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: https://torturetheartist.net/2022/02/09/artcast-127-interview-finn-johannsen/


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 »

Interview and tracklist


Platten packen mit Finn Johannsen

Posted: March 2nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Artikel | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Interview für Drift-Ashore


Finn Johannsen – Interview for Mondo Magazine

Posted: March 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

First thing Front club in Hamburg, what made the place magical and what made you follow Klaus Stockhausen, and his way of DJing?

There were different things falling into place then. I was always interested in club culture and music, but pre-internet you could mostly only read about legendary clubs and its resident DJs. When I first went to Front in 1987 I was 18 years old, and up to then I never heard a DJ who could really mix. Klaus Stockhausen played there since 1983, several times a week, and he had built up a very loyal crowd. The club itself was a raw basement, there was not much to distract from the music, apart from the hedonistic dancers. The place was very intense, and Stockhausen as well as his protegé and successor Boris Dlugosch were incredibly good. Of course you tend to be sentimental about times and places that intiated you into something, but I still have not experienced anything close, both in terms of clubs and DJing. Of course it also helped that those years saw very crucial developments in club music. When I started going there it was the end of that transitional period between Disco and House, which was extremely exciting. And in the following years I frequently went there that excitement persisted. Those were the blueprint years for everything we still dance to now, and I had the privilege to experience it right on the floor. And I learnt a lot of things that I still use.

How did you become part of Hard Wax, was it hard to get that job?

No. Seven years ago all my freelance activities and the according deadlines began to collide with being a father. My wife suggested some more steady work to complement and that I could ask for a job at the store, as I was a very regular customer anyway. Coincidentally Achim Brandenburg aka Prosumer quit working there at that time and they were thinking about asking me to replace him. So within a short time I sat down with the owner Mark Ernestus and the store manager Michael Hain and got the job.

I know you like to write about music, but why do you hate to write reviews?

I actually do not hate writing reviews at all. But after doing that for several years at de:bug magazine I felt I was increasingly running out of words to accurately describe the music I was given the task to review, and I think keeping a fresh perspective is mandatory in that aspect. But more importantly writing reviews does not work too well with running a label yourself, and working at Hard Wax. On the one hand I wanted to avoid allegations of being biased, on the other hand I had to keep potential implications of my writing commitments out of my other work. So I began to lay my focus on features and interviews, mostly from a historical perspective. I am not afraid of discourse and speaking my mind on certain topics if I feel it is necessary, but I am very cautious to remain objective.

Can you tell us what is Druffalo?

Druffalo is a semi-anonymous collective of six seasoned DJs and writers living in Berlin, Mannheim and Cologne, and was founded in 2007. It used to be a rather notorious web fanzine celebrating aspects of culture we felt were worth celebrating, and we were pretty merciless in pointing out aspects of culture we felt were not worth celebrating at all. The web magazine is defunct for a while now, as at some point the server we were running on mysteriously disconnected us and we thought it was a good statement to just disappear. The whole archive is backed up though, so nobody should feel too safe. Attached to it was a DJ collective called the Druffalo Hit Squad, consisting of the same six editors and likeminded guests. We did an influential mix series that is archived on Mixcloud, and we were constantly throwing parties that were pretty anarchic. Since the end of 2015 we took up a bi-monthly residency at the club Paloma Bar in Berlin, where we mostly define our idea of a modern Soul allnighter, using our vast archive of Disco, Soul and Garage House records. But there are also plans to return to the eclecticism of former years.

Do you think your Macro label is becoming a genre in itself, like RE-GRM, ECM, L.I.E.S., or Blackest Ever Black?

No, I do not think so, nor were Stefan Goldmann and me ever interested in establishing a certain trademark label sound that we have to fulfill with every release. We are more interested in working with producers that have developed their own signature sound, as long as it fits in with our own preferences. Our idea of running a label is very open, it is only determined by what we are interested in, and we are both very different individuals. We only release what we both agree on and that, combined with the consistent collaboration with our designer Hau, resulted in a certain coherence, although our back catalogue is rather diverse. We were also always aiming for the long run, and we both feel that you only can achieve that with a healthy amount of leeway and fresh ideas. Of course it is also important to have an identity, but we much prefer that to be based on reliable quality than sound aesthetics that create or reflect trends but are likely to end up as mere expectations. I do not think we are really comparable to the labels you mentioned, too. We had some archival releases, and we might have influenced some musical developments, but neither are essential to what we do.

Interveiw by Damir Plicanic for Mondo Magazine 03/17


Interview – Tim Lawrence

Posted: February 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Photo: Katja Ruge

You published your first book „Love Saves The Day“ in 2003, and although there had been plenty of literature on the topic of the classic Disco era of the 70s in New York City, it still stood out. What led you to write it?

I don’t know if that much had been written. Albert Goldman’s book „Disco“ had come out in 1979 and contains a small amount of information on David Mancuso’s private party, the Loft, and the Sanctuary, the discotheque where the pioneering Francis Grasso DJed, but it’s main focus is on the midtown discotheque Studio 54. In 1997 Anthony Haden-Guest published „The Last Party“, but that was mainly about Studio 54 and was largely concerned with celebrity culture. Both had a completely difficult reading of disco to the one I developed in “Love Saves the Day”, which focused on the influence of DJs on the rise of dance culture and what came to be known as Disco. I thought they missed the underlying dynamic of what made the culture so exciting.

Is it true that „Loves Saves The Day“ originally started out as an introductory chapter of a book about House Music?

Yes, that is true. The book about House Music was supposed to start in mid-1980s Chicago and then move on to New York City and the beginnings of UK Rave culture. I was born in 1967, so for me Disco was the music I liked when I was a kid, because the music reached its commercial peak in 1977/78. By the time I was in my 20s I was ready for something completely different and that came in the form of House Music, thus the original idea for the book. But I ended up interviewing David Mancuso early into my research, even though he was a relatively unknown figure at the time, and when he suggested that the history should begin with the Loft in 1970 I asked other interviewees, including house legends Tony Humphries, Frankie Knuckles and David Morales, if they’d heard of David and the Loft. They all replied that the Loft had been a transformational experience and so I quickly came to understand that the history of underground dance culture—a culture that ended up inspiring Disco—had yet to be narrated. Initially I thought I’d write a chapter about the 1970s but by the time I’d written 500 pages I’d only reached the end of 1979, so that turned out to be a book in itself. I just became fascinated by the way in which the communication between the person selecting the records and the dancing crowd introduced an entirely different form of musicianship to the world.

This marked the beginnings of contemporary DJ culture and it amounted to a form of democratic music-making that was firmly rooted in the counterculture, or the social forces that were unfolding in the US of that era. Before the beginning the 1970s DJs were required to “kill the dance floor” with a slow song every five or six records in order to persuade dancers to buy a drink. But when Mancuso and Grasso started playing at the beginning of 1970 they played to dancers who were rooted in the culture of gay liberation, civil rights, feminism, experimentation with LSD, and the anti-war movement. Grasso was already playing at the Sanctuary in the late 1960s and told me it was quite boring, but when the Sancutary became the first public discotheque to welcome gay men onto the dance floor at the beginning of 1970 the dancing became much more energetic and Grasso decided to try to maintain the intensity by inventing the technique of mixing two records together. Mancuso, meanwhile, started to hold dance parties in his downtown loft on Valentine’s Day 1970 and gave the party the name “Love Saves the Day”, which referenced universal love and the acid trip. Rather than mix records together, Mancuso took his dancers on a transformational journey through the juxtaposition of sound.

There is a direct lineage from the early days of The Loft through to New York dane venues such as the Paradise Garage, because the Garage owner Michael Brody and his resident DJ Larry Levan were Loft regular. The influence extends to the origins of House Music, because Robert Williams attended the Loft before he opened the Warehouse in Chicago, where he employed Frankie Knuckles to DJ, and the coinage House Music first referred to the music Knuckles would play at the Warehouse. Knuckles was also a Loft regular. So in many paths led back to the Loft. Everything seemed to be connected.

Were the interviewees in „Love Saves The Day“ waiting to tell their story?

Yes, because up to then it had not really been told, even if their cultural influence in the 70s turned out to be enormous. By the time I got home after that first interview with David Mancuso word there were five messages from people he knew and who were ready to talk on my answer machine—so it seems as though he trusted me and that there was a desire for this untold story to be told. One of the messages was from the DJ Steve D’Acquisto, who introduced me to Francis Grasso, and so things unfolded from there. This all took place in 1997, so a couple of years, I believe, before Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton started to track down David and Francis for their book „Last Night A DJ Saved My Life“.

Did you feel it was important to emphasize the political aspects of Disco?

I would say they emphasised themselves because Disco was so obviously political. The backlash against Disco peaked with the Disco Demolition night at a baseball game in Chicago’s Comiskey Park on July 12th 1979, where a local radio DJ asked the audience to bring Disco records and then blew them up in the middle of the baseball double-header. It amounted to a Mid-Western backlash against the multicultural and polysexual coalition that underpinned disco culture and I’ve argued that in many respects we can track the rise of Donald Trump (and before him Ronald Reagan) to this moment. Disco became one of the first scapegoats for the decline of industrial culture in the United States and Trump appealed to the same disenfranchised and discontented demographic. I’m always interested in the correlation between music scenes and the wider culture in which they occur. So “Love Saves the Day” was about more than Disco, even if Disco was one of its central concerns. It’s important to remember that Disco music didn’t emerge as a genre until 1974, so the first for years of the book analyse a period when the culture was fermenting but didn’t have a name or a settled sound. It’s also important to note the version of disco depicted in „Saturday Night Fever“ had very little to do with the kind of culture that was still taking place in downtown New York, and by the end of 1978 downtown DJs were also becoming tired of commercial disco. The quality of the music had declined and it was time for something new. But the downtown expression of the culture survived the backlash. Read the rest of this entry »


Interview – Tim Lawrence

Posted: February 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Artikel | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Photo: Katja Ruge

Als Dein erstes Buch Loves Saves The Day erschien, gab es schon mehrere Bücher über die klassische Ära Disco-Musik der 70er in New York, aber es stach hervor. Was bewog Dich, es zu schreiben?

Disco von Albert Goldman erschien 1979, aber es handelte vornehmlich vom Club Studio 54. Es gab darin eine ziemlich rassistische Referenz über David Mancusos Club The Loft und flüchtige Erwähnungen eines weiteren DJ-Pioniers, Francis Grasso. Zudem schrieb Anthony Haden-Guest The Last Party, aber darin ging es auch hauptsächlich um das Studio 54 und deren Celebrity-Kultur. Beide hatten ein anderes Interesse an Nightlife-Kultur, und das hatte nichts mit DJs zu tun, und ich dachte, dass sie an der eigentlichen Dynamik vorbeigingen, die Partys so interessant macht.

Stimmt es, dass Loves Saves The Day ursprünglich als Einleitungskapitel eines Buches über House-Musik gedacht war?

Ja, das stimmt. Das Buch über House sollte in Chicago Mitte der 80er einsetzen und dann zum New York der späten 80er übergehen, und von dort zu den Anfängen der englischen Rave-Kultur. Ich bin 1967 geboren, für mich war Disco also Musik, die ich zu ihrem Gipfel 1977/78 als Kind gemocht hatte. Als ich wirklich anfing, mich für Musik zu interessieren ging ich aus und interessierte mich für House. Aber ich interviewte für das Projekt DJs wie Tony Humphries, Frankie Knuckles, oder David Morales, und sie alle erwähnten einen anderen DJ als großen Einfluss, und das war David Mancuso. Also traf ich mich mit ihm und er riet mir, nicht nur mit Disco anzufangen, sondern mit der Zeit davor, den frühen 70ern. Zuerst behagte mir die Idee nicht, aber als Journalist erkannte ich, dass da eine Story war. Und es ist auch wichtiger Teil von Nachforschungen, den Ursprüngen nachzuspüren, und ich sah mich immer zwischen dem Journalismus und dem akademischen Betrieb. Also vergrub ich mich in das Thema für die Einleitung, und 500 Seiten später war ich im Jahr 1979 angelangt, und beendete ein völlig anderes Buch. Ich erkannte sehr früh, dass die wichtigste Entwicklung in dieser Kultur stattfand, als die Kommunikation zwischen DJ und tanzendem Publikum einen völlig neuen Umgang mit der Musik einführte. Und es war auch Teil der Gegenkultur, eng mit den sozialen Kräften verbunden, die in den USA dieser Ära am Werk waren: die Schwulenbewegung, Bürger- und Frauenrechte, LSD-Experimente, und die Anti-Kriegsbewegung.

Hatten die Interviewten des Buches schon darauf gewartet, ihre Geschichte erzählen zu können?

Ja, denn bis dahin wurde ihre Geschichte nicht wirklich erzählt, auch wenn ihr kultureller Einfluss in den 70ern enorm war. Als ich nach dem ersten Interview mit David Mancuso nach Hause kam, hatte sich schnell herumgesprochen, dass man mir trauen konnte, und ich hatte einige Nachrichten von seinen Freunden auf dem Band, unter anderem vom DJ Steve D’Acquisto, der mich wiederum Francis Grasso vorstellte, und dann ging es von dort weiter. Das alles geschah ab 1997, bevor einige von ihnen mit Bill Brewster und Frank Broughton für ihr Buch Last Night A DJ Saved My Life sprachen. Als Mancuso und Grasso Anfang der 70er anfingen aufzulegen, gab es einen demografischen Wandel auf den Tanzflächen, und beide legten den Grundstein für das, was wir heute unter DJ-Kultur verstehen. Grasso war z. B. der Stamm-DJ des Sanctuary, das bis Ende der 60er eine heterosexuelle Diskothek war, und dann die erste, die Schwule einließ. In den 60ern musste der DJ ab und zu die Tanzfläche abwürgen, damit die Bar ihren Umsatz machen konnte. Aber dann wurde irgendwann so frenetisch getanzt, dass Grasso diese Intensität hochhalten wollte, und dafür erfand er die Technik des Mixens von zwei Platten. Die Herangehensweise von Mancuso war hingegen, als musikalischer Gastgeber einer Privatveranstaltung zu fungieren, in seinem eigenen Loft, ausgestattet mit einer hochwertigen Hifi-Anlage, und seine Gäste auf eine musikalische Reise zu schicken. Und seine erste Party fand am Valentinstag 1970 statt, unter dem Motto „Love Saves The Day“. Es führt eine direkte Linie vom frühen Loft zu anderen New Yorker Clubs wie der Paradise Garage, deren Besitzer Michael Brody und Stamm-DJ Larry Levan regelmäßige Gäste waren. Auch Robert Williams ging dorthin, was ihn dazu bewog, das Warehouse in Chicago zu eröffnen, in dem Frankie Knuckles als DJ die Grundfesten von House errichtete. Alle Wege führten zurück zum Loft, es war alles verbunden.

War es Dir ein Anliegen, die politischen Aspekte von Disco hervorzuheben?

Absolut. Die Reaktion gegen Disco fand ihren Höhepunkt in der Disco Demolition Night bei einem Baseball-Match im Comiskey Park-Stadion in Chicago am 12. Juli 1979. Ein lokaler Radio-DJ hatte dazu aufgefordert, Disco-Platten mitzubringen und jagte sie dann zwischen zwei Spielen in die Luft. Es war eine Gegenreaktion im Mittleren Westen. Ich würde argumentieren, dass die Wahl Donald Trumps zum US-Präsidenten dort begann. Es ist die gleiche Zusammensetzung und Grundstimmung einer Bevölkerungsgruppe, die sich sich ökonomisch abgehängt fühlte, und Disco-Kultur wurde zum Sündenbock für den Verfall der Industrie. Ich interessiere mich immer für die Korrelation zwischen einer Mikrokultur und der Makrokultur, in der sie erfahren wird. In diesem Buch ging es um mehr als nur Disco. Disco-Musik definiert als solche gab es erst ab 1974, es gab also schon vier Jahre davor, in denen all diese Entwicklungen stattfanden.

Hattest Du während des Schreibens den Musiker Arthur Russell schon als Schlüsselfigur ausgemacht, an dem sich die Verbindungen dieser Entwicklungen aufzeigen ließen? Er wurde dann ja der Mittelpunkt Deines nächsten Buches Hold On To Your Dreams.

Definitiv. Während der Gegenreaktion wurde es offensichtlich, dass sich die Disco-Szene, wie sie im Film Saturday Night Fever dargestellt wurde, weit von ihren Ursprüngen entfernt hatte. Sie explodierte zu einem Lebensstil, und selbst Disco DJs hatten es satt. Die Qualität der Musik hatte stark abgenommen und es war an der Zeit für etwas Neues. Steve D’Acquisto stand Arthur Russell sehr nahe und schlug mir vor, ein Buch über ihn zu schreiben. Mir wurde klar, dass ich nicht wie automatisiert Chronologie und Themen abarbeiten wollte. Mein Lektor war zuerst besorgt, dass sich nicht genug Leute für Russell interessieren würden, denn seine Musik wurde zwar noch gespielt und gehört, aber nach seinem Tod 1992 verschwand er als Person aus der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung. Aber 2003 schrieb David Toop einen langen Text über ihn in der Zeitschrift Wire, da zwei posthume Veröffentlichungen bevorstanden, und das Interesse lebte wieder auf und machte das Buch möglich. Natürlich war er ein interessante Person, aber ich hatte mich nie wirklich für die Gattung der Biografie interessiert. Ich interessiere mich für Szenen, die nach dem Mitwirkungsprinzip funktionieren. Arthur Russell hatte sich aber immer für Kollaborationen begeistern können, und die sozialen Erfahrungen, die durch Musik ermöglicht werden, und er war von sich aus offen für verschiedene Arten von Musik. Daher wurde er zu dieser Schlüsselfigur, die sich durch verschiedene Szenen von Downtown New York bewegte, wie etwa Orchestrale Musik, Punk, dann Disco und Hip Hop sowie Folk und Dub. Und er bewegte sich nicht der Reihe nach, und wechselte eine Szene durch eine andere aus, er machte es ohne Priorisierung und ohne hierarchisches Denken. Er wollte, dass die Szenen eine simultane Konversation haben, und er war sehr mobil. Read the rest of this entry »


Exploring the vinyl renaissance

Posted: October 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Electronic Beats 10/17


Interview: David Morales

Posted: August 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

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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.

Good choice.

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 »


A chat with…Finn Johannsen

Posted: May 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Gigs | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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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 »