I was not born with an uncanny ability to play the piano. I didn’t have musicians for parents and I think I took about two music classes in school where I displayed no fantastic abilities apart from having a decent singing voice. But I don’t remember there ever being a time I didn’t love playing around with instruments and love electronic music. I remember listening to Moby, Prodigy and Fatboy Slim on bus rides to school, coming home and stringing together pre-recorded loops on MTV Music Generator. My lifelong love of electronic music is rivaled only by my love of oldies and classic rock. I grew up with my dad playing The Beach Boys and The Doors and my mom playing Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac in the car every day. I’ve always been passionate about the music I like, regardless of what anybody else was listening to. I remember the first time I heard “Terrible Lie” by Nine Inch Nails and “Enjoy The Silence” by Depeche Mode in my sister’s car when I was a kid. The memories are foggy now, but I think if I had to pinpoint when exactly my foray into synthesized music began, it was probably the first time I heard those two songs. I fell madly in love with industrial and new wave synthpop. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that the “EDM” blossom that took place in the late ’90s/early ’00s hit me like an emotional ton of bricks when I heard BT for the first time; all of the things I’d been exposed to were building to this new spiritual sound that fittingly exploded at the turn of the millennium. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a part of it all. I’d always been sensitive to music but I’d never broken down before, like that scene in Equilibrium where Christian Bale’s character hears music for the first time in his life. That’s what it felt like. And there was no turning back.
Home Town: Littleton, CO
Currently Living: Lakewood, CO
Origin Of Name: I first coined the name “Joman” (a combination of my first and last name, Joseph Mancuso) back in intermediate school as an intro to these little animated short films I was making at the time in a program called 3D Movie Maker. The letters “Joman Productions” would fly across the screen in a 3D font at the beginning. The movies were terrible, but I had a lot of fun making them. When I discovered electronic music production a few years later, I decided to keep the name.
Weapon of Choice: It’s hard to hone in on one specific thing, but if I had to pick, it would probably be FL Studio. I started using FL around 2001, migrated to Reason in 2008, picked up Logic Pro around 2010 and eventually came full-circle and started using FL again recently. I love how streamlined the layout is, the piano roll is the best there is and most of the plugins I use are VSTs, which integrate seamlessly. You can automate every parameter easily with the push of a button and every update introduces tons of new features. I interned at Colorado Sound Recording Studios for a year and all they used was Pro Tools and I still prefer FL Studio. It seems to have garnered a reputation as being “less professional” than other DAW’s but if you know how to use it, it’s every bit as powerful as anything else out there.
Source of Power: All of my power lies within my Converse and aviators. Swag is my only weakness. But more specifically, my cousin gifting me a CD of BT’s Movement In Still Life and a pirated copy of Fruityloops sparked my pursuit of electronic music production as a career. The album, to say the least, inspired me and opened my eyes to the virtually endless possibilities of digital sound design. Now, I get most of my inspiration from electro house artists such as Alex Mind, FTampa, Revolvr and Feed Me. I stay focused and motivated by drinking entire pots of coffee to myself, playing tons of video games, regretting all of the time I spent playing video games instead of making music, drinking some more coffee, playing catch-up, DJing and taking long walks on the beach.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a DJ?
As cliché as it sounds, it’s not all fun and games. Though I’m sure they would cringe if they knew a DJ was referring to their song, the lyrics from AC/DC’s, “It’s A Long Way To The Top” come to mind. There are a lot of “up-and-comers” who think there is nothing more to being a DJ than walking up to a set of decks and suddenly everyone thinks you’re awesome. If you’re reading this and debating becoming a DJ, be prepared to play lots of empty rooms. Be ready to negotiate for every dime you make because most people aren’t going to give it to you if you don’t ask. You will get underpaid many times. Don’t be a doormat but don’t fly off the handle and get in everybody’s face, either. Have integrity. Don’t play the exact same tracks as everybody else. Better yet, produce because as just about anybody will tell you, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make an impact as a “DJ” without any original material. But most of all, just be a good person. Realize that you’re nothing without your fans. I think the two biggest misconceptions that have existed about DJs are that we only play other people’s music (a stereotype that is slowly but surely dissolving) and that we’re all drugged out, narcissistic, arrogant, unpleasant people to be around (well, maybe a bit narcissistic at times). The reality is that a lot of us are just nerds who love electronic music. Some of us have families we’re trying to take care of. We’re just trying to pursue our passions, be ourselves and make a decent living just like everybody else. I think some people get this idea in their heads that what they see is what they get and that is just not the case when you decide to pursue an unconventional vocation like this.
How does what you do for a living affect you on a day-to-day basis?
It’s pretty dependent on the timeline. I’ve spent far less time in the past year or two wondering what the future looks like and questioning whether or not things are going to “work out.” Money is and always has been inconsistent but that is to be expected when you work for yourself and your income is entirely dependent on self-regulation, i.e. forcing yourself to put in as much work as you can all the time with no one above you telling you to. That directly ties into maintaining a healthy schedule, which is difficult when you don’t have to wake up at a specific hour, or be anywhere at a specific time apart from when you’re booked to play. Self-employment has its burdens but the rewards make up for it. I think the most complicated part of doing this for a living is just how much of an impact it has on relationships in my day-to-day life. When you decide you’re going to do something like become a “DJ” or “producer,” people will treat you one of two ways: they will either support you, or react like you just told them you’re addicted to heroin. If you tell people you’re going to become a teacher, people will just accept it…no one really has to support you in spite of it. I’ve had many friends lash out and walk away when times were tough, only to reappear when things were going well and expect me to welcome them with open arms. It’s hard to draw the line between the people who were cheering you on from the beginning, versus the people who were telling you you’d never amount to anything, when both of them show up out of the woodwork and say they’re proud of you. It’s like realizing who your real friends are, over and over again. Even the support I received from my family was minimal until I started proving I could make a living off of this. I was encouraged to join the military before I actually started pulling in money. I don’t hold grudges and for the most part, I forgive everyone who ever scoffed at me and acted like what I wanted to do was ridiculous but it doesn’t necessarily mean I have to trust all of them. It’s very nice to know whom you can trust with your life, though. My fiancé (who also happens to do my photography) and I met four years ago, when I was in the throws of uncertainty and she has supported me unwaveringly, standing by me during the failures and celebrating the successes with me. To me, that’s what real love and friendship looks like. It’s not fleeting; it’s not supposed to be this thing that people begrudgingly give you in small doses until you’ve proven yourself worthy in their eyes. That’s what business relationships are for. Friends and partners are supposed to be there no matter what. And I’m glad I have her and the close friends in my life that I do.
How important is it for you to experiment and take on the risk of failure?
To say that experimenting is important is an understatement. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from experimenting. Whether it’s experimenting with a new plugin over the course of a few months, or experimenting with a new genre over the course of a track. Everything has its place and you never know where something will end up. I decided to make my first glitch hop track after hearing Tipper for the first time and it ended up climbing into the glitch hop charts on Beatport. Failure is inevitable. I have so many tracks that I would never let see the light of day but I don’t regret them because it’s all part of a learning process that takes a lifetime. To stop experimenting is to stop evolving, to stop innovating, to stop learning.
If we pressed Shuffle on your iPod while you went to the bathroom, what would you be embarrassed to come back to us listening to?
I have an offensive amount of Bryan Adams on my iPod. I’d be embarrassed for about five seconds and then I’d start belting out “Run To You.”
What should everyone just shut the fuck up about?
I wish people would stop paying so much attention to the “DJ vs. DJ” banter on Twitter and treating it like it’s newsworthy. I have personal opinions and reservations about certain artists but I don’t feel the need to Tweet it to every single one of them for the sake of starting huge arguments. I don’t know if some of these guys are just bored, or they feel like they’ve reached a level of success in their careers where they no longer need to be concerned with their public image; either way, it’s annoying and it’s disappointing to watch people you respect as artists act out in ways that reveal their personalities in very unflattering lights. I am by no means perfect and I know I’ve gotten on some people’s nerves but a lot of it goes far beyond minor tiffs and into the territory of belligerent and noisy. And as fans, people on neither side should encourage it by cheering their favorite whoever on, or writing news articles about it. Every thought someone carelessly types into a thumb keyboard in 140 characters or less on their smartphone on an airplane doesn’t need to make front-page news.
Do you have a secret passion?
I have a few secret passions. Anyone who grew up with me knows that I’ve always done a lot of drawing. I was a terrible student; I almost always stopped listening to the teacher and would start drawing elaborate pictures and creating exaggerated characters and comic strips, which I think has translated directly into my Photoshop and video editing skills and desire to play as much of a part in the design process of my career as possible. I also loved acting growing up (still do), played lead roles in a few school plays and filmed really strange home movies with my friends where we’d parody movies we loved, like the Blair Witch Project or the Exorcist, replacing key characters with stuffed animals. I’ve always been into the dark, the macabre, and the bizarre, which I guess you could say is something people don’t always expect about me when they first meet me. I’m a complete and total nerd. I admin a Silent Hill Facebook page, write online reviews of video games and movies and have an unusual obsession with early 90’s point-and-click adventure games for the Commodore 64, Amiga and MS DOS that very few, if any of, my friends understand. So I guess you could say my secret passion is just about anything geeky…though, it’s far more of a secret to some than others.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about entering the Discovery Project competition?
I’d offer them the same advice I would offer someone who was trying to become a DJ; be you. Take the tracks you’re proud of, the ones you really enjoyed making and put them in your mix. Anticipate the possibility that you won’t win but be incredibly grateful if you do because it’s a huge opportunity. Reach out to your friends and fans for votes but don’t hound them. You only need to ask them once. And regardless of what happens, continue making music, learning from those around you, taking criticism gracefully and staying persistent, even when you’re feeling down. And last but not least, remain humble. Self-entitlement is an ugly color on anyone.