Jon McMillion: Slow Groover

A wallflower with a hard-on for disco.

THE SITUATION I'm spending a recent Wednesday evening at Oddfellows on Capitol Hill with experimental house producer Jon McMillion, who is tall, casual, and wears black-rimmed glasses. He's eating a plate of mussels and assuring me that McMillion is his real last name. "I used to work at Microsoft a long time ago, so everybody was like, 'You're going to fulfill your last name.' Sadly, I didn't," he laughs.

HOW HE GOT HERE McMillion's transformation into an electronic artist was gradual. He was born and raised in the Tri-Cities, where one can't imagine there's much of a dance-music scene. "I mean, there is a dance scene," he says. "It's line-dancing." Ten years ago, McMillion was playing guitar in a band he describes as "The Fall meets Miles Davis" when a friend introduced him to some computer software "where you could sequence and make this music on your own," he recalls. "So I was like, 'Fuck these guys.' I could see my vision for myself."

SHOP TALK It's been two years since McMillion released his eclectic, much raved-about Jon McMillion LP. He tells me he is working on another album to be released in 2013, describing his new songs as having a stronger song structure rather than "dance meandering—meaning more guitars, more vocals. McMillion often starts a song with a mood, sometimes brought on by walking around and being struck by certain stimuli.

He works as a web developer downtown near Westlake Center, and states, "I'm inundated every day by poverty. And I get touched by a lot of the hopelessness; I often try to imagine what they're going through." A song is being born out of those imaginings: about the sounds of the night, after the businesses have closed and the working people have gone home, but the homeless are still there. "I don't know if I can capture it sonically," says McMillion, "but maybe in the feeling of the song."

BTW: McMillion's presence matches his music—low-key, unassuming. When he's at a club—not for work, but play—he says, "I'm a little bit of a wallflower. I like to sit back and hear the music, but sometimes you can't help but get into the vibe. The music that gets me dancing, more than anything, is disco." (Don't think Donna Summer: He's got a prized collection of hundreds of obscure European "under-, under-, UNDERground disco" albums.) I ask if he has a signature move. "I'm not out there doing any spins or anything like that. I'm just a slow groover," he says. "I've got a pretty damn good head bob."

 
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