Dj To Dj: Gerd Janson Interviewed By Spencer Parker
We've done this sort of thing before on R$N… but we thought we'd start giving it a name. The concept is simple; a highly respected member of the disco jockey community interviews another venerated record spinner. The concept being you'll get a lot more out of said artist from someone's questions who they actually give a shit about. In this chapter Running Back honcho Gerd Janson gets a good questioining by Berlin ex-pat Mr Spencer Parker. They both play the rather superb looking Dance Tunnel on Saturday 30th March… best get yourselves in that direction we'd say…
Spencer Parker: You're highly respected by your peers and are often mentioned in the same breath as people like Dixon or Harvey when people use the phrase "the DJs DJ", but who are the names, new and/or old, that you personally like to go and hear play records?
Gerd Janson: Spencer, I think that is a bit of an exaggeration in my case. Anyways, the two you have mentioned are definitely among the ones I really like. I enjoy other DJs for different reasons. It can be that they mastered the craft technically, musically, just represent one genre or are free of stylistic concerns. Hence, listening to someone like Prins Thomas can be as pleasurable for me as hearing a techno DJ like Rodhead. In general, it's people like Ata (Founder of Playhouse) or Thomas Hammann which I grew up dancing to, the Ron Hardy reincarnation that is Theo Parrish or Maurice Fulton and his alien boogie. I also have a bit of an almost unhealthy obsession with old Tony Humphries radio tapes although he is one of the few dance music architect's that I have never seen in the flesh. Oh, and Ben UFO is the young wizard that makes me want to stop playing records myself.
S: I know that you're travelling quite extensively at the moment, as well as continuing to regularly appear at venues such as Panorama Bar, Trouw and Robert Johnson, have their been any clubs or cities, that you have recently visited, that have surprised or impressed you in particular?
G: Always the last and the next party, I guess. In general I have to say that those three along with London's Plastic People are the ones I always look forward to. Bob Beaman in Munich is another one that can hold its own and if you are ever in Hamburg, make sure that you visit the Golden Pudel which is quite an institution. The night I had there with the good old Smallpeople reminded me pretty much of some house music epiphanies that I had in the mid nineties.
S: I believe you're about to embark on a tour for Live At Robert Johnson soon, for those of us who've never made it to Offenbach (yet!) can you give us a brief insight into why you think the club is so beloved?
G: It always feels strange to me to talk about clubs that I'm involved in as if they are the best in the world. Robert Johnson though comes quite close to it. I guess, it is a mixture of different things: its intimacy, its Spartan design, a decent sound system and a certain sense of freewheeling. You will find yourself in a club that could be also an art gallery or a private loft (albeit without the columns) and lays its focus on the bare essence of it all: to dance.
S: In this age where everyone seems to have their own label (i include myself in this !), I'm really interested to know how you A&R a well respected imprint like Running Back. Is it simply a case of only signing records by yourself and friends, or tracks you get passed at gigs or hear other people play, or do you slog through a monthly demo pile?
G: All and none of that at the same time. The process is almost unconscious and comparable to how I always did and do record shopping. Sometimes I stumble across tracks that I would really like to see manifest in a record and if no one else does it, I do it. At other times friends and producers I highly respect donate their precious efforts to me and once in a while I even listen to a demo, but that is often more accidental. So it is a product of chance, luck and the weather.
S: Are there any labels or producers out there that are really impressing you at the moment, or that you find yourself buying nearly everything they do ?
G: It is hard to say no to Omar-S, Pepe Bradock, Todd Terje or Levon Vincent because this people have such an unmistakable sound signature. But at the same time, it is really important to go out of your way while looking for new or old music and keep eyes and ears open. I'm really into one hit wonders as well or labels that just release one record and then are gone. That is highly admirable. And every L.I.E.S. Records related release, which means another 20 records a week.
S: I think one of the last times we saw each other, was in Hamburg's very own Smallville record shop, when we were both playing in the city, but on different days. As a fellow avid record shopper and vinyl obsessive, can you share with us your top 5 favourite record shops worldwide ?
G: Spencer, you leave Kater Holzig and Panorama Bar out of the picture, but I will give you that this was the last record shop we ran into each other. It's also one of my favourite ones. The other four would be Hard Wax in Berlin, London's Phonica, Amsterdam's hot spot Rush Hour and Deo Records in Frankfurt because does are the ones I've been to the most in recent years. Honorary mention goes to all the little known and unknown small shops all over the world, run by and for enthusiasts plus each and every second-hand one. I never left one of those empty handed, yet.
S: I was asked recently in an interview what was the one record that had always eluded me on my crate digging/record shopping trips, I answered, and for my birthday a couple of months later, I was presented with a mint condition, original copy of said record – by my mother in law ! (she is French and had read the interview online, joined Discogs, and bought me the 12"!!!).
So, in this crazy Discogs/Internet era, can you please tell us the one record that you are still yet to find, the one you are always keeping one eye out for, the one that you dream of late at night….?
G: Great tastes in mother-in-laws then, Spencer. Discogs and the Internet made it quite impossible not to get what you want these days, if you are willing to pay the price. So the one that would be nice to have at the moment (I'm sure there are a lot of others ones I don't vene know about) is this one: http://www.discogs.com/MK-Get-It-Right/release/1431274
Oh, plus the special dubs and unreleased versions Timmy Regisford and Tony Humphries used to play of the hits of their day. Speaking of which, has anyone ever heard or seen the Humprhies Remix for The Cure's Love Cats?
S: I've already checked out the venue we're playing and I'm sure you're gonna really love it, it's pretty much the embodiment of a basement, a red light and a feeling (albeit with a phenomenal NYC style pizza joint upstairs). But I wanted to ask you about your own relationship with London, when was the first time you visited to play the capital and what were/are your feelings about the city in general? Is it an inspiring hub, constantly throwing new genres and musical inspiration into your universe, or just a big, noisy, chaotic mess?
G: London has always been one of the places for me. Next to New York, it's been to place to fantasize and dream about if you grow up as a smalltown boy with an interest in club culture. I had quite some daydreams about going to Ministry of Sound in its very early stage to hear all these US-American guest DJs play on a massive sound system and in my mind the whole town went mad for the Idjut Boys when they first appeared on the scene with them filling stadium playing the b-sides of Prelude records. Equally important was the Music & Video Exchange stores that were some of the only places where you could fill up on second hand house 12s that you missed when they were brand-new in pre-Ebay-Discogs days. My record buying friends and went on regular trips to the city just for that. And now I haven't even mentioned the Notting Hill Carnival, jungle pirate radio or taping Girls FM's Luke Solomon and Kenny Hawkes with a boom box in a bed & breakfast.
S: We know you are as equally adept at playing the very first set of a night as you are at playing the closing set. What is your favourite track to play as the very first record of the night, and what is your favourite record to play as the very last "one more tune" of the night ?
G: You flatter me again. I really like to start out with a live version of Manuel Gttsching's E2-E4 and what could be better as one more tune than playing the original version?
S: How often do people come up to you, greet you in Dutch and say they love your records on 4lux ?
G: I have to admit that that was quite annoying when it happened to me the first time in 2004. But I've calmed down considerably over the last years and it's actually great that I can take some credits for the other Gerd's great productions. We agreed on me transferring a commission to him, for every gig that I get. Go on, Gerd!
Gerd & Spencer play Dance Tunnel on 30th March. For further info mosey on over to the fb event page.