DJ Pete & Finn Johannsen – Live At Power House, September 22nd 2018

Posted: September 30th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Gigs, Mixes | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »


Liner Notes: Various – Front

Posted: September 28th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The people of Hamburg rarely boast about their achievements, which is why you probably do not know about the club this compilation is about. But you should know about it. The club was called Front, and it lasted from 1983 to 1997, which in itself is quite an achievement. But what happened there in those years is the real treat.

Hamburg in the 1980s had a vibrant nightlife. Mod, soul and (post) punk culture had seemingly always been covered by numerous record stores, live and dance venues, such was the diversity of styles after disco collapsed in on itself when its boom was over at the end of the 1970s. A lot of people say that this was the time when things got really interesting in terms of music, and they are probably right. Klaus Stockhausen definitely knew that. He started DJing in 1977, in clubs in Cologne, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, and had already reached considerable status when Willi Prange and his partner Phillip Clarke opened Front six years later. They were very keen on laying the focus on quality dance music at their club. They knew about Stockhausen and had been travelling to Cologne frequently to hear him play. And when he happened to visit Front by chance in early 1983, Prange recognized him, fell onto his knees and asked him to become the resident DJ. Stockhausen accepted.

His new workplace offered few distractions from the music. It was located in the basement of a high-rise building owned by Leder-Schüler, a leather manufacturing company, in a rather nondescript business district near the Berliner Tor station, away from the traditional entertainment hotspots near the harbour. But in its early years Front was a strictly gay club, and its clientele made no little effort to enjoy the experience, doubtless content that the straight crowds amusing themselves elsewhere across town were shying away from it. The rooms were raw, with low ceilings and bare walls, and through a long corridor you could either descend further into a bar area, or turn right to the dance floor, which was surrounded by low platforms with railings. The quadrophonic sound system was not exactly an audiophile’s dream, but it was very efficient, and very loud. The light-show consisted simply of strobes and multicoloured fluorescent tubes, lighting up the dark at mysterious intervals, and an illuminated sign reading “Danger”. But the boldest statement was that you could not see the DJ. The booth in the corner was completely secluded, leaving the DJ to check the intensity level through some tiny portholes or, more commonly, by gauging the sheer volume of screaming on the floor (thankfully there was plenty of that). It is still unclear what led the Front owners to build the booth in that way, but it was there right from the beginning, and both the DJs and the dancers appreciated it. It meant that the music unfolded like some force from somewhere else, and it was more important than anything else in the room. Of course you can only make this setup work if you know your crowd exceptionally well and, in return, if your crowd trusts you blindly. And the music was much better than good enough, keeping the attention of revellers throughout the night.

Klaus Stockhausen got to know his crowd very well indeed. Being a resident in those days meant that he played every night from Tuesday to Sunday, for eight to nine hours that he programmed more like a rollercoaster, in terms of tempo and intensity, than a constant peak time. He loved it. He had enough time to test new records and develop a sound that fitted the location and educated the crowd perfectly. Sure, old and new disco and other subsequent sounds as synthpop, electro, freestyle, boogie, hi-NRG and italo where played by other DJs in other clubs around town, but they were not played in the same manner as they were at Front. Klaus Stockhausen had unique mixing skills, with an unerring and adventurous taste, and he worked according to his own intuition, which soon made the Front experience incomparable to other places. He had a preference for edgier, more dynamic dub and instrumental versions and utilized scratching, a capellas and sound effects (the tractor sound bookending the mixes of this compilation being a prime example), and, generally, even if you knew some of the records, at Front they never sounded like you remembered. And they were all played in a way that was so coherent that every further development to the sound palette of the time was immediately sucked into the sound of Front. Thus, from 1984 on, when well selected local stores like Tractor and later Rocco and Container Records started stocking the first house music imports, it did not feel like a major change to proceedings; it felt like an addendum.

But still, after a transitional period, the house sound gained momentum. Around the same time, Klaus Stockhausen started to have a second, equally successful, career as a stylist and fashion editor and, never having been interested in the techno craze or the cult of personality that was beginning to emerge around DJs, he felt it was time to cut down on playing out. Thankfully another, equally talented DJ appeared on the scene with whom he shared the residency until he finally quit in 1992 to concentrate fully on his work in fashion.

In 1984, at the age of 16, Boris Dlugosch educated himself on cassette live recordings from the club and began practicing his own skill set. In 1986 he handed in a demo tape and was rewarded with the job, which, of course, really says something. And soon it became obvious that he could fill the shoes of his predecessor and mentor, even though Klaus Stockhausen had shaped the needs of the Front crowd for such a long time. It certainly helped, though, that the now-dominating house music was evolving so quickly, and that the Front DJs had easy access to the newest releases. But after the early sounds from Chicago had morphed into acid house in the late 1980s, the stylistic variety for which the club was so cherished seemed to be at risk, and the Front residents decided to keep any potential conformity at bay. So when techno established itself in 1990/91, Front did not give in to the desire for harder and steadier beats but instead embraced the machine funk of Detroit, the freestyle hybrids from New York City, and sounds emanating from the UK (the latter also helped by the anglophile tradition of Hamburg’s club culture, the proximity of which had always led to a healthy exchange of  ideas taking place either side of the North Sea). Still, techno was increasingly defining itself in terms of harder and faster and, in the process, it lost its groove. Thus, Boris Dlugosch switched the mode nearly overnight to garage and deep house, and mixed these sounds to such new heights that the typical Front floor dynamics were never lost, they just sounded different. The reputation of Hamburg as national and international hub for house music has its origins right there. House had been played at Front since 1984, so it was one the first clubs outside of the US to feature it, but now it was also defining it. And it was opening up. The door policy was not strictly gay anymore, and guest DJs like Frankie Knuckles, DJ Pierre or the Murk Boys from the US were invited, often playing their first gigs abroad. Nevertheless the club was, in the main, ruled by its resident DJs, first and foremost Boris Dlugosch, but also Michi Lange and Michael Braune. They all defined the ‘90s at Front, as the club managed to uphold its wild hedonism, inventiveness and versatile approach for nearly another decade.

But it was also undeniable that nightlife was changing. More and more DJs entered the scene, and the identification with weekly residencies was fading. In Hamburg, as in any other local club scene, competition was soaring and increasingly crowds grew eager to catch a glimpse of the next big thing, something new, something unfamiliar (however great that was). And, feeling their club was growing apart from that with which they had once fallen in love, the original Front dancers were no longer as fiercely loyal. But pioneering is always easier than maintaining status quo, arguably better, and, true to its original spirit, the club closed its doors at a level that was still extraordinary. And it lives on – you can trace its legend in so many wonderful things.

It really is something to boast about. These mixes by Klaus and Boris in commemoration of Front are long overdue and they stay true to its legacy. Even if they represent but a tiny fraction of the whole picture, they still belong to that picture. And I hope you now want to know more.

 

Finn Johannsen, Front Kid, est. 1987

Forever grateful.

 


@ Washing Machine

Posted: September 25th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Gigs | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Info


@ Power House

Posted: September 17th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Gigs | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Info

Info


@ Michaels Goodbye

Posted: September 11th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Gigs | Tags: , | No Comments »

Info

Info