The hardworking Dublin rapper-producer sits down with Cian Montague.
Midway through a conversation with unassuming hip-hop artist Johnny Climax, he explains the title of his 2017 album, The Electric Dream: “It’s being able to make a living doing what you love… Whatever it is in your life that will spark you to actually go and do it.” It’s a concept to which anyone can relate, but it holds a special significance for Climax. He has been making music on and off since his early teens, but only more seriously in the last couple of years. “I went through a serious depression, and one day I just decided I was going to start writing again,” he says, “I realised how much I had missed [it].” It has helped him a lot: music provides “an easier way of explaining things to people, and even just to myself.” His work eventually culminated in a heartfelt and moving rumination on his depression, the 2016 album I Made This on the Couch Watching TV, and he’s been going ever since.
Climax both raps and produces beats, drawing from a variety of sounds including hip-hop, contemporary and 90s R&B, and soul. “I always think, if you’re a painter you’d never paint with just one colour, or just one style,” he says. As to his main influence, it’s “Kanye West, through everything. From creating to perfectionism… I relate to him a lot.” Indeed, much like Mr West, who famously locked himself “in a room doing five beats a day for three summers,” Climax’s work ethic is astounding. Whether it’s making fourteen songs in fourteen days, or the freestyles he uploaded to YouTube every Friday for a year, he is constantly pushing himself.
“I will sacrifice everything else in my life if it means getting into the studio.”
Climax has recently started a day job. “I spent as much time as I could doing music full-time… but then it hit a point where it’s like, I need money to keep this going. It’s hard to do.” It’s a struggle that has plagued artists forever. How does he find a balance? “I will sacrifice everything else in my life if it means getting into the studio. I’ll get off work at 9, I’ll be in the studio till 2, and then be in work at 7a.m.” Does he sleep? “Here and there. It’s crazy, and there are days you feel like shit. But you start to think that if you didn’t do it, you’d regret it. You find the time.”
However, it’s not just about having the songs, as Climax knows. “It’s all about reach,” he says. “I’ve got a reach problem. These [songs] aren’t reaching the people I thought, or hoped, they would reach.” It’s a problem he’s trying to address. “With the last single [‘Mood’], I made sure I sent it to blogs, to radio stations. I wasn’t doing that. I was throwing songs out, and then just leaving them and going straight to the next one.” I suggest that this has worked: ‘Mood’ was featured on Nialler9, and in less than two months has become the most-played song on Climax’s SoundCloud by a stretch. “To a point,” says Climax. “I’m not done working that song. I know it has a lot more potential than what it’s at now.”
It’s hard not to feel for this young, talented guy who perhaps hasn’t caught the breaks for which he hoped. Nevertheless, he has big things in the pipeline: a video for ‘Mood’ and two new songs to be released between now and May. He hasn’t played that many gigs yet, but in the summer he’s “trying to get as many festival slots as I can.” Clearly Johnny Climax is working himself to the bone, but there’s much to be excited about here.
‘Mood’ is available now to stream or purchase.