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John Summit Knows His Debut Album Will Shock His Fans

The house DJ and producer says that’s the goal.

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When John Summit hops on the Zoom at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 16, he’s already been awake for six hours. Clad in a tank top, he’s just wrapped up a morning workout and seen to the news rollout of becoming the latest face of of Bose — “Literally the most no-brainer partnership of all time,” he tells NYLON. He’s been busy doing other things, too, like signing 8,000 vinyls, and preparing for his DJ residency at Fontainebleau’s LIV nightclub in Las Vegas later tonight — which he’ll follow with a 3 a.m. set at Electronic Daisy Carnival. Oh, and he just dropped a new song, “Go Back,” an undulating house and drum and bass smasher with Sub Focus and Julia Church that’ll undeniably be another hit. “Don’t judge my appearance right now,” he jokes. “It’s been a long morning.”

The 29-year-old DJ and producer is used to it. Since his early days making music in his bedroom, the Chicago native has become a towering presence in the house and techno world, drawing thousands-strong festival crowds with his euphoric anthems, playing 220 shows alone in 2022. In April, he closed out Coachella’s Sahara tent with a blow-out floating stage, and will finally release his debut album later this year. NYLON caught up with Summit ahead of yet another performance-packed year to chat his new Bose ambassadorship, why he doesn’t mind phones in the nightclub, and how he makes sure to deliver a unique show every night.

Congrats on the new Bose partnership. Are you a fan of the brand?

Literally, my entire career, I've produced on the go on my laptop with a speaker, so I've always been searching for a good speaker on the go. I use [the SoundLink Max], and I've been posting it for a while on my story and stuff where I literally make music on it. And then, of course, after parties in hotel room every night, my laptop speaker doesn't do justice. It's sweet because it fits in my backpack. All I care about is having bass and [this] packs a punch. Might get a couple of noise complaints, so I can't guarantee you won't piss off your neighbors.

You also dropped “Go Back.” I feel like you were teasing the fans for a while with this one.

Oh yeah. It's my first time ever actually dipping outside of house music in an official release, but it's still house music. It's an ambitious song, so that's why I'm so proud of it. Everyone always says, "Stay in your lane." You know what I mean? It's either this or that. I'm like, "Well, what if I do both in the same song?" It's not like people have never combined genres in a song before, but it is an unspoken rule that you don't do that.

How is your debut album going? Is it done?

It's done. I think the music's really good. Of course, [I’m] nervous. It's like anything where everyone's scared to get judged a little bit. It's a very vulnerable piece of art, but I think the music's good, so I'm feeling very good about it.

You’ve been on this really long streak of releasing big festival anthems. Did you decide to take a different approach for your debut album?

I think it's a half-and-half. Half of it is very high energy, and the other half is more introspective, sitting at home on a rainy day kind of music, the more chill stuff. When I listen to an album front to back, I want [it] to have peaks and valleys, like a movie.

Do you think your fans will be surprised by what they hear?

Yeah, and that's the goal. I want them to be like, “Oh shit, I didn't know you had this in you.”

What was it like closing Sahara at Coachella?

That was nuts. It was just a lot of work because you bring in your own production, and then that's when I was debuting most of my new album music and stuff. But I love Coachella. It gets a bad rap with the influencers and stuff. [But] I always go in the crowd myself. I played Friday with Dom [Dolla], then we went and saw Justice afterwards and I had the time of my life. The production at Coachella is just next level.

Your stage was pretty next level.

Like the flying saucer vibe? Basically, I [got] an idea that I scribbled on a napkin. The stages I've had in the past have been like a literal summit, and then at BMO Stadium last December, it was like a Daft Punk-inspired Summit. But then I was like, well, now that I'm becoming this larger-than-life figure, I want to be actually floating. It kind of looked like a spaceship.

How are you feeling about the crowds you play for? I feel like there’s been some talk in the dance community about how no one is dancing anymore.

I tweeted about this last week. No, people are dancing, but especially when you're a bigger figure like me, people will come to shows just to put a phone in my face and be videotaping me. When you think of the original DJs at Studio 54, and shit like that, the DJ’s in the back corner, you don't even see them.

[I think the problem is] kind of on me, too. If I want a more intimate environment, I should set up a DJ booth where I'm not seen as much, so I don't like blaming the fans. If you're complaining that they're looking at their phone too much, create an environment where they can't be on their phone. You could force no phones, but I don't like doing that though, because [I know] If I lose my friends at a concert and I don't have my phone on me, I'd be like, “F*ck.”

You're quite deep into your career now. Would you say you have a DJ signature of some kind?

For me, I will have a really epic intro and I make new intros every week. All my sets are very, very unique, and of course, it's very house and techno based. I've had fans that’ve seen me 50 times and they're like, “I've seen 50 different sets.” Because as a fan myself, if I see a DJ and they're incredible, and then I see them the next night and they play the same set, that makes sense. But if you see them a year from now and then they play the same set? I stop being a fan, because what have you been doing the last year?

How often are you listening to new music?

I try to listen to 100 demos a day because I get sent like 500 demos a day, but it only takes me like, 10 seconds to listen to one. So it does take a couple of hours of my day. And then I scroll through SoundCloud, and YouTube, and Spotify. I DM all my DJ friends pretty much once a week asking for new music. You have to really be on the grind to find the good stuff.

Do you have a song of the summer?

Am I allowed to say my own tracks that just came out? [Laughs.] The Jungle track on their album called “I've Been In Love” with Channel Tres, it's been on repeat for me. Channel Tres is one of my favorite artists, he's sick. But yeah, that's such a cool feel good track for me. When I think of summer, I think of nostalgic, sexy tracks.