Photo by Tom Lawton.
The next instalment of Acetate will once again exhibit selectors of world class calibre. David Kennedy aka Pearson Sound, who organises the night, errs towards the DJs who dedicate their time to collecting music, infrequently booking those who attempt to spin plates and produce music at the same time. The DJs’ heightened awareness of the vinyl record landscape seems to breed a uniquely rich atmosphere during the club night.
Alongside long time dubstep colleague, and one of the world’s most sought after selectors, Ben UFO, Kennedy has invited a bona fide head out to play in the Wire basement: music critic and Hard Wax staff member, Finn Johannsen. The German also runs Macro Recordings, Stefan Goldmann’s primary production outlet.
Finn is rarely seen by Brits out of his natural habitat of the Berlin record shop, and is normally only spotted in the by-line of an online electronic music article. So we thought we’d do a bit of investigative work and reverse roles. Here’s our interview with him:
What is the application like for a job at Hard Wax? How did you come to work there?
We get a lot of mails every week by people looking for a job at the store, but all current staff members were already regular customers or otherwise affiliated with Hard Wax before they started working there. Same with me. Six years ago I became father of a wonderful girl, and I realized that all the deadlines involved with freelance work did not work well with that. So I was thinking about adding some steadier work to my weekly schedule, and my wife suggested Hard Wax as an option. I tested ground and what I did not know at the time was that Prosumer was quitting the job, and they were looking for a replacement anyway. So I had a meeting with Michael Hain, the store manager, and Mark Ernestus, the owner, and started working there, all within a very short time.
It’s every young DJs dream to work in a record shop. Did you always know you’d work in one? What would you be doing if you weren’t there?
I worked in a second hand vinyl store when I was studying in the early 90s, but that was more to fund my own vinyl purchases. When I started DJing in the 80s I was not trying to get a job in a record shop, I only liked visiting them and it was that way for years. My focus at university was actually on film history, not music. But apart from a brief stint reviewing movies for De:bug magazine I never really did anything with that, nor did I really intend to. I also worked as an editor for art books a few years ago. But at some point I realized that it always fell back to activities connected to music, because it probably is what I know and do best. So I stuck with it. If I would not be there I would be doing something else, but it probably would have something to do with music as well.
What do you look for in a record when buying for Hard Wax?
Something new, or at least different. A personal signature. Ideas. Integrity. Attitude. When the record is referential I check if the references are used in a smart way, and if aspects are added that were not there before. I also take a good look at the proportion of value and money. I adjust my level of support for a release according to the level of how these criteria are met.
What led you to buy your first vinyl record? And what was it?
I started taping radio shows in the mid 70s, but I did not have enough pocket money to afford buying records then. But I already had a record player and I used to play records from my parents’ collection. When I was 9 years old, in 1978, I recorded Blondie’s Heart Of Glass and decided to buy it on 7“. When I entered the record store I just knew that I loved the song and her voice in particular, but I did not even know what she looked like. I was probably assuming that she had blonde hair, but not really that she looked that fabulous on the cover, and what she really was about. I probably learnt quite a few lessons about pop culture at once with that purchase, and soon I started spending nearly all the money I had on records.
We’ve just had record store day in the UK. Do you have any comment on it? Do you see it as a celebration or capitalisation of record buying culture?
It is the same in Germany, and I think it is the same all over the world. Which is why the recent negative implications of the event weigh in so heavily. Hard Wax decidedly never took part. We stated from early on that for us every day is a record store day, and that is basically it. But we feel the fallout from RSD as anybody else in the business nonetheless, especially the delays with the pressing plants, which affect our distribution as well, for example, and the releases we buy from other distributors. That has improved a bit lately, but it is still a tremendously hypocritical event, and that does not seem to improve. Nearly everybody’s trying to cash in now on a format that was willfully pronounced dead before, and nearly everything is blocked by back catalogue you can find around every corner, just in different layouts and for a much lesser price. Old wine in new skins. And the new grapes cannot be harvested because of it. It is totally absurd. There may have been some respectable thought implied with it once, but as soon as the major labels entered it predictably withered away into nothing. They want to gentrify vinyl into pricier artifacts instead, for customers that care more about the item itself than the music it contains. Read the rest of this entry »