On The Radar: Soulful Tryst
by Annette Lucero

On this week’s edition of #OnTheRadar, we’d like to introduce Soulful Tryst. Otherwise known as Abel Johnson, our #OTR guest is regarded for his groovy flare of deep house tracks and techno beats. What’s more, this Twin-Cities artist also curates, “Get Soulful”, a local night series showcasing the best of underground music. Read on below to get to know Soulful Tryst!

You’ve mentioned that you experienced exposure to a few unusual production spots, such as OCRemix.org, Sony Acid and Coke Life. Although a bit primitive when compared to Ableton, these resources still hit the general idea: to create your own sound. How do you believe these early programs impacted your creative process, and the creative process of other “bedroom producers”?

I think in using them, I was able to learn the basics of loop-based and sample-based music production. those DAWS made music production affordable, easy to understand and easy to create, which ushered in the age of the bedroom producers. Honestly, shout out to Josh G. of the One Love crew out of Menomonie for introducing Ableton to me all those years ago and being patient enough to take questions.

You’ve mentioned that you are entirely self-taught, yet wish you’d taken music theory classes in college for the formal knowledge. Why do you think that this knowledge is essential?

I am speaking specifically of classical education, memorization of scales and arpeggios, music theory, piano lessons, guitar lessons etc. Whenever I go to a Blues show or a Jazz show and see those pianist just being able to just pour out music on the fly, I am filled with envy. I want to be able to play on the fly. Like FKJ.. that man is … incredible.

It’s been known that you really enjoy diversifying your song selections, whether it be for DJing or music production. At the end of the day, everyone goes back to one genre- what’s yours?

The Four on the Floor is where my heart lies. House Music (and Techno) are genres that are close to my heart. Programming drums is the most fun part for me, so producing House is my favorite by far.

Word on the street is that Mr. Soulful is working on a new side project . What kind of style can our readers expect to hear from you soon?

For those who don’t know, I am originally from Nigeria, so I am influenced by Afrobeat. You will hear that in my productions. Combined with House influences, R&B, Jazz, Soul, and Blues, I REALLY hope I can express [the fusion] I hear in my head eloquently through song.This new moniker should capture all my producing, while the Soulful Tryst moniker will still be my DJ name.

Have you always held a loving relationship with music production, or have you had a few testing experiences?

Oh man… The first thing I produced was a “Remix” of a melody from Chrono Trigger… I believe. I changed up some instruments, added strings, and a bassline and drum loops and was SUPER proud of it. I took it into the IRC channel for OCRemix and showed it to my favorite remixer at the time.

He destroyed it.

Just absolutely tore it apart.

He asked me where my originality was, what I was doing with this, I was wasting his time listening to this etc etc.. Obviously I remember that vividly, because it broke me. I actually uninstalled Sony Acid shortly after that and stopped producing until I found Coke Life… I can’t even say that without laughing. I re-discovered electronic music in about 2006 when I found this CD of club hits from the UK and decided to try my hands at making some pop tracks.

At the end of the day, do you feel like you gained something unexpectedly valuable from your experience with Chrono Trigger?

Yes. Don’t meet your heroes. Learn from them through the medium in which they are artistic, and be inspired to be better than them.

What have been some of your biggest obstacles to overcome as you’ve started out?

My biggest obstacle is time management, [and finishing the tracks I start]. But, I have been making it a point to make music every Saturday morning between 8am and 12pm, so hopefully this will help. I try… keyword being try.. to stay focused on one track at a time.

How has networking in our local scene helped mold your perspective of its dynamic?

First, I am TERRIBLE at networking. I tend to be a little shy and keep to myself at events, and in that , I think I come off as standoffish… but the few people whom I have networked with have been fantastic people. I love the Minneapolis scene, we have SUCH a diverse and special thing going on here, which, I think, people don’t understand. Our music is very special; [we have everything, from] House and Techno to Bass music (shout out to all the promoters in town who make this possible).

Based on your experience, do you believe locals give one another a chance stylistically?

This may be a biased opinion, but I think the MPLS community has an interesting dynamic. We are a small tight knit community within our subgenres, and within that community our music can find its place and grow. But if you’re open format or cross-genre, you might have a more difficult time unless you find the time to network. I think here, (and I am saying this because I don’t have that much experience elsewhere) networking is key. Minneapolis is small enough where a DJ/Producer can be headlining a show one night and be direct support to a HUGE name the night after that if you know the right people and can put your materials in front of them in an -organic- way.

You raise a very interesting point about open format and cross genre locals potentially having a harder time {if isolated}. Do you think it’s due to the crowds our scene attracts?

I think there’s a lot going on. We have a generational gap thing going on. For example, you have a lot of the younger crowds who are very much into Bass music and bigger productions, and you have the older crowd who are into House and Techno that tend to avoid the venues with the younger crowd. Then you have the mainstream crowd who don’t really care for anything but Pop music, and then you have venues that -try- to cater to all three but because of the regular mix, can’t pull in any. As stated, Minneapolis has a VERY interesting dynamic. Our main stream crowd here in Minneapolis don’t really appreciate House, and our House crowd … don’t really like -mainstream- all the while Bass music (Trap, Dubstep, etc) fans are looking for the drop in Techno, and all three are pretty sick of that Despacito remix. What’s the solution? I have no idea. Maybe we need DJ’s who are truly open format to be ambassadors, attracting those main-streamers into electronic, and taking those electronic fans back to their clubbing days.. I don’t know..

Do you have any experiences you would like to share that shed light on your growth as a local?

Honestly, a lot of my personal growth as a DJ in the area is because of the Energy Radio crew.I got involved with Bar Fly Nightclub because I was a part of the Energy Radio crew. This also opened opportunities for me, playing big events like Bassgasm, festivals in the area, making friends up in Duluth, etc.

What have been some of your proudest moments as a local?

Man… being able to check off playing these legendary Minneapolis events like Communion, House Proud, House Therapy, etc. I think I am most proud that the Minneapolis House community, at least the promoters in that community, know who I am and trust me enough to put me on their bill. It is very humbling for me. One of the biggest moments was when Woody Mcbride DJ ESP, at a Bassgasm event, introduced me as, “Minneapolis’s best kept secret”. THAT was humbling moment for me.

And where are you at right now as both a producer and DJ?

Right now, I am mostly focused on getting my music out there. I also have my Big Hair Audacious Goal, of playing a few very, very legendary events here in Minneapolis, and it may be years out, but I need to work up to that point. I am also working on a couple of new things for my DJ sets, trying to incorporate live elements into them. I figured out how to make it work, so I have just been working on a workflow [and] practicing how it would work in a live situation

What do you hope never changes about you as you become more successful?

I hope to never stop being me. I am approachable, fun-loving, easy to converse with, and I hope those things never change. I am also hoping my drive to experiment with new things, techniques and genres never changes.

Any last words for our readers?

You can find me on all social media as “Soulful Tryst”.