Inside the Mind of Johnny openly shares the most vulnerable parts of his headspace.
The Detroit deep house and lo-fi hip-hop DJ and producer unearths past pandemic-filled experiences of heartbreak, depression, loss and other personal struggles on his latest revelatory EP, Hope.
“Hope is about me finding faith and rebuilding my relationship with God as I understand it through music and self-expression and being as honest as humanly possible with how I was feeling while battling overwhelming sadness and depression,” said Johnny Malek, aka Inside the Mind of Johnny.
At the time, Inside the Mind of Johnny struggled with a breakup, the loss of close friends and show cancellations as the pandemic hit. To cope with his growing depression and self-isolation, he spent time rediscovering his faith and spirituality.
“Writing this project was something that truly helped me change my life forever and opened my eyes back to what my purpose on this earth is. It’s to use my expression and creativity to hopefully help and heal people who have been through similar situations like me through my music and art,” Malek said.
Inside the Mind of Johnny’s Hope EP provides an immersive soundscape experience within a beat-filled, musical world. Entrenched in catharsis and enlightenment, the EP’s four “groovacious” tracks instantly soothe and energize the mind, body and soul with each step on the dance floor.
The faithful opener, “Guide Me,” flows and soars as pulsating bass, ticking percussion, alarming synths, sultry saxophone, shimmery beats and assertive blue jay calls engulf listeners in a welcoming trance.
“‘Guide Me’ is truly the most powerful song … off of the EP as it was not only the song that set in motion the entire EP, but it contains the lyrics, ‘Whenever I feel lost/Won’t turn my worship off/ Because you will guide me.’ At this point of positive change in my life, my music has truly been a light in times of darkness,” Malek said.
Inside the Mind of Johnny also battles internal darkness on “Nothing,” as hypnotic beats, otherworldly synths, hammering percussion, subterranean bass, silky cymbals and whispery vocal samples shine a light of truth.
The vocalist sings, “You left me with nothing/You took everything from me,” as the track focuses on battling heartbreak and dealing with mental illness as well as personal struggles.
“I hope to be able to continue to share my journey and emotions through the diary of my music in order to create positive change in the world around me for all my existing supporters and all the new ones I haven’t met yet,” Malek said.
Outside the world of Hope, Inside the Mind of Johnny has released a series of compelling deep house tracks, including the lush, “jazzy jungle” grooves of “Joomanji.” Zippy synths, exuberant saxophone, sparkling horns, soft bass and clicking percussion fuse into an ethereal, transcontinental jam.
“‘Joomanji’ is inspired by the influence of sounds of nature and the world and culture I have encountered in my trips outside of the country to South Africa, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the deserts of California mixed with the soulful sounds of the Detroit city,” said Malek, who started releasing music under the moniker, Inside the Mind of Johnny, in 2021.
“I encapsulated the feeling of what I imagined it would sound like if the city of Detroit were three hours out in the middle of the jungle.”
The Origin of Malek’s Detroit Sound
Inside the Mind of Johnny started discovering the insatiable sounds of Detroit while growing up in Michigan. As a child, he listened to dance music and attended the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), now known as Movement, with his father and brothers.
“My little brother, who is also a musician under the name of Jake from Space Farm, and I used to get in the break dance circles at DEMF when it was free and try to recreate dance moves we learned from watching the movie, ‘You Got Served,” Malek said.
Those early musical experiences prompted Inside the Mind of Johnny to attend his first Electric Forest festival at age 20. As an aspiring DJ and producer, he became infatuated with the festival’s mass production and quality of sound.
“This culture, this feeling, the art, the performers, the inclusion and acceptance of all walks of life … I knew this was something that meant something, and I started working in ways to be a part of it,” said Malek, who’s also previously released recordings as Gyp$y and The Disco Daddy.
As a next step, Inside the Mind of Johnny received a Launchpad and used Ableton to create a unique dance sound inspired by world travels, international cultures and the deep, soulful sound of Detroit city.
From there, he cultivates a mixture of soulful Detroit house fused with the futuristic sounds of techno and the diverse influences of world music. He also has collaborated with several Michigan production companies, collectives and labels, including Magical Mitten Productions, Further Frequencies, Nightsneak and Mean Mug Music.
“Spending time in this community has opened my mind to the true possibility of mixing the two together and traveling to South Africa with my good friend and one of my mentors, Osunlade, to experience an even deeper side of dance music … I finally found what I think my soul sounds like,” Malek said.
“It’s a carefully curated blend of soulful house and techno blended with the percussion and drum grooves of world music. From there, I have curated what I call ‘jungle jazz,’ which is a blend of Detroit techno, soulful and afro house, hip-hop, jazz and funk.”
Falling in Love and Beyond
Inside the Mind of Johnny initially shared his signature sound on the world-influenced track “Falling in Love” as bouncy percussion, floaty synths, infectious bass and cosmic beats drench listeners in a deep, soulful exploration.
The track also features a sampled quote about falling in love from English philosopher-writer-speaker Alan Watts, “There is always a curious tie at some point between the fall and the creation. Taking this ghastly risk is the condition of there being life. You see, for all life is an act of faith and an act of gamble. Surrender, you see, and love is an act of surrender to another person.”
“There is a multi-faceted meaning behind this track as it represents both me falling in love with another person as well as falling in love with music again,” said Malek, who released “Falling in Love” in October.
“It’s the representation of me losing somebody I truly cared about, and the true meaning of falling in love with myself again and my relationship to God and accepting that I had to surrender everything I thought I knew in order to learn what I know now.”
In addition to a growing catalog of singles and EPs, Inside the Mind of Johnny runs Sauced and Found Records, an independent record label, DJ collective and live event company.
He started the project after attending Electric Forest with Jake from Space Farm. At the time, Jake had gotten lost at the festival and thought about creating an installation for people who had been “lost in the sauce,” or who had been separated from their friends.
The idea included creating a space where people could come together and enjoy a safe environment free from judgment.
“I came home from the festival and mentioned the idea to another spirit brother of mine, James Wood, a true legend and major influencer for the modern day rave culture of Detroit,” Malek said. “We went to the drawing board and started printing merchandise, stickers, lanyards and an array of other (items) in hopes of having everybody in Detroit wearing something with the brand on it.”
Along with the Sauced and Found Records team, Inside the Mind of Johnny will host an annual label event, AREA 54, this year at Detroit’s Tangent Gallery. The multi-stage, festival-themed event will spotlight emerging artists in the electronic dance community.
In the meantime, Inside the Mind of Johnny’s Hope EP continues to top the Beatport charts and resonate with a devoted fan base. He’s also focused on recording, producing and releasing a new material, including a live studio album.
“These are the only words I can truly say to express the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I have been feeling since this release (came out). To see the response of the community and how many people can truly relate to what I was feeling when creating this art piece has been one of the most amazing feelings … of knowing that all the pain, darkness and struggle weren’t for nothing,” Malek said.
“I currently have a catalog of music I have produced that I will be releasing throughout this year, including a lo-fi hip-hop album, an extremely diverse array of house music singles and another EP. I’m going to begin writing a full live studio album this year along with an immersive visual project … it will be my biggest project yet.”