“Music Gave Me Something To Hold Onto”: An Interview with Autumn in June

Jimmy Ness speaks with Autumn in June about his new record, 'Magenta,' growing up in the hood, and recording in a trap house.
By    July 24, 2017


In the tabloid imagination, the underprivileged are depicted as degenerates. Ghetto inhabitants are lazy and stupid. Crips and Bloods are sociopaths and junkies are two-legged invertebrates. Of course, reality isn’t monochrome. Every shooter, look-out, corner boy, and Capo is a breathing contradiction. Gangsters can be articulate, complex and emotional. Autumn in June adds to the alternate reality.

Despite sharing Ice Cube’s proving grounds and dabbling in hip-hop, he’s more Morrissey than Mack 10. “When I was younger, everybody tries to box you, especially when you come from certain places. Once you start letting that get to you, that shit is miserable. It’s the worst thing ever.” A Phil Collins stan, Autumn grips synthesizer not Glocks. When friends repped the set, he hustled studio time, even working out of a trap house on unused equipment. The Mexican American produced for Suga Free as a teenager, but accelerated toward a synth highway.

Wishing to keep personal and musical tangents separate, Autumn’s true name is unknown. He focuses on art, rather than earthly details. The wistful singer’s identity is cloaked under a haze of Daft Punk, Prince, and a little Depeche Mode. Debut Magenta is equal measures love lost and carnality. Narcotic episodes are recalled under neon afterglow and music to step to. This ying and yang is deliberate.

“The songwriter part of my brain is a sad soul, it’s very personal, but the producer side of me, I love happy melodies. I love to make that type of music and they both connect.” A capable beat-smith, Autumn traverses electronica’s borders, delving into new wave on “Starlight” and channeling Nile Rodgers’ boogie licks on “I Guess It’s Cool To Be Lonely.” He flexes production dexterity across 12 tracks, dabbling in trap, dance, and mild dubstep. For those recoiling at the latter, these trials are a brief foray rather than seismic bass wobble. Standout tunes invoke moonman Giorgio Moroder’s Italo disco, launching into space bound synths. “Cocaine 80s” and “You’re A Model Too” mesh danceable robot-rock with moody reflection.

The 20 something fully composed, performed, and engineered Magneta, opting for a totalitarian approach. “The album is 100% for me. I don’t usually make music for people, I make it for myself and that’s the only way to stay true to it.” Raised in the streets, yet undefined by his past, Autumn’s odes oppose hood stereotypes. Once again, 2Pac’s message is proven true, thugs get lonely too. —Jimmy Ness

People from rough areas are usually portrayed as hardened gangstas. Someone such as yourself shows there’s diversity everywhere.

Autumn in June: It’s crazy, a lot of media portrays that. Guys need to be tough, when they need to be tough, but people are real people. Criminals are seen as the worst thing ever, but it’s rarely like that. Some people have their good days and their goofy sides. I’ve known friends that are super goofy and love to be playing, but when it comes down to it they turn up and they get with it.

I guess there’s a certain thing that a lot of people think because you’re from a certain area, you’re all violent and extra out there. But I feel like everybody in their own mind, not everybody is just angry like all the time. It’s human nature that people look to have fun and they do things they enjoy. There’s obviously people here and there, but that’s in every community, even in rich communities, there’s people that just love violence.

As a youth, were you pressured toward gang involvement?

Autumn in June: I kind of stood out of the gang life to be honest. I grew up with crips and they were like my homies, we used to hang out and stuff like that, but I never really saw a point to it. I kind of stayed to my own and I became more of a musician at an early age. I was more involved in trying to make music.

I used to hang with them because, well that’s who I grew up with, like I grew up with kids and they ended up meeting or had family members that were from a certain gang. It’s usually like that, they have uncles or brothers that join gangs and stuff so they fall into that category, I kind of was just like I know them or they’re the homies, but I’m cool with that gangbanging shit.

In interviews you’ve mentioned being true to yourself and your own tastes. Is that something you’ve learnt making music different than your peers?

Autumn in June: When you’re in high school or middle school, I guess you want to be cool and portray that image of being cool. You don’t really know how to be yourself, especially when you always keep your defenses up. You don’t want to get bullied so you kind of just follow whatever trend is there and you don’t realize what you actually like. You’re not really that open minded, that’s what it is.

It’s like sometimes you might like it, but you’re not that open to trying it, listening to new stuff and shit like that. I got more open minded when I got older. Most of my friends are like that, we all started getting more open minded. I feel like culture now, everybody listens to everything, there’s no judgement, you can truly be yourself now days. I really feel like it’s a lot easier for people to be themselves now days, then it was growing up in the ’90s.

It’s not so hyper masculine anymore, especially in rap.

Autumn in June: Definitely. Growing up, I remember the dominant musicians were Dr Dre, 50 Cent and all that gangsta rap. That was the whole trend and everybody was in circles, like you either listened to rock, or hiphop, or pop music. Now days, everybody is so open to everything, like with styles you can be a skater and listen to everything. It’s changed so much from the ’90s.

Your real name and age are unknown. Why do you keep these details private?

Autumn in June: I just want people to be more about the music. It’s better for them to have imagination on who you are instead of just giving them everything. It’s just a decision I wanted to make, to focus on Autumn In June and the artistry I created. The whole music I’m creating, I want that to be more of a connection I get with people more than anything.

Has your environment impacted your music?

Autumn in June: Coming from hip-hop, a lot of hip-hop is super honest. I remember listening to Eminem and a lot of 2Pac and they were so honest. It kind of shaped me, to be that honest, but my truths are a lot different than other people, so certain topics come along that I speak of and that’s because that’s my truth. It just happens that I don’t make hip-hop, I make a different type of music.

When I interviewed Dam Funk, his story was very similar. Despite being in a rough neighborhood, he never got fully sucked into the streets because music was the focus.

Autumn in June: That’s really cool to actually know that, that’s pretty much what happened to me. Once you become a musician, you stay away a lot because you’re creating. It’s like having something to do instead of being out there. I was just trying to hone my craft, my friends would come down and they don’t want to see you make music so they get bored and they leave, but it was pretty much that way that music took over my life.
I didn’t really care about being out there.

All my homies were Crips, I had a lot of friends that were into skating and stuff like that, I didn’t even get into sports or anything because I was more into music. I would spend all my time trying to perfect my skills so I didn’t get into sports or videogames. Everything that was around me, it was kind of blocked off by the music that I was trying to create.

As you’ve gotten older, no doubt you saw the reality of that lifestyle.

Autumn in June: I’ve been close to getting some real time in jail, but those type of times really opened my eyes and I’m like, “What the fuck am I doing?” It’s not worth it. I feel like music kind of gave me something to hold onto. Like you have something you can do that’s better than this.

You used to record in a trap house?

Autumn in June: I met a friend, he was in there, and he was like, ‘Yo, I know a spot and they kind of hustled there, but they’ll let us use the studio.’ He didn’t know how to use it, he didn’t know how to record anything but he used to rap and I used to make beats, so we started working out of there, that’s where I actually got my skills super bomb. They used to literally let me use their whole studio equipment to hang out, give them beats and record them.

I was just making beats and getting my engineering good. That’s when I started practicing my singing vocals and all of that. It was pretty much like free studio time. They didn’t know how to use the equipment, I did, they had a spot so I went through and they hooked it up.

You enjoy creating emotive music. Would you say that there are a lot of sensitive people who come from tough neighborhoods?

Autumn in June: I feel like yeah, definitely. Growing up in this environment, you’re definitely a sensitive person, which is why you’re tougher. I feel like every person, that’s extra aggressive, that gets a short temper, it’s because they’re sensitive. They can trigger fast because they’re sensitive. I have emotional songs, not in a sad way, but that trigger your emotions. Sometimes songs are not as perfect as the pop songs that major artists are doing, but they trigger the right emotions and that’s the stuff that I love. Just raw emotion.

For a relative newcomer, you’re really opinionated on where you’d like to go with your music and artistry.

Autumn in June: I had this manager, he used to work with Bone Thugs N Harmony. I was working with Suga Free, Kurupt, and a lot of people like that. I used to love that, but I was also trying to find my own sound because I didn’t want to just produce for them. I was super young at that time, probably about 16-17, still in high school. The funny thing is I remember the first time it happened, I was barely learning. I had probably made like my first or second beat. My manager at the time was like, “Yo, Suga Free is in the studio with this guy named Infra Red [DJ Quik’s nephew]. They were making music and were like, “Yo, we need an engineer, do you want to come through?” I was like, “Fuck yes,” so I went and it was this house on Riverside.

This guy was like, “Yo, you got any beats?” At the time, I was making club bass beats, I guess, and I showed it to them and they were like, “Yo, we fucking love it.” They used it, recorded for it and let me stay at the house. They were like, “Yo, let’s record in the morning again,” because it was already late night. I had no beats, I only had that one that they recorded, so I made a bunch that night and it kind of just threw me in there. I had to learn to make cool beats, I guess. Rappers is different man, they’ll rap a verse so fast and be like, “Alright put the next beat on.” It’s like, “Fuck, it took me like two hours to make that beat” and they’ll finish it within thirty minutes.

Did you purposely withdraw at a certain point despite these opportunities?

Autumn in June: Yeah, definitely. That’s part of the reason why I try to stay true to myself so much and stay on my vision. I want to maintain my vision and make sure nobody changes my vision. I’ve had really good opportunities that I’ve just been like, “No, I can’t do it,” just because it doesn’t align with my vision. I want people to focus on my music. I try my best not to mention my family, because it’s very personal. I want to maintain like two different sides. I want to keep my personal life and my music. I want to create what I’ve always envisioned a cool artist to be.

You don’t want your past or family details to reflect you as an artist.

Autumn in June: I don’t want to people to connect me in that way because Mexicans get marginalized so much, especially right now. That’s not really a place I want to take it to because I don’t want it backfiring on my family.

I’m in a good place, I have a good heart and I’ve changed my life around so much. I’m vegetarian, I try to help out so much because they see us in such a bad light, it’s so bad. I feel like such bad energy every time I go to certain places, especially right now with Trump being president, it’s fucked up. I try to stay positive, be good and bring good energy to my family.

Have you felt negativity towards Mexicans increase over the last few years?

Autumn in June: Definitely, a lot of people are more open to their opinions and they’re super hard-headed. They just have their opinion and they feel like, “This is the truth.” They just have a certain energy towards us and it’s not even Mexicans or people of color, like Muslims too. It’s crazy, I’ve felt it. Especially people that come from the hood, it’s like another stamp, ‘he’s a fucking criminal,’ or whatever. That’s why I don’t like mentioning none of my past, that was me being a kid and it’s so fucked up that people always have that mentality because there’s a lot of good being done and there’s a lot of good that I’ve done too that I’m sure people will never focus on. I graduated honors from high school and I’ve done a lot of good for the community. They only focus on the bad.

You probably see a lot of good in these neighborhoods that’s never reported on.

Autumn in June: I see that all the time, I’ve known friends that have done really terrible shit, but to other people that are trying it [with them]. At a certain time in their lives, especially when they’re younger, they get really defensive because bullying is crazy if you’re not from the neighborhood. It becomes like you’re down with somebody and you’re super down so nobody fucks with you or you become like a punk, but you’re still a good person.

You still go out with your family, you laugh, you eat, you like to have fun, you know? You play basketball and all of that, for some people it’s rougher and when it is you have to toughen up, if not it’s going to be bad. There are a lot of people that I’ve seen that are super good-hearted, you know?

You’ve never visited Mexico and only recently started venturing outside LA. Growing up in the hood, you must feel blessed to finally get these opportunities.

Autumn in June: It’s like a whole new thing for me. Music has been allowing me to get out a bit more. When I was young I never really thought about it. I was just living day by day. You hope for it like, ‘Oh man I’d like to check this out,’ but you never really think you’re actually going to do it. Growing up my parents were working a lot and we definitely come from nothing, so they were just trying to keep a roof over our heads. It was just pretty much taking care of myself, me and my sisters. There wasn’t really much thoughts on the future.

Do you feel a responsibility to represent for your neighborhood, your culture etc.?

Autumn in June: It motivates me to try and do more good things so eventually the good will overshadow the bad. Especially, me being who I am, and the fact that the US is evolving towards a lot of racism and shit like that, I try to remain strong and put a positive light on my people.

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