For our final podcast of 2013 – vinyl devotee, Hard Wax curator, part-time journalist, Macro co-boss, family man and a damn near impeccable selector, Finn Johannsen steps up.
Having been one of a select few at the helm of the Hard Wax institution since 2010, it comes as little surprise that they would turn to somebody such as the likes of Finn for the coveted position. Casting his net wide, Finn’s general philosophy when it comes to music echoes the sentiments – if you are no longer being stimulated by what you are hearing, then “look elsewhere, or look harder”. Though in his eyes a decidedly necessary standpoint for somebody that has been frequenting clubs since the 80s, Finn’s ability to keep his finger ahead of the pulse demonstrates a breadth of knowledge that shines through heavily both in his selections and writings.
A unique and highly refreshing figure, Finn turns in over two hours of fresh wax for us – with an extreme wealth of wisdom to back it up, take time with both facets of this episode, as there is much to take in.
So we come to you as 2013 draws to a close – as somebody that is so involved with new releases from far and wide through your position at Hard Wax, do you feel 2013 has been a good year for electronic music? Has your wide-ranging palette been mostly satisfied?
There was only one period where I was really bored with House and Techno, that was the mid 90’s. The wild creativity made way for bigger clubs and the according income boost possibilities, and innovations seemed to trickle in comparison to the years before. But then there were other styles emerging, especially in the UK, and as I dug deeper, I also found enough interesting music to keep me hooked. Which since then I had established as a rule for myself. If there is not enough happening in what you are used to, look elsewhere, or look harder. Since then I did not find any year in electronic music disappointing. I took home a lot of good new releases week in week out, year in year out. Discovering a lot of new names, new labels and lost or overlooked obscurities in the process. For me personally, there is still too much music released that tries to recreate something that has already been done, especially when you consider the fact that both the landmark originals and the according copycat records from the same period of time are easily accessible via second hand. But if I were 20 and just becoming aware of certain sounds, it would probably thrill me in the same way. And of course the overall interest in vintage blueprints brought a lot of interesting reissues as well, some of which I did not know before. But generally the amount of previously unreleased or longtime deleted material is not a particularly healthy sign for such a fast evolving culture like club music. And I could not help noticing that the producers and DJs moaning the most about retroesque phenomena were often a bit more seasoned, and also often the ones seemingly failing to deliver the same spark they felt was now lacking. If you have the feeling that things are developing for the worse, take a close look first at what you can do or actually do about it. In any case, what interests me most is what happens next.
In the Critic’s Round Table edition of RA’s Exchange in August, you state that personally, “surprises” when going out or listening to music are fewer and further between. Though you also state that this is to be the natural state of things when you have been engaged in both activities for as long as you have and those pioneering years have well and truly past.
We’re interested to know what some of these more recent surprises have been and what it takes to grab your attention when you have been steeped in this history and culture for such a significant period of time. And do these increasing lapses between ever cause you to lose some of your vigour for the scene?
I started collecting records in the mid 70’s, 6 years old, and sneaked my way into clubs in the early 80’s. And I still buy records and go out. So a certain degree of recurrences is just natural. Hype tends to move in circles. There are shoes I still like to wear that have been in and out of fashion so many times that I simply do not care anymore if they are fashionable or not, and the same applies to music or club nights. Music production is so standardized by software today that it is unlikely that someone comes up with a sound unheard of before, and using analogue gear does not guarantee an individual signature sound either. For some time now, a lot of interesting innovations in electronic music happen in the realm of recontextualization, deconstruction and interpretation of certain traditions. And if it is done with enough fresh ideas to add a new perspective, I do not mind that at all. I look out for artists who have their own sound. And I must add that in that aspect it does not matter if a producer able to do that is just surfacing or has been around for a longer time. I do not make a big difference between artists refining their own sound, or artists just establishing it. The main difficulty is trying to remain relevant, and I salute everybody trying and succeeding. Thus for example, I had the same pleasure with artists like Mark Pritchard, Soundstream, Pépé Bradock, Terrence Dixon, Kode9 or Terre Thaemlitz still doing their thing as it should be done, as with newer artists like Tapes, Call Super, DJ Richard, Gorgon Sound, Moon B, Aquarian Foundation or MGUN, who are just in the process of developing their own creative persona. There are many more fine examples for both camps, of course. For inconsiderate omissions, please consult what I charted and mixed in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »