Jon Cutler: He’ll never leave the States
Just as the style of house music he favours sits squarely in the box marked US, New York John Cutler wears his patriotism on his sleeve, proudly declaring he wouldn’t even consider moving outside his beloved America, “Never, never,” says Jon, “I was born and raised in Brooklyn, I lived in Manhattan for six years and I just moved back to Brooklyn and I guess I’ll never move out of the States,” he insists.
The now 36 year old jock got hooked on DJing aged 15 when one of the kids on his block got decks, catching the bug that transformed his life irrevocably. “Back then a lot of kids, when they’d first see the turntables everybody wanted to be a DJ but you’d see that only about two out of then would follow it up, where they’d actually save up the money to buy the turntables and spend their money on buying the records. I was one of those kids, I was addicted to it from an early age,” he recalls.
“Though in the earlier days you collected everything; hip hop, house, classics, reggae, and when you went to clubs you’d hear all that stuff on the same night. It’s funny how it all switched into one type of music for one type of club,” he muses.
Despite his heartfelt commitment to New York, his biggest market this days is London, where he recently headlined the 10 year anniversary party for label/ DJ management company MN2S at the End. “I hit it off with London about five or six years ago with London, I’m in the UK at least every three or four weeks and I always enjoy playing there,” he admits. “It feels like a second home for me to play there, everybody here in New York always makes fun of me because I’m always in London.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How much pre-planning typically goes into your DJ sets?
Jon Cutler: “Not too much. Since I started DJing, before every gig I’ll always sit down for at least 45 minutes two or three days before and play around, that’s a tradition of mine. Then before the gig I’ll see if I can get any brand new material, if I can, great, if not if there’s nothing new out that I like then I’ll go with what I’ve got. I usually do that preparation just to refresh me, even if I know the records.”
Skrufff: Do you see your sets as journeys?
Jon Cutler: “It’s a lot different these days because I fly all the way overseas then end up playing for just two hours. I don’t know if you can create much of a journey in two hours, I try to do it but it all depends on who’s playing before you, where you’re playing, if they’re true house heads in the audience or a more commercially minded crowd. I always do the best that I can, and there never seems to be any problem. But it’s hard to create a journey in two hour sets.”
Skrufff: Do you find you’re better known here in London than in New York?
Jon Cutler: “In New York it’s not the same thing, the local guys are here and we’re all local. So if you were here you’d see me and five or six other DJs or producers walking up the street or in the record store. People know us here and what we do but it’s not like we can pull in huge crowds in the States.”
Skrufff: Why did you move back to Brooklyn from Manhattan recently?
Jon Cutler: “For space, I had the studio in one spot and my apartment where I lived somewhere else. I’d been there for years, started searching online for properties and found a duplex that was much bigger and decided, you know what, it’s only 20 minutes outside the City, I’m going to move back’. “
Skrufff: Were you planning on being a DJ from an early age?
Jon Cutler: “I was always into the music when I was younger, I always messed around with keyboards, guitars and drums. I remember when I was 8 or 9 my mother taking me to a house party and the kids having the turntables downstairs. Ten when I was about 15 one of the kids on my blocks got decks and I was hooked.”
Skrufff: Victor Calderone chatted to us recently and told us he’d be spending ten hours a day on the decks when he was 16 and 17, were you the same, did you go college?
Jon Cutler: “At the time when I started DJing I was in junior high school and I used to skip school a lot just to go home and practise. At high school I was still into it too and then when I started college, things changed. I studied photography and did almost two and a half years there and you’d always see the kids who were dedicated to photography, always there with their cameras, after hours doing their printing whereas I was always leaving to go to the record stores or the clubs so after about two and a half years I realised I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to be doing and started gigging at the clubs in New York. I was at the School of Visual Arts in New York.”
Skrufff: Do you go out to clubs in New York much these days?
Jon Cutler: “Within the group that I hang out with, a lot of us stay in the house. Most of the guys are studio heads, they like staying home. There are a couple of nights to go to, there’s Shelter on the weekend plus the odd gig here and there but there’s not so much to do in New York, especially for the younger kids. I used to go out four or five nights a week, I barely go out once every two or three months these days.”
Skrufff: Do you DJ much in the rest of America?
Jon Cutler: “A few weeks ago I was in Detroit, I played at the Miami Music Festival.”
Skrufff: Do you think house music can ever match the commercial success of hip hop in America?
Jon Cutler: “That’s a question that’s been around for 20 years. It’s always where it is and that’s how it’s going to be. The guys that do it, we complain that it’s slow and the sales are low but yet, none of us want to get a full time job and we continue to do what we do. Things are changing with MP3s, money’s starting to come through and I think guys aren’t as funny any more about the vinyl, if they can make some money off the downloads and MP3s and burn them and play CDs then that’s what it’s going to be.”
Skrufff: Are you playing more CDs than vinyl these days?
Jon Cutler: “I play all CDs even if I go and buy records, I take them home and I burn them before I go on a trip. It’s a lot easier; one CD book is almost like two crates of records or even three. If I’m travelling for just a two hour set I don’t want to have to lug a whole crate through customs, with a CD book I can go carry-on (hand luggage only). And if I’m overseas and someone says ‘we want you to play a little tougher’ I can do it, if they want disco classics, I can do it- I’m prepared to do it all for that reason.”
Jon Cutler’s new single, ‘Watcha Gonna Do’, is out in August on MN2S. His latest compilation “MN2S:Ten Years Of Our House” is also out now.