Jon Freihofer, aka Jonny Oso, is a producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist who makes bombastic yet dreamy warehouse music. He’s released three albums on Brooklyn label Pastel Voids and has collaborated with the likes of Morgane Lhote. His most recent release ‘Mind/Body/Science’ is reflective of his many years spent as a drummer and a stalwart of Portland and NYC nightlife. When he’s not making music, Jonny Oso can be found spinning music at various parties in NYC and co-running his label Ethereal Beatbox.
What’s the story behind the name Jonny Oso?
It’s kind of a funny take on a childhood nickname that I always hated. People call me Jonny in real life. Oso is bear in Spanish, and easier to pronounce than my last name. My baby sitter as a kid would call me Jonny Bear in a heavy East Texas drawl and I always cringed inside. “Jonnuh Bare whatcha doin?” I could’ve just used Jonny Bear, but I feel like you can only make a very particular type of music with a name like that.
What’s your process when you’re composing your music?
It depends…sometimes I have an idea in my head that won’t go away. I’ll wake up and its the music in my head from my dreams and it kind of drives me nuts until I sit down and translate it. Sometimes I’ll hear a record at a party and think “I wish it would do that part over again…” or something, then go and make something with that concept. Sometimes I have no clue, and I just play with sounds or keyboards until something interesting happens. Sometimes nothing interesting happens, and I go for a walk. For Mind/Body/Science it was different, I had a lot of breaky ravey type projects that I hadn’t finished, then realized one day that they’re sorta cohesive. Most of the tunes from that are inspired from bittersweet abstract nostalgia and Miyazaki movies.
What do you love about living in NYC?
Too many things to count, but for one thing, New Yorkers are my kind of people. I mean real New Yorkers, not disassociated Tinder swipe High Line narcissist types. I love the sense of community here, and the fact that everything in the world I could ever want or need is just a few blocks away. I would say its a fantasy land, but its not. You gotta earn it. If you don’t have that hyperactive hustle or drive, New York will squeeze you out like a meth head trying to get the last bit of tooth paste out so he can brush his one tooth.
What’s your motto / life philosophy?
Three things: 1. Treat people like you think they’re important. 2. You’re not that terrific. Stay humble. 3. If you’re gonna do something, do it right. Or at least make people think you’re doing it right.
Where's the best place to grab a drink in NYC. If one of your songs was playing overhead, what would it be?
I don’t even know what the real name of it is, but its known in my neighborhood as ‘The Bodega’. It’s a hole in the wall taqueria that you can just grab a beer from the fridge, order food, sit down and relax. And pay later. There’s groceries there too. A lot of times you’ll sit and eat with junkies and miscreants. Or party people. Its open very, very late. If anything other than cumbia was playing there I would be very sad and confused. If I heard one of my songs I would think ‘There goes the neighborhood!’.
How do you know when you’ve ‘finished’ with a song?
My rule of thumb is even if it’s a club track or whatever, from beginning to end I like to keep the integrity and musicality if I can. A lot of tracks just loop out at the end, I like to make sure there’s intention with every part. That being said I don’t know when a track is truly finished, I will often have like 4 different versions of it and pick which one I think works the best.
Your lifestyle in five words?
Thinking. Records. Synthesizers. Books. Swag.
What inspires you?
Mostly rhythm. I was a drummer for years and years. The first time I heard a hip hop track I lost my mind because of the beat. My mom wouldn’t let me listen to it but I did anyway (Sorry mom, I didn’t take to heart the gangster shit they said though). Dancing too. When I catch people dancing house style at parties (can someone tell me where more of those types of parties are?) its so inspiring and it gives the music a new meaning. I dance house as well when I get the chance. (You’re just a dick if you’re the only one doing it. Its a group thing in my opinion).
Finish this sentence. Dance music is…
The only kinda music little kids understand more profoundly than you probably do.
What are currently listening to non-stop?
Cherrelle’s ‘When You Look in My Eyes’ Kills me every time. Sexy, kinda sad, kinda thirsty. Her voice is more naive and less studio trained sounding than most of her other stuff. Plus everything Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis touched back then was gold. I’m talking about the original maxi version.
Are you more or a rule breaker or rule follower?
In music? Neither. I like what I like. If dem’s the rules, fine. If the rules are broken, perfect. In life? I used to be a rule breaker for sure, but I’m old and lame now and very neurotic about following the rules, even to the point of reading the instructions on a bag of rice.
Where is the best place in NYC for someone to recover from a big night out?
Oh man. In New York? Probably your bed. If you’re in rough shape, New York will pulverize you. Second choice will probably anywhere near the water or the beach. Some silence and reflection is good. Drink a smoothie or something. Or just don’t go out! Solve the problem before it starts.
Is there such a thing as “destiny”?
Well, there’s genetic pre-disposition. For example, I will never be a baseball player because I can’t run fast and am naturally terrible at throwing things with accuracy. But as far as some sort of pre-determined destiny by forces unknown, I’m pretty sure we choose our own adventure here. Every outcome is caused by a decision. But I supposed if you have a genetic pre-disposition for making poor decisions than your outcomes are partially ruled by biology. Maybe you’re a schizophrenic and make decisions based on fixated delusions. Maybe your DNA causes you to become obese no matter what, and your choices are hindered by limited mobility. But one could argue that genetic flaws evolve over time with poor decision making. Maybe dad drank too much or experienced extreme trauma. Those things can be passed down and alter the decisions of offspring. So maybe there’s a destiny to fail miserably, and we’re all prolonging the inevitable.
What brings a tear to your eye?
When I have a moment to think about how bizarre and huge and sad the world is. When I let go of things I can’t control.
What’s the longest you’ve ever stayed awake? Do you think you could do it again?
A couple days. Just hangin’ out. Parties. Friends. Etc. No, I probably couldn’t do it again. As soon as the sun comes out I feel like a piece of shit cockroach that needs to skitter into a murky basement and lick poison. I could be having the best night of my life, but if I see the sun I will be like “I gotta go.” And dip so fast.
What's the main difference between this project and your other project Pons Reverse?
Pons Reverse was a totally different thing with myself and Stephen Knoll, who now runs a record label called Ethereal Beatbox with me. We were trying to make some spaced out techno with heady samples and stuff. It was a very specific time in both of our lives. We made that one record in the dead of winter, and that was it. He does his own thing and I make music as Patient and Oso. We both plan on releasing more of our own stuff on the label itself.
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?
I have a full album coming out on Pastel Voids before the year ends. Catch me at the Disco Tehran parties in NYC spinnin’ plates of the sauciest tunes I can find. Making tracks with the moniker Baby J, some clubby garage type stuff. Working on some EPs with that project, maybe release a 12” on a new label of mine. Hoping to not die yet.