Tripping Out on John

The expression “Irish Twins” is said to have been coined around the 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution and was used to describe the phenomenon (mostly) observed in the Irish Catholic families who would conceive and give birth to child after child – something like “almost twins, but not exactly”.

Well, it is the year 2021 (way past the Industrial Revolution). It’s not even the 20th century anymore, and we are no longer living the “Billy Idol” days of Ireland, nor do we still publish caricatures of Pope John Paul II representing the views of the traditional Catholic Church on family planning and birth control.

Also, my parents are not Irish. But my brother and I are 13 months apart. And that effectively makes us “Irish Twins” under the modern meaning of the expression (“siblings born within 9-18 months of each other”).

But who am I? Why would I be rambling about the Industrial Era, birth control and my seemingly “unknown” Irish Twin brother with you, fellow reader?

Well… You can call me “Mr. Uno, the snob” and, unbeknownst to you, my brother is yours truly, “the one and only”, John, the Hedonist. John, the melancholic. “Chewbacca”. John, the modern-day poet who kindly took on himself the mission – nay, the responsibility! – to invest in educating us (you and I, mere common mortals) on the vicissitudes of music and sound, history and culture.

I am Mr. Uno, the brother of John, the Hedonist, and today I am here to “educate” you on John. He is the “plat du jour”, the topic of the day: John is turning 30 – THIRTY – years old!

This is one of the many presents he so much deserves. It is meant to be a small but honest homage to him and his music (happy birthday, little brother!)

As Irish Twins, and as the eldest of the two, “Mr. Uno” here has no memories or recollections of a “time before John”. That’s right! The very awareness of “Mr. Uno’s” own existence goes hand-in-hand with that of “John”. Alongside the earliest memories is also the awareness that music has always been an integral part of our lives: music is (and always has been) very close to us, to all our family – and this shaped our lives.

So, without further ado, let’s jump right into John’s pre-pubescent years, and check what he was listening to at the time!

The first decade of his life [Author’s Note: our lives] was spent getting soaked in the Beatles, Supertramp, a lot of New Wave classics such as Martha and the Muffins, DEVO, the Flying Lizards or Elvis Costello, alongside the occasional jazz reference (an inheritance of our paternal grandfather), or even classical music (shout out to my main men, Mozart and Bach, and all the piano lessons). All of this carefully curated by our parents – thanks Mom and Dad!

Let’s not forget about all the road-trips and vacations with them, listening to tunes by these amazing artists, alongside Brazilian classics such as Chico Buarque and Marisa Monte, Ellis Regina (or her daughter, Maria Rita), and Portuguese music such as Clã or Rádio Macau. There was The Velvet Underground, The Doors and The Ramones, there was Pink Floyd, Aztec Camera and The Police. There was Aimee Man and Suzanne Vega, Sade and Prefab Sprout.

Alongside these “good” references (and as this article moves into our weird pubescent years), there was our own, legitimate musical exploration – and our father did an awesome job in looking the other way during the weekend supermarket run, allowing us to casually throw in a CD into the shopping cart. [Author’s Note: John, do you remember the first time we heard Stairway to Heaven? It was Dad’s “response” to our “heavy rock” references in the shapes of Limp Bizkit! That’s what I call a royal “shut the F up” (and a lesson in snobbery)]

Mind you, this was the time of MTV and “knowing about that ONE song by that artist” – so we would go out and buy Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “By The Way” because we knew of Can’t Stop; or we would get Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP” because of Stan; we had The Offspring’s Americana because of “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”; we will never forget buying Daft Punk’s “Discovery” when it first came out, just because One More Time was playing on the radio at the time; and there was of course the love affair between John and Damon Albarn, that I will claim the responsibility for having started, when I first got Gorillaz’ debut album and basically brought my brother into his permanent melancholy, pseudo-hedonistic/depressive psychological state [Author’s note: John is a healthy boy, don’t worry].

As time went by, and John moved into his teens, he went through a highly hormonal experimental period – which in musical terms meant he was listening mostly to a mixture of Punk Rock with House and Electronic music. On his Creative MUVO Mp3 player you could find Blink-182, Sum 41, Rise Against, NoFX, Bad Religion, Tara Perdida (of course) and the likes. There was Cansei de Ser Sexy (or CSS for short) or Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green’s ensemble!), there was Fat Freddy’s Drop and Sublime, and there was of course The Arctic Monkeys. And do you guys still remember Guitar Hero? There was a lot of that too… Good times!

There were Portuguese and international Hip-Hop hits playing back-to-back, and so Sam the Kid, Mind da Gap and Da Weasel could be playing alongside Dr. Dre or any of his Deathrow Records signed artists. You could also expect to find some Portishead or Us3 too. This was of course awesome! Couple that with The Prodigy, Mark Knight or Kurd Maverick, and you got John’s 2000’s weird mix.

After High-School, and as John ventured into university, his audio snobbism started to creep in a bit more visibly, and you could no longer entice John with a night of booze alone – you had to consider what the musical options for the occasion were!

There was Electronic eclectic music in the shapes of Thievery Corporation, Groove Armada and Massive Attack, Moody Man, Trentemoller, M.A.N.D.Y and Book Shade, Soulwax, Frivolous, Royksopp and the likes, but also Sam Sparro, Miami Horror, Chromeo, or some light-hearted Metronomy. There was general feel-good music such as Dispatch, Beirut, Patrice or Mano Chao. Bloc Party was naturally playing on repeat and don’t mind the occasional Boyz Noise or Chemical Brothers in the middle of the mix.

A little more into his late college years – and while taking his master’s degree – John met with the remainder (and OG) Audio Snobs – and boy-oh-boy did he go into full snobbery-metamorphosis: after his master’s, there was indeed no turning back, having experienced his full musical awakening with the help of his ‘Senior’ colleagues-made-friends-for-life. John was now a full-time Audio Snob, having ventured into the sounds of Kruder & Dorfmeister, Nicolas Jaar, Romare, Disclosure, Bonobo, Quantic and Shit Robot. There was funk and Brazilian in the shape of Tim Maia, there was Jorge Ben Jor, and the return of Gabriel o Pensador. The Black Keys and Tame Impala, but also MGMT, Jessie Ware, Chet Faker, Mac Miller, N.E.R.D., La Femme or Khruangbin, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone or Lauryn Hill could also be heard through the speakers at the house parties.

Around this time both classic and new-school Hip Hop references came rushing into our lives, with all the Bum-Bap that we had forsaken for a tiny bit back there– and Outkast, a Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Swollen Members, Nasor Warren G were playing alongside Kid Cudi, Moka Only, Marcelo D2, Kendrick Lamar, Curren$y or Schoolboy Q.

Upon coming back to Portugal after completing his studies, John started taking his first steps into Real Techno – building on his love for all music and finding the different intricacies of the sounds of the great Richie Hawtin and Laurent Garnier, for example, or something more like Paul Ursin, Loco Dice or Pan Pot, but also Tale of Us, Recondite, DVS1, Mind Against, Mano Le Tough and other so called “Melodic Techno”. There were countless summer festivals to put these learnings in practice.

We are getting closer to the present. Not long after his first professional experience – and the amazing weekends filled with Matinées around Lisbon during those times – John moved to London, where he currently is living.

He got to reconnect with his fellow Audio Snobs (it was around this time that the Audio Snobbery project was born), and with it came the formal acknowledgement of his “one-of-a-kind” devotion to music.

Nowadays, you can probably find him tuning into Crazy P (aka Crazy Penis), Kali Uchis, Anderson .Paak, Tom Misch, Moullinex and Xinobi, Kaytranada or Jungle on Spotify.

And Gorillaz. Always and forever Gorillaz. Remember that about John, and you will be guaranteed to pass-by unharmed by his judgement (even if you have no other topics to discuss with him next time you see him).

Now, I am pretty sure that at 1,700 words, and considering this is an article for a blog (written by a weird bloke that you will probably not gonna be hearing of ever again), I hope you were not expecting to get a full “exposé” of John’s musical taste and upbringing – but I do hope that this tribute to the birthday Snob gives you an idea of what it was to grow up with John.

You see, John is an Audio Snob at his core, and knowing John’s musical taste (albeit not in full) and a bit of his life around music is to know John.

And well, I guess you do not have to play an instrument or build on your natural aptitudes in order to be musically fulfilled – I know this to be true, because my brother is the walking example of this: his essence breaths music (John’s Maslow Pyramid base has music first, then shelter and security second. Give him access to Spotify and he will sleep through a city bombardment); he works in the music industry and runs a music blog dedicated to educating the mere mortals. Jokes aside… Could you be any more successful, John? Not in my eyes.

Happy 30th birthday brother, wish you a full life, happiness and success, always. Hope to walk by your side for many, long and happy years.

Your Irish Twin brother,

“Mr. Uno”