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Get to know Vegyn, creator of genre-shifting beats

The PLZ Make It Ruins boss and Frank Ocean collaborator traverses hip hop, ambient and introspective dance music

  • Words: Jasmine Kent-Smith | Photo: ALEC MARTIN
  • 10 January 2020

Joe Thornalley, aka Vegyn, may be known to Frank Ocean stans for his production work on albums ‘Endless’ and ‘Blonde’ or his role on the pair’s Apple Music’s Beats 1 show Blonded Radio (which they host with Roof Access) but there’s more to him than that.

In 2014, after “a few shit deals” the 26-year-old London-based producer and DJ set up a label, PLZ Make It Ruins, with money saved from retail and bar work. Recent gigs include a set at a Mura Masa-curated Warehouse Project night, and his releases this year include a sprawling 71-track mixtape, and a debut album ‘Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds’, an elastic blend of hip hop, euphoric electronica and introspective club contemplations.

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With a music producer dad and a graphic designer mum Joe grew up surrounded by music. While studying design he decided to give production a go. “I remember making something I liked and it feeling really rewarding,” says Joe. “And to be honest, I think I would’ve made a terrible artist.”

Joe’s early material was inspired by nights spent at venues like Plastic People, where he first met Ocean – as well as James Blake. After he passed the London singer a USB, Blake went on to play Joe’s tunes on his Radio 1 show. A keen eye for design proved fruitful, though; his approach to his own work, his choice of collaborators and the narrative he carefully crafts around the music (be it via packaging, merch or artwork) marks him out as something akin to a creative director. “I definitely have a strong focus on how I want things to be perceived or listened to,” he says. “In a way, it allows me a small portion of my life where I can have complete control. I try not to waste that opportunity – it’s almost my duty to try and make [my music] as good as possible. I can’t be dishing out bad quality stuff!”

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On ‘Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds’ (“It has a nice ring to it – no pun intended!”) Joe and guests such as JPEGMAFIA, Retro X, Jeshi and PLZ’s own ARTHUR explore the varied and often overlooked aspects of melancholy. “If there’s a happy melancholia to [your music], you’re still directed into the ‘sad’ box,” he says. “I’m just trying to quantify the human experience.”

Sounds like his new-found fame hasn’t knocked him off track. “It’s trying to find that balance. A lot of things have happened to me since I was trying to make music before, so I’m trying to harness the idea of making music for myself again.”

‘Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds’ is out now on PLZ Make It Ruins

Jasmine Kent-Smith is Mixmag's Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter

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