We explore the world of electronic music through the experience of various artists and label owners to share their insights. Here is my interview with Sean Cantos, DJ/Producer and founder of HMNI Movement and Label.
Rondo: Can you give us some background about yourself, origin, and years in the industry, what drives you to succeed in the music industry?
SC: My multi-cultural origins include 4th generation Japanese American Mother and 1st generation mixed African American/Okinawan Father (one of many products of WWII American GI?s on the island.) I was born in Oakland California and living in Sacramento CA most of my life. My dad's band "The Something Else" in the late '70s would practice and I would mimic my dad on the drums using 2 cylinder building blocks and bang on the bottom of the bucket. I guess you could say I was one of the first street artists. My roots are Hip Hop going back to 80?s and getting in trouble with my parents trying to take wax paper trying to scratch with my old McDonald and disco Mickey Mouse records.
I started my high school senior year throwing b-boying jams. Performing as a DJ and dancer and what culminated from mimicking my dad and hip-hop elements turned in to playing house music. With performing, throwing jams and DJing I would say around 26 years.
What keeps me going is the need to be better and overcoming challenges. For example, getting gear jacked or how to deal with the promoters, or at the same time giving back to family and crew? 100%. It's about being better in a symbiotic relationship between my craft, the business, myself as a person and family and friends. And at the same helping my peers to create a better atmosphere. For me, it's all a learning experience holistically.
Rondo: Where did the inspiration for your label HMNI come from?
SC: In 2001 we threw a party "Hello My Name Is" and gave out stickers to everyone attending. Have you ever been out at the club or party and recognized but don't engage with them because you don't remember their name? The idea was to create community and communication. Fast forward about 10 years and the UG scene was not around. Crews stopped for whatever reasons and people were jaded. The game changed. Social Media, millennials, skinny jeans and hand hearts. House music in clubs does notmaketheeventUGin my opinion.
I heard the same conversation over and over, I wish it was like back in the day or if they just promoted and threw the party right way it would go off or it's all EDM festival, gimmicks, and new jacks. Sure you can agree or disagree but what does any of that mean? Nothing! I still have no idea of what all you gotta do is throw a party the right way means. So I resurrected the party HMNI. House music, warehouse, after-hours and word of mouth. I couldn't stand by and watch something I love crumble and loose.
The inspiration came out of that, but also from LTHM, Nervous and Selekta Recordings. Especially Nervous. They did hip-hop, dancehall, house and everything in between. Their artwork was dope a dude getting his hair chopped by a record. I was like I'm pickin that up. They put out Black Moon, they got hella classics. Their sub-labels were ill too. Weeded, Strapped, and Sorted. The records were dope but the pressings were low. A decibel above a whisper. None the less they were one massive influence. Seeing those labels is what inspired me to promote music. Part of this inspiration came from wanting to put people on too.
Rondo: Is there any development of talent in the Northern Cali underground music scene and who are some of the new up and coming producers to watch out for?
SC: Yeah, there is. NorCal (North California) breeds good talent. Especially Capital City Sacramento. There's potential here. Like Deigo Valle, owner of the LTHM record label. Vocalist, producer and DJ George, JJ Flores, dudes got pipes. He moved from SoCal (South California) to NorCal. Cool cat attitude-wise too. You'll be hearing from him soon. I did some remixes on my last EP and asked him to do a remix of my track called "Chosen" on Selekta Recordings. Diego dropped one too Diego and George did a track called "Void"
Mr. Bremson and I did remix tracks for that too. Jon Anthoni is putting out a lot of tracks the past few years, mainly Jackin?House. David Alexander has his first release on Selekta coming real soon. I can't keep up with all his aliases but Anthony Wilson is starting his label and has a bunch of tracks on deck to release on Deep. Teejay Walton, he's in the Bay but he's from out here he's got stuff on "Purple" and he is also the creator of Soul Camp, a three-day camp out in the redwoods. House music, all House music. Dick J. has great music out.
Another artist to look for is Vince Lombardi. Diego, Mr. Bremson, and Vince have a recent release on Constructive Cycle. Outside of House Butterscotch is a talent you have either heard or will hear. She is really making it happen and Ben Andres is dropping some sick broken beat and lounge tracks. It's hard to say who is new up and coming. We all been doing this a long time Sacramento has found its own identity and is stepping out the shadow of SF and LA and getting eyes on it all.
But I check in with the bay area sometimes and they're doing good things too. Like TeeJay Walton. The cats in San Jose from Household Digital have been putting out good Tech House for a long time. Arturo Garces is putting out serious music in San Jose bay area. He does a house weekly called "Rhythm Ritual" with Eddie House & Soul Shadow a part of that too. Galen from Sunset Sound System has been putting tracks out for a while. He got put on by Dirty Bird last year sometime.
Rondo: How do you think Social media has impacted the future of brand awareness and distribution for music?
SC: Honestly, more isn't always better. It has made an opportunity for new brands to be heard and seen. It definitely has made the world a smaller place. On the other side, Social media can be a Penny Savor mailer with terrible print. Everyone is selling something. Everyone is a producer, DJ, promoter, model, artist, designer or superstar blah blah blah.
You name it and it's on social media for sale. Of course, I include myself in that. I think it can implode on itself sooner or later when no fans are left, and everyone has a role in the biz with an expert opinion of how to do things the right way? Don't post about it. Be about it and what does the right way mean anyway?