Tony H Talks New 'Slow Burner' EP, Getting Into NFTs, His Rich Musical Education & More
Tony H doesn't really know how to slow down, and he's not trying to. If we were just referencing the hundreds of releases he's dropped since his first track, "Does It Turn You On," in July 2013, we can easily call him prolific. But he's also a label head—he launched Late Night Munchies in 2015 to drop his friends' tunes, and the Munchies After Dark sub-label in 2019 for techno—A&R for Space Yacht, and a touring DJ. Just wrapping your head around everything the Panama-born, Seattle-based DJ/producer is doing is a lot, and as we learned in a recent conversation with the energetic rising star, there's also a lot more in the works.
On April 8, Tony dropped his fourth release of 2022, the groovy acid house-dosed Slow Burner EP on Lots of Practice. It features "Slow Burner," which Tony describes as "a Burning Man kind of track" with a sickening, bubbling acid bassline, peak time banger "Werkin This Body," and the Michael Fam remix of the title track.
We talked Slow Burner, his busy schedule, staying creative, the wide-ranging music he grew up on, and how he got into DJing. We also learn he's working on launching a new label for his own music, and creating an NFT drop for Late Night Munchies, among other things.
When I ask what he imagined "Slow Burner" being the soundtrack for, he pauses briefly then smiles. "You know what? One of my favorite movies is Pineapple Express. The beginning scene when they have him in the lab, testing out the new weed. I feel like if they put that in slow motion and played 'Slow Burner' behind it, it would be perfect. Or in Superbad when Michael Cera is dancing at the beginning, if they have the song behind it, that would be everything."
And as for what kind of dance floors he imagines the EP best heating up, there's two very different vibes.
"''Slow Burner' is such a Burning Man kind of track. I wouldn't play it at a festival ever, I don't think, unless it was Burning Man, or an underground party. Acid house has its peaks and its kind of deeper grooves. I feel like I could run a whole acid house techie set and fit it in that way. But 'Werkin This Body,' I've played at peak hour in my set already. So that's like the A and B, or the yin and yang of the EP. 'Slow Burner' is much more for chilling at home, maybe you're taking an edible or smoking or whatever, and then 'Werkin This Body' is more peak hour, more party, more ass shaking vibes."
It's evident that part of what fuels Tony is the desire to always be learning and discovering. He explains he's been taking a lot of online classes from IO Music Academy to learn how to make new sounds and deepen his skills as a producer. "Slow Burner" was born after he took a workshop about a free plugin called Sting!
"I was just messing with [Sting!] and this Minimoog plug in I have and the pattern kind of made itself and then I went back and rearranged it. The minute I heard the pattern, I was like, 'I have to use this.' I didn't want it to ever stop. That's why the track is very consistent with that acid line. If I could've made that track 20 minutes long, I probably would have."
For "Werkin That Body," he was able to give life to an acid bassline he'd made for another track that didn't work out. It was also the first song he made backwards from his usual process, building around the bassline this time instead of creating the percussion, kick, and claps first. He'd also been listening to a lot of old Josh Wink that week and was really feeling inspired to make acid house.
Another learning adventure he's been on recently is jumping down the rabbit hole of NFTs. When he joined the Space Yacht team, they'd already done one NFT collection, which inspired him to educate himself on the world of crypto and, soon enough, he became fascinated with and engaged in the community.
He's been working on an NFT drop for Late Night Munchies, based around the ice cream character from the label's early days, that will be officially announced in the near future. They're working with a graphic designer / 3D creator to add movement to the art and make it next level.
"I'm excited to create a story and music for these NFTs," he shares. He's also inspired by the possibilities of NFTs. For starters, he'd like to turn the NFTs into visuals for his DJ sets, and make merch inspired by them.
Clearly, creativity runs through his veins, and he's naturally drawn to discovering new avenues for it. In terms of staying inspired to make as much music as he does, "it ebbs and flows,” he says. "I'll have a week where I can pump out like 15 tracks and then I'll have a six-month period where I'm still working on one track." In addition to taking classes, he listens to a lot of sets from his favorite artists and stuff his homies send over to get in the creative headspace. Working on remixes and edits helps too. Fall and winter, when gigs slow down and the weather in Seattle chills down, is when he "pumps out" tracks and puts them in hibernation to release throughout the following year.
He draws inspiration from many places, including plenty of tunes outside of the dance / electronic umbrella, thanks to his far-reaching music tastes. His musical education began at an early age. Every Sunday, back home in Panama, when his mom was cleaning the house, she'd play everything from jazz, old school hip-hop, and R&B to classical to Jamaican and Brazilian music.
"Probably the only thing she won't listen to is screamo music," Tony says with a laugh. As a preteen finding music on the internet, he got deeper into hip-hop and asked his friends to buy him Ludacris' Chicken-n-Beer and a Missy Elliott CD, because his mom wouldn't let him get any discs bearing the "explicit" label and pulling out the edited versions in the school yard obviously wouldn't go over well.
When asked how this rich musical diet influences his DJing and production, he's quick to assert it can be heard in his DJ sets, which some have referred to as "hip-house." His love of jazz makes him a sucker for tracks with trumpets or horns. In terms of his production, his wide music taste "helps me know what I'm hearing…and makes me try to get to that sonic level."
By high school, he'd begun his journey into dance music. He still remembers listening to his first Ministry of Sound compilation in 2008 and declaring "I love house!"
"House, tech house, and tribal house have always resonated with me," he adds. At the time in Panama, there were lively beach parties pumping tech house and tribal house. His early DJ loves include Sean Miller, Hector Couto, Fedde Le Grande, Carl Cox, Felix da Housecat, and Cajmere.
He got his first DJ gig in 2010 at the hostel he was working at, starting out with a tiny Numark Total in the lobby, soon after getting his own night to throw down at the hostel bar. He then started playing parties around town, and never really stopped DJing. But even before he got his own mixer, he was the aux cord DJ at every gathering, queuing up tracks on his iPod to keep the vibe going.
After finishing school, he moved to Alaska to work (his dad was in the military, so he asked to be transferred as a civilian) and had more down time to work on music and other creative ventures, one of which became Late Night Munchies. "At the time, a lot of my friends that were producing literally had no idea how to get their music on Spotify or Apple Music or any of the websites we use. And I had a friend that was like, ‘You could be the guy that provides the platform’… It was born under the pretense of 'it's for all the homies releases'…And here we are, seven years later, almost," Tony reflects.
"Late Night Munchies has really blossomed, to the point where I've already scheduled all of the releases for this year. This is the earliest I've ever done that, before the end of March. That's awesome. And now I run all things for the label. I do the graphic design, all the mastering, all the A&R, and all the distro. I literally run everything from frontend to backend. I do that for both labels, but now that Late Night Munchies is just taken care of, the focus is on Munchies After Dark, which I want to stay very underground. We'll sign a lot of new artists, for their first release ever.
For Late Night Munchies, the long-term goal is to host festival stages. In Seattle, I've already hosted a label showcase in a room at one of the venues here that has multiple rooms. So the vision long-term is definitely to keep signing all these artists and giving them a platform to put their music out on, which has always been the goal, especially locally. There's a lot of dope producers here in Seattle."
Since running everything for the two Munchies brands isn't enough, he's also launching another imprint, Not Me Being Chaotic Records—the name started as a joke but stuck—for his own music and collabs. Look out for his first release to drop on it sometime this summer. And since the pandemic shutdowns kept Tony much more static then he's used to, he's looking forward to traveling more and meeting people again this year, and is hoping to get on the festival circuit next year. If you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, make sure to catch Tony while you can, spinning at his Be My Guest show every first Friday at the Timber Room in Seattle.