By: Giuliana Mancuso
Justin sits with a soft smile and kind eyes, as though his portrait were being taken. His dark hair is styled in shaggy curls, along with his neatly trimmed beard, complimenting his chiselled jawline and friendly facial structure.
"Growing up, as a kid, I always played instruments," he says, and although his voice was quite mature for someone of his age, it was also quite gentle. "But I only got serious about producing when COVID happened. I had this abundance of time, and I was really motivated to do something artistic."
Justin Tatone is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, producer, and Dawson student in the Arts and Cultures program. He has released several albums and singles and recently opened a recording studio, ZION, with a website on its way to provide potential clients with more information and details.
"It started with me just having a keyboard, and mainly producing on this keyboard, and then I got a job, and I started buying a bunch of stuff. It's gotten to a point where I have enough equipment, and a lot of my paychecks went towards new instruments."
"I've got a bunch of tiny instruments, trumpets, flutes. I have a violin, a bugle, a drum set, eight guitars, basses, and kalimbas. I've got three synthesizers, a voice box, and some mics. It's ridiculous," he remarks with a loud laugh.
Justin has also collaborated with several other local and underground musicians, such as Benedict Tan and Marina Genovesi.
"He is inventive," remarks Benedict, a friend of Justin's, as well as co-writer and featured singer on his recent single Peanut Butter Playboi. "When I listen to his music, I hear sounds that I've never heard anywhere else."
"Justin is someone who likes to have big ideas," adds Marina.
Justin's music explores many genres, allowing each song to be completely original and unique along with its sounds. However, he is still trying to figure out how to classify his music. "I would classify my music mainly as experimental hip-hop because it's hip-hop music that pushes the boundary of hip-hop. I'll incorporate folk into hip-hop or jazz into hip-hop."
Despite having released several pieces, Justin is much more candid about one song in particular: HOME. He had already said that it was his favourite work, and I asked if he wanted to elaborate. This led to the most bittersweet moment of the entire interview.
"It means the most to me. It was my first ever real solo project that I took seriously. The lyrics are: 'being home, don't feel like home, but I never feel alone. Sit and wonder why I'll never have to find this feeling that I'll never know. Where do I go?' It ties into this time that was very lonely for me, so that song encapsulates the way I felt at the time. It was everything I wanted to say about the way I was feeling, and when you're a musician, and you're able to explicitly tell people how you feel, it's really therapeutic."
His words are as poetic as the song itself.
In the past, Justin has also experimented with his musical identities and has gone by several pseudonyms.
"I've had so many different names: DJ Casino, DJ Spade of Hearts. I just didn't really know what I was: Was I an artist or a producer? I couldn't figure it out, so I decided to release my solo stuff in my real name. The actual name came from the song, Peanut Butter Playboi, and it's just based on the fact that I love Peanut Butter, and I thought it was the funniest thing, but I don't take it seriously. It's just another pseudonym."