This month Carhartt WIP Radio brings you music of a label from Portland, Oregon that listens to the name Boomarm Nation and has been launched in the year 2009 by Jesse Munro Johnson aka Gulls. The vibe of his music platfrom is experimental by nature, deeply rooted in dub aesthetics, international collaborations, electronic exploration and the sound system culture. Boomarm Nation’s artists come from all around the world like Algeria, Iran, USA, Canada, Tunisia, Mali or Europe. For Cahartt WIP Radio Jesse Munro Johnson conducted a mix that give a broad arc of the label's history and aesthetic by including a selection of classic Boomarm tracks, as well as unreleased, and forthcoming material by artists such as Mdou Moctar, E3, Sky High, Saint Abdullah, Elite Beat and many more. To get deeper into the Boomarm Nation world, we talked to its founder about his vision, his hometown and the future of his peerless label.
Hi Jesse, can you introduce your label Boomarm Nation a bit to our readers? Why did you launch it?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Boomarm Nation has been releasing music since 2009. Spawned from a love of Sound system music, and live and electronic rhythm music from around the world, I started the label as an outlet for productions and collaborations from my studio here in Portland, OR. The vibe of the label is experimental by nature, rooted in dub aesthetic, international collaboration, electronic exploration and sound system culture. Our current roster of artists come from all corners of the world, from Algeria, Niger, Iran, Turkey, USA, Canada, Tunisia, Mali, and Europe. It's just me running things here, so the day to day can be quite busy and chaotic here at Boomarm HQ. Aside from my hustle as a for hire producer, mixing and mastering engineer, my day to day consists of any number of tasks from mixing and mastering new projects in the studio, communicating with artists and designers, handling manufacturing logistics, and running to and from the post office. The first releases on Boomarm Nation were from myself (Gulls), the debut LP from PDX based Latino futurist Paper/Upper/Cuts, and a collaboration with Sahel Sounds called Music For Saharan Cellphones.
What does the name represent? Does it have a deeper meaning to you?
Jesse Munro Johnson: A Boomarm is an extension that is attached to a microphone stand, it allows a microphone to reach closer to its source. For me, this signifies the universal nature of music and the labels commitment to amplify sounds and connection across cultures, through collaboration and creation.
If you have to describe the sound of Boomarm Nation to somebody who never heard of it, what would you say?
Jesse Munro Johnson: A cross pollination and exploration of musical styles and rhythms from around the world, influenced by music technology, a love of sound system pressure, and experimental approaches to raw dub aesthetics.
What did you do before you launched the label?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Since I was 14 I have been doing music full time. Aside from various jobs to pay the bills, music has been my central pursuit. I've been performing and recording with bands since 1996, and started making beats and experimenting solo with electronic music in 2000 when I got my first sampler, a Roland Sp 202. I have spent the bulk of the last twelve years DJing and performing solo with my Gulls project, and with various collaborative projects and bands such as Elite Beat, Krucial Kuts, and Young Ecstatics.
How important is Portland for what you do? Not in the sense that the city has a rich music scene, but in that it is the green capital of the USA.
Jesse Munro Johnson: Portland is surrounded by incredible natural beauty. My family and I spend a lot of time hiking and camping year round in the nearby mountains and wetlands. PDX also offers amazing access to locally grown fresh fruit and produce, as well as a mentality that places emphasis on sustainable living. No place is perfect, but I do feel PDX offers the space to create a peaceful life and to raise the frequency!
In terms of style your label is hard to pigeonhole. Are you cautious about being put into a box?
Jesse Munro Johnson: No I am not cautious, I find it exciting to be in a vulnerable space with music. There is a lot of freedom living outside of genre. The label has grown slowly, It’s been a natural process of discovery with every release, first and foremost following the vibes and connections, and trusting where the music leads us.
What is your musical background?
Jesse Munro Johnson: I began playing the trumpet and guitar as a kid, and have never looked back.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
Jesse Munro Johnson: It's difficult to wear all of the hats at once. Creative process and business process can be very different zones. I am a studio head, and a musician first and foremost, so it has been challenging at times to hold down both spaces.
What do you want to accomplish with the music you release?
Jesse Munro Johnson: I hope to be able to keep repping and creating righteous music that lives on and reaches people. I hope that Boomarm Nation can continue to act as a conduit in which musicians from around the world can find collaboration and connection, while pushing at the boundaries of style and form.
What qualities do you look for as a "curator” of music?
Jesse Munro Johnson: If something has a vibe, then I have to trust that. Just like when you meet someone special, you know it. The whole trajectory of the label has been an almost mystical process, the next release seems to always come in response to the last. Its an honor to have people willing to reach out and share their music with you. When the vibe aligns, it can't be denied. Beyond music, I feel that all of the Boomarm Family share a personal and spiritual connection in which the music is where the magnetism occurs.
The releases on Boomarm seem very eclectic in a good sense. Picking from a wide array of styles, what do they all have in common?
Jesse Munro Johnson: That’s great to hear. Eclecticism is important, we are stronger with our diversity.
What was the biggest Boomarm Nation hit so far?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Our annual Boomarm Family Album compilation receives more and more love every year. Each year in January we release a free compilation of music from our friends and allies around the world. This year will be the 4th edition of the Family Album.
What is coming up on the label?
Jesse Munro Johnson: On September 29th we release the debut EP from Tunisian producer Lokal Affair, which will be followed by new music from Saint Abdullah, and a new collaboration between Elite Beat and Mdou Moctar.
Mdou Moctar: Tahoultine (Boomarm Nation 004)
You release your music in the formats of tape, vinyl and digital. Why these formats and what makes each one special to you?
Jesse Munro Johnson: I grew up listening to cassettes and records. I am coming from an era and music culture that values the physical medium, it's dope to see the music through to that form. Vinyl is always the ideal format, but cassettes are a wonderful means of sharing sounds without the tremendous overhead and investment. But it's undeniable that digital releases are amazing because you can release things as soon as they are made, fully fresh before you even have a chance to doubt it.
Can you tell us a bit about the graphic aspect of your releases? How important is the artwork for you and who does it for the label?
Jesse Munro Johnson: The visuals are huge. I have been working with Polygon Press and Bird of Nothing for the last few releases on packaging, design and art. Having a cohesive crew at the core is a wonderful way to solidify a vision and to have an efficient flow of ideas and communication. We also have been blessed to work with Iranian artist Moushen Zare on the debut from Saint Abdullah, and Turkish artist C.M. Koseman on several projects.
What is the biggest influence on your work beside music?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Daily Meditation, family, nature, and fresh produce.
How do you keep your work fresh and continue to evolve?
Jesse Munro Johnson: By experimenting, taking chances, pursuing humility and staying curious.
Can you give some advice to someone who is interested in starting his or her own label?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Do you. Don’t doubt your instincts. Respect your collaborators and be honest with your intentions. Its 100% a labor of love, so enjoy the work.
Your city, Portland, Oregon, has a rich and vibrant music scene and heritage. Labels like Mississippi or Sahel Sounds blew fresh air into the global music scene and bands like Dead Moon are legends in their own field. Does this rich diverse scene inspire you and is it important for all you do? And if so: how does the scene work together? What makes it special in your eyes?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Absolutely! There is a lot of love and support in the scene, Mississippi Records and Sahel Sounds are both close friends and collaborators. Mississippi Records distributes our vinyl and cassettes, through their online distribution company, and I work closely with Sahel Sounds as a collaborator and audio engineer. Boomarm Nation and Sahel Sounds have released a number of collaborative 7” and 10” vinyls, remixing the likes of Mdou Moctar, Group Mamelon and Hama. I've learned a lot about the process of maintaining a record label through working with them and sharing knowledge. They both are doing wonderful things for the music and community.
Besides Portland being a rockcentric city it seems more dub noise is going on there as well by the likes of pdxindub, Zam Zam, LoDubs. Is that a coincidence?
Jesse Munro Johnson: No coincidence! These are good homies as well, we have all been involved in each other's evolution, and have worked together to rep sound system music in PDX. Some of my very favorite shows have been done with this crew, family for sure.
I hope to be able to keep repping and creating righteous music that lives on and reaches people. I hope that Boomarm Nation can continue to act as a conduit in which musicians from around the world can find collaboration and connection, while pushing at the boundaries of style and form. Music heals, it really does.
Jesse Munro Johnson: I wanted to give a broad arc of the label's history and aesthetic by including a selection of “classic Boomarm tracks”, and a peppering of new, unreleased, and forthcoming material.
What was the last track that sent shivers up your spine?
What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?
Jesse Munro Johnson: Music heals, it really does.
Please recommend two or three new artists to our readers, which you feel deserve their attention.
Jesse Munro Johnson: Saint Abdullah – a duo of brothers from Iran, making some very powerful music. Blending the devotional Shia religious music of their youth with experimental sample based collage and looping rhythm. Muqata'a – amazing beatmaker/producer from Ramallah, Palestine. Gritty look inside Islamic driven boom bap culture. Aisha Devi – Incredible producer, amazing vocals.