Jon of the Shred is a unique guitarist and composer hailing from Massachusetts, USA. His music incorporates classical, symphonic, metal, rock, funk and other genres of music with influences from science fiction and fantasy films and books to create a multi-layered, vastly textured sound which illuminates his own fictional universe as described in his musical creations spread out over six solo studio recordings.
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: When I create music, I’m essentially trying to write the music I wish other people were making. In other words, in starting a song, after figuring out the narrative, I then think of all my favorite music from a diverse pool of sources. Then I compile a sort of “super group” in my head, the elements I find most resonant in all these various acts, and how those elements could organically blend to best depict the Having described the composing process, I should probably elaborate on my influences. I love listening to heavy metal, progressive rock, soundtracks to movies (particularly 70’s and 80’s horror and sci-fi, and orchestral action and fantasy scores, as well as spaghetti westerns) and video games, all the way to funk, jam bands, blues, hip hop, and various electronic influences. I could give my music the “synthwave metal” or “symphonic synthwave metal” genre tag and it’d fit rather nicely.
Q: Who are your personal heroes, those who most inspired you on your own journey?
A: I have a lot of personal heroes, from musicians and composers to comedians to writers. My music released under “Jon of the Shred” is all tied within the Scythe Saga Records universe. Each album is a concept album that furthers the lore of the record label universe. Some of these stories directly intertwine with the stories featured in other albums and compilations released on the label. I started Scythe Saga Records in 2013 as the “never-ending concept album.” So bearing that in mind, some big influences on the way I create the universe would be the Game of Thrones universe, Mortal Kombat universe, Star Wars, and Conan the Barbarian universe, just to name a few.
One big influence is John Carpenter. Not only does he write and direct films, he also frequently wrote the soundtracks to these movies. So he inspired me on multiple levels. As a story writer, as a universe builder, and as a composer. His movies such as Halloween, the Thing, They Live, Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13 and many more really give me a ton of inspiration.
For bands and composers I definitely gotta mention Yoshiki of X-Japan. The way he writes sweeping orchestral movements and blends it with heavy metal is amazing. The symphonies he write are some of the best modern music.
Jim Steinman would be another major influence, his work (particularly with Meat Loaf and Tans Der Vampire musical) is immediately identifiable and he is a true master and composing. Deep Purple and the depth of their discography is a major inspiration point. The Grateful Dead and their rich counter culture. Manowar and their fantasy theme that sort of gives their music it’s own universe. Luca Turilli projects such as Rhapsody. Iron Maiden, Savatage, Frank Zappa, Symphony-X, Exodus, Overkill…I could list bands and musicians for a very long time.
Video games were probably my earliest inspiration points. Both in music and in universe building. Series like Legend of Zelda, Megaman, Castlevania, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, and Super Mario all had great music, great stories, or both.
Q: What do you consider your greatest musical achievement?
A: Starting Scythe Saga Records and releasing 6 Jon of the Shred albums under the banner has been huge. (The 7th Jon of the Shred album, Paragon Rising, will be released on September 19th.) Not to mention working with all the amazing producers and musicians from around the world on these narrative driven compilations.
I recently composed a good 30 minutes of music for the original soundtrack to a full length film, the Australian comedy Lt Jangles. The red band trailer is on Youtube for those who wanna check it out. On my debut album I composed a 38 minute track titled “Apocalyptic Dawn.” It started as an 8 minute track, then I discovered a friend had passed away, and it just sort of inspired me to really push the track in new directions, eventually reaching the 37 minute and 54 second mark. Took a full two weeks of work, I was recording a few hours every day.
Playing live for 100+ shows in various projects was a blast, something I miss every day. Just being able to perform at music festivals headlined by some of my favorite bands and legends was truly humbling. The most fun I had was with Neighborhood Formula, musically. The most fun I had traveling was in Positive Mental Trip, we hit a lot of states across the East Coast. And then just the fun jam sessions, like the open jam Tuesday’s at the Spot Underground in Rhode Island, or the Synchronicity Sessions you yourself put on. Those live improvised jams were always a lot of fun.
Q: How long have you been writing music?
A: I started writing music roughly 15 years ago. I got a guitar for Christmas in 6th grade and was writing my own songs almost immediately. They weren’t very good, just a series of riffs put into a structure of Intro / Verse / Bridge / Chorus / Verse / Solo / Chorus / Outro Stuff like that. I’d even hand-write out tabs of these songs.
Before I finally gained access to a home studio and started building it up in 2007, I would compose music using “Guitar Pro 4” tab software. It enabled me to compose for orchestra, and construct piano pieces much more complex than I was able to perform at the time. I wrote a 25 song rock opera in high school, from 2003 – 2005 roughly. This rock opera served as a template for the Scythe universe. The story was set 100 years past an apocalypse. When I started Scythe, I used the same locations and settings, but jumped back in time to the start of the apocalypse with my debut album, Apocalyptic Dawn. This set the stage for every story that followed. I still have all the songs from that rock opera, and plan to perform them live in the future and release it over my label. Bring it all full circle.
Q: What was your first musical experience that inspired you to play your instrument?
A: Listening to the soundtracks of video games planted a few seeds. World building narrative creation, and the desire to compose cinematic music. I initially started writing lyrics in 5th and 6th grade, inspired by Eminem and Slipknot of all people. This inspired me to get a bass guitar, but my parents mistakenly picked out a 6 string electric rather than the 4 strings I was aiming to get. Shortly after getting guitar I started moving past the nu-metal and Eminem phase, and discovered Iron Maiden, which opened musical doorways.
Q: What is one piece of musical tech you could not live without?
A: Definitely DAW and VSTs. The Digital Audio Workspace was a worthy investment, for sure, enabling me to record music every day. And the VSTs, such as East West orchestral banks, allow me to tackle nearly any sound imaginable. Thus I can orchestrate soundtracks without ever having to kidnap an orchestra.
Q: At what age did you start playing music and why?
A: Me and some friends were writing lyrics in middle school, inspired by angst driven music such as Eminem and Slipknot. We decided to start a band, and needed to get instruments accordingly. I asked for a bass but wound up with a guitar. It all snowballed from there. Learning piano was the next huge step for me.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring musician just getting started today?
A: Practice every day. Play from the heart. A balance of feel and technicality is imperative in forging a signature sound. Take your favorite elements of your favorite artists and try to recreate the same feeling in a fresh way. Jam with others as often as possible. Invest in a home studio and upgrade it as often as you are able to. Write or play something every day. Overnight success takes 20 years to conjure.
Q: What projects do you have coming up later in 2017?
A: Scythe Saga Records will be releasing the 7th Jon of the Shred album, Paragon Rising, on September 19th. We will also be releasing a sequel to our Neon Wolves compilation. Neon Wolves II has an epic cast of synthwave musicians and producers. (Cody Carpenter, Europaweite Aussichten, Absolute Valentine, Neoslave, Speed Machine, Deadlife, Jon of the Shred, KFDDA, Beckett, NightStalker, Microchip Terror, Elevn, Damokles).
Not sure when Lt Jangles will be released as of yet, but be sure to follow them to stay updated. I also have a placement coming up in a show I can’t mention just yet, and plan on getting plenty more gigs composing scores and licensing my music catalog for movies, games, and TV shows.
Q: Of the albums you have recorded so far, do you have a favorite?
A: It all depends on what kind of mood I’m in. They all have their own feel, and also have rather in-depth stories. Hard to pick a favorite among them, they have a cohesiveness, given the tie-in to lore and the Scythe Saga universe. I play around with a lot of “reprise” type elements when the stories intersect.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: I think spirituality and magic are currently being kept under wraps, so to speak. Our focus is supposed to be drawn (and directed) elsewhere. I think any sort of theology or religious practice can be used morally, as a foundation of justice so to speak, or for nefarious reasons. It’s all in personal context. I do think meditation yields huge benefits. I also believe in manifestation, which is quite a concept to grasp when you have a dark, wry sense of humor. Can be quite the balancing act.
I’d also consider music and most art forms a sort of magic practice. So if I am able to influence or inspire others through my music, be it self-released solo albums or soundtracks to films like the upcoming Lt Jangles, I would say my magic is doing good in the world! Now if only it could get me a consistent paycheck. (Which it will very soon – to circle back to manifestation and dark comedy simultaneously).
You can find Jon’s music and other content here:
Latest posts by Julian Crane (see all)
- Interview with the Magus: Sara Mastros - May 16, 2018
- When The Aeon Bytes: An Interview with Miguel Conner - May 11, 2018
- Interview with the Magus: Julio Cesar Ody - Apr 26, 2018