0074 // Don Froth


There is a vigour and exuberance to the work of Julian Smith aka Don Froth difficult to find elsewhere. His work feels somewhat DIY, but not in the lo-fi, half-finished way of much of today's House music. A lot of the sounds he works with are self-recorded, and Smith isn't afraid of including the odd in-joke either. Discussing his most recent release, the 'D.O.C' EP for West Norwood Cassette Library, Smith reveals some of the origins of his sounds. "The sample at the beginning of ‘A Broad Range’ was taken from an interview I did" he starts. "One of my usual fumbles, this time live on Italian radio. I sent it over to Bob [Bhamra of WNCL], had some laughs and we were off, there was the intro. Originally it was a one minute break but we had some chats on making it into a widescreen mix. I recorded the live drum breaks at a studio in Amsterdam (thanks Stef for linking that up)."

Under the Froth moniker, Smith has released on Phonica's in-house label Phonica White, UNO NYC and also his own Froth'n imprint. His work never seems quite so well housed as on Bhamra's WNCL however, which has hosted a number of his works. "Bob and I got to chatting in 2009 via Doctor J and the Funky Fella Crew who ran a radio show out of Paris, Texas" he begins when asked of their first meeting. "Bob wanted to cut a dubplate of a track I had on J’s show called ‘Von’. We ended up meeting in London a year later at the Blue Posts pub, discovering we like the same draft beer. It’s been hard to leave ever since! I can’t express enough how much of a legend Bob is. Anyone I’ve met that knows Bob shares the same sentiment - he should be the president of music. Along with Daniel Wang."

Brought up in San Diego, California, Smith has also spent time in the UK. "Strict on manners, threatening headmasters, lotta lads, lots of competition" is how he surmises spending the '80s in an all-boys boarding school. Heading back to San Diego in '92, Smith moved on to LA ten years later, spending time in various parts of the city.

This included a spell living in Venice Beach, where Smith would find an unlikely source of artistic inspiration. After losing all his worldly possessions in a storage unit fire, Smith managed to turn a negative into a positive. He began working on the Primitive Thoughts LP in the aftermath releasing it under the name Jane In Palma late last year. "Extra Space Storage. I should have known by that name I was getting into something low grade" he begins when asked about the experience. "Someone didn’t put their cigarette out properly and the entire building with hundreds of units, millions of dollars, and priceless memories went up in flames. At least that is what they told us. I believe it was an inside job to attempt to reclaim a very desirable piece of land a few blocks from the beach in Venice Beach. Whatever happened it didn’t work because after 24 hours of fire fighting they managed to salvage the building enough to not have to demo it."

"My buddy John called me saying my storage building was on fire. I went online in the middle of the night, watched the news helicopter cam survey the fire from above… I could see he was exactly right. My unit, with everything to my name was at the epicentre of the fire. Just like that, all gone. At that moment a switch clicked that changed my life for the better. I knew if I had the power to not let it affect me negatively, to appreciate what I had at that moment and not wish for more, in other words, hold tightly, let go lightly. So I did."

"During that time I started up the Jane project and recorded Primitive Thoughts. That was the best way for me to deal with it, and how the next one will be a continuation of that thought. That album was also part of some other works called ‘Croupier’, which was a cathartic, visual expression of the experience."

Recently, Smith headed back across the Atlantic, taking up residence on a small European island. From the sounds of it, the move has helped alleviate some of the downsides of urban habitation. "After 12 years of living amongst 18 million people, I had had enough of the stresses of the unreasonably paced lifestyle of Southern California" he explains. "It will always be my home but I find it next to impossible to live slowly and simply. I made a change and moved to a small town on the south east side of an island with less than four thousand inhabitants where there is time to think and work critically. I really miss not seeing my family and friends as much but those are the decisions I have to live with."

Still, he keeps some fond memories from his time in the US. Asked about his first exposure to club music, Smith gives little hesitation. "San Diego. My friend Rob had an older brother who would drive us around in his lowered Honda Civic. Chain steering wheel. Air freshener hanging. This Civic was packed with subs, not sure how many but I remember the first time he picked us up. He didn’t say a word, just popped in a Miami bass test CD and waited. I kid you not I couldn’t breath, my eyes were rattling around, I was blind just trying to focus to get through it. I just remember him looking back at us with this grin, like, yeah boys you ain’t heard that before huh. No it was not a club but it might as well have been. Haven’t heard anything that hard since!"

His mix for us focusses on a slightly less visceral form of electronic music, but is powerful in its own way. "I've been listening to more ambient / downbeat things again recently" he starts when asked about the recording. "I've also been making some versions and soundscapes of drone silence, the first track on the mix is one of them. That’s how this mix came through."

You can stream the mix below, and make sure to keep an eye out for the next Jane In Palma LP, further releases on WNCL and a new project with friend and collaborator Bato Bato.


Jane - Change Fumble at Eroski [Unreleased]
Johnny Nash - A Shallow Space [Melody As Truth]
Deuter - Brazilian Love [KuckKuck]
Harold Budd - Windows Charm [Cantil]
Synth Sisters - Silver Dust [17853 Records]
Stavrogin - Lost in Systems [3BS Records]
Robert Reich - The Other Side Of Twilight [Dimension 16]
Wolf Muller & Cass - Glade Runner (Toulouse Low Trax Remix) [Internation Feel]
ROTLA - Bosco [MND]
Woo - Awaawaa [Palto Flats, New General Catalogue]
Twelve O’clock Shadow feat. Miguel Atwood Ferguson - Demon’s Lullaby [Five Easy Pieces]
Steve Roach - Structures From Silence [Fortuna Records]
Wolf Muller & Cass - Ailos (Wolf Muller Version) [Internation Feel]
Ruf Dug Island - Dominica! [Music For Dreams]

  • Published
  • Apr 21, 2017
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