Get to know: Jono Russell discusses vinyl love and earth friendly food

We've had the pleasure of working with Jono to launch his brand new baby- a bouncing two-level modern Italian restaurant called DUMBO in Ubud, Bali. We'd love to introduce you to this DJ turned restauranteur. 

Photo by Arley Mardo for TEDxubud

Photo by Arley Mardo for TEDxubud

What was your vision in building these 3 restaurants in Bali?

The underlying brands or concept between all three of them (The Elephant, Green Ginger Noodle House and DUMBO) is called 'earth-friendly food'. And the meaning of that is that we try and create good food for people that is good for the body and spirit, but also good for the environment. As good as we can be. So we try to reduce our environmental impact through the production- whether making sure that the restaurant uses the right ingredients (local, organic), to recycling and composting, and not using disposable packaging. People come for holidays in Bali, they look at the garbage problem and think it's terrible, but they don't actually take responsibility for their own garbage. They are on holiday and creating garbage, but out of sight, out of mind. We want to make sure at least we are trying to take care of that and be responsible when serving people.

These 3 restaurants, do they share special characteristics?

The main characteristic of these 3 restaurants is that they are all vegetarian because that's my professional preference and my professional philosophy, but also because it’s more environmentally and ecologically sustainable. Vegetarian food is more efficient and less carbon intense, so in the future the planet is going to need more people who eat vegetarian food. There are more vegetarian and vegan people already and we want to make it easier to change by making delicious vegetarian food easily available. Some people in the past had the perception that vegetarian is boring- too healthy, not crunchy, not salty, not delicious. We try to change that perception and also targeted this niche in the market, for people who want to eat responsibly.

You have a background as DJ. Does that affect the mood of the restaurants?

Yes, for 20 years. I DJ'd in Sydney, and then Byron Bay and then Bali. But I used to travel a little bit, I wasn’t an international DJ going around the world, but I played in Tokyo, in Italy or in London. I just had records and traveled. Then I moved to Bali and I was DJing at Kudeta, Potato Head, anywhere that was cool.

We have a pretty good reputation for good music in the restaurant.  If we didn’t then I would be embarrassed. It bothers me at the moment.  I don't like using streaming services because I really like to curate music- every song that gets played on the playlist at The Elephant and Green Ginger and DUMBO, I have picked personally. So in a month, there are 31 playlists that never sound the same. There are maybe some songs repeated, but the playlist is different every day and it changes from morning to middle of the day, through to the night, when it takes on a different energy, different vibe.

In DUMBO at the moment,  we are going for more a mixture of funk and hiphop and electronic music. At The Elephant and Green Ginger, it is a very eclectic mix. We have 80s music, we have some classical music, we have dub and reggae, and pop and folk. It is really eclectic but all carefully chosen to suit the mood in terms of time of day. 

Are you still actively DJing?

Only here at DUMBO. I appear as my alter ego DJ Rocco Stromboli. At DUMBO, we also do Aperitivo hour every Friday afternoon. I'm looking forward to curating a vinyl listening night once a month with some other vinyl junkies.

What's your sound system like at DUMBO?

There are 3 components of our sound system—a really old 45 year old amplifier and tuner and the turntable, which is actually from 2017. It’s new but nothing changes in the technology really. It’s still just playing records. Behind the bar, we have two speakers from the 80s. It’s not the greatest sound you’re going to get. They are not high quality, but it’s definitely enough for this space. I don’t think you’re going have audiophiles coming and going “wow”.  We’re going to make a queuing system, where people will come and put the record aside—like a jukebox playlist sort of thing.

Photo by arley mardo for TEDxUBud

Photo by arley mardo for TEDxUBud