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Jonnine Nokes

MESS Commissioned Artist – July 2023

As a MESS Studio Supervisor and educator, Jonnine’s contribution to MESS cannot be understated. We’re thrilled to share more about their background and practice ahead of their Sonorous VII performance on Saturday July 29.

How did you first get involved with synths and electronic sound?

The first time I’d laid my hands on a synth was in the mid-90s. One day my father brought home a Korg M1. It was a pretty amazing start, but I had no understanding of how it worked. I just composed these ‘feelings’ on it. I had quit piano years earlier and retained none of what I’d learnt, so I’d go through the settings, playing up and down the keyboard dedicating compositions to people in my life—though no one ever heard them. Then I started playing the drums and the M1 went to the shed. In the mid-2000s, my musical listening was expanding exponentially, and electronic music of all kinds took up the bulk of that. At the same time, my best friend bought their first synth, an Alesis Micron, which we integrated into our fledgling synth punk trio. We spent hours programming it. Maybe a year later I bought a microKORG and never really looked back.

How would you describe the sounds you make today?

They’re incredibly varied. Hard, soft, aggressive, solemn. It’s hard to describe the vast array of sounds I’m recording and creating at the moment. I honestly think the best way to describe it is through listening, and I hope that my work for SONOROUS can do this.

Where do you find inspiration, what motivates you?

I find most of my inspiration in the work of others. Whether it’s my favourite artists or compositions by students in the MESS Foundations and Professional Development courses. I try to listen to music every day. Whether it’s while I’m traveling or listening at home. I seek out new music, whether it’s artists creating new work and pushing the boundaries of electronic sound, or those albums that are decades old. The act of listening to something new to me is so exciting. It’s how I keep going. Electronic sound is everything to me.

What’s been one of the most rewarding or satisfying moments of your journey so far?

In 2013 Alex White invited me and my then collaborator Marcus Cook (Default Jamerson) to Sydney for the second (and final) Moduluxxx event. It was a celebration of modular synthesis at a really exciting time. Enthusiasts, artists, makers and visionaries came together to explore what was then a fledgling and exciting part of experimental electronic sound and vision. We gathered at the top of the Marrickville Bowls Club with racks of equipment while the regulars at the club drank beers and stared at us. It was bizarre.

That night, Marcus and I performed at the showcase at the Red Rattler with about 33U / 924HP of audio and video eurorack gear we’d hauled up on the train. It was rough, improvised, hilarious and nerve wracking, but so much fun. I won’t forget that weekend. It was instrumental in cementing my love for experimental electronic sound and the community around it.

Also, a quick shout out to Keith Fullerton Whitman. It was through his music that I discovered modular synthesis. We met when he toured so-called Australia in 2012 and he was incredibly generous with sharing his knowledge and love for electronics. He graciously accepted my invitation to perform at a quadraphonic concert at West Space later that year. Another moment I won’t forget. Many thanks Keith.

And the most challenging?

My health declined aggressively in mid-2014 and I had to abandon my honours thesis in experimental electronics and the body. Unfortunately, that episode derailed my career as an artist, and only recently have I felt serious about pursuing it again and I’m feeling really positive about it.

Do you have a current ‘go to’ set up at MESS? Any favourite machines or combos that you’re currently digging?

My composition for SONOROUS has been made entirely on the vast collection of Eurorack modular synthesisers. I’ve been combining these systems to use interesting combinations of oscillators, filters, effects and sequencers from multiple systems like the Intellijel and Harvestman HOEM (History Of Eurorack Modular) systems, the Make Noise Shared System and skiffs, and the large foLmR system. Some of the results will appear in my composition and I’ll be combining these systems for the live element of my performance.

Are there any machines in the MESS collection you’ve had your eye on but haven’t tried yet?

As a Studio Supervisor I’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of the collection over the last few years. Having said that, I’ve largely ignored the Analogue Solutions gear. After SONOROUS I’d like to spend some time with their Nyborg-12, Megacity and Impulse Command systems.

If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you first started what would it be?

At the end of it all, it doesn’t matter what others think. Be content in creating what you want to hear. Seek the advice of others when you’re stuck. Be honest with yourself and take breaks. Not creating is just as valid as creating.

Connect with Jonnine

Jonnine Nokes performs at Sonorous VII

Date: Saturday, July 29th
Time: Two performances 6pm-8pm or 9pm-11pm
Venue: The Substation

Sonorous VII is presented by The Substation and MESS. This MESS Commission is supported by the Besen Family Foundation.