Chasing dreams can be scary as hell! But it is the single most exhilarating thing in the world. Henry J crafts a whole cosmos of synths devoted to this feeling, with his new release, KÁRMÁN. We are swept up in a glittering helix of radiant vocals, trippy synths, and effervescent basslines.
Flicks of illuminating synths drip into the canvass like angelic ambrosia. The unmoving serenity is disrupted by drastic beat excitations. Mercurial and agile, the tempo leaps with an addictive momentum that infuses a fanatical glee. With a resounding bass and towering baritones, the track delivers like a divine command.
The track unfurls like a dream with transfixing transitions and celestial psychedelia. Winding lines of high-frequency space synths hooks filter in like meteor showers. If you close your eyes, you can see a deluge of sparkling neon lights. The makes you feel like magic and restores your faith in yourself. A virtuosic fusion of neo-soul, electronica, synth-funks, and engaging pop, the riveting track flushes us beyond the KÁRMÁN line, to outer space.
Your eccentric musical style and vision are very apparent in your discography. Can you tell us a little more about yourself, your journey, and your music?
First off, I love that you called my music eccentric! That’s 100% a huge compliment for me. I started playing guitar when I was 9. Music was always big in my house; mostly classic rock. My dad also loves to listen to a bunch of random stuff. Like, out of nowhere, we’ll just randomly hear Bach or some wild classic New Orleans jazz from the 20’s while we were chilling in the living room. 75% of what I grew up on was rock though, my ears are still ringing from us blasting AC/DC on the way to little league practice.
Growing up, I was always kind of too shy to share my music. All through high school I mostly kept it to myself. I started to work more on it in college but never released anything. After college, I moved to Italy and I kind of had this yearning to get my music out there and to be heard and be a star. I’d always had that dream but it was becoming too much to keep in. I started recording my music in a dingy little setup in my tiny apartment in Mantua.
I taught myself to produce and fell in love with it. I didn’t have a band to play with so I had to do it in the computer and I kind of started adding all these elements (synths, layers, atypical drums, etc.) to make the songs more than just the rock I’d been making. I really loved the freedom it allowed me. The pandemic kicked me out of Italy and back home and I kind of realized that music was all I wanted to do. I moved to LA and started honing my craft.
The first project I had was a little rough (out on Spotify as Tumbleweed Jones), I wasn’t great at sound design or mixing. Once I’d reached a point I felt really comfortable behind a computer I changed my name and started Henry J. I have a musical direction now and a clear vision of who I want to be and what I want to do. I’m here to make great music and I’m not leaving until I’ve made a statement.
We all have that one artist or song that influences and shapes our art and style. Who or from where do you draw your inspiration and strength?
The #1 influence on my music is Gorillaz, Damon Albarn is a creative genius and the weird sounds of Gorillaz just really rev my engine. I grew up on rock but I fucking love pop music now and as far as I’m concerned Gorillaz is the best. As far as synths and drums and weird sounds I look a lot to the work Albarns done as Gorillaz. Pop-wise though I also really really love just like this new era of women pop stars. Marina, Kim Petras, Rina Sawayama, Charli XCX, I listen to them religiously.
They’ve all got some really really cool shit out with just super creative sounds instead of just basic old commercial pop. We also just love to see women doing well in what’s historically been a male dominated industry. I’d be remiss to not mention the classic rock influences. The two big ones for me are The Kinks (from my mom) and AC/DC from my dad.
The Kinks album “Arthur” is easily my favorite album of all time. No skips just a gorgeous masterpiece. AC/DC kind of gets a bad rep of being repetitive but go listen to anything before Back in Black, that’s what music meant to me for a while. Rock out, be fucking crazy, make it fun. Music doesn’t always have to have deep or important meanings, what’s wrong with rocking out and having fun?
Honorable mentions I’ll put The White Stripes, Sabbath, Prince, Post Malone, MGMT, Arctic Monkeys, and so many other I wish I could go into depth about how much I love them but I only have so much time.
Kármán is your third release in three months! What is the meaning/significance/story behind the track’s title, Kármán?
The song is about my hunger for success and recognition and some sort of fame from the perspective of being scared about that dream. Its scary giving up on the safe path I was taking and moving to LA to become a musician. I worry about failing, about selling myself out and losing what it means to be me, and I’m scared that I’ll never be satisfied no matter how high I make it.
But making music about this stuff calms me down, and the fact that Karman is a sick song makes me feel pretty confident I won’t fail. A fun fact real quick, Karman is actually a rewrite of the first song I released “IDEK”, if you side by side them it’s meant to show how far I’ve come as an artist, it’s pretty cool to see.
I named it Karman because the Karman Line is what delineates outer space from the earths atmosphere and the song uses outer space metaphors to get my point across.
Kármán has a very distinct and diverse sound pallet. What did you seek to achieve with it and what do you want your listeners to take away from it?
It’s a rewrite of my old song. I abandoned my usual guitar based style for Karman and just went for straight up pop, bordering on hyper-pop honestly. It was kind of a dive into the deep end. I made a great song without using the instrument I’d based all my music around up to that point. It’s me telling myself I can do something different than what I’ve been doing for 17 years and still nail it.
It’s kind of like a metamorphosis of me as an artist to be able to make these sounds and layer the harmonies and melodies and make something that sounds so good and also so unique. What I want is for my listeners to love it and say “wow this is fresh, this is new, this is fun” I want to give them something they didn’t even know they wanted. When the hook of Karman hits it makes me feel euphoric and I want everyone to feel that euphoria.
We’re obsessed with the way you create engaging soundscapes that completely consume us! What can we look forward to in the near future?
I think it’s hard to put me in a specific genre because even though I do have a set direction, that vision is based on total creative freedom. Sometimes it’ll be more psychedelic disco pop sometimes more synth based alt rock but always weird and catchy and creative.
I’m really trying to something that I can call all my own, to take influence from my favorite artists but not to sound like them. I wanna sound like Henry J. I want people to hear a song and immediately go “this has to be him”. I love creativity, it’s my favorite part of music. Trying new things and doing new things be it on the guitar or in sound design, synth layering, drum programming, vocal mixing.
I think that’s the future that’s coming from me. Keeping my heart and soul in the music but always expanding creatively and always doing something new and learning and growing. Maybe I sound cocky but I mean it when I say my music is really good, and it’s gonna keep being good and more and more people are gonna get to enjoy it. That’s my future. Just continuing to kill it.
Listen to KÁRMÁN by Henry J here –
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