By: John Neave
“Fun, Soulful, Beats.”
That’s how up-and-coming producer John “JmaC” McCarten better known as Manic Focus describes his tunes. Snapping off a colorful combination of some of the heaviest bass notes with smooth electric grooves to create a unique and entrancing sound, he’s quickly approaching one of the biggest years in his career thus far. But what exactly does the name Manic Focus mean? “The name ‘Manic Focus’ came from some random brainstorming with my team. We originally wanted to do just ‘Focus’, but in today’s era of music, its very important to be easy to find on the internet. Having a simple phonetic name and also being able to lock down that name on all social mediums is key.” he said.
Originally from Saint Paul, Minnesota, now residing in Chicago, McCarten has been cranking out tunes under his alias JmaC since High School. His musical background doesn’t begin there, though. “I started playing piano when I was 5 and took lessons until I was 14. My dad got me my first keyboard when I was 13. I used that and quite a few different software programs (Rebirth, Fruity Loops, Reason, Logic, Pro Tools) to make random electronic beats. I wasn’t really into making any genre in particular, but halfway through high school I got into making hip-hop beats for my friends and me to rap on.”
Once he found his niche in the electronic music scene, McCarten’s career took off. For his live sets, Manic Focus uses an APC40 and Ableton Live. “Its a great combo that packs light and is quick to set up. I have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 interface that I really like and use for some gigs, but Alex (Paper Diamond) bought a DJM900 Nexus for the tour, so I’m using that via USB.” When it comes to inspiration, he lists two main sources. “(Inspiration) stems from love and stress compounding. Shout out to my homie Minnesota and Atmosphere for that one.” Recently brought onto Griz’s Liberated Music label, it seems that nothing is stopping him from continuous evolving as an artist.
The first track Manic Focus released to the public is entitled Zeleke’s Magic Bass. Later featured on his Definition of Rhythm EP, it features a really cool sample of the track ‘One Day’ by Matisyahu. Also on that EP was one of my favorite earlier releases, a track entitled That ThanG.
His first hit came 2 years ago with this hypnotic remix of The Red Hot Chili Peppers song, Dani Califonia.
Soon thereafter, he released another remix, an incredibly groovy take on Gary Jules’ Mad World.
Next was the Expanding Mind EP. My favorite track off of this one was Church and Play.
He followed that with one of his biggest tracks so far, his remix of Rebelution’s Sky Is The Limit.
After that came another one of my personal favorites, a fun and bouncy track entitled Rooster.
Another huge hit followed that, his remix of Disclosure’s track Latch.
At this point, JmaC prepared his fans for his first album entitled Distant Perspective.
A collection of 10 absolutely wicked tracks, this album features 3 of his biggest releases from last year: Forever Blasting, We Won’t Land, and Money Ain’t a ThanG – along with 7 fresh tracks. My favorites from this album are Dippin’, Matchstick, and his collaboration with Haywyre, Premeditation.
Finishing the year on a high note, he released 2 tracks. The first a stellar remix of Bill Withers’ Use Me, and the second a collaboration with Michal Menert that will be featured on Menert’s next album entitled The One You Love.
When I asked him about any future collaborations with Menert or others, he responded, “Michal is the man! We’ve got some other tracks in the works. I’ve also working on some stuff with The Coop, ProbCause, Exmag, and a few other homies that I know people will be stoked on.” This year is going to be a busy one for McCarten with so many amazing opportunities knocking on his door.
“I’m on Paper Diamond’s “Cold Crush Tour” right now, and I’ll be jumping on tour with Big Giganticafter this. I’ve got a lot of tentative dates I can’t announce, but I’ll definitely be traveling a lot this year. Can’t wait for festy season, especially Summer Camp, Wakarusa, and Electric Forest!”
There need not be any more evidence, Manic Focus is set to grow leaps and bounds this year and in the future. Who knows what else will come from the ever expanding mind of one of electro-soul’s freshest and most promising young acts. Manic Focus also just recently announced his first headlining show in Chicago, at Concord Music Hall, this will be a very special performance so mark your calendars now!