipping a profit, but with finding a meaningful human existence where the creation and sharing of art at a community level essential to navigating human existence.

Today, I want to move away from highlighting the philosophy behind a new event to detailing a DJ’s thoughts about a mix he has put together. I feel this is important, because we need to place greater value on mixes as vehicles of expression. We need more critical engagement with what mixes are saying to us and what the artist was trying to achieve with them. Too me, mixes still tell me a lot about the artists in our community. They tell me about their taste, their thoughts about sound, and how willing they are to push off the grid of certain dance music rules/norms.  I think a great place to start is DJ Bohno’s recent Sink Deep|Think Deep two part mixtape.  You may remember DJ Bohno’s “Heartbeats” mixes. They were explorations of the sounds of love through the sounds of hip-hop, R & B, House, Disco, and other genres.

He has always pushed away a one genre approach to mix-making to demonstrate how multiple genres can be put together to craft narratives about the common experiences we all share as humans. His recent Sink Deep|Think Deep mix series is no exception. Bohno has crafted a wonderful mix series that facilitates moving through the simultaneous joys and fears of life across a variety of genres. You can feel his emotions through his track selections and transitions as he paints vivid vignettes over the course of the two hour tape. (Cheers to Marko on the Excellent Cover Art as well!)

However, instead of me telling you more about the tape, I will move to a short interview I did with Paul to hear what he had to say about the mix and his relationship to sound.

Local Autonomy: What does music and sound more broadly mean to the way you live and experience life?
Bohno: Well, music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up I had 3 older brothers and the one closest to me was 6 years older. They all listened to different music so that is where I got to know sound. Andy listened to the beastie boys and nirvana. Kevin listened to radiohead and black sabbath, and Michael listened to a lot of indie and was also in a ska band himself. So at a young age I had all kinds of music thrown at me and I loved it all. I did not did discriminate against any genre or type of music when I was little. I remember loving Hanson, N’Sync, TLC, and even The Spice Girls when I was little. That attitude still holds true now. I enjoy most all music and it is evident in my DJ sets.
Music and Sound in general have always been my love in life. Some people love football, some people love neuro-science, others love writing, but I love sounds. Not just music either. But noises too. Being outdoors and hearing the loons on Weld Lake in Maine or waking up in my house in Ohio and hearing the crickets in the morning. Sounds fascinate me. They have deep rooted memories in them. And I feel like they change my mood and the chemicals in my brain a little bit more than most things.

LA: You recently changed your name from Pro Bono to Bohno. Walk me through why you changed it.
B: Trying to find a name that fits is very tough for producers and DJs alike. I remember first trying to pick a name for me about 5 years ago with my buddy Bill in Athens, Ohio. I wanted to be Kid Disko but bill said that “you shouldn’t make your name force you into a genre”. So that ruled out Disco Bloodbath too :(. Then I thought well okay, I will make it true to me. I have had the nickname Bono my whole life. It was passed down to me by my older brothers so I thought I would use that somehow. Then I thought of the term pro bono since my father and my brother are lawyers and that relates to my life as well. So I stuck with DJ Pro Bono. Later on I found out that the latin meaning of the term is ‘For Good’. Which I really liked. I have always been a happy and positive person and my DJ sets show that. They are for the good, not the evil. So I kept the name for a while. But the meaning of the law term ‘pro bono’ is to do charity work or to do work for free to help someone. I did not want this attached to my name and it making people think I play for free. DJs need to get paid too. So I recently changed it to Bohno which is much more simple and sleek. No more changes. I finally found my name.

LA: One of my favorite things about your mixes (Heartbeats & Sink Deep|Think Deep) is you use it to tell a story and provide a short narrative to orient listeners. What has drawn you to story-telling with your mixes?
B: In my mind, there is no reason to make a mix that doesn’t have some sort of ‘flow’ or ‘story line’. You might as well just put together an iTunes playlist and press play on the shuffle button if your not putting some flow into your mixes. Just like a DJ in a club has to slowly build and rise the energy. And just like they have to work with the other DJs to make the night progress slowly upwards is a short story in itself. I strive to make my mixes stories simply because that is much more interesting than just a bunch of recently popular tracks thrown together. I think of them as a journey. I have my own story in my head for each of them. But you can take them how you want. Make up your own story in your head. Whatever it makes you feel, I just want my mixes to help people. Help them maybe get over something or someone. Or maybe just help brighten their mood for that day.

LA: What story were you trying to tell with the Sink Deep|Think Deep mix?
B: I wanted to tell the story of a person who is sad. Goes to the beach to think about life. And they end up taking a journey into the deep sea to drown their sorrows. But while they are sinking, the journey changes them. I imagine them seeing massively large sea monsters and lost cities on the ocean floor. Seeing new forms of life and old ones that were lost long ago in a time unknown This changes their mind about life and they emerge from the water at the end with a new outlook on life. That ends Sink Deep. Think Deep is a prequel story about them enjoying life and embracing it. Dancing on the beach all day and all through the night, celebrating their journey and new outlook on life.
The entire mix has a feeling to it. It is heavily influenced in Garage music from Symbols Records as well as some UK Garage. But I wanted it all to sound Deep and almost like you are sinking in water. A lot of the drops are very bubbly. Sink Deep is much darker and more relaxed. And Think Deep still has all of those dark kind of bubbly flavors, but it is also uplifting and refreshing.
All of my ideas for the mixes come from current life experiences. Like I said before, sound and music are a huge part of my life and my psyche, so these mixes are therapeutic for me. They help me get through things. And I hope they help others do the same.

LA: I always see undercurrents of Hip-Hop and R & B in your mixes. Why are you so drawn to these sounds?
B: I am a 90’s kid and we are rooted in Hip-Hop, Pop Music, and R&B. Like I said, growing up I loved listening to singers like TLC, Aaliyah, Boyz II Men, etc. I also loved 90’s Hip-Hop. Artists like Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, and all the classics. I remember coming home from school everyday and watching BET Top 10 Live and TRL. These come ups in music influence my life still. And obviously still influence my mixes heavily as well.

LA: I know you have been hard at work on your own productions. Have you found the creative process of production different/more challenging than mixmaking?
B: The process is much different. In college, I was having troubles finding out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. DJing helped me shape my life and find direction. At first I didn’t know what I was doing and I had to find out myself. Eventually I did find myself and what kind of DJ I wanted to be and I am finally comfortable in that now. But moving on from DJing and into production I am also trying to find out who I am as a producer. Like I have been saying, I love all sorts of music and I am a fan of so many producers out there. It is very difficult deciding what kind of music I want to make. So far I have tried my hand at some Hip-Hop, Garage, Disco House, and Nu-Disco. My roots as a DJ are in Disco and Funk influenced House music, so that was what I thought I wanted to make right off the bat, but now I am not sure sure. As you can tell my love for garage music and future bass have grown immensely this year thanks to a lot of producer friends and I have been exploring those sounds now as well. I am just trying to do what feels right to me and what comes naturally. I think eventually I will hone in my sound just as I did my DJ stylings. It is just going to take some time and work at it.

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