Huron John Welcomes You to the Kaleidoscopic World of 'Apocalypse Wow' [Q&A]
John Conradi, also known as Huron John, is taking the world by storm... again. We first saw the likes of him last year, when he teased the release of Apocalypse Wow, a nine song, longform project that was fully-realized on April 22, Earth Day.
Since our initial discovery of Huron John, he has broken up this piece of work into three singles and two volumes, accompanied by three visuals, all of which help tell the out-of-this-world story Conradi is painting for his listeners. Apocalypse Wow has seen some major Spotify love with playlisting on the likes of Lorem, Bedroom Pop, POLLEN, and All New Indie. We were able to chat with Huron John via e-mail to get a glimpse into the kaleidoscopic world of Apocalypse Wow.
How did the Apocalypse Wow project begin?
Huron John: It kind of synthesized itself organically from another project that I scrapped. Back in spring 2019, I wanted to make an album-style project called Sleeping With My Socks On. There was some cool ideas, but It just wasn't coming out the way I wanted it to. I felt like I was really trying to force a longer-form project to get myself out of that Bedroom Pop box that my first single "Friendzone" was kind of pushing me into.
I always come up with titles before anything, and my favorite idea from that Sleeping With My Socks On project was a song called Apocalypse Wow. That title really struck me, and I wanted to do something with it. It was originally going to be another four song EP to complete a trilogy kind of thing between my other EP's Never Inside and Fanta Fantasy. I got back to Chicago for summer break, and it went from a four song project to a five song one, then six, then six. You get the gist.
Why break it up into volumes, to then have all the music combine into one?
The greater story of the project is double-sided. On one end, you have the emotional end of it, which is the whole "breakup album" thing. I wanted to make an album about youth "breaking up" with you, throwing you into adulthood. Then there's the other side, the whole comic-book-style narrative thing about the kid Andy who saves the planet from giant robots. I wanted Volume 1 and Volume 2 to tell pieces of each of those concepts without giving everything away at once.
The last song on the project, "Use The Birth For All It's Worth," serves as the "conclusion" to the Apocalypse Wow part of this larger story. The lyrics from that last track are supposed to be Andy persuading the aliens to spare the Earth even though we can be a fucked up species sometimes. I wanted that to serve as a cinematic conclusion in a way, so the "Volumes" definitely played a big role in providing that narrative suspense. The other day a friend told me "You made it seem like the same album dropped eight times" hahahaha.
The shift in tone from your earlier bedroom-pop tinged tracks, such as "Friendzone" or "Yoko," to the Apocalypse Wow stuff is pretty dramatic. What inspired this shift?
I had a lot of fun making my earlier stuff like that. Not even to say "had," like I'll never make shit like that again, I will. I guess once those songs started to see some success, I was faced with a dilemma. Music is all I've wanted to do my entire life, and I thought to myself, "The style of these quirkier 'bedroom pop' songs is cute and trendy at the moment, but this won't make people know me in 20 years. This won't cement me as an artist people enjoy for years to come."
I wanted to offer a little something more, while still keeping that fun and accessible feeling the old stuff had. I wanted to keep the same characteristics of what I know my listeners come to me for, while pushing the envelope a little bit and getting more serious substance wise. Hopefully that landed. At the end of the day I just want to make people’s lives better with my shit, whether they come to me for more concept and substance or just fun / casual music.
Why did you choose a more concept-based long-form project as an artist who is still completely DIY?
I guess it's just what I know. Not that anyone needed to prove this, because these types of projects certainly are out there, but I wanted to show kids who want to make music that they can be project artists. Especially in the whole "indie" world, whatever that means, there's way too much emphasis on singles. An artist will pump out 10 singles in one year, like what's that about? I understand it from a business perspective, and some could criticize me saying that me splitting up my project into "Volumes" before the full release was completely business oriented. Fair critique hahahaha. I guess I just wanted to show that to be a successful "DIY" musician in 2020 doesn't mean that you need to pump out a million singles that sound the same until some corporation thinks you're worthy of becoming "theirs."
The range in moods / genres on the project is very wide. Was this intentional? How did this wide range in styles making up the project come about?
Totally intentional! I wanted it to have something for everybody. "Why Do People Grow" can be appreciated by alt-rock fans. The people into more electronic music can fuck with "Death By Flying Saucer." "Andy and Butter" give that alternative R&B edge. Etc., etc. It was really important to me to make it enjoyable by everyone.
On your website, there's a section about how within the musical project, there is a narrative about a boy who saves the Earth from an army of aliens and their Godzilla-like robot leader. What inspired this? Does this narrative relate to your pre-Apocalypse Wow catalogue?
Hahahah there sure is. I've always been a huge fan of concept albums. Whether they have concept in a linear storyline or they're just thematic, I've always been obsessed with that whole thing. Wolf, To Pimp A Butterfly, Machina: The Machines of God, the whole anime movie thing behind Daft Punk's Discovery, etc. Loving albums like that since I was a little kid definitely inspired the desire to move in that direction. I owe a lot to my influences and all the amazing work that has inspired me.
This narrative totally relates to my pre-Apocalypse Wow catalogue. I plan on releasing some type of document that grows with every release involving the storyline. Before all the Apocalypse Wow music, you can interpret EP's like Never Inside and Fanta Fantasy as the character arc of Apocalypse Wow's protagonist - the experiences that shaped who he is, I guess. You'll hear more on that later.
Will Apocalypse Wow forever play a role in the "artist narrative" that you frequently speak about?
Yes it will. Apocalypse Wow is the first official building block towards getting to the endgame. The first book in quite a long fucking series. It's going to forever play a role in the stuff that I'm going to make, I want to think that my entire career will tie back to this project in some way. Whether it's extremely vague, or very blunt, it will.
You completely conceptualized and edited all of the visuals behind Apocalypse Wow, an eye-catching one being the "Project Teaser" video. Describe the creative process behind your videos.
Visuals are an extremely important part of all the Huron John shit, for sure. The "Project Teaser" video I made with some of my friends throughout all of fall 2019. The whole project (the music) was completed and ready to go by mid-October 2019. I was supposed to drop it on Black Friday all as one thing, but some shit went down, and I wanted to rethink it all. The "Project Teaser" was a sort of introductory step into the narrative shoes that I wanted the project to fill.
My process when creating visuals is a glorified clusterfuck - I have no formal training in editing or film, and it kind of shows hahahaha. But in a charming and sincere way, I hope. I used to fuck around in iMovie a ton when I was like 10, and me and all my friends from middle school used to make goofy ass sketch-comedy videos and BMX edits. I've always loved visual stuff. Making the cover arts, the music videos, or whatever else has always been an extension of the music for me. That's really important. I definitely do want to break out of that DIY box though and work with some video-people who actually know what they're doing.
Where is your music going next?
I know, but I don't know. I want to make dance music. But I also want to make even more emotionally vulnerable and revealing shit than what was on Apocalypse Wow. Maybe I can find a middle-ground. I'm just now in the early stages of experimentation for my next project, so we'll see where it all goes. The only thing I currently have for it is a title. All I know for certain is that I will use that title for the project, and it will fit into the Apocalypse Wow storyline.
Listen to Apocalypse Wow below: