IMANU

Music, Food, Fashion, and E-Girls; an Interview with IMANU

Born in France, and based out of the Netherlands, Jonathan Kievit is the man behind IMANU. Once known as Signal, Kievit has been making music professionally for 5 years, but he’s just getting started. Following a string of releases, incredible remixes, and an insane performance on Porter Robinson’s ‘Secret Sky Festival,’ we sat down with IMANU to talk about the important things in life–

Music, food, fashion, and e-girls.

IMANU interview
Photograph by Jack Parker.

Music

Jonathan began making house music before shifting to drum and bass. His dark and twisted approach to dnb caught the attention of some of the most esteemed veterans in the genre. But change is good, and Jonathan welcomes the freedom of expression when it comes to art.

Toni Nittolo, Electric Hawk: A lot of people were attracted to you and your sound because of your–

IMANU: My looks?

TN: {Laughs} Yes, and then they realized you make great beats too! But people were really attracted to this dark take on drum and bass. In recent months, your releases have been without a specific genre; you’ve been making things that are really beautiful, emotional, and what you find rewarding. Has there been a particular catalyst in this shift away from making drum and bass, or focusing on one specific genre?

IMANU: COVID was a big, big catalyst. I was no longer under pressure to make club tunes and I was free to take risks because I had all the time in the world. I wasn’t forced to make certain tunes that would go off in the club and chart on Beatport, but instead, tunes that I could listen to myself and vibe to. They’re also a nice listen on Spotify. I took the time to discover new artists and it’s been very enlightening for me. Honestly, I’ve never been happier with where I am in music.

Hayden McGuigan, Electric Hawk: That’s awesome to hear. I know a lot of artists that have said the same thing; how losing that pressure of trying to make dance-floor-ready tunes, or dubstep/heavy things that are going to “break the rail” has really given them more freedom to experiment with what sounds good to them, vs what sounds good to everybody else. Personally, I have loved your stuff as IMANU, and I’m sure Toni can agree, too – we’ve been fans, and it’s good to hear that you’re happy where you’re at.

HM: Shifting gears, you recently performed at Secret Sky. How was that?

IMANU: It was cool, but it was quite stressful. Everything came together quite late because of some issues with recording and stuff. All in all, I’m very happy with how things went. Buunshin and I both tried to put in as many unreleased tunes as possible. I think we ended up playing 24 unreleased tracks and three released ones. We basically had to write tracks around the set to make everything fit.

There were so many tempos, genres, and keys that we had to write entirely new tunes as tools to get our tracks connected. It was quite stressful, but it did make all the transitions go super smoothly. And I’m very, very proud of it. I’m also very happy with the feedback. It’s the biggest stream I have ever played in my life. And it’s gotten me thousands of new followers on my socials Plus, some attention from big artists that I respect. So that’s always nice to get.

HM: Has that performance opened any more doors for you? Or the IMANU project specifically?

IMANU: Yeah! Like I said, loads of artists found out about me because of this. I’m still based in Europe, so I’ve mainly been here around European artists. I don’t get the chance to work with artists from America, or Australia, or whatever. I’m confident that if they just heard about me, they would at least respect the music that I make. So I think this really helped.

Also, I think that it’s going to help loads with getting my first American tour. That set will be something that people are going to reference, which is good. It’ll help make sure that people won’t expect a drum n bass set. That’s one thing I am scared of.

HM: That’s a valid worry. Whenever this topic is brought up, the first thing that comes to mind is the reaction to Getter and the Visceral album. Which I never understood because I loved Visceral.

IMANU: Yeah, with Getter it was rather unfortunate. This may sound harsh, but it’s kind of exactly what I expected with the dubstep scene. Especially the American scene. They’re not very known for being open-minded towards change. But I agree, I actually really enjoyed the album and the sound. I was stoked for him to show a more mature side of himself.

I’m a big believer in artistic freedom. And honestly, the artist owes you absolutely nothing. If you bought 500 of their tunes, 10 million vinyl – it doesn’t matter. You got what you bought, you enjoyed what you got, and it’s their work. It’s not made to please you. It’s really sad because people forget that artists also have expectations. Let the artist make what they want to make, and play what they want to play.

IMANU

TN: You started off as Signal, then during the autumn of 2019 you transitioned to IMANU. There was a recent UKF article that came out last month, and you were talking about transitioning back to the Signal alias.

IMANU: It was a joke, an April Fool’s joke. So many people have asked me about this, even Beatport and DJ Mag. UKF was like, “Yo, we need to pull some pranks on people.” Some people figured it out after they played the song in the article because it’s one of the worst tunes I’ve made in my life. But, changing from Signal was the best decision I’ve ever made. And to people who wanted Signal to come back, well, fuck you.

TN: Do you have any touring slated for the future?

IMANU: Well, I’m not sure. I’ve just signed with an agency – United Talent. Firstly, I have to get the visa sorted. Also, I don’t want to tour America before I get my vaccine. For sure, it’s gonna be a while before it happens, because the visa stuff is going to be expensive, painful, and slow. Then, the vaccines in Europe are not rolling out as fast as in America. I’m expecting to get mine around midsummer because I’m young. My dad only got his vaccine last week, and he’s almost 60.

In regards to playing shows again, I have no clue what I want to play right now because I’ve been making so many genres. I’m not even sure who I would tour with and what people want. I’d love to just say fuck it, I’m gonna be myself. But if I want to have some success, I gotta have some form of compromise especially the first time around. So, I don’t know, we’ll see.

TN: Who would be on your dream lineup for an American tour?

IMANU: I would love to tour with Skrillex, of course. If I’m a bit more realistic, What So Not. We’ve worked in music together for a while. I did a remix a few years ago for him back as Signal, and we exchanged a lot of music. He’s very supportive of me. Boombox Cartel is someone else I’m working with. I did a remix for him, and we have the same agent. Maybe that will happen as well, who knows?

HM: Speaking of other artists, I know that you’ve been super vocal about your opinions on the dnb scene. Who are some innovative artists on your radar that are making a positive impact on the genre?

IMANU: Easiest question of my life. The Caracal Project and Buunshin are my top two right now in terms of new talent. gyrofield, latesleeper, Skylark; I’m probably forgetting some people too.

HM: In 2021 alone, you’ve dropped an official remix for Apashe; “A Taste of Hope” and its VIP; a collab with sleepnet, plus “Skin to Skin” on SLANDER’s label, Heaven Sent. You’ve been posting WIP after WIP, and you even went to Twitter to gripe about having something close to 100 track files–

IMANU: Yeah, but I mean, most of those are nowhere near good.

HM: That’s fair! But what I’m saying is, you’re working hard. You’re saying busy.

IMANU: Every day, every day.

HM: This begs the question – do we have an album on the way?

IMANU: Yes.

HM: Are there any details you’d like to share about that?

IMANU: I don’t have any details yet. I haven’t even said anything about the album to anyone. I’m waiting for it to be a bit more complete, so don’t expect it to come out this year. But I’ve been working on music every day, except for maybe one or two days a month. I mean, honestly, I don’t have anything else to do in life. Everything is closed, shit is boring as fuck, so I’m just working on music.

HM: So if we can’t think about an album this year, what is next for you? Do you have anything else slated for this year?

IMANU: I just dropped a collab with MUSTDIE on his first album, and I have a remix for SLANDER dropping in June. I have a collab on Gud Vibrations in June, and a remix for Boombox Cartel, though I don’t know when it’s coming out. I have a collab with Flowdan also coming out this summer. Potentially, I have a remix for Machinedrum, not sure if that’s coming out.

I’m dropping stuff every single month, I think, for the rest of the year. Not everything is confirmed yet. I told my manager that I want to put out one thing a month and so far I’ve been able to do so. It’s a good way to consistently build a fan base before the album. Then, after that, I’ll probably go on vacation for coffee or something.

HM: You deserve it.

IMANU

TN: You’ve been putting out a lot of music recently. You also performed at Secret Sky, and you’re collaborating with internationally known artists. Has anything that you’ve encountered or been offered during your career surprised you?

IMANU: When I got the stems for “GOH” with Skrillex and What So Not, I almost cried. Noisia asked my manager for a What So Not remix. He told me, “Dude if you want to do a remix, I can see about getting you something.” So I joked “Yo give me the stems for the Skrillex collab.” Fuck it, right? And then I actually got them.

Ever since that happened, I approach artists and say, “Yo, give me the stems.” The same thing happened with the SLANDER remix coming out in June. There’s this saying – I think it’s the same in English; if you don’t shoot you always miss.

Actually, the most surprising thing in my career was getting a SoundCloud DM from Thijs [de Vlieger] (Noisia) asking me for demos for his label, Invisible. I was almost 16, and I thought, “Soundcloud DMs? Who uses that?” Ever since those two things I don’t really ever get surprised anymore.

The next time I’ll be surprised is when Flume or Skrillex asks me for a collab.

HM: What’s your favorite venue to perform at?

IMANU: My favorite venue is probably Tivoli in Utrecht in the Netherlands. It’s a very cool venue. Also, it’s where I’ve done a lot of my most memorable shows.


Food

Food

HM: What is your preferred bathtub frozen pizza?

IMANU: The best frozen pizzas are the simple ones. Just a simple salami and cheese. If you have cheap food, you have to keep it simple, I think. If it’s complex and cheap then it’s shit. Cheap, complex, good – it can only be two of those three options.

HM: We’ve seen you snacking on some pretty extravagant meals besides bathtub frozen pizza. What’s your favorite comfort food?

IMANU: Ramen. Easiest question of my fucking life. I have a tattoo of a ramen bowl on my arm.

HM: What’s your go-to flavor?

IMANU: Tonkotsu miso. There’s one shop in my city that is the best I’ve had outside of Japan. Now that I think about it, it might even compete. It’s how the owner makes the noodles. Across from the restaurant is a windmill that still grinds flour, which is actually quite rare. He uses Dutch flour to make ramen noodles. I did a workshop at the restaurant and learned he uses a mixture of five flours. I think two flours are actually from Japan and three are from that windmill. Five flours for ramen noodles is pretty insane, plus the broth and everything. I had it yesterday, it’s the best.


Fashion

fashion

TN: Do you have a preferred techwear brand?

IMANU: {Shows shirt logo} Y-3, hello? These pants? Y-3. My shoes? Y-3. My coat? Y-3. Always Y-3. If I was rich, I would like to have items from Yohji [Yamamoto’s] own line, but Y-3 is on the fence of being too expensive.

HM: It gets super expensive, but I love high-quality techwear.

IMANU: For sure, and it’s not like I only own this kind of stuff. When I move, I want to donate all our old clothing and stick with only my designer, high-quality stuff and take more care of them. If you have expensive items, you tend to be more appreciative of them. I have so many t-shirts from ASOS, H&M; I spend $20-30, and I wear them a few times, then they’re just stuck in my closet for the rest of time. All my designer/high-end items – I keep wearing them. You get attached to them.

HM: Have you ever thought about making IMANU techwear merch?

IMANU: Yes. It’s actually happening in a few months. Of course, it’s not gonna be Y-3 because I don’t have the resources. Some of the items are already custom-fit designs, so it’s not like we’re getting a logo and putting it on some Gildan t-shirt; I have done the research. I did two t-shirts to test some stuff out. People were very happy with the fit and the quality. It was a bit heavier, a bit bigger, and more durable than most merch. So I’m going to use that as a guide for the shirts, but the pants are actually getting custom-made for us.

Also, they’re way higher quality as well, like this [Y-3] T-shirt. I bought it yesterday, but it’s the most comfortable shirt I have. The pants are comfortable. The fabrics are nicer. I know they’re not as nice as the price in this case because you’re paying for the brand as well, but they’re still way nicer than a lot of cheap items.

I’m very particular when it comes to pants. I hate most pants, and I absolutely hate jeans. I’m sorry if you’re wearing jeans right now.

TN: Seriously, I have not owned a pair of jeans in six years; I almost always wear leggings.

IMANU: Yo, I love leggings! I wear them as well. I love wearing leggings and shorts. The men are getting on it, too. Leggings and shorts. Stocks are high, stocks are high!

HM: If you’re into shorts, I have to recommend a local guy. While attending medical school, he decided to start making shorts on the side, and he’s popping off now. The brand is called Native Language. He toys with textures a lot. Super, super cool. Check them out.

IMANU: I almost always prefer shorts if I wear them with leggings. Shorts are always a bit wide because they’re over your upper leg. The legging re-accentuates body shape and it makes you look way sleeker in my opinion. Especially if they’re black. Of course, I own a pair of Y-3 shorts. Leggings can be cheap because they’re just there to be there.


E-Girls

IMANU: Oh man, I fucking love clothing. Honestly, fashion is my third favorite thing. Well, maybe fourth. No, it’s definitely my third. It’s music, food, fashion, and e-girls, in that order. I wasn’t sure if e-girls were gonna be three or four, but my drip is more important than e-girls.

TN: Clothing can’t leave you, but an e-girl can totally be DM’ing someone else.

IMANU: Oh my god. That’s heartbreaking. Imagine if my drip just decided “Actually, fuck you, John. I’m going somewhere else.” I would cry; it’s mine and no one else’s!

HM: Are you into sports?

IMANU: Nerd topic, I love eSports, and I’m very into competitive gaming. I used to play SOCCER – for you Americans – when I was younger. I played baseball, as well. Then, I injured my Achilles heel, and I quit. I couldn’t really run anymore. I started doing Muay Thai until I moved out, and I stopped doing sports because life’s too hectic. So it’s been hard to fit in sports. However, I love playing sports with friends; Buunshin and his girlfriend, we’ll go to a park and shoot some basketball. For me, it’s way more fun than going to the gym. Because I’ve competitive, I always have the drive to keep playing when it’s a sport, but not when I’m on a treadmill.

TN: What e-sports have you been enjoying?

IMANU: Mainly League of Legends. I also pay attention to competitive Pokemon, though I’m not a massive fan of the official formats. Those are the main two. I sometimes watch TrackMania because the game is like, nostalgia on 100. And I love watching speedruns of anything. Mainly like the classics, like Mario 64. I love speedruns.

TN: What’s your favorite thing to do on Runescape?

IMANU: I love doing slayer, that’s pretty fun. I started a new account because I had a normal account, plus I made Iron Man pure account. It’s not very advanced yet because it’s pretty new, but yeah I love slaying.


When asked the question of if there was anything more he’d like to add, IMANU had only one wish. With great humility and passion, he asked you, the reader, to keep listening and sharing his art so that he may one day be booked for an American tour.

As our conversation with IMANU progressed, we discovered that the only thing that outshines his passion for music is his character. He’s a fun-loving, guy with a great sense of humor and a vision for the future. Adding that to the fact that he’s one of the most talented producers of our generation, we can’t think of anyone more deserving of an American tour.

Thank you, Jon, for chatting with us. We can’t wait to see what you do next.


Stream the latest from IMANU, and let’s get him that North American tour!

new banana, who dis?
Cover photo by Jack Parker.

Keep Up with IMANU:
SoundCloud Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Spotify | Youtube | Website

Looking for new music? Keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts. Updated every Friday with all the latest releases. Whether it’s the newest drops from IMANU, all your favorite artists, some old-school, or underground…we just want you to hear it.

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month! EDM began with the LGBTQIA+ community, and it remains a space to be fully yourself – safely and without judgment. Not only is this a time to celebrate the full spectrums of gender and sexuality, but also a reminder of the continued fight for gay and trans rights. Learn how to support trans rights here. Also, support several causes for the LGBTQIA+ community here.

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