Jonny White is on a mission. As a cofounder of the electronic duo Art Department, he has spent nearly a decade vitalizing dance floors, from behind the booth or piped through speakers, in meccas such as Ibiza and Berlin. The group’s 2010 hit, “Without You,” earned widespread acclaim as dance track of the year and cemented Art Department at the core of the underground house and techno scene. Since then, the group’s hypnotic, dark, but otherwise accessible style has often made it an entry point for new listeners to the genre.
But White’s ambitions don’t stop with music. The Canadian producer is deeply concerned about animals as well. He’s spearheading Music Against Animal Cruelty (MAAC), a nonprofit with the goal of saving African wildlife from inhumanity.
“Man, we’re losing 300 species of animals a day right now,” White says. “Think about that shit for a second. I’m including all animals, and that includes insects as well, but that is just an insane statistic. They need help, man.”
There are, of course, all the poster species of endangered animals, ones that are desperately cute and culturally significant, such as pandas, Florida manatees, and Galapagos tortoises. But there are scores of other animals whose existence is under fire by humans.
“The wild dog is in serious trouble,” White says. “Pangolin numbers are dangerously low, rhino, lion, tigers, you name it. It’s a grocery list, man. Name just about any species and look at their numbers 30 years ago against what they are today. This is a dire situation, and it isn’t happening naturally. It’s happening at the hands of humans, and [the animals] can’t protect themselves from them.”
White stresses that “them” does not include “us” — or, rather, that it doesn’t have to. It might be next to impossible to live a carbon-neutral life 2018, but opportunities to limit your footprint have never been more available than in the information age. It just takes awareness, consistency, and empathy — qualities White thinks are plentiful and tappable in the house and techno scene.
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“Are people in our community empathetic towards wildlife and issues with conservation? Yeah, most definitely — anyone who isn’t is a fucking sociopath," he says. "OK, maybe some people don’t care about these issues as if it’s their own, but are they empathetic when faced with the information, when it’s put in front of them?”
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White joined forces with Wade Cawood and Jack Baucher, from Pulse Radio and Tears for Tigers, respectively, to announce MAAC in 2017. So far they’ve given a talk at the International Music Summit in Ibiza and hosted a few fundraisers for Lion Guardians in Kenya and Rhino Conservation Botswana, but White stresses this is just the beginning. The MAAC website, savethemwithsound.org, is slated to launch in the next few weeks.
“We... have a lot of weight from our community behind us, which has been, not surprisingly, easy to solicit,” he says. Support has arrived from promotors and venue owners, while artists such as Nicole Moudaber, Jamie Jones, and Dubfire have signed on as ambassadors. “This is gonna be a powerful movement when we realize its full potential. The thing I’ve gotta make clear is that this goes beyond just our community. This isn’t just techno against animal cruelty. This is music against it. This is a global force against treating animals like they have any less right to be here than we do.”
Art Department. 11 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Wall Lounge, 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-938-3130; wallmiami.com. Tickets cost $40 via tablelist.com.
Descend. With Art Department, ALX, Victor Calderone, and others. 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at the National Hotel, 1677 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-2311; nationalhotel.com. Tickets cost $35 to $50 via electrostub.com.
Andhim and Art Department. 11 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at Ora Nightclub, 2000 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-912-1010; oranightclub.com. Tickets cost $10 via nightout.com.
Rapture Electronic Music Festival. 7 a.m. Thursday, March 22, at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-960-4600; virginiakeybeachpark.net. Tickets cost $80 to $150 via residentadvisor.com.
Paradise in Space. With Art Department, Jamie Jones, Nicole Moudaber, and others. 11 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-357-6456; clubspace.com. Tickets cost $60 via residentadvisor.net.