We should probably start at the very beginning. What were your baby steps as a DJ, what led you to being a DJ in the first place?
I think in the first place was the love for music. And I can remember when I was really, really young, with a babysitter, and we’re talking about the days of 45s. The first record that I actually remember and I was spinning was „Spinning Wheel“ by Blood, Sweat & Tears.
You know my family was from Puerto Rico and there was no American music in my house.
It was mostly Latin music?
Only Latin music. And we’re talking about Merengue, Salsa. Folk music from Puerto Rico. And I didn’t like it. And it’s funny because today I appreciate Latin music. Since I became a producer, now I appreciate Latin music for the production, the instrumentation, the musicians, because Latin music is not machine-made, not at all. So the first 45 that was in my house was “Jungle Fever” by Chakachas. My parents had this fucking 45 that was this erotic fucking record. And we’re talking about these stereos that were like these big fucking wooden consoles with the big tuner for the radio and the thing with the record where you put some records in the thing and it dropped one at a time and when it ended the thing drops. It must’ve been when I was about six or seven there was an illegal social club. You know I was living in the ghetto. So there were illegal social clubs that were like a black room, with day-glo spray paint, fluorescent lights to make the paint glow and they had a jukebox. And they’d play the music back then. „Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are“. It was all about the O’Jays and that kind of music. And I liked that. I used to sneak downstairs and such.
So when was that?
It was like the late sixties. Because I was born in ’62 so by ’70 that makes I was 8 years old. So it was before that because then I moved. Anyway, so fast forward the first 45 that I liked was the O’Jays. The first 45 I actually bought. And I remember playing that record I a hundred times a day. Putting the bullshit speaker we had in the house outside the window, we lived on the first floor. I played the record to death.
So you played it to the whole neighborhood?
The whole neighborhood. The only record I had really. So then when I graduated elementary school, I used to be into dancing, like the Jackson 5 they had “Dancing Machine”, there were The Temptations and Gladys Knight & The Pips and I liked that music. So then when we got into Junior High School – when I was like 13 years old, I had a girlfriend and we went out when the first DJs came on in the neighborhood, which was like the black DJs. I saw the first two Technics set up and a mixer in someone’s house. I was like “Wow! That’s interesting.” I saw somebody doing this non-stop disco mix and I never knew what that was all about. So, I used to hang out with all my friends. I was a dancer, we used to do all this what we now call breakdancing. We would do battles. So, I had one turntable and my friend would say “David, we hangin’ at my place” and I would play some music for us. So I just was a kid that sat by the stereo with the records and put on the tunes, one at a time. Because back then that’s what it was, you’d play one tune at a time. If it ended, the people clapped and you’d play the next tune. And it was all songs.
How did you proceed from there?
I was one of those kids that used to go to the record store even though I had no money. Just to look at the records. To walk by a store that sold turntables and a mixer and be like “one day, one day…” And I’m not working so I can’t afford to buy anything. My first mixer was a Mic mixer. 1977 there was a blackout in New York and there was a lot of stealing so I came across a radio shack little Mic mixer that I set up to make it work with two turntables. You had to turn two knobs at the same time and it was like mixing braille because there was no cueing. My one turntable had pitch control, the other one had none. I was too young to go to clubs, so I never saw a proper DJ mixing. I only saw people outside, we would have block parties and people would be mixing. And I was one of those kids that was just standing there, watching. The first time I went to a club I was 15 years old, it was Starship Discovery One. It was on 42nd street in Times Square, and we got in. We shouldn’t have got in, but you know it was the end of the club, I was 15 and I got in. The DJ had three Technics, the original 1200s, and a Bozak mixer. The booth was a bubble, and I had my nose at the fucking bubble and I was just mesmerized. The first time I actually played on a real mixer I went to a house party at my friend’s brothers apartment. And in those days, most of the DJs who were really playing were gay DJs. “San Francisco” by the Village People was the big record. But I was into The Trammps, I was into James Brown, I was into Eddie Kendricks, Jimmy Castor Bunch, “The Mexican”, Sam Records and of course Donna Summer and all this kind of stuff. So I went to this house party and he was the DJ, the first proper mixer I saw – this was before I went to that club. And it was a black mixer, it had two faders and it had cueing. So I see the DJ there, he’s using headphones to cue. So my friend says “D, you wanna play some music?” and I’m like “Yeah, sure.” I grabbed the headphones, put them on and I hit the cueing, because I was watching the guy, and I’m hearing some music and and I was like “Oh shit…” When I played at that party, I’d still play how I know how to play, which was braille. Intro, outro. And it wasn’t about mixing. All the new bars at that time were advertising nonstop disco mixes.
It was even mentioned on the record sleeves.
Yes. And all that meant was that the music never stopped. Because before the music used to stop before the next record came in. So now it was continuous. That worked, so here came the name nonstop disco mix. And then at that time all these records started coming out. The disco 45 record. At my junior high school prom “Doctor Love” by First Choice was big. And I remember the guy playing it about four times. So my first 12″ of course was “Ten Percent” by Double Exposure, on Salsoul. Another record that I played to death out the window.
You were still doing that?
I was still doing that. I used to live to just play music. I loved it. I would leave in the morning to go to school because my parents would go to work. I would buy a bag of weed, buy a quart of beer and I would go home. And you know in the old days we had all those buildings where you could really play loud music and I had these stupid double 18 boxes in my fucking bedroom. Before I’d take a piss, I turned my system up. My mother used to be like “turn that music down, turn that music down, turn that music down!”
Did you begin to play out around that time?
Yes, and playing at parties in those days meant you carried your records. Because you didn’t play for two hours, you played the whole party. And the thing is, if you owned 5000 records, you took 5000 records to the party. And in those days we carried milk crates. So here I am carrying eight to ten milk crates to a party. Getting in a car, getting a cab, you have all your friends who would help you going there, but when you’re leaving there is nobody to help. And you had to take the stereo system with you. So you carry the sound system and you carried your records. You took everything. It wasn’t like going somewhere and you just bring your records and they have everything. You had to take everything. I did parties for 15 dollars, for 25 dollars and you had to chase people down for your money.
What kind of events were you doing?
I played in clubs, I did Sweet Sixteens, I did weddings, I did corporate events. I did anything. I also did parties in high school. I would advertise a party, we would bring the sound system to some kid’s house, the parents left to go to work, we’d bring the sound system fast, and I would advertise free beer and free joints. Even 50 people is a lot of people in somebody’s apartment. Imagine we’d take over the apartment and it’s like 10 in the morning and we’d be fucking banging it, banging it, banging it — and we’d get out by 3 in the afternoon before the person’s parents come home. God knows the mess, whatever the case, baby. And in those days the sound system was in the living room, the DJ booth in the bedroom. No monitors, it was just bang bang bang. As I started doing parties at an apartment I used to charge a dollar to get in, decorate the apartment, put up balloons, and it just started with friends. Obviously still free beers, free joints, the whole thing. And like I said, I just loved the music, it was just everything for me. I wanted to play every single day. Even when I didn’t have the equipment, I knew friends that bought decks and a mixer and a small sound system for their house and they weren’t DJs and they used to say “David, come to my house and play music for me.” And I would just die to play, it was just everything for me. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Finn, what memories do you have of your first DJ set?
It was mostly playing records at school and private parties from the mid 80s on, playing a variety of Disco, Soul, Synthpop and Post Punk. I’d like to remember that as eclectic, but probably chaotic would be the more apt description. Actually my memories of my first forays into playing out in public are bit hazy by now. After all, that was nearly 30 years ago. What I vividly remember was a Soul allnighter in a basement club of my hometown of Kiel, in ’86 or ’87. Actually it was a whole Mod Weekender, with several events all across town. My friend Ralf Mehnert, who became a well respected Rare Soul collector and DJ, and me took over the Soul part of the proceedings, playing records for a crowd that consisted of mods and other hip folks, but predominatly drunk scooter boys. Somebody saw them standing outside, mistook them for skinheads, and alerted the most notorious local Turkish street gang. They arrived not much later, crashing the door and storming down the stairs, only to face quite a crowd of completely unimpressed heavy parka-clad folks. Ralf and me ducked away in the DJ booth and things got really messy. About 30 minutes later there was no intruder left and the party continued as if absolutely nothing had happened. There were numerous other similar experiences. Kiel was quite a tough city, probably still is.
Can you re-engineer what influence being a small town boy – born and raised in Kiel, in Northern Germany – had on your musical education?
I did not really feel limitations. There were record stores as Tutti Frutti or Blitz which were very well selected with electronic music of the 80s, Punk, and experimental stuff. And quite a number of second hand stores to choose from, where I mostly bought Soul, Disco and obscure 60s and 70s records. Some of those acquired bigger record collections from Danish libraries and sold each record for 2 Deutschmarks, regardless of format. I purchased the bulk of my Disco collection in those years, for example. You did not have to spend much, so you would explore what you would have otherwise not listened to. I had a lot of friends who were very interested in music, and there was a constant exchange of knowledge, good and bad finds. It was all very social. I made regular record shopping trips to Hamburg, too. There were plenty of excellent record shops there, for everything of interest to me. I always looked for dance music of any kind, and Hamburg had stores that were importing records since the Disco era. They had the contacts and the knowledge.
And as for the clubs?
I did not mind being in a smaller town either. There were quite a few. The DJs mostly did not mix much and played all over the board stylistically. There was a tendency to play music in topical blocks. A 30-minutes block of Disco, followed by a 30-minutes block of New Wave, then Hip Hop, then some Rock, then Soul, then slow songs, then everything all over again. Once a few tunes worked together and on the floor, the DJs tended to rely on the according selection and did not change it for what seemed to be years. That drove me mad, but in retrospect I could hear lots of different music in one single night, and that left a mark on me. You learn about the contexts of what you hear, and how they relate to each other. I still make use of that. I travelled a lot, and I have been to a great number of clubs in my life, but when I moved to Berlin I was already in my early 30s. I spent my formative years up North. I did not move because I had to get out either, I left because the job situation was difficult for me. If I would had found an interesting job at that time, I probably would have stayed. I still go back regularly, I have family and friends there, and I still miss the sea.
You were born into club life by the sets of Klaus Stockhausen at Front Club in Hamburg, when you were dancing the nights away at the age of 18. What made this experience so fundamentally alluring to you?
I started going to clubs in Kiel in the early 80s, 12 or 13 years old, then to Hamburg clubs only a few years later. Most clubs in Hamburg were not as different to Kiel as they maintained to be, but the people had arguably more style and the music was more specialized. You went to certain clubs for a certain kind of music. I had been to some gay clubs in Kiel before, but they seemed to be stuck with a soundtrack that had been tried and tested for years, classic Disco anthems and the occasional Schlager drama excursion, and the scene was not that open. You often felt like the stranger entering the saloon, and the crowd often was more made up by people with a common taste in music and fashion that just happened to be gay. A lot of 80s fops and some sugar daddies. It could be fun, but more often it was not. These people had to live with other prejudices and repressions than just getting beaten up for the style of the subculture you had chosen for yourself, like I did, and you did not belong.
And Front Club was different?
Absolutely. When a friend took me to the Front Club in early 1987 that was dramatically different. The crowd was predominantly gay, but if you were not, like me, nobody seemed to care. I was aware of the major role gay subculture played in the evolution of dance music, mostly by reading features about legendary Disco clubs in magazines, but they were about Bianca on that horse for instance, and not about what was booming from the speakers as she rode in, which was exactly what interested me most. Front was the first club where I could actually experience it, and even be a part of it. And Klaus Stockhausen was the first DJ I ever heard who did not only play records, he mixed them. Like no other I heard ever since. It was not that I did not know any of the music before, but he was transforming the records into something else. And the club itself was incredibly intense, I have never witnessed something like that again either. A dark, gritty basement filled to the brim with extravagant people who completely lost their minds on the floor. And my first visits were coincidentally a good timing, because it was the transitional period between the music played there from 83 on, and House. House was introduced there much earlier, but it still was not ruling the playlist. It was brilliant to hear Stockhausen play favourites I loved from the years before, and more often records I never heard, and then the added early Chicago House sounds that seemed to have swallowed decades of dance music history only to spit them out as this raw, primitive version of it. It fit the club perfectly, and soon I was heading over to Hamburg on weekends as much as I could, because I simply could not get enough of the experience. That lasted until around 1995, and then I took up a residency in Kiel for almost ten years, and it kept me well occupied. But just think of all the incredible music released between 1987 and 1995. It really were the blink and miss years of what we still hear today, and I could be witnessing all crucial developments right on the floor, played by the best DJs, and dancing to it in the best club with the best crowd. Good times.
When did you start collecting records? During those blink and miss years?
No, much earlier. The little money I had I spent on records since I was about 6 years old. My parents gave me a record player, and the Forever Elvis compilation, plus radio and cassette recorder and they were my favourite toys by then. Especially the radio was very important. I spent endless hours recording music from the radio, cursing presenters for talking too much over songs I liked. And the hit music played on the radio in the mid 70s was just great. Chic and Roxy Music were probably my favourite bands. And all those weird and wonderful Glam Rock acts. But luckily enough I had also a chance to catch the music from early on that was not deemed fit for airplay. I had an uncle who had the idea to buy record collections at judicial sales, and he often gave me the records he did not like. Thus I could become the proud owner of Can’s Monster Movie or the first Suicide album and several obscure Soul albums when most of my classmates were still just listening to the charts. I know this sounds terribly made up, but it is the truth. And at a very young age you tend to play your favourite records over and over and over, your relationship to music is very intimate and deep. Soon I felt quite confident in my taste, and I was spending more and more time and money on music. But I actually had not the faintest idea how much great music there really was out there to discover, and I had yet to meet the right people to share my passion for it. That changed as soon as I could sneak my way into clubs. Read the rest of this entry »
Auch wenn das neue Jahr nun schon begonnen hat, vielleicht zunächst ein kurzer Blick zurück auf 2014. Würdest du sagen, es war ein gutes Jahr für elektronische Musik? Falls ja, wer war deiner Meinung nach u.a. mit dafür verantwortlich?
2014 war nicht besser oder schlechter als die Jahre zuvor. Es gab genug gute neue Releases, aber kaum neue Trends. Es kam mir so vor, als würden einige vorherige Entwicklungen langsam auslaufen. Lo-Fi House- und Techno etwa. Da hat die Ästhetik vielleicht etwas zu oft durchschnittliche Musik kaschiert. Es gab auch nicht mehr so viele Retro-80er-90er-House-Platten, was sicherlich auch damit zusammenhing, dass jede Menge alte Klassiker oder Raritäten nochmal veröffentlicht wurden. Manche Nachbauten schnitten da im Vergleich schlechter ab, oder man wollte wohl auch lieber Lücken in der Wantslist schließen, als sich mit neuer Musik zu beschäftigen, die wie alte klang. Ich falle aber nicht gerne in diesen früher war alles besser-Sermon. Ich habe in jungen Jahren auch viel alte Musik gehört, ich wollte auch schon immer wissen, wo was herkommt. Aber das wollte ich selber entdecken, und nicht von Älteren gepredigt bekommen, auch wenn man dann später feststellt, dass viele Einwände durchaus berechtigt sind. Was mir letztes Jahr gut gefallen hat, kann man ja bequem bei meinen Hot Wax-Radiosendungen überprüfen, oder meinen Charts. Sicherlich hat nicht jede Platte darin das Rad neu erfunden, aber es waren für mich genug neue Ideen drin, um es unterstützen zu wollen. Generell war es gefühlt eher ein Techno- als ein House-Jahr, aber für mich war es zuviel Techno, der sich nur auf eine jeweilige Atmosphäre konzentriert, und nicht auf Musikalität. Es gab zudem stilübergreifend irritierend viele Alben. Vielleicht war es ein Übergangsjahr, und 2015 passieren wirklich neue Dinge, oder es werden retrospektiv einfach andere alte Stile aufgearbeitet. Da lasse ich mich aber auch gerne überraschen. Ich wünsche mir aber nach wie vor, dass dieser durch künstliche Verknappung ausgelöste Beschaffungsstress für Käufer und Läden zur Ruhe kommt. Aber jetzt habe ich wirklich langsam das Gefühl, dass das ausgereizt ist und der Markt das von allein regelt. Nicht jede überteuerte Platte mit Poster wurde letztes Jahr zum Sammlerobjekt, und da ist noch viel Luft nach unten.
Gibt es einen Abend aus dem vergangenen Jahr, den du als DJ als besonders gelungen/spannend in Erinnerung hast? Wenn ja: Wo und wann war das und was hat den Auftritt ausgezeichnet?
Da gab es einige. Aber am denkwürdigsten war sicherlich der Auftritt von Dreesvn und mir beim New Forms Festival in Vancouver. Das war schon sehr dicht dran an der perfekten Nacht. Wir hatten uns schon die Tage zuvor sehr willkommen gefühlt, und viele interessante Leute kennengelernt, und dementsprechend haben wir uns dann auch bemüht, alles zurückzugeben was wir konnten. Der Live-Auftritt von Dreesen und Sven war einfach wundervoll und sehr beeindruckend, und ich konnte danach wirklich alles spielen was ich wollte, ohne dass es spürbare Einbrüche auf der Tanzfläche gab. Und bei dem Set hätte das schon durchaus passieren können. Es gab dann zum Abschluss des Festivals auch noch eine inoffizielle Party, bei der ich stundenlang im Wechsel mit DJ Sotofett und DJ Fett Burger aufgelegt habe, aber da ist die Aufnahme nichts geworden, was wirklich sehr schade ist. Ich erinnere mich aber auch sehr gerne an eine kleine Griechenland-Tour zurück, den tatsächlich beeindruckenden Sound von Plastic People, no sleep raver bei Washing Machine, feiern gegen alle Widrigkeiten in Ljubljana, Macro mit geballter Kraft im Stattbad, Arme in die Luft in der Panoramabar, und und und. Ach ja, und ich habe bei einer schönen Nacht in Nürnberg die krawallbereiten Besucher des Deutschpunk-Festivals im gleichen Gebäude für klassischen Garage House begeistern können. Ich hatte gar nichts anderes mitgenommen, und es blieb mir gar nichts anderes übrig, aber es ging nicht nur nicht ins Auge, es blieb kein Auge trocken.
Seit einigen Wochen kann man dich als DJ über die Agentur Option Music buchen. Wie kam es dazu, dass du nun bei einer Agentur bist, wo du das doch vorher jahrelang alles selbst geregelt hast?
Nun, ich bin vor vier Jahren Vater geworden, und gleichzeitig nahmen Anfragen für Gigs wie auch der Zeitaufwand meiner diversen anderen Verpflichtungen und Tätigkeiten stetig zu. Nach fast 30 Jahren war ich dann irgendwann so ausgelaugt von der ganzen Logistik, dass ich bereit war, alles in professionellere Hände zu geben. Bei Option Music mag ich sowohl die Art, wie das Booking gehandhabt wird, als auch die anderen Artists, und zwar allesamt. Ich musste die ganzen langjährigen Verbindungen nicht aufgeben, und es kommen neue hinzu. Ich habe mehr Zeit für die Familie, und die Agentur ist auch sehr familiär. Win-Win.
Seit einiger Zeit bist du Teil des Hard Wax-Teams und bist u.a. mit für den Einkauf und somit auch für die berühmten Hard-Wax-Einzeiler verantwortlich. Hast du schonmal das Prädikat “Killer” vergeben und wie leicht oder schwer fallen dir diese Kurzbeschreibungen?
Ja, das Prädikat habe ich schon öfter vergeben, aber eigentlich gehen wir damit bewusst sparsam um. Es wird in der Regel nur für Releases benutzt, die das Zeug dazu haben, irgendwann später vielleicht in der Kategorie Essentials zu landen. Musik, die aus dem Gesamtgeschehen heraussticht. Wir hatten die Webseite ja schon von den Tips bereinigt, nachdem das irgendwann in jeder zweiten Vertriebs- oder sonstigen Promoankündigung zu lesen war, und auch sonst stapeln wir lieber tief als hoch. Wir vertrauen da ganz auf das Urteilsvermögen unserer Kunden, und wollen es nicht beeinflussen. Unser Programm ist sorgfältig vorgefiltert, und somit ist es eigentlich nicht nötig mit Hype-Mechanismen abzulenken, die in so vielen Bereichen des Musikgeschehens sich nur noch gegenseitig entkräften. Als langjähriger Musikjournalist musste ich mich zuerst daran gewöhnen, Musik nicht wertend zu beschreiben, mit nicht mehr Worten als unbedingt notwendig, aber gleichzeitig habe ich den Stil der Beschreibungen wohl auch ein bisschen mitgeprägt. Aber bei Hard Wax steht die Musik im Vordergrund, kurzum.
Viele kennen dich auch als Journalist für Magazine wie De:Bug, Groove oder auch Resident Advisor. Durch deine Familie, den Job bei Hard Wax und das Auflegen bist du zeitlich wahrscheinlich sehr eingespannt – wie wählst du heute aus, über was du schreibst? Sind das nur noch Liebhaber-Themen für dich? Und merkst du eventuell ähnlich wie Gerd Janson, der seit einigen Monaten fast überhaupt nichts mehr schreibt oder Interviews führt. Ermüdungserscheinungen hinsichtlich des Schreibens über Musikthemen?
Ich gebe zu, dass mich mit der Zeit Rezensionen ermüdet haben. Ich denke bei Gerd war das vielleicht auch so. Man hat diesen Wust an Releases, und je länger man sich als Journalist damit befasst, desto schwieriger wird es, dafür frische Worte zu finden. Im Laufe der Zeit wiederholt sich einfach vieles bei der Musik, die man beschreiben soll, und als guter Journalist sollte man schon den Anspruch haben, in Texten Wiederholungen zu vermeiden. Wenn da zu sehr die Routine greift, lesen sich die Platten vielleicht routinierter als sie klingen. Gleichzeitig hat mich aber auch der Mangel an Diskurs frustriert, der heutzutage im Musikjournalismus vorherrscht. Alles ist zu sehr miteinander vernetzt und voneinander abhängig, und im Begriff Soziale Medien sind die Medien nicht ohne Grund enthalten. In allen Bereichen der Musikbranche ist man ob der fallenden Ertragsmöglichkeiten dünnhäutig geworden, gleichzeitig sind die Medien mehr als zuvor auf den Anzeigenmarkt angewiesen, um überhaupt überleben zu können. Und das ist keine gute Grundlage für eine Kritik, von der neue Impulse ausgehen können. Ich habe da auch einige heftige virtuelle Stürme hinter mir, für sorgfältig recherchierte, sachliche und objektive Artikel, die unter anderen Umständen vielleicht eine Debatte angestoßen hätten, von der alle was haben. Mit dieser Art mit Meinungen umzugehen hatte ich schon Probleme, als ich nur DJ, Journalist und Labelbetreiber war. Seitdem ich vor Jahren Teil von Hard Wax geworden bin, ist es noch wesentlich schwieriger geworden. Die Objektivität, die vorher von anderer Seite zuweilen in Frage gestellt wurde, ist jetzt nicht einmal mehr das Haupt-Kriterium. Ich sehe mich in der Funktion als Einkäufer zu einem hohen Maß an Neutralität verpflichtet, was diverse Themen für mich als Journalist von vornherein unmöglich macht. Nicht in erster Linie als Selbstschutz, sondern vor allem um den Laden zu schützen, und das, was ich dort tue. Es ist aber nicht so, dass ich nicht mehr schreiben kann was ich will, und dann lieber gar nichts mehr schreibe. Ich schreibe nur eher über Themen, mit geringerem Potential, negative Auswirkungen auf meine Tätigkeiten zu haben. Und das sind dann schon eher Liebhaber-Themen, Interviews mit Legenden, zeitspezifische bzw. historische Aspekte und schlichtweg Musik, über die ich von einer Fan-Perspektive aus schreiben kann. Es kommt aber auch noch erschwerend hinzu, dass beim gegenwärtigen Musikjournalismus Zeitaufwand und Honorarerträge nur noch in einer akzeptablen Relation stehen, wenn man wirklich viel schreibt. Und dafür fehlt mir einfach die Zeit. Demzufolge schreibe ich weniger, als ich eigentlich gerne würde. Aber es ist mir nach wie vor wichtig, und ich würde es nicht komplett aufgeben wollen.
Seit 2007 betreibst du gemeinsam mit Stefan Goldmann das Label Macro. Was wird uns da in diesem Jahr bzw. den kommenden Monaten erwarten?
Traditionell haben wir zum Ende des vorangegangen Jahres noch nicht allzu viele Pläne für das nächste Jahr. Bei Macro regiert der Freiraum, in jederlei Hinsicht. Stefan ist für einige Zeit mit sehr interessanten Projekten ausgelastet, hat aber auch neue Geräte ausfindig gemacht und mir gegenüber bereits angekündigt, sich dieses Jahr stilistisch umfassend häuten zu können. Und so wie ich ihn kenne, macht er das dann auch. Es wird wohl einen Soundclash unserer beiden Live-Institutionen KiNK und Elektro Guzzi geben, ich rechne in freudiger Erwartung mit neuem Material älter und neuerer Macro-Künstler, und wenn es zu uns passt, sind uns natürlich auch ganz neue Produzenten willkommen. Der Rest wird sich vermutlich wie gehabt aus spontanen Eingebungen ergeben, die wir dann gewohnt akribisch in die Tat umsetzen. Im Prinzip gehen wir auch schon seit 2007 davon aus, dass wir mal problemlos eine Auszeit nehmen könnten, aber irgendwie kam bis jetzt immer eine ganze Menge dazwischen.
Deine Hot Wax Shows auf BCR sind sowohl in ihrer Länge als auch stilistisch teils sehr unterschiedlich und spiegeln damit eben dich als vielseitigen Host und DJ wider. Welchen Themen und Genres willst du dich unbedingt noch in einer deiner Sendungen widmen, bist aber bisher noch nicht dazu gekommen?
Ich habe eine langjährig gewachsene, stilistisch sehr vielfältige Plattensammlung. Gerade wenn man eine regelmäßige Radiosendung macht, sollte man das auch nutzen. Die angesprochene Vielseitigkeit zeichnet mich wohl als DJ aus, aber ich will das auch nicht überstrapazieren. Der Großteil der Hot Wax-Sendungen besteht schon aus Platten, die ich aus dem Laden mitnehme. Ich lasse dann ein paar Wochen verstreichen und mache eine Art Kassensturz, und wähle dann die für mich interessantesten Releases aus, teils im Club erprobt, teils auch nur zuhause. Mir geht es bei den Sendungen oder auch anderen Podcasts nicht darum, meine Aktivitäten im Club zu simulieren, auch wenn ich Clubgigs gerne mal thematisch angehe. Wenn ich irgendwo auflege, fände ich es aber weder für mich noch für andere reizvoll, Sequenzen aus irgendwelchen meiner Sendungen zu wiederholen. Radio hat mich lange Jahre begleitet, und das Format bedeutet mir sehr viel. Was da aber musikalischen Spezial-Themen im Verlauf des Jahres geschehen wird, möchte ich noch nicht verraten, ich mag Überraschungen. Ende Januar wird es aber noch mal eine Sendung mit aktuelleren Platten geben, und dann möchte ich gerne mit einer irregulären Serie anfangen, die sich mit Edits befasst, die in den 80ern auf Remix Services erschienen sind, etwa Disconet, Hot Tracks, Razormaid und anderen obskuren Labels. Ich sammle solche Platten schon seit etlichen Jahren, und finde es sehr faszinierend, was damals mit Tape und Schere mit bekannten Clubhits angestellt wurde. Und es wird einen sehr persönlichen Podcast für Modyfier geben. Ansonsten habe ich eigentlich immer Ideen, wenn ich in den Regalen umhersuche. Und ich habe keinerlei Hemmungen, die dann auch in die Tat umzusetzen. Ich bin sehr dankbar, dass das so viele Leute hören wollen, und hoffe, dass das noch lange so bleibt.
Vielen Dank für deinen Mix! Per Facebook-PN hast du ihn ja schon als “Deutschland in deep, die klassische Variante” angekündigt und daraus wurden dann gleich über drei Stunden. Wie kamst du auf die Idee dazu, wie hast du deine Auswahl getroffen und wie und wo den Mix dann letztendlich aufgenommen?
Das sind meine persönlichen Favoriten zum Thema Deepness in Deutschland, vornehmlich House. Platten, die ich über Jahre regelmäßig gespielt habe, und auch auch immer noch spiele. Von einigen Produzenten hätte man natürlich auch mehrere Tracks nehmen können, aber es ging mir eher um einen breiten Überblick. Es hat eine Weile gedauert bis sich deutsche Produktionen von Ende der 80er an von den US-Vorbildern emanzipiert haben, aber dann ist wirklich viel Eigenständiges passiert, sei es in den Großstädten, oder in der Provinz. Dass es sich hierbei überhaupt um eine Auswahl nationaler Veröffentlichungen handelt, ist vollkommen unpatriotisch. Ich vergleiche einfach gern. Die Charakterisierung der einzelnen lokalen Szenen zu den Platten muss aber an anderer Stelle stattfinden, da gehören mehr interessante Zusammenhänge hinzu, als ich hier anreißen kann. Viele der vertretenen Künstler sind auch heute noch aktiv, aber dieser Mix soll beleuchten, wie das in früheren Jahren klang, und wie gut das gealtert ist, bis hin zu etwas aktuelleren Releases. Für mich sind das alles Klassiker, und wichtige Platten. Die Abfolge der Tracks hat sich beim nächtlichen Raussuchen ergeben, und dann ist der Mix in einem Rutsch am verregneten Tag darauf entstanden, mit zwei MKs und einem erstaunlich unverwüstlichen Ecler-SmacFirst-Mixer. Das Setup benutze ich seit 1995, für alles.
Wo kann man dich demnächst mal wieder auflegen hören?
Ich bin gerade aus dem wohlverdienten Urlaub zurück, und meine Bookerin auch. Wir müssen uns erstmal sortieren. Aber wir sind dran. Have headphones, will travel.
There are not many DJs who can look back on such a long and successful career as the 54 year old New Yorker Danny Tenaglia. Towards the end of last year he confirmed his extraordinary status once again during a rare visit to Germany where he played at Berlin’s Panorama Bar and Berghain on the same weekend. His enduring popularity can certainly be attributed to his often several hours long sets which still are packed with the most relevant new records of the current day. After all these years, Tenaglia still has his eyes on the future instead of the past. For this interview, though, he made an exception and looks back to the beginnings of his career.
Apparently you got hooked on dance music at a very young age. What led you into it? Were you coming from a musical household, or did you learn by yourself, by listening to the radio for example?
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, we (mom, dad and four brothers) had always been around all kinds of music especially during big family gatherings, which were quite often. It was mostly my mom’s side as she was one of nine children. My dad only had one sister and his side was very reserved. All of my mom’s siblings were married and they all had children except for one aunt. This brought me 20 cousins, ten boys and ten girls, and when we all gathered together it was like an army! (laughs) We also had many second relatives and we were all born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is extremely popular these days since it is very close to Manhattan. Back then, Williamsburg was like a big version of Little Italy. When I visit Naples, Italy, it always reminds me so much of my childhood since Naples still looks exactly the same as it did 50 years ago. I can relate so well to the people there and on the island of Ischia as well.
I truly consider that this all started for me when I was only just a tiny fetus inside of what I call: “The Boom Womb Room!“ I guess I was always paying attention to beats, rhythms and melodies long before I knew what they even were. There was always music in my childhood. My mom’s younger sister Nancy was unable to have children of her own. However, she wound up becoming the most influential person in our entire family and had a wonderfully gifted voice. She always had music on. She bought records very often as there was coincidentally a record store right on our block. She even taught herself how to play piano and guitar by ear and this was initially how I learned to play as well.
Our family often had good reason to celebrate events like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, family picnics, local catholic church festivals from the schools we all attended. I grew up listening to a lot of typical music that elderly Italian people would listen and dance to. Besides the obvious traditional music for dancing like the Tarantellas and the big band Benny Goodman swing music, there was plenty of the 50’s Doo Wop music as that’s what was big for them during this era. So I had no choice but too hear it all. Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, The Beatles, Bossanovas and lots of soul music as well, Motown records particularly. Sometimes I think maybe my family were the ones to have invented karaoke? (laughs) There were many relatives who would love to take turns and sing their hearts out. And to end this deep question, it was most definitely my very dear aunt and godmother Nancy who taught me (and many of us) how to fully appreciate God’s gift of music, how to “feel it deep down in your soul“ and how by the changing of one simple chord that could be played with „great emotion“, it could bring upon unexplainable goose-bumps and quite often – even tears!
Were you aware that the music of those years was extraordinarily important, or was it just what was around then?
I definitely knew in my soul that it was meaningful. But I don’t think I realized how important it all was for me until I passed the age of ten and was realizing what type of music I was loving the most and only wanted to hear music I liked, as I was becoming sick and tired of the Frank Sinatra music and I was not a big fan of ballads and slow music until I eventually got heavily into soul music. I knew that I had possessed an incredibly deep passion for music since birth as relatives and friends would always make it obvious to my parents by saying things like: „One way or another this kid is going to be in the music business when he grows up“, because it basically was the only thing I displayed interest in. I had all kinds of little instruments and child record players, even reel to reel tape machines for kids. However, it did not truly hit me until I was about eleven or twelve when I was quickly finished with some music lessons because I was very young and did not like the discipline and how strict they were with me. They first took me for piano and then guitar lessons. I even attempted saxophone in seventh grade.
I had a great ear for music and which melodies worked together and which ones did not. Unfortunately, I did not posses „the gift“ of mastering an instrument, but I guess that ultimately it was a DJ mixer that became my main instrument of choice that I am stilling playing with today nearly 40 years later.
When you were still a kid, you got to know the prolific DJ Paul Casella, who played a part in turning you onto the profession. Can you tell how that shaped your decision to pursue a career in DJing?
Well, this is where I had then realized instantly at the mere age of twelve years old upon hearing an eight-track tape mixed continuously by Paul that I was somewhat mesmerized by because when I expected a song would end, then another would blend in. Sometimes harmonically on key and sometimes so perfectly that I kept asking my cousin who made this tape and how did he do this and how did he do that? Long story short, I called the telephone number on the 8-Track tape and Paul Casella happened to be nearby and came to our families grocery store and he brought us more 8-Track tapes. He wanted to meet me as he was amazed some little “little kid” was so impressed with him and the art of DJ-ing. I guess it was right around then in 1973 that I never showed much interest in anything else, including sports. I was not interested in any subjects in school, I was only interested in music, becoming a DJ, getting professional DJ equipment and getting gigs in big nightclubs and eventually this obviously led to my second career by nature which was producing music of my own, collecting synths, drum machines and various studio gear.
As you loved the music and heard about what was going down in the seminal clubs of that era, I guess you could not wait until you were old enough to go there yourself. Was it like you had imagined it to be? What kind of clubs could you already go to?
I was barely a teenager, so nightclubs were still a long way for me. But I can recall the anxiety and being extremely envious of my two older brothers, because they would go out often. But their interest was mainly to drink with their friends, meet girls and do what most guys from Brooklyn were doing in 1975. It wasn’t much different than what you can see in the movie Saturday Night Fever, including the fighting! However, when I was about 16 or 17 my older brothers would sometimes sneak me in to a few places which I will remember forever, and then they and other mature relatives and friends would basically chaperone me when I got my first job in a corner bar called The Miami Lounge in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was just a few blocks away from our house and the nights were starting at 9 pm, but my parents wanted me home by 1 am. The lounge is still there and it’s walking distance from the new and already famous club Output. The lounge looks exactly the same as it did in the 1970s but it’s now also a restaurant as well. I’m not sure of it’s current name, though.
You then had the privilege to witness some of the most celebrated clubs and DJs in New York like the Loft and the Paradise Garage and numerous others. Are the first impressions of those nights still vivid? Was it every bit as outstanding as it is described up to this day?
Yes, yes and yes! The Paradise Garage, The Loft, Inferno, Better Days, Starship Discovery 1, The Saint, Crisco Disco and many, many more that had come but now are sadly all gone! It’s a shame we don’t have much footage or even great photos of so many of these nostalgic parties and venues. There were so many options back then from all the way in Downtown Manhattan up to 57th Street and from East to West, seven nights a week. We had big venues, small venues, raw underground parties with no decor at all and obvious mega places like Studio 54 and Xenon. Then as the 80s came around we saw lots of changes with all kinds of theme parties at places like The Limelight, Area, Roxy and others. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »