For the last five years, Dallas-based R&B/electronic artist Ignatius has been in and out of The Kitchen Studios, creating new music with the help of his engineer O.Z. During that time, he’s garnered thousands of plays on his SoundCloud page, gone to film school, took a month off to follow Iggy Pop around the country, was an extra on Twin Peaks and became a dog walker. But you’ve probably never heard of him — and that’s probably because he’s never stepped foot onto a performance stage.
Ignatius, aka J.P. Truman, who’s taken his stage name from the main character of John Kennedy O’Toole’s tragicomedy, A Confederacy of Dunces, grew up in Dallas. An only child raised by a single mother, his formative years were greatly influenced by her and her profession as a backup dancer. “She danced with Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Paula Abdul — that whole cheesy pop group,” he says with a laugh.
While Ignatius says '80s pop idols Prince and David Bowie are two of his biggest influences, as he got older, his musical and creative tastes expanded to include D’Angelo, Sam Cooke and even surrealist mastermind David Lynch. His passion for music gradually evolved into a desire to create, so he booked some studio time with The Kitchen's mixmaster, O.Z., who has also worked with local rappers of note Blue, the Misfit and Sam Lao. “He just came to the studio about five years ago,” O.Z. remembers. “J.P. was a kid and he kind of wanted to rap, but he seemed hesitant.” It would be almost a year until the two would meet again.
At the end of his freshman year, Ignatius found himself back at The Kitchen, and this time, he had something different in mind. “He wanted to freestyle and just hear his voice,” O.Z. explains. “It was a while of him playing with his voice, then starting to play with production and beats. But then we started making songs.”
Ignatius’ vocals are haunting — blue, velvety and echoing Paul Banks with intermittent dashes of Chet Faker. They’re set against myriad beats, synths and, sometimes, steam engines. It’s hard to place his music into a genre. The track “Prepared” is a mellowed out, sugary tune, “The Natural” sounds like some kind of alternate reality hip-hop and “On the Regular” falls somewhere on the spectrum between those two extremes.
“I really think, in a way, he’s defining the sound, live, right now,” O.Z. says. “Even with the two upcoming projects. There’s the hip-hop, the electronic, but then there’s this organic R&B. We’re really working off of three different sounds right now.”
To say Ignatius is eccentric would appear to be bit of an understatement. Earlier this year, however, Ignatius officially resigned his post at film school, citing “creative differences,” and began to focus all of his time towards his music, which he has been creating in bulk. Over the next couple months, Ignatius plans to drop two new albums: Memory Eternal, which will feature a multitude of different producers, such as Antonio and Tobias, followed by Where the Spirits Roam, which will simply feature Ignatius and O.Z.
As he sees it, both albums are meant to show his versatility as an artist, by collaborating with as many, and as few, creators as he sees fit. “That’s the main reason I’m doing this album with my engineer. It’s just to show that we can produce songs without using other producers that have completely different vibes,” Ignatius says.
To O.Z., Ignatius’ ability to channel his influences into a whole new creation is a rare find in the music industry. “When I hear artists or producers doing derivative work, I’m like, ‘Damn, do you not have the ability to take the larger idea from something? To go a little more macro? Are you not able to zoom out at all?’” But, he adds of Ignatius, “He’s got all of this Bowie influence, but it’s cool because he’ll take the energy of something and use it to make something new, rather than just copying it.”
As far as live shows go, Ignatius says that’s where his sights are set to next. But before he can do that, he needs to wrap up production on his projects. And as a Twin Peaks super fan, he plans to pull from his experience as an extra on the upcoming, revamped cult classic to provide some epically bizarre visuals to go along with his performance. “We were in this closed down women’s shelter that hasn’t been used in years, I go in the hallway and there’s smoke everywhere. Then, out of the smoke, here comes David Lynch and he was like, ‘Oh, hello there!’” he remembers. “That’s my goal. My absolute dream is to do a song for David Lynch, if he ever does a movie again.”
In the meantime, Ignatius is focused on finishing his projects any way he can. “I tried to get a serious job at the Blind Butcher, but it didn’t really work out. I was in training, but this other guy had more experience. So, I’ve just been walking dogs, doing small jobs, to get enough money for the studio.”
That said, we’re not totally sure we know that much more about Ignatius than we did to begin with. But this we do know: Ignatius is an enigma, cloaked in a mystery, currently being played out metaphorically in the mind of Special Agent Dale Cooper. And he might just be the anti-hero Dallas music needs.