Artist To Artist: Brett Johnson & Gene Farris
It's all about to get a little bit hectic as we go toe-to-toe-to-toe (Try saying that ten times fast – Ed.) with Brett Johnson and Gene Farris in an interview medley that we're just about able to get our heads around the format of. The pair are set to head off to Ibiza on Saturday to play B2B at Vista Club for Hard Times Ibiza so, just in the nick of time, we asked them a few questions before leaving them at each other's mercy;
You guys will play back to back in Ibiza. Have you played B2B before? How did this particular occasion come about?
Brett: I've played with Gene in the past but not B2B. The agents and organizers thought it would be fun so they asked and we agreed.
Gene: He's also done remixes on my label so this should be fun.
Are you fans of Ibiza in general? Is there anything you hope to do or see while you’re out on the island? Reckon you’ll have time to catch some rays?
B: Sure, it's a beautiful island. I'd love to spend some time in the sun, sadly I'll only be there for a quick set and then home again.
G: Yes I'm a big fan. I haven't been in a few years but I'm very happy to be back and playing again on the island. I would like to see a few clubs I've read about and seen some of my friends playing at like DC-10 Space and a few other spots. I'm actually hoping I can golf while I'm out there I'm a big golf guy, believe it or not.
Tell us about your hometowns. Are there any places good to check out outside of the clubbing realm?
B: I'm originally from Dallas, USA. Good places to check, hmmm… Well, in my mind the most important things to do there are eat great food and go camping.
G: Chicago? It's one the best places to be in the summer, we got great beaches and outdoor festivals and some the best food in the country. You would definitely love it.
How did you get into the game? Has it always been about music for you guys? Or was there some epiphanic moment that set you off on your respective journeys?
B: It always has and will be about the music and celebrating life with friendly faces. I got into it as a little kid, as a logical progression from beating on tables and playing with my tape decks.
G: I put my first record out on Green Velvet’s label back in the day. I think that was my first foot in the game and things just kinda ignited from there. For myself, absolutely. I started DJing when I was 11 years old..
What do you guys listen to to wind down?
B: '80s R&B or silence.
G: Earth Wind & Fire.
What have been your most spectacular injuries?
B: Oh, so many, I'm afraid. Nearly ripped my leg off when I was 8 on a ATV accident, or the time I fell on a bottle at a gig trying to stop some guys from hurting other people.
G: Mild concussion in high school playing a football game.
What have you got coming up?
B: New releases out soon on Holic Traxx, Grant Dell's new label, Giant Recordings and Martinez Brother's Cuttin Headz and something very special, soon to be announced.
G: "You Make Me Wanna Do It" on Viva Records, Steve Lawler's label, and a remix on Suara Coyu's label of Kid Cremé "Austin's Groove”.
(It was at this point we decided to take a step back and let the pair ask each other a few things.)
G: Still one of my favorite remixes on my label, Farris Wheel, is your remix of Funky Transport "Body Poppin" – what did you use to write that remix?
B: Thanks man! I had just moved back from Barcelona and had little gear left (sold most before I moved out there) so that was created with my computer.
G: Are you living in Berlin now or still in Texas, how is it?
B: Berlin. We love it. Aside from being closer to my work and where the action is, the quality of life is so much higher here than in Dallas. Great place to raise a family IMO, we'll be here for a while.
G: I'm loving the work you have been doing on Get Physical, how did you get involved with the label? It's a good fit for you.
B: Thanks, Gene. I'm friends with the A&R there so we started talking about me doing something for GPM, the rest as they say, is history.
G: Are you still writing with a lot of MIDI gear? Or mostly internal plugins?
B: Half and half now…. Use the synths for greater tone and computer for maximum fuckery.
G: Iron Man or Batman?
B: Good question, probably Iron Man because Batman is too uptight, although the man has skills.
G: Paella in Ibiza or Smoked Brisket in Texas?
B: Do I really need to answer this? Has anyone ever chose Paella over BBQ?! If so, they eat at the wrong places.
G: What's your favorite dj mixer and why?
B: Probably A&H cause it's very precise but I try not to get too hung up on things. Instead, I try to encourage a "i can kill it with whatever you give me" thinking. Reliance on anything but yourself is a dangerous thing.
G: Outside of yourself who's your favourite DJ?
B: Rob Mello, Luke Solomon, DJ Geoffroy aka Mugwump, Boo Williams, Derrick Carter, DJ Harvey… To name a few.
B: What wisdom or reflections can you share from living abroad and moving back to Chicago?
G: That there's no place like home, wherever that may be. Living in Amsterdam was amazing, best four years of my life. Don't get me wrong, I loved it and have friends I will have forever, but I'm not Dutch no matter how long I stay. My roots will always be in Chicago.
B: Ever consider living in Europe again?
G: Yes for sure I would if the situation was right. I love Europe and the European people. Where? Well, either Amsterdam again because I've got so many friends there still or probably do London this time. No language learning curve, just slang!
B: When traveling the world you come across different scenes with different tastes. How much do you shift the musical conversation to make it palatable to the dancer?
G: Whatever I DJ, I always read the crowd heavily before I play, so usually I have music that means we can both meet in the middle and both of us are happy. Everything I buy that's on my usb stick is my sound so I don't shift too much at all.
B: I know it's a boring question but what DAW do you use?
G: Logic since 1999.
B: Marvel or DC and why?
G: That's a tough question I'm a massive comic book fan and collector since the early '80s. I'm huge fan of Wolverine, Thor and Captain America but Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman can do no wrong in my book. And, if it was fight, DC would win no question, so I guess I'm leaning towards DC.
B: Your thoughts on guns in the US?
G: Stupid and sad.
B: Do you think the US will survive itself?
G: Of course we will, don't be silly we're still the coolest place around 😉 Eastern Europe had drama too but Europe is still surviving. Our problems in the U.S. are very similar to the problems in Europe, our gun problems aren't everywhere just certain parts of the country. Same in Europe their problems aren't everywhere, just East.
B: How do you balance DJ and family life?
G: It's a lot of work, but I wouldn't change a thing. You just have to make time to do all the things you need to do, as we are speaking my son is asleep next to me as we take a train to Detroit so he can stay with his mom and I can fly out to Europe.
B: What upcoming music can you tell us about?
G: I've got a big project coming out on Steve Lawler's label Viva, later this summer, and I just wrapped up a remix for Suara Coyu's label, Kid Cremé "Austin's Groove". See ya soon?
Gene and Brett play back to back at Hard Times Ibiza on Saturday 27th June alongside A Guy Called Gerald, Doorly and PBR Streetgang – more information here.