Chicago-based artist Jana Rush has been a master of her craft since the tender age of 10, when she first started DJing. A producer since 13, she’s released with DJ Deeon on Dance Mania, and debuted her stunning full-length, Pariah, in 2017. Her next LP will be out on Planet Mu later this year. Jana’s productions marry tightly-controlled instrumentals with deliriously dense drum patterns and turgid swathes of sound. And while her sound moves fluidly between (and beyond) established generic categories, it’s still a style rooted firmly in Chicago’s footwork-indebted legacy and joined by aspects of jungle, acid, soul, jazz, and house.
Her patch, “MILD SAUCE” uses two opposing LFOs to create an unstable-sounding rise and fall in the oscillators pitch and timbre. In its default form, then, the patch may be best suited to add synthetic SFX to an intro or breakdown, but with 16 mapped macros, you have plenty of starting points for further exploration. Want to reign in those LFOs? Just dial back macro 11 to retain all of the vibe without drifting off key.
Check out a playlist of Jana’s demo tracks for the patch below, download it, then read on for a short interview. In it, we learn how she channels her singular musical vision, the ways in which she navigates production software and hardware, and some of the things she misses the most about nightlife and playing to a crowd.
Was making this patch your first experience working with Massive X? Do you have much experience using Native Instruments software in general?
I use Native Instruments all the time. I love, love Maschine. I love the sounds that come with it. That’s what I love about the software. First of all, let me tell you: footwork or ghetto music or the type of music I’m used to making—we typically just stick with basic presets. Massive and Massive X have pretty complex interfaces. I didn’t know where to start. But that was the biggest hurdle. Then I figured out what was meant by “waveforms” and the sound of each waveform.
How did you make the patch?
I started out simple, with one wavetable at a time, and then added from there. Before I go to the effects and everything like that, I’m usually more interested in adding some movement or seeing how I can take that sound and have it change over time and make it less homogenous. I then sculpted the sound with release and attack. It’s not in this patch, but a useful thing I discovered after exploring all of the pre-loaded wavetables is that I could also incorporate my own samples – I was doing that mainly through the noise generator. That’s one feature that makes Massive really cool for me.
What other NI software is part of your workflow?
I love Reaktor. I love all the modules that come with that – LazerBass is my favorite. And, again, presets! I feel like I don’t hear people using the presets, so I always play around with them on Reaktor. I’m sorry for sounding like a fan person, but when you have this program—like the compressor, the EQ, synthesizers, processing equipment, a sequencer—you literally have a whole studio. You have plenty of sounds. It’s a home studio in a box.
Do you use any hardware? Or are you mostly a software producer?
I’m back and forth. Right now, I’ve got my Maschine and I’ve got my MPC. But I use both hardware and software. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I’ll plug in the Maschine if I want to play around with Reaktor or navigate sounds and presets. And if I want to do some time stretching or play around with sampling, I’ll use the MPC.
Your production style seems incredibly meticulous, especially your drum programming. How do you achieve this?
It’s a lot of takes. It’s a lot of playing around with different timing grids, swinging things differently, you know? Like, actually going in and moving events and moving hits within a sequence.
Outside of music, you hold a full-time job as a CAT scan technologist. How are you able to balance your work with being creative?
It is challenging sometimes. It depends on the stress level of work, and a lot of the time it depends on me. When I’m going through a depressive cycle, it becomes challenging to complete projects and to follow my music routine. I can hear things in my mind, but I can’t get them out.
But if I’m not going through that cycle, then I can come home and get that idea out of my head and make it. Or I’ll think about an artist I really like, or a track I like, and see if I can do something related or reinterpret it or turn it into something else. That’s where I start.
How does being in Chicago – and being surrounded by its rich musical legacy – affect your influences and productions?
I’m just constantly looking and trying to stay inspired. Sometimes I’ll be thinking about a Jesse Saunders track all day. He did kind of minimal house music. So I’ll hear one of his tracks in my head, and I’ll be inspired by that track, and I may come home and make a track like that, if I can remember it.
I also really like Robert Armani. I like the darkness of his work. I play with that kind of shit in my head, too. And I just discovered another artist who does spoken word over jazz – Tenesha The Wordsmith.
Are there any ways that you’d hope to see your local music scene change after things open up again?
This sounds crazy, but I want the music scene to go back to how it was, or stay the same as it was pre-COVID. Because the new rules will definitely change venue capacities. I don’t know what this means for crowds. The crowd is part of the show to me. The crowd is the energy. That’s what I miss the most.
Photo credit: Wills Glasspiegel