Finn Johannsen – Artcast 127 & Interview

Posted: February 9th, 2022 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Mixes | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Hello Finn, pleasure to speak to you. What did you have for breakfast today and what does an ordinary day your life look like in these times?

I made myself a sandwich with cheese and Salame Milano, with a bit of of French dressing. I did not start baking bread or similar. I am happy with what I can get at the supermarket, and I have plenty around. I am a nocturnal person, my daughter too. But as soon as she is asleep I often watch a movie or a series with my wife and when my wife is asleep as well, I head over to my study to work, listen to music or read. If I have no meetings scheduled the next day I do not have to get up that early so I mostly stay up late. Once I get up I fix myself a small breakfast, read the news and then start working again, correspondence or whatever else needs to be done. I try to have that finished until my wife and daughter come back from work and school, and then we have lunch. Then either work, homework and spending some time together. I did not get infected so far, but I am aware that it will happen eventually. I am not afraid of it and vaccinated, but I try to avoid it as good as I can because I do not want to spread it further. So apart from occasional meetings for work or with friends and getting necessary things for our household I am mostly staying in. I have read Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 yet again, and I agree with its protagonist Yossarian that there are plenty of people out there conspiring to kill me, and I am determined to not let them. To stay fit I use a rowing machine on a daily basis.

Speaking of “these times“, we are now almost two years in this pandemic, clubs open, clubs close, some have to close forever, some are able to survive, but nobody knows yet what price the scene, the clubs have to pay. How have you been keeping up with the ever-changing situation and how do you wish to be supported by the government in “these times“?

It is of course very frustrating. We worked very hard to keep Paloma alive, and when we were allowed to open again it felt like a reward for all our efforts. Then after just a few weeks it was all over again, and it was total letdown. I will not complain about the governmental support. It was kind of remarkable how chaotic it was organized though, and in many ways the pandemic also affected the previously indestructible myth of German efficiency very severely, but at least we had support, other countries were not as well off. Generally, I was not as optimistic as others about how the pandemic would progress, but I was very disappointed that this winter turned out to be even worse than the one before, especially because I feel that this situation could have been avoided by more timely and efficient measures. I was sure from the start of the pandemic that clubs would be way down the crisis management priority list, but I get angry when people not do their best to bring this to an end, and if it was only to show solidarity with others more affected by the situation. I was not exactly surprised that parts of our society would only care about their own good, but I was surprised to what extent. What optimism I had when the vaccinations began to roll out faded as soon as I realized that a good and necessary deal of the German population would refuse it. These days, I stick to the actual facts in the news that seem reliable and valid for how things will potentially develop, and I try to keep away from all the opinions flying around that do not help one bit to change this for the better. I do not want to discuss the pandemic anymore with people who mostly only display their own selfishness, or cowardice, or doubt, or fear. To fight a pandemic of this scale is a group effort, and I am really tired at this point of those that do not want to act accordingly. What effects all this will have is still speculation, as we are absolutely not through yet, but I am sure politics and the economies will eventually recover but there will remain a trauma, in terms of both physical and psychological conditions, and not anybody will be able to overcome it so soon. The price to pay? We all will pay a price. But better to pay a price than to die.

How does the uncertainty these days influence your booking behavior for the Paloma?

Well, you make the best of what you can do, and you try to act responsibly. We had to cancel a lot of dates, and when we learnt that we can open again we tried to catch up with all those cancellations first, instead of starting from scratch with everything. But we were expecting to open sooner, and when we could not do that we had to postpone and reschedule whole monthly programs, a process that we are unfortunately in again right now. But we were in constant crisis management mode since March 2020 and after all this time we would surely not give up now if we are not forced to do so. Of course there is also always some level of uncertainty when you book for a club, and now that level was quite enormous, but we are a good team and we prevailed, so far. It is frustrating that we also had to cancel some gigs again for now, but we will try to make them happen at a later point, which will be a challenge too. Other than that you also have to adapt in ways that you were not used to before. For example we priorized DJs that had no other income like a day job or similar, which was not a point before DJs had a regular income from playing out. Or we were very strict to meet all the Corona restrictions at the door, and bookings fell through because the DJs did not have the necessary documents to enter the club, and other DJs were not fully vaccinated or not intending to get vaccinated at all. The majority of DJs understood and respected that we were so strict though, only a minority did not. This also applies to our audience. Most guests were glad that we did our best to make our club as safe as possible, and brought up the patience for all the according door proceedings.

Following the question before, do you think that in general clubs’ bookings have or will change due to the pandemic and do you wish for a renaissance of the local DJs taking over club nights instead of international ones?

There was a divide in DJ culture in terms of fees and gig count before the pandemic, and I have this theory that it will grow. There are top tier DJs that fly around the world and earn silly money, mid tier DJs that can live from DJing, but with a certain level of uncertainty, and low tier DJs that already needed other sources of income before to make a living, with way more uncertainty. Now the low tier DJs switched to other sources of income for good because they had to, more than before. Either they were just starting out to get a reputation, or they were satisfied with just playing out. Of course the current situation is a blow, but they might be able to carry on, even if it requires to start all over again. The top tier DJs either did not interrupt their program anyway during the last two years, or they now benefit from the situation, because most bigger clubs are so in debt since closing that they probably play safe and book only headliners they think will guarantee a full capacity. In this case the mid tier DJs are worse off, because they are caught in the middle. They do not pull enough people to fill the bigger clubs and they are too costly for the smaller clubs. I really hope I am wrong, but as soon as the clubs could reopen last year, you could well observe this pattern. And this of course also applies to these hopes that the local scene will play a more vital role. Doors were open again, and you could often see that DJs were flown in again, the DJ middle class was kind of diminished and some local DJs did not get more than the function of a cheap filler. I do not really think that there will be a renaissance of local DJs. I suppose as soon as bookings can be regular again, most clubs will fall back to old habits, or even worse. Of course there are clubs like Paloma with a limited size and accordingly limited budget, and they will always book local talent because they cannot afford regular and costly travel logistics. But they do not determine the business, and they also might not be able to pay your rent.

When speaking of club culture in the northern hemispheres of Germany people speak of the “three Ps’ – meaning the Pudel club in Hamburg, Panoramabar and Paloma. In a nutshell, what unites these three nightlife institutions and ideally how can clubs cross-fertilize each other?

I must say that I have not heard of these three P’s in unison before, but I think it is rather flattering. Pudel and Paloma sure are comparable in some ways. Both have a hub function in their local scenes and support a local network and fresh talents, and their musical agenda is similar in terms of quality and content, the size is similar as well, as is the attitude, and both share the same graphic designer, the wonderful Alex Solman. Panoramabar sure is a different and bigger thing, and a whole other status, but I think what unites all three clubs is that they are all very special places. I had memorable nights in all three both as a DJ and as a guest and that is probably the most common denominator. The best way to use similarities is of course to work together, which we do, particularly with Pudel, with which we have regular exchange. But we do not only invite DJs from the Pudel network to Paloma, we also have nights with Panoramabar DJs, regular ones and residents. I have a whole lot of respect for both clubs, each in their own way, and I think we can all benefit from each other, and we do.

Let’s leave the club topic behind a bit. When speaking of you and looking at your vita the word versatile is basically inevitable. You DJ, you run the label Macro with Stefan Goldmann, you do the bookings for the Paloma and Monarch clubs, you used to write for various magazines and you worked at famous record store Hard Wax. How have all these different approaches to music helped you to overcome the past months and what’s your preferred field of working?

Well, music is just really very important to me. I listen to music every day, and even more in the last months than usual, which really helped me to stay sane. Everything I do for a living is connected with music, and as you mentioned I do and did a lot of different things. Music just makes me happy, and what makes me even happier is when I am able to spread music that I think is worth more attention than just mine. My preferred field of working is always the one that helps me to achieve that best. DJing was the first and is still vital in that aspect, the label allows me to explore ideas other than just my own, as does the booking. I do not write as much anymore as I did in the past, but if it is a good topic and I can find the time I still enjoy it. I could also support a lot of music at Hard Wax for some years, but I took up booking while I was still working at the store, and I had never done booking before, just getting booked myself, and at some point I realized that I could provide said support more efficiently with the booking, so I decided to leave. But it is all kind of in flux, and always has been. I have been fortunate about opening doors, so there might be another step in the future. But I am really very happy with what I am doing right now.

What two other attributes suit your character and how do they support the before mentioned field of working?

I would say I am curious. I can be very enthusiastic, but I also lose interest quite quickly. I can be quite thorough if I am interested enough. I do not like routine. All of these proved to be quite helpful in terms of creativity.

Coming back to your versatile being, musically you are also quite versatile. Firstly, would you say that musical versatility is something that comes with age as at some point people stop being as stubborn or nerdy? Secondly, what does the first thing you pay attention to when listening to new music and add to your “playlist“?

Hm, I am often suspected of being a nerd, my glasses do not help there, but I do not really feel like one. Of course I am aware that I know way more about music than the average listener, but for me that is a natural process. I just listen to so much music that it would be plain weird if I would not gather some knowledge about it. And I like to learn about the context of what I am hearing, and I can save the information in my memory, which is the same with literature or movies. The versatility sure is a result of both my wide interests, and my longterm occupation with being out to discover. As anybody else, I have some preferences, you can identify them all if you follow me, but I could never stop with what I already knew and then just maintain it. Basically I am open to anything in terms of creativity, if I investigate it and it is not for me I just move on to the next, but so far I never felt like stopping. Maybe that is the stubbornness you were suggesting, in my case. What I pay attention to first while at it is probably ideas, and a an artistic signature. Mostly I am hoping for something completely new to me, sometimes I am content with a fresh approach to things I already know and like.

Have you noticed a change in taste over the pandemic due to the fact that clubs were closed or open for not so long?

My listening behaviour patterns kind of strengthened. Even before the pandemic I listened to less club music, because it was all around me anyway. That kind of music did not quite solely become a commitment connected to work, but it was heading there. I began to reserve my time off work for other music, sounds that do not have to fulfill a purpose of being useful with what I am doing for a living. Apart from checking music styles I had not explored before I am also always willing to revise verdicts I made on some point about music I checked earlier on, or even whole genres. Sometimes you are not in the mood to get it, sometimes you are just ignorant, sometimes it does not feel right at the time. And taste should not be too static, else you just miss out. I do not mind if music clicks with a delay of even years, if it clicks. What I also had to notice is that the older you get the more you look to your past. I revisited some music of my youth, and it still clicked too.

What have been your three favorite musical findings over the past weeks?

1) German trap or drill music is much smarter than I thought. 2) I may read as many books about Krautrock as I can get a hold of, but I will never like the bulk of it more. 3) I will probably never have the patience for ambient music.

What has kept your relationship with electronic music passionate and what was one of the tracks that made you fall for it in the first place?

I love how much music that was created years ago still sounds like the future, and is still being processed. I am convinced at some point it will all implode and make way for something completely unheard of, and I am looking very much forward to completely not getting it. But I will sure try to. As for love at first listening probably I Feel Love by Donna Summer or Das Model by Kraftwerk, off the radio as a kid. Boring as it may be, I am old enough to claim that, though it probably was Popcorn by Hot Butter. Honourable mention: LFO. I used to claim in several heated debates that LFO was the first electronic music that really sounded like the future. I still stand by that.

What’s a musical extravaganza you’d pay for if money was not a thing?

It might be more an availability issue than money, but I would love to dance to Klaus Stockhausen at least one more time, all night long. Paloma would be a fine place for that, but any place would do. He is still the best DJ I ever heard, and I heard many.

Speaking of money, a lot of renowned artists played at the MDLBeast Soundstorm festival in Saudi Arabia a few weeks back. Does money deprave some people’s character that they play for controversial governments or is this simply the price the scene has to pay due to the pandemic development over the past months/ years? What is your opinion on that topic?

I think it is problematic to single out that event as an indicator for all that is wrong in club culture. Of course that festival was quite questionable, but then again so many events are, if you take a closer look. The more money is flying around the more it is likely that the source of the money is questionable. But it is a business. As long as there is a market for it, it will keep happening, and it happened before so many times, out in the open as with that festival, or not. I was surprised by a few names on the lineup, but I think on a certain level there just are some skeletons in the closet everywhere. Not that there are necessarily no or less skeletons on a lower level, mind. I must admit that it does not bother me too much, it is like a parallel universe for me. I know some people from earlier on who achieved that status, and they made their decision for success, and now they have a business to run and the according obligations, and others may need more and more money because they also spend a lot of money, for whatever. Of course this kind of circuit is decadent and the money is obscene, but there are so many alternative ways of doing events. If you feel this is depraved, you may support the other, or do your own. But you will find depraved characters everywhere you go.

Which of your morals could you never throw overboard or are non-negotiable?

I am no saint, and I made my mistakes. But I try to neither hide nor repeat them. But I am really allergic to hypocrisy, especially if it is a strategy.

After so many years in the scene/ business what piece of advice would give to your younger self?

Do what you really want to do, but do never behave like an idiot.

What’s a superpower you wish you had and how would you use it?

I would love to be able to make everything that is fun healthy. I would use it all the time, everywhere, and for everybody.

Original source:

Black Moon – Reality (Killing Every…) (Instrumental)

Lord Finesse – Actual Facts (Instrumental)

Diezzle Don & Tha Governer – Hood Thing (Instrumental)

Kool Keith – Sex Style (Instrumental)

Heltah Skeltah – Place To Be (Instrumental)

Supernatural – Buddah Blessed It (Instrumental)

Paul Nice & Joey T. – Born Invincible

Diezzle Don & Tha Governer – So Now You Know (LP Instrumental)

Heltah Skeltah – Da Wiggy (Da Wiggstrumental)

I-Cue – Pass It Around

Group Home – Express (Instrumental)

Cocoa Brovaz – Drama (Instrumental)

Joanna Law – Love Is Not Enough (“We 3” Dub)

Krumb Snatcha – Gettin Closer To God (Instrumental Version)

Big L – Street Struck (Instrumental)

Shabazz The Disciple – Crime Saga Spiritualmental (Death Be The Penalty – The Sequel)

Fat Joe – Firewater (Instrumental Version)

Edo G. – Acting (Instrumental)

Finsta And Bundy – Sunnyside (Instrumental)

Black Moon – I Got Cha Opin (Instrumental)

Diamond & The Psychotic Neurotics – You Can’t Front (…It Is Real) (Instrumental)

Jeru The Damaja – Come Clean (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Extortion (Instrumental)

Biz Markie – Studda Step (Instrumental)

The Nonce – Mix Tapes (Instrumental)

O.C. – My World (Instrumental)

Showbiz & AG – Spit Beats

Mobb Deep – Blood Sport (Instrumental)

Smif-N-Wessun – Bucktown (Instrumental)

Trends Of Culture – Who Got My Back? (Instrumental)

Wisdom – All Star Jam (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Animal Instinct (Instrumental)

Rob Swift Feat. Cracker Jax – Nickel And Dime (Instrumental)

Smif-N-Wessun – Let’s Git It On (Instrumental)

Smif-N-Wessun – Wontime (Instrumental)

Major Stress – Stuy Beats (Instrumental)

Goodie Mob – Goodie Bag (Instrumental)

O.G.C. – No Fear (Instrumental)

MC Shan – Shan & The Queens Connect (Instrumental)

Special Ed – Freaky Flow (DJ Premier Remix) (Instrumental)

Heather B. – If Headz Only Knew (Instrumental)

Pizzicato Five – This Year’s Girl #2

CRU – Wreckognize (Instrumental)

Jhelisa – Friendly Pressure (Cool Breeze Instrumental)

China Black – Searching (Heavy Tactic Dub)

Mad Doctor X – Believe In Your Stealth

Jesus Loves You – One On One (Massive Attack Dub)

Bassline Feat. Lorraine Chambers – Back To Bass-ics

Lord Finesse – Hip 2 Da Game (Instrumental)

Edo G. – Dedicated (Instrumental)

Erick Sermon – Welcome (Instrumental)

Smif-N-Wessun – Stand Strong (Instrumental)

Concrete Mob – Boiling Point (Instrumental)

Masta Ace Incorporated – Sittin’ On Chrome (Instrumental)

Group Home – Supa Star (Instrumental)

King Midas Sound – One Ting (Dabrye Remix)

Fresh 4 – Smoke Filled Thoughts

Method Man – All I Need (Razor Sharp Instrumental)

Wu-Tang Clan – Can It Be All So Simple (Instrumental)

K-Otix – 7 MC’s Pt. II (Instrumental)

Lord Finesse – No Gimmicks (Instrumental)

Showbiz & AG – Full Scale Beats

Just Ro – Confusion (Instrumental Version)

The Pharcyde – Y? (Be Like That) (Jay Dee Remix Instrumental)

Ras-T – Ill Nig (Instrumental)

Imam Thug & Tragedy Khadafi – The Bridge 2000 (Instrumental Mix)

Mad Lion – Double Trouble (Remix Instrumental)

Rock The M.C. – Don’t Stop The Hip Hop (Dub Instrumental)

Warren G – I Shot The Sheriff (EPMD Instrumental)

Five Deez – Time Is Night

Paul Nice & Joey T. – Dance Of The Drunken Mantis

Big Willie Smith – Keep It Real…Represent ’96 (Inst.)

Spooky & Billie Ray Martin – Persuasion (Inward Mix)

The Brotherhood – Mad Headz (More Edz Remix) (Instrumental)

Stereo MC’s – What Is Soul (Instrumental)

Dr. Octagon – Earth People (The Earth Planet Mix)

Shabazz The Disciple – Conscious Of Sin Spiritualmental

AZ – Uncut Raw (Instrumental)

Brothers Of The Mind – Rough & Tough (Nitetyme Instrumental)

Big Noyd Feat. Mobb Deep – Recognize & Realize: Part 2 (Instrumental)

Shara Nelson – Inside Out (Underdog Mix)

M People – Search For The Hero (Smith & Mighty Dub)

Leta Davis – Joey’s Groove

KRS-One – Questions & Answers

Mobb Deep – Survival Of The Fittest (Remix Instrumental)

Heather Park – I Miss You b/w Shook Ones

Mobb Deep – Give Up The Goods (Just Step) (Instrumental)

Gabrielle – Because Of You (Delta Dubwize)

Goodie Mob – Soul Food (Album Instrumental)

Ice-T – The Tower (Album Instrumental)

Dan Wicked – Puerto Ricans On The Rise (Original Street Version)

Five Deez – Chilly Most (Instrumental)

Reborn – Right To Be (Epic Mix)

Smith & Mighty – Anyone… (Dub Mix)

Massive Attack – I Against I (Instrumental)

Lenny Dennis – Lovin’ You

LL Cool J – Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings (Remix Instrumental)

Latin Alliance – Know What I’m Saying (Pal Joey Instrumental)

Ice-T – New Jack Hustler (Stress Mix)

Chill Rob G – The Power (Instrumental)

Company Flow – Infokill (Instrumental)

Micranots – Exodus (Instrumental)

Vordul Mega – Neva Again (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Get Away (Instrumental)

Nick Wiz – Darkside beat 84

Deltron 3030 – Things You Can Do (Instrumental)

Dr. Dooom – I Run Rap

Vakill – Flows U Can’t Imagine (Instrumental)

Nick Wiz – Fall Back

Pete Rock – Walk On By beat

D.I.T.C. – The Enemy (Instrumental)

Showbiz & AG – Time For (Instrumental)

Masters Of Illusion – Back Up Kid

Dr. Dooom – Apartment 223

Kool Keith – Sly We Fly

Showbiz & AG – Stand Strong (Instrumental)

Chubb Rock – The Mind (Instrumental)

Kool Keith – In Your Face

Pudgee – King Of New York (Instrumental)

Lord Finesse & O.C. – Ya Better Recognize (Instrumental)

Ghostface Killah – Camay (Instrumental)

Tragedy Khadafi Feat. Capone – True Confessions

Freestyle Fellowship – Can You Find The Level Of Difficulty In This? (Instrumental)

Showbiz & AG – You Know Now (Instrumental)

Dr. Dooom – Neighbors Next Door

Showbiz & AG – Ain’t No Fun (Instrumental)

Analog Brothers – 2005 (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Party Over

Stieber Twins – Hash

Stieber Twins – Fahrenheit 72 (Instrumental)

Dilated Peoples – The Main Event (Instrumental)

Cora E – Next Stop New York (Instrumental)

Stieber Twins – Allein Zu Zweit (Instrumental)

Cora E – Hip Hop Gibt Mir ‘N Titel (Instrumental)

Nick Wiz – Still Low

Mobb Deep – Eye For An Eye (Instrumental)

Kool Keith – Plastic World

Analog Brothers – Analog Annihilator Vrs Silver Surfer (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Right Back At You (Instrumental)

GZA – I Gotcha Back (Instrumental)

Showbiz & AG – Check It Out (Instrumental)

Dr. Dooom – Leave Me Alone

Kool Keith – Still The Best

Cora E – Tracks Ohne Refraingesänge (Instrumental)

Lootpack – Lost Art (Instrumental)

Cora E – Lügen… Ihr Kriegt Mich Nie (Instrumental)

Aceyalone – Microphones (Instrumental Version)

Stieber Twins – Tausend MCs (Instrumental)

Asheru And Blue Black – Dear You (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Trife Life (Instrumental)

Clipse – Mr. Me Too (Instrumental)

Masta Ace Incorporated – Livonia Ave.

GZA – Cold World (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Q.U. Hectic (Instrumental)

7L & Esoteric – Operating Correctly (Instrumental)

Killarmy – Street Monopoly (Instrumental)

Showbiz & AG – Under Pressure (Instrumental)

All Natural – The Return Of The Avenger (Instrumental)

Nick Wiz – The Melody

Masta Ace Incorporated – Bellmont Ave

Foreign Legion – Full-Time B-Boy (Instrumental)

Deltron 3030 – Virus (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Where Ya Heart At

The Roots – In The Music (Instrumental)

Masta Ace Incorporated – Pitkin Ave.

7L & Esoteric – Mic Mastery (Instrumental)

Masters Of Illusion – Time 2 Get Right

Masta Ace Incorporated – Sutter Ave.

One Be Lo – Decepticons (Original) (Instrumental)

The Unspoken Heard – Nigga Like Me (Eye Level Instrumental)

Masta Ace Incorporated – Stone Ave.

Lone Catalysts – 3 Yrs (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Let A Ho Be A Ho (Instrumental)

Masta Ace – Don’t Understand (Pump It Like This) (Instrumental)

D.I.T.C. – Internationally Known (Instrumental)

Grand Agent – Know The Legend (Instrumental)

Mobb Deep – Adrenaline (Instrumental)

Masta Ace – Good Ol’ Love (Instrumental)

P.O.S. – Crispin Glover (Bonus Instrumental)

Masters Of Illusion – U Want Freestyle?

Lupe Fiasco – Dumb It Down (Instrumental)

Smut Peddlers – That Smut (Instrumental)

DJ DSL – Coming With The Sound

Mobb Deep – Quiet Storm (Instrumental)

Slum Village – Get Dis Money (Instrumental)


Posted: March 30th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Mixes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hausmusik is a chronological retrospective of club music from Germany, Austria and Switzerland from 1989 until… 

Artwork by the ever genius Philip Marshall.

This is quite a huge project, and it will probably last several years. Please note that the concept has nothing to do whatsoever with national pride, I do not have one patriotic inch in me.

I am doing it because:

  1. The music is great.
  2. It is a pandemic situation. If I cannot work creatively as I used to, I have silly ideas or go mad. Probably both.
  3. Whenever I played a record from this context at gigs in the past, somebody came up to me and asked me about its origin, and reacted with complete surprise when I told them.
  4. Being born and raised here, you get to meet people who do great music also born and raised here, or living here for a longer time. Some of them became friends, others I admire. Some are quite well known, some lesser so, some are not known at all. I wanted to pay my dues to all of them.
  5. Every record from Italy or Japan was already featured.
  6. Times are hard. I need to boost certain Discogs stocks.
  7. Club music from Germany, Austria and Switzerland? You mean like Techno? Mostly no.
  8. Club music from Germany, Austria and Switzerland? You mean like Minimal? Mostly no.
  9. Club music from Germany, Austria and Switzerland? You mean like House? Mostly yes.
  10. Haha, seriously?
  11. Yes, you’d be surprised.

Hausmusik is airing the first Thursday each month. I will also put the episodes online in a dedicated playlist with download option and tracklist at Soundcloud and hearthis, one week later.

I put up a list with the records I used. It will be updated as soon as I finish recording another episode, so you can check upcoming content if you are impatient:

Please also note, this retrospective is highly subjective. If I did not include a particular record you love (or produced), it is either because I do not know it, or I do not have it. But please feel free to tell me about it!

I hope you enjoy listening to the music as much as I do.

Hausmusik all night lang!

XLR8R Podcast 676: Power House (Finn Johannsen & DJ Pete)

Posted: December 29th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Mixes | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »
Photo by Laura Marchand

What have you both been up to recently?

Finn: Mostly spending as much time as possible with my wife and daughter, family and friends. I have been constantly DJing and working on a lot of other things for years and years and I used this unexpected time off to take a break, but I am also catching up with all the books and films I gathered for some occasion, and other interests I had to neglect due to too little time or too many distractions. Else I have not played a club gig since March. As I am a seasoned DJ I sometimes wondered how it would feel to retire at some point, and I guess I know now, and I realized that I am not yet ready for it. I still buy as much music as I can still afford, and I do radio shows and podcasts with it, and I try to be up to date with what is still happening. Generally I try to act as responsible as I can in this situation and make the best of it.

Pete: My girlfriend moved in and we used the unexpected time off to settle down. I am also still working at Hard Wax once a week, and I practice my daily Yoga routines. As far as DJing is concerned, I played a few open air gigs that met the necessary regulations. But only until the beginning of November.

How has lockdown been for you both?

Pete: I could never really develop some kind of lockdown routine. It just felt just too absurd to spend most of your life indoors, in your own space. Like not being able to meet friends where and when you want, to visit a restaurant, cultural activities, and so on. But we try to adapt to it, and make the best of what we can still do.

Finn: A lot of what I have been doing for decades fell apart within a very short time, and that was quite frightening. But Macro, the label I run with Stefan Goldmann, did not stop, and most importantly I did not have much time to brood over the situation as Paloma, the club I have been doing the booking for in the past few years, shut down in March and pretty much instantly went into crisis management mode. We organized a successful crowdfunding campaign, a series of exhibitions, a quarantine podcast, fashion items and set up a label, and we are constantly thinking about other ideas to keep the club going and support our network. So thankfully I was quite busy, and I still am. Hopefully this will keep up until things swing back into action, and I kind of ignore the possibility that they might not.

Which artist and/or labels have caught your eye recently?

Finn: I was quite happy with the way UK Garage came back, there is a lot of interesting fresh new stuff on labels like Instinct, Dr. Banana, Vitamin D, and many others. On a disco tip I think Javi Frias, Snips, Very Polish-Cut Outs and the Sound Metaphors camp are doing mighty fine edits, and in terms of house music I think labels like Must Be On Wax, Blaq Numbers, Random Mind State, or Distant Horizons are well worth checking out. As a quite loyal soul I still cling to artists like Jeff Mills, Nature Boy, Kai Alcé, Dave Lee, Hanna, Boo Williams, Pépé Bradock and friends like Dynamo Dreesen, SVN, SW., Fett Burger, Lowtec and the whole Workshop posse, they all keep on delivering. But, as many others, I spend more time with music at home now, and there I am mostly listening to old soul music and new hip hop, and according mentions would definitely blow up this frame.

Pete: I still dig what old friends are doing, like Sleeparchive, Shed, or Surgeon. I also enjoyed current releases by Ploy, the Zenker Brothers or Leibniz. The recent albums by Autechre and Actress also really blew me away.

With clubs closed, this period has been difficult for DJs. What do you make of the government’s response?

Finn: Well, this period has been difficult for almost anybody. In hindsight a lot of decisions how to handle the pandemic were obviously too late and probably too hesitant. The virus hit hard because practically only few goverments were at least a bit ready and well equipped to handle such a situation, and more often than not they were simply overwhelmed with the quick rise of infections and how it affected the whole system. Some countries were run by incompetent politicians that had no real clue how to answer it, and still have not. The fact that there were so many populists in charge sure did not help either, and that hey had so many supporters that believed them. Rather expectedly the cultural sector was the first to go down, and will probably be the last to come up again. But we are also aware that Germany was not affected as badly as so many other countries. There were fundings and help programs early on, where in a lot of other countries people in creative professions were just left in the cold. But we understand if people in said professions get frustrated with how financial help is distributed, or when they get official advice to work in other fields or to apply for unemployment benefits, because what they have been doing for all their lives is just way down on the priority list. And on top of it there is the threat that many institutions and locations will just vanish, and nobody knows how they ever will be replaced, if at all. It is important to keep all this alive, but it is also important that the ones demanding support step out of their bubble and ask themselves if what they want to keep doing is a potential threat to many others right now. The virus is just very contagious, there is no cure as of yet, and reason and patience are key.

Where and when did you record this mix?

Finn: The mix was recorded live at Paloma on the evening of October 16th this year, using our usual setup of two turntables, a TR-909 drum machine, and a delay unit.

Can you talk about some of the artists that you’ve included?

Pete: A Power House night is a perfect opportunity to play music by artists I have really internalized over the years. With the selection for this set I wanted too express my love for Detroit music, as I often do. But in the process of preparing a Power House set I also often discover certain artists all over again. This time that was the case with Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes.

Finn: In the past we often dedicated Power House nights to certain topics, but this time I just wanted to play some records that I had not used yet. In my case it turned out to be mostly pumping US 90s house, just because I was in the mood for it. The sound of these records is quite representative for what I play when I opt for that direction, and the overall sound was also more vital than the individual artists. But of course you can hear some people that often pop up in the Power House canon, like Masters at Work, Tony Rodriguez, Eddie Perez, the Melillo brothers, Jason Nevins, Scott Kinchen or Eddie Maduro. Shout out to the La Mona family in France for providing a rather obviously fitting intro track, and Hans Nieswandt, who gave the fledgling Paloma imprint a glorious unreleased track from the 90s that is just working hard. As for the outro, you have to keep in mind that Power House nights at Paloma usually go on for eight hours, and the last bit is often reserved for early morning bliss and odd ones out, and here we condensed it a bit. The Blaze acapella is blowing a kiss to our beloved crowd, we indeed were wishing you were there, and the last record is a kind of relief ending, and I cannot tell more about it than that it is a Japanese record I found in a cheapo bin and I loved it ever since.

What made this mix so memorable?

Finn: Playing music together again, and doing it where it all began, and like we always do. Of course we missed our dancers, but it felt good to realize that our dynamics can be activated in any context.

Pete: I wallowed in the memories quite a bit. Our nights together offered so many, and it all came back. Finn is a friend, and a selector capable contantly coming up with musical surprises. We swing each other up. And it felt great being able to use our setup of the delay unit, and mixing my live 909 beats with Finn’s acapellas. That combined makes it even more fun, and I think you can hear that.

Full feature

Theory Therapy 10: Finn Johannsen

Posted: June 23rd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Mixes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

How are you today?

I am fine, thank you. My daughter will be home from school soon, and she had a test today, for a cycling license. She was very excited about it and I hope it all went well. Else I am pondering what we will have for lunch today, and I am thinking about fresh ideas to save Paloma, the club I am booking here in Berlin. Later my wife will be back from work and we will have some time together before I will meet a good friend, and I am thankful that such simple things are possible again. But right now I am listening to music and reading the news.

Can you tell us a little bit about the mix? What were you feeling when you made it?

I was actually playing two gigs in Melbourne and Sydney in March when the virus basically took my whole life apart back home on the other end of the world, which was very surreal and confusing.

Finn at Sydney Harbour in March, following his last gig in Australia with DJ Sprinkles.
Finn at Sydney Harbour in March, following his last gig in Australia with DJ Sprinkles.

I always loved playing this kind of sound, but a main reason to fully indulge in it again was my closing set at Inner Varnika two years ago where I ended the festival on this tip, and the result was a beautiful and lasting memory for me, and apparently many others. So there was a connection that came to my mind when you asked me. That, plus I feel too uncomfortable at the moment playing a club set like nothing happened. 

What I felt while actually mixing it? Gratitude for all the good times I had, the good music I found on the way, and the fine people I could share it with. I was feeling a bit hopeful too.  

Where did you record the mix?

At home, on a bright morning last Monday.

What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?

I really had none particular in mind. I am honestly not sure how the situation affects the way people listen to music, or if that has even changed. Ideally, it stills works in various settings, and it may succeed in making them more enjoyable.

Are there any tracks you’ve used in the mix that are special or significant to you?

Rather expectedly I love all the tracks I used, but being a bit older I always loved Paul Rutherford, and I realised I never had the opportunity to include this record of him crooning about the moon. So thank you!

What’s on the cards for 2020?

I was at the movies in 1992, watching “Sneakers”, and when every member of the team was asked to make a request in return for the decryption chip, Whistler said, “I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” That’s all I ask, too.

Interview and tracklist

Black Seeds – Cool Me Down

Epo – Koino Hito Hira

Natalie Williams – This Girl

Lindy Layton – Wait For Love

Keni Burke – Risin‘ To The Top

Lisa Stansfield – Never, Never Gonna Give You Up

Cheyenne – No Number 1

YBU – Soul Magic

Nikke Nicole – I Believe

Paul D.C. – Unofficial Business

Paul Rutherford – That Moon

Marvellous Marvin – What‘s Going On

Kyoko Koizumi – Yo-Ru

Loose Ends – Love‘s Got Me

Temper Temper – Talk Much

Salt-N-Pepa – Express Yourself

Marissa – Love Is Just A Game

Rewind: Davina ‎- Don’t You Want It

Posted: February 1st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

To Underground Resistance’s early fans, it wasn’t surprising when the Detroit outfit released club music with vocals. Mike Banks produced the garage house group Members Of The House, which released a 1987 album and a string of acclaimed vocal EPs. The first release on UR’s main label, Your Time Is Up, featured the singer Yolanda and a take on the sound Kevin Saunderson made popular with Inner City, backed with remixes that hinted at what the determinedly underground techno sound would become.

When they released “Living For The Nite” in 1991, again with Yolanda, it was already clear that vocal house was an integral part of UR’s sound. It worked with their rolling, pumping grooves. But the success of their pure techno overshadowed these moments, especially when the European press portrayed UR as a Detroit techno counterpart to hip-hops’s Public Enemy, noting the masked personas of Mike Banks and Jeff Mills, and their unmasked political attitude. Different strands of the UR sound were eventually channeled into separate outlets, and thus Happy Records came into being, serving as the label for house productions from 1992 to 1994. (It was followed by the sister label Happy Soul.)

Happy Records soon established itself with positive releases produced with frequent collaborators like Niko Marks, Yolanda and Bridgett Grace, the latter a former vocalist of the 1989 club hit “Take Me Away” by the UR predecessor True Faith. Her “Love To The Limit” was a fine example of how well Banks’s production worked with an anthemic vocal. And yet those accomplished records, even if they were recognisable as UR productions with a distinctive signature sound, could still be placed in the early vocal house canon of 1992, before house music reached the huge crowds of later years.

In 1992, vocal house was not as punchy as it would become. Most garage records paired their sweet melodies with swinging, elegant grooves. Usually, the “main mix” of a track was that tune in all its glory, while the more daring ideas were kept for the dubs and instrumental versions. But then Davina’s “Don’t You Want It” arrived, produced by Mike Banks. It was a mighty tune that worked within the conventions of vocal house while also shaking its foundations.

First, there was the intro, where dynamic chords were waiting to be teased by the DJ. When I heard the intro for the first time, it reminded me of David Morales’s mix of Black Sheep’s “Strobelite Honey,” albeit on another level. The track unfolds into a hybrid of uplifting, soulful garage and UR’s deeper techno sound (heard in tracks like “Sometimes I Feel Like” and “Jupiter Jazz“), adding layers of bittersweet pads and dramatic starts and stops.

And Davina? Unlike most vocal tracks, she isn’t heard until a heavenly break around three minutes in. The track was already perfect, but the magic really happens when she begins to sing. The lyrics neglect conventional verse-refrain structure, instead choosing a direct, personal conversation with the dancers. At seven minutes, the track certainly isn’t short, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sad when it fades out.

The high point for any producer is to make a track that reaches classic status. It’s even better when that recognition comes from different scenes and styles. “Don’t You Want It” works within almost any context, from small night to a large rave, uniting more crowds in instant happiness than almost any other. As soon as you hear it, you will definitely want it. And more of it, again and again.


Anthems: Unit, Hamburg (1989-1999)

Posted: November 25th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

When the first Unit club opened in Hamburg in 1989, it was embraced as an alternative to other places that ran on tighter curfews and were often in less central locations. Unlike Front, the pioneering club that introduced house music to Germany—and arguably continental dance floors—, the first Unit at Talstrasse was right in the middle of one of one of Europe’s biggest entertainment areas, notorious red light district around Reeperbahn, and because of this its parties could last longer.

At first, the music at Unit was no different to what was played elsewhere around town—a typical post-acid house boom mix. Soon though, the resident DJs like Gary D, Tobias Lampe and Henry, and the booked national and international guest DJs, shifted towards techno and later trance, and Unit became a leading light in establishing and pushing these sounds further alongside other national mainstays in Berlin and Frankfurt.

The first Unit space had to close in 1994 due to increased crime in the area, but it reopened the same year as Unit II in a temporary location also close to Reeperbahn, before Unit III settled in an old factory space in another district. But as the club grew bigger in size and ambition, the crowds did not follow suit, and Unit closed for good in 1999. We asked DJ Tobias Lampe for a list of records that made the first Unit incarnation and his and Henry’s residency, called Pure Energy, such a lasting memory.

A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funki Dredd, “Total Confusion (Heavenly Mix)” (Tam Tam Records 1990)

“This is one of the early anthems at the club, which I think was also already heavily played by the first Unit DJs Pari D and Double UMF. The early years were actually very open minded. They played a mixture of house, hip hop, techno, even downtempo beats and a style called hip house. And it mirrors pretty much how it was working in the UK as well, this period when nobody at the rave had bad feelings about having 808 State, Snap, Frankie Bones, Orbital and Guru Josh all on the same stage.”

Foremost Poets, “Extended Sight Version (Foresight Version)” (Nu Groove 1990)

“I guess I first heard this magic piece when Boris Dlugosch played it at the Front club. Hard to explain why, but it certainly always created this magical, intense atmosphere, both at Front and at Pure Energy on Fridays, where Henry and me played this track nearly every week. Few other tracks can capture the feeling of the time so intensely—back then it was led by house and techno music from London, New York City, Chicago and Detroit. Front club was immensely influential, as well as the Friday shopping trip to the Container Records store, which imported all the music directly. As Boris Dlugosch played less and less techno at Front, we tried to play and represent all facets of it at Pure Energy, and especially techno from Detroit.”

Mental Mayhem, “Joey’s Riot” (Atmosphere Records 1990)

“Particularly in New York City, labels like Nu Groove and others were releasing music that sounded like both house and techno. We celebrated exactly these hybrid sounds and in hindsight this may have been what Hamburg was always about. Always open-minded and somehow in between. We were obviously trying out all kinds of sounds at that time. We played pretty hard banging techno and early trance, but at the core of what we played was always what we called tech-house. This prime goose bump example of the tech-house sound we loved was produced by Joey Beltram, who for us was one of the leading New York producers in this field.”

Format, “Solid Session” (ESP Records 1991)

“This Orlando Voorn one was a what we called a Voll-Brett. Brett means plank, it’s a term used for particularly efficient floor fillers—we adopted this language from the Frankfurt scene. It’s a sure shot that always makes happy faces in the club. It was one of the obvious anthems, at least for our nights.”

The Hypnotist, “Pioneers Of The Warped Groove” (Rising High 1991)

“We organized bus trips from Hamburg to the first Mayday festival and Love Parades. I still remember we spent three days setting up the first Break The Limits Rave at Kasematten/Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, and after we were done partying, we took down everything and then headed towards Berlin for Mayday in a bus packed with Hamburg ravers.

Henry and I were so exhausted that we had to cancel our Pure Energy gig there, and instead we partied on as best as we still could. And then, at some point, The Hypnotist got on stage, and they threw hundreds of green glow sticks into the crowd. The lights and fog did the rest.

The scenery at Halle Weissensee was magical, and then the music came on. It simply blew me away how many musical influences they could bring together. Trance was not a musical term for us then, but if you apply it to a state of mind The Hypnotist probably was the act that nailed it down best, particularly at that gig. Of course, we couldn’t help it, and felt the urge to celebrate these tracks at Unit, ideally from 4 a.m. onwards.”

Ramirez, “La Musika Tremenda (La Tormenta Mix)” (DFC 1991)

“Ramirez produced at least two masterpieces of early tech-trance (which is what we later called this style), and this is one of them. I do not know how to describe it precisely, but the track had this subliminal dirty touch, and when I hear it, I will forever think of sweat-drenched ravers, flickering strobe lights, thick fog and the experience of walking out into broad daylight after partying. This track was always the one to mobilize the last reserves.”

Golden Girls, “Kinetic (Frank De Wulf Remix)” (R&S Records 1992)

“In this list, I’m also trying to illustrate how a lot of different scenes and circles from different parts of the world created this magical universe of sound we enjoyed at that time. This is a perfect example of the influence of the Belgian sound. I still think that Belgian and Dutch music’s influence has always been under rated. This one was a huge and surefire banger at Unit.”

Vainqueur, “Lyot (Maurizio Mix)” (Maurizio 1992)

“This track is emblematic of the influences of Berlin and Detroit to our sound. The Berlin/Detroit axis was in early progress at that time, and we took pilgrimages to Berlin to find this sound at Hard Wax and Delirium. We partied to it at Tresor, Teknozid and Planet, but also at Hamburg’s Front club, before the first Unit opened. For us, Basic Channel’s discography offered the first serious releases from Berlin, even in terms of techno. I think we also believed Maurizio was someone from Detroit. The minimalistic, dubbed out and darker aspects of techno, tinged with some references to EBM, played an important role at Unit. Actually my first night at Unit was on a Wednesday and it was called Tekkno Club, with two k, of course. It was more dedicated to EBM, Dark Wave and Acid, and then it opened up to the influences from over the pond, UK, Berlin and Frankfurt.

Vapourspace, “Gravitational Arch Of 10” (Plus 8 Records 1993)

“I cannot recall where I first heard this, but I remember how blown away I was. Since then, I wanted to share this feeling, and it was played at least twice a night. I also remember we played around with switching out the lights out and blasting the fog machine before the kick drum came in, and it always led to incredible screams from the dance floor. Not much later, Henry and I promoted the Plus 8 night with Vapourspace live alongside DJ sets by Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva. We were pretty amazed by his analogue live set extravaganza.”

Marmion, “Schöneberg“ (Superstition 1993)

“Henry and I were doing the Pure Energy night every Friday at Unit. We hosted probably all the relevant names at that time, from Derrick May to Sven Väth. It was such a small scene in a few German cities in those days that we all felt a bit like family. Early friends from our rave travels to Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich were, for example, Mijk van Dijk and Marcos Lopez, who gave me this Berlin production as a demo a few days after a gig at Unit. This EP and track actually became one of the milestones of Superstition Recordings, the label I just had founded three releases ago. Especially this fourth release earned the label and both producers a huge international following. And the track is what I call a perfect combination of house and techno elements; it’s a real techno house classic.

Electronic Beats 11/19

Liner Notes: Various Artists – Hamburg Soul Weekender

Posted: October 1st, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

The weekender is a very British thing, particularly combined with that other very British subculture: northern soul. When the first National Soul Weekender took place in Caister in 1979, some ways of celebrating the rare soul music scoring the scene had already been well established: sweaty all-nighters happened all over the country, where dedicated dancers and collectors met and kept the fire burning. And all-dayers came into being, allowing the people to indulge in their passion in different places, with less strict licensing obligations. The clues were all there. British people liked the idea to escape their urban working lives to the seaside on weekends. And the mod culture, always strongly related to soul music, followed suit, partying (and sometimes fighting) on coastal promenades, beaches and clubs, as immortalized by tabloid headlines, and a certain rock concept album plus movie. The brilliant idea in Caister, however, was to combine all-nighters and all-dayers, and given the unreliability of the British weather, the concept was due for success. If it rained, you just danced in a club, and other places. If not, you had fun at sea, and then danced, day and night, the whole weekend.

Across the North Sea in Germany, it seemed like only matter of time that all this would catch on. And indeed, when the British mod revival of the late 1970s hit continental shores, it ran through open doors, and the soul part established itself as a subculture as stubborn and ardent. The German weekenders followed a different path though. Starting in 1990 in Berlin and then led by annual events in Nürnberg and later Bamberg, Dresden, Leipzig, Bremen, München, Aachen and more, the locations were in cities. Hamburg is located very near to the UK and accordingly anglophile, and came fully equipped with a sizeable harbour and airport, and so what happened in the UK arguably left a quicker and bigger mark there than elsewhere in Germany. The city also had a long tradition of dancing to soul music to rely on, and a vital club culture, with a long string of cherished soul nights like the Soul Allnighter at Kir, Shelter Club, For Dancers Only and more recently The Soul Seven, Motte Allnighter, Cole Slaw Club, Cool Cat Club and 45 Degrees, just to name a few. But, strangely enough, it had no soul weekender.

In 2007 this changed, when Ralf Mehnert and Jan Drews Tarazi established the Hamburg Soul Weekender, with Tolbert taking care of the all-dayer part. As the three of them were longtime respected DJs and collectors, the weekender had notable line-ups right from the start, and every year a thousand international, national and local soul enthusiasts gather in the storied venue Gruenspan in the seminal Reeperbahn area, to dance and party to the finest 60s and 70s northern soul, modern soul, funk, r&b and other related trends within the scene that were always spotted early on, and with a keen eye. The music has been played by over 120 top of the league DJs from all over the globe so far, and it was always spread across a long weekend of two all-nighters, one all-dayer, a boat cruise through the harbour and an after party.

This schedule surely gives leeway to play a whole lot of music, and this compilation can only offer a mere glimpse of all the tunes that got the loyal crowds moving, but it is a heartfelt thank-you to all the dancers who have attended so far, however often they return. And for those who have not witnessed the magic of the Hamburg Soul Weekender yet, please consider this an invitation.


Hamburg Soul Weekender

Rewind: Losoul – Belong

Posted: September 30th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

There were several reasons for the popularity of minimal techno and house in the late 90s and early 00s. For one, a lot of electronic club music of the preceding years was quite boisterous. Its ingredients and purpose was often not exactly subtle, satisfying clubbers and listeners that emerged from the acid house and rave days with direct signals and relentless dancefloor dynamics. And as soon as a sound becomes too dominant in the club scene, there is a reaction, and alternatives develop, and as it happened with the minimal approach they might even take over what was happening before and become dominant as well. And a freshly initiated influx of dancers and listeners had also come with different musical requirements. While the big room and big festival acts like Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers converted a rock clientele to the dance floor, a lot of people who earlier preferred less heavier independent rock music fell in love with the early Detroit minimal techno prototypes by Robert Hood , Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin and Daniel Bell, and its more dubbed out counterparts around the Berlin conglomerate of Basic Channel and its affiliated labels, or Wolfgang Voigt with his Profan and Studio 1 imprints in Cologne, or Force Inc. and later Perlon in Frankfurt or Säkhö in Finland, or Peter Ford‘s Ifach and Trelik labels. Furthermore the club scene itself went through changes. Budget airlines stormed the market and made travelling to parties affordable, new open air venues and festivals entered the circuit but they had to make concessions to surrounding areas and embraced a sound that was efficient without significantly loud and low end sound systems. Also drugs like ketamine or GHB became popular and their users liked a sound that was more reduced, hypnotic and subtle. And soon enough minimal techno crossed over to house as well, and was out to conquer.

Right in the centre of these developments was the Frankfurt imprint Playhouse founded by Ata and Heiko M/S/O, which began as the housier end of parent label Ongaku Musik, along with its fellow sub label Klang Elektronik. It put artists like Ricardo Villalobos on the map, as well as Isolée or Roman Flügel with his Roman IV or Soylent Green aliases, and they reinterpreted house music with a lot of attention to details, abstraction, reduction and repetition. Peter Kremaier aka Losoul was arguably the most defining artist in the label‘s early stages, and his productions had a signature sound that is still unique. He probably was inspired by the layering experiments of DJ Pierre‘s wild pitch sound or the immersive deep house of Ron Trent and Chez Damier, but his own tracks soon took off into their own creative zone. Beginning with 1996‘s „Open Door“ the following 12“ releases „Mandu“, „Don Disco De Super Bleep“, and „Synchro“ were masterclasses in dancefloor mesmerism. Over beats more pumping than those of his label peers, subliminal percussion and chopped chords, he worked with deconstructed disco and funk loops and occasional vocal samples that were so perfectly captivating that he could ride them over extended tracks that gradually introduced element after element with logical patience, resulting in trips you felt should never stop. But by the end of the 90s the structure of his tracks became less strict, and he also explored different sounds on dark, bass heavy tracks like „Ex.or.zis.mus“ or „Brother In Love“, to fine effect. It seemed what was still needed was an album to round up this artistic phase of his, before he would potentially venture into something new, or different.

When said album „Belong“ was then released in 2000, it came as surprise to many of his followers. The opener „Taste Not Waste“ is deceiving, as it is a brooding punchy excursion that would not have been out of place on the preceding 12“s, but already the following track „Late Play“ is a weird off-centre sounding sketch in comparison, hinting at the fact that the artist would not give away the chance to represent more of his repertoire than his trademark club stylings. „Resisting Curare“ takes up on the quirkiness, albeit speedier, while „Overland“ is an eccentric and playful take on the ever reliable Billie Jean groove, coming across like a cross between the original groove and „Kaw-Liga“ by The Residents, with extra weirdness. Then things take another unexpected turn with „Sunbeams And The Rain“, which in my humble opinion is one of the most astonishingly beautiful and sublime tracks ever to merge deep house and techno. Only slightly erratic, this majectic masterpiece is followed by the chunky slow groover „Position“, which dubs down the proceedings before the sparsely tripping yet funky „Depth Control“, another demonstration how much you can achieve with just a few thought-out, gripping elements. Next is „You Can Do“, which contains the sunniest loop Kremeier produced up to that point, a spiralling, almost balearic melody which does not let go for most of the track, thus resulting in another track you can completely lose yourself in, although it achieves that typically intense Losoul sensation with an untypical joyful mood. The last track „Trust“ is a warped and chopped hip hop version of Bill Withers‘ „Use Me“ that would grace any tape of later L.A. beatmakers, and it makes you wonder what whole other sounds the artist might have left in the vaults.

Although Losoul has continued to drop releases of consistent quality, I think „Belong“ marks the end of a certain era, in which he acted as a true solitaire, even among likeminded and similarly talented cohorts. To me it seems that only shortly after the imaginative ideas of the minimal techno and house of those years time soon were often forsaken for a sound that was already looming, more eager to please, and less interesting to listen and dance to, however exceptions might prove the rule. But it is undeniable that here lies the foundation for many backlashes and resurgences to come.

Resident Advisor September 2019

A guide to big room house anthems

Posted: September 24th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

There was this moment in the 90s when the sound of house music changed, with lasting consequences. I would say it began in 1993. Of course technical progress in terms of production techniques and equipment played a role, but it was also very important that the music itself became more popular, and attracted bigger crowds, which led to bigger clubs, and a house sound that pumped crowds and clubs of that size sufficiently. In the following years the superclubs emerged with corresponding budgets, and they needed DJs that played accessible enough to please and unite as many people as possible. This created a divide between denonimators, as simultaneously a lot of DJs and producers defined quality in a different way, and played different styles, to smaller crowds, in smaller clubs. There were DJs and artists that lived in both worlds, or crossed over, and both worlds had different levels of credibility, and success. But increasingly the circuits frowned upon each other, and disrespect was mutual. The big room house music examined here was produced at a time when it had a really bad reputation, being accused of being commercial, devoid of original ideas, or milking once original ideas for far too long. Indeed the sound templates for the music in this playlist had been established years before, and it seemed as if they were only developed further if really necessary. Some of the big room artists were once renowned for different music, and many were quick to maintain that at some point they were selling out and adapting to lesser creative requirements to do so. And some smaller room artists were maybe just envious and could not produce a tune that sold as well, and just claimed they did no want to. And of course for a lot of people it does not matter what size the room has, they just go for music based on their individual preferences, and find that in different contexts. But meanwhile in the early 00s, big room house had its apex of booming beats, dramatic breakdowns and disco samples, and here are some prime examples of the sound.

Victor Simonelli – Ease Into The Dance (Stellar, 2000)

Victor Simonelli has many great moments in his back catalogue, and in my opinion this on par with his most cherished productions. For me the combination of the bodiless vocal sample and the pumping yet and elegant deep groove is as immersive as Love Inc.’s “Life’s A Gas”. I’m serious.

Lenny Fontana & DJ Shorty – Chocolate Sensation (Original Force Mix) (FFRR, 2000)

Johnny Hammond’s early disco staple “Los Conquistadores Chocolates” was sampled countless times, but not as sweeping as on this belter. Extra props for the extended filter break which then erupts into Loleatta Holloway on the top of her lungs. This track pushes all the right buttons, and works although you can predict any move, only that every move sounds even more striking than the one before. If you have never been on a dancefloor exploding to this, you really missed out.

Groove Assassins – Everything I Knew (Black Vinyl, 2000)

If some of the orchestral disco maestros would have still been active in the 90s their music could have sounded like this. Even if this is just a reconstructed original from their heyday, with a heavily beefed up groove. Nick Moss and Will Hague understood the craft of their forebearers on this track, and they made it their own.

Rhythm Section Feat. Donald O – Do You Know (Main Mix) (MAW Records, 2000)

Every disco DJ should bring at least one Chic Organization production to their party, and every disco loving house producer should sample at least one as well. Henry Maldonado went for “My Forbidden Lover” and then he turned it into a glorious garage opus, co-written and performed by the great Donald O. This should have been much bigger than it actually was, but it is never too late.

David Bendeth – Feel The Real (Jazz-N-Groove Ultra Classic Mix) (Audio Deluxe, 2000)

“Feel The Real”was indeed an ultra classic, albeit on the jazz funk/disco circuit of the 80s. By the time this was released Jazz-N-Groove had perfected their slick but heavy groove template so impressively that they basically could have applied it to any tune they were given and come up trumps. Judging by their vast output, some say they did just that.

LoveRush – Luv 2 See Ya (Joey Negro’s Vocal Mix) (Azuli, 2000)

Joey Negro always knew how euphoria works, and here he aimed straight to the highest level of it. There is some sweet innocence about the tune, but the pumping groove underneath and several breakdown dramas tell you to work it. Hard.

Copyright Presents One Track Mind – Where Would You Be? (Main Mix) (Soulfuric Trax, 2000)

The way D-Train’s “Music” is filtered up and down here is very reminiscent of the finer moments of the French House phenomenon, but the groove somehow is not. It is just too pushy and impatient, and the vocal samples get a more generous treatment, verging on harmony. All good decisions.

Johnny D & Nicky P – Wild Kingdom (4th Floor Records, 2001)

Of course big room productions could work well with deeper sounds, and Johnny D and Nicky P aka Johnick knew how to achieve severe dancefloor hypnotism anyway. As always when they are in charge, the music has this strangely psychedelic notion, and „Wild Kingdom“ is another of their real gems to get lost in.

Sunshine Anderson – Heard It All Before (E-Smoove House Filter Mix) (Atlantic, 2001)

E-Smoove was mostly not as smoove in the 00s as he had been before (but who in this field actually was), but if you remix a sleek R&B hit, you cannot fire on all cylinders. Still this has the right amount of infectious funk and it does not divert any attention from the song. If you think of the proximity to garage vocal harmonies there were, rather surprisingly, not that many great remixes that managed to aptly transfer R&B to a house context, but this one gave a lot of the right clues.

Kraze – The Party 2001 (Love City Club Remix 2) (Groovilicious, 2001)

It reads so unimaginative, taking Todd Terry’s “Can You Party” and the acapella from Kraze’s “The Party”, two early house productions that were completely overused at that point, and turn them into a fierce banger that pretends New York City’s big room haven Sound Factory never closed. And actually the way the track works all that is really not that inventive. But as it steamrolls you on that floor, you will not care one bit.

UBP Feat. Bobby Pruitt – We Are One (Jazz-N-Groove Hands Up Vocal) (Soulfuric Recordings, 2001)

I love how this mean little melody never lets up, totally regardless of the fact that there is a funky booming bassline, a quite shouty soul singer, a female choir, and several breakdowns, the whole big room house gospel spectrum. This is a big show, but one detail steals it. Genius.

DJ Oji – We Lift Our Hands In The Sanctuary (Anniversary Vocal) (Sancsoul Records, 2001)

The original was one of the churchiest of the churchy house anthems, a whole nocturnal service for those who need the club as a shelter and a place for relief and rejoicing. 95 North remix it into a way more urgent groove, but do not sacrifice any of the worship and righteous spirit. Hands were lifted and love was alive, again.

Jon Cutler Feat. E-Man – It‘s Yours (Kaze Retro Mix) (Chez Music, 2002)

The original was a jazzy funked up groover that was hugely popular, but Frankie Feliciano boldly opted for a complete rework, keeping the keen message intact but underlying it with unsettling and swirling sounds and beats that reference Pépé Bradock‘s „Deep Burnt“ and a lot of earlyTodd Terry productions.

Los Jugaderos – What You Doing To This Girl? (Norman Jay’s Good Times Re-Edit) (Junior Boy’s Own, 2003)

In 1996 Ashley Beedle and Phil Asher turned a marvellous 1979 disco gem by Dazzle into a blinding and tripping house excursion. Seven years later the original rare groove don Norman Jay gave it a remix, and when I read about that then I was expecting it to sound truer to the Dazzle original and Jay’s own legacy. But to my surprise his version was way punchier, and to my joy he highlighted all the best bits even more. Pure disco house bliss.

Hardsoul Feat. Ron Carroll – Back Together (Classic Main Mix) (Soulfuric Recordings, 2003)

Nothing better than to conclude a fine time at the big room house club with a big room soulful vocal house hymn. Even better when that tune is ever so slightly less big roomy than what happened before, but still easily keeps up the intensity and punch, just because it is a wonderful piece of music that knows and serves its context. From here you may start all over again or leave it behind, but both happily.

Electronic Beats 08/19

Rewind: Baby Ford – ‘Ooo’ The World Of Baby Ford

Posted: July 20th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

Although acid house exports provided the sound blueprints for Second Summer of Love in the late 80s, the rawness of the US originals often did not really match the ecstasy fuelled day-glo hedonism that was sweeping UK clubland. Of course the pioneering tracks from Chicago, Detroit and New York had the same huge impact in English clubs as they had in Continental Europe, and the American originators brought music that was informed by no less aspiring ambitions, but it was also often produced on the equipment that you could afford in problematic social environments, and its initial target group was more local, and on another street level than the almost proverbial MDMA hugs between football hooligans or other thugs and the dancers they were previously beating up. But UK pop and club culture had interpreted outside influences into something more pop before and sent it back, as it had happened with the British Invasion in the 60s and lovers rock in the 70s, and house, and particularly acid house, was no exception. In the UK, some clever people not only heard a difference, they also understood that it had potential far beyond that. Just a new, small and dedicated scene at first, but maybe more. Or even much more.

Baby Ford seemed to have a very clear vision of what was missing for the music to really cross over and reach such potential, and with his first promising releases from 1988 up to his first album „Fordtrax“ he brilliantly merged inspirations from Larry Heard, Derrick May or Todd Terry with a knowledgeable pop sensibility. But in contrast to other successful London cohorts of the Rhythm King label like Bomb The Bass, S‘Express, The Beatmasters, and Coldcut on their label Ahead Of Our Time, he did not succumb almost entirely to the charms of the wild days of sampling, instead aiming more for his own musicianship than a wild collage of references with a beat. And in contrast to Manchester artists like 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald, who achieved a similarly distinctive sound, he was ready, willing and able to sing as well, and he implied his sense of humour. Be it „Ooochy Koochy“ or „Chikki Chikki Aah Aah“, his music was catchy and smart, but instrumental gems like „Fordtrax“ already proved that he knew how to arrange and set a mood. He seemed to make fine use of his influences as much as he made them his own, and he established a mini-canon of his own work in which his ideas naturally referred to each other.

Already a year later his second album „’Ooo’ The World Of Baby Ford“ aimed considerably higher. There are variations of „Fordtrax“ material but in a different, more mellow mood („Milky Tres / Chikki Chikki Aah Aah“). Which is perfectly ok if your source material is good enough to be reinterpreted in such a short time. Other tracks like „Let‘s Talk It Over“ or „The World Is In Love“ have a similar mood, somehow as urban as pastoral, sublime and full of hope. „Beach Bump“ or „A Place Of Dreams & Magic“ are more over the top, reviving the camp fun of „Oochy Koochy“ and other livelier tracks he made before. And then there are tracks that hint at the idea of this album as a continuation of gone but yet still lasting UK youth cultures. In terms of music „Poem For Wigan“ and „Wigan“ have not much in common with the 70s northern soul haven Wigan Casino (or the Jazz Funk and later Electro played at Wigan Pier club by its resident DJ Greg Wilson), but Baby Ford grew up near Wigan and experienced what happened there, and both tracks have a sentiment true to the inspiration. You may now flock to other clubs and dance to other sounds, but the spirit is the same. Else the cover version of T.Rex‘s „Children Of The Revolution“ is more obvious, putting the 70s glam rock anthem into the context of the acid house movement, whose children won‘t be fooled either. It is time again for the UK youth to rise up against it, and this is how it sounds. And then the according modern grooves also meet the modernized version of the hippie era aesthetics that the tabloids and authorities directly diverted to blame and prosecution. Where there are loved up messages and melodies, psychedelic colours and a quest for an alternative way of living, there must be something for society to fight back, regardless of what you are afraid of in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or the decades to come. Us against them, forever irreconcilable.

This album captured the revolutionary spirit and joy of that time perfectly, and it indirectly predicted why it could not last. It was not widely perceived as a defining statement and Baby Ford did not become the defining pop star, and he seemed to abandon his bright ideas soon after. First with the subsequent 1992 album „BFORD9“, which still had some traces of his prior optimism left, but which also confrontationally displayed disillusionment, darker topics and harder sounds, until he reduced his persona and sound more and more, albeit still with consistently great creative results. Either way, Baby Ford‘s world may have not been big enough, but you still think ‚Ooo‘ when you think of it.