Interview: Being Gerd Janson
Yes, the rumours are true, I will be guest editing this sorry excuse for an online music magazine for a whole week. The only reason I agreed to do this is to prove to R$N’s anorexic ginger bigfoot Wil Troup I can do his job better than he can, and he has to call me master all week. Well that, and to promote my all nighter in London they are organizing for me this weekend. Mostly the first reason though. I’ve got some light entertainment, proper in-depth interviews, scoops and zingers, cheese, glitter, breaking news, life changing tutorials, x-mas songs, and much more lined up for you, the people. Enjoy the ride, keep it blessed and don’t eat the yellow snow. Your friend, Marco
Kicking things off with a chat with my buddy Gerd Janson, former music journalist / RBMA couch kartoffel turned superstar DJ. He was actually the first one to interview me back in the daze, before I invented the bandana and tropical house. So I thought it would be fitting to repay the favor and maybe gain some votes for the RA top 100 in the process. Here we go, nice and slow!
Marco: Yoyo! Hey Gerd! Here we go! Patched in Wil Troup(e) from Ransom Note too. You know each other I assume?
Wil: Hey Gerd.
Gerd: Hi Wil! 2 Journalists / 1 Graphic Designer! It’s like an editorial office here.
M: I'm the editor actually. Wil works for me this week.
W: Yes master.
Please excuse Wil's horrible blogger internet connection.
So, hey Gerd!
G: Hello Marco!
This is quite funny, because (as we're speaking on Skype) I think I already had you in my 'friends' list because last time we Skyped is when you interviewed me! Back when you were working at Groove, and I was doing the artwork for Rush Hour right?
Yes! I saw the capital M as I tried to type in your contact and remembered the smoking camel. Your love of cigarettes is overwhelming. Back then I was still writing for Groove magazine amongst other publications/ventures…and they picked you as the in-house designer for Rush Hour as a feature in their on-going series about record sleeve artwork and designers who make a name for themselves in that field.
Well, actually my love for cigarettes is highly overrated, I only smoke when I drink. Then again I do drink quite a bit. But yeah, that must have been 6-7 years ago maybe?? I guess back then you were already DJ'ing quite a bit but you were mostly considered a music journalist. Is that correct? Did you feel that way?
Does that involve drinking water? &/or 7 years at least, feels more like 10 to me. My memory is a bit hazy when it comes to interviews and essays about music/artists, as I did so many of them. I think a lot of people met me first with my music journalist hat on and then saw me DJ later. The first time I delivered something to a magazine was in 1996 and I think the first time that I publicly deejayed was in 1998. So, it went hand in hand for quite a while, but I never had the appetite to follow the DJ-path more eagerly than the other one… I thought it would be more something on the side, as I collected records for years already… and I thought I will end up at a magazine or at some department at University in the end.
I also tend never to analyze my own doings too much. Which can be quite a bad thing, regarding some actions or decisions. So to be honest, I never felt like a real journalist – internships aside – as I never had some sort of classical education in that field. And there is actually a lot that you can learn.
Are we talking Harvard or Red Bull here?
Nice Academy pun. We are talking Berkeley here. But I would say my involvement with Red Bull Music Academy made me probably the most visible in terms of being a music journalist.
Yeah, I guess that's how a lot of people got to know you right? The German guy on the couch. Do you think that in turn had a hand in giving you more exposure as a DJ?
Hmmm, I wish I knew. It definitely took me around the world once or twice and I got to meet a lot of people on and off the couch but it was actually never really bound to me deejaying during RBMA that much. Maybe one or two gigs per Academy. It was and I think still is policy there that it’s more about the participants than the team members. Of course, it didn’t hurt because you meet people from all corners of this planet.
But I also don’t want to sound like the two things were completely separated from each other. Both activities become intertwined to the point where you have to stop one or the other – or need a pseudonym.
Why did you feel you couldn't do both things at once? Or did you enjoy deejaying more than writing?
I started to like deejaying more and more because of the non-verbal communications. Back then, you didn’t have to talk. I know that changed now. With writing about music, I reached a point where I felt that I said everything that I can say about music. I used the metaphor with the empty ink pot quite a lot. Also, I didn’t only feel that I told the story but the stories that I got told seemed more and more similar. And my third point is: I believe that you have to make room for younger people at some point. Not necessarily in creating or deejaying (I think some DJs get better with age, i.e. experience) but for me, writing about music always came from being a fanboy. That’s why I started with it and not with being a DJ. I thought overseeing and reporting could be, what I should contribute to that ‘scene’. Pre-internet it was a quite important part of learning about this whole thing. This is not meant to fall into the it-used-to-be-better-gutter, that was just what it was. And speaking about enjoyment: there was a time where I started to hate writing. I not only did interviews features, but also a lot of reviews. A Lot.
Do you remember the last thing you wrote?And did you change transitioning from journalist to DJ as a person. I remember you switching from mint tea to Japanese whiskey over the years!
In my mind – and I’ve also mentioned my hazy memory – I think that must have been about 5 years ago? I can find out. I wrote a little thing two years ago for the anniversary of Spex magazine… about a report on Italo House that was written by Hans Nieswandt at the time. One of my role models, when it came to writing about music and an instrumental figure for house music on Germany, or H-Muzik as he called it. Most people outside of Germany might know him for the Whirlpool Productions records.
Changes and transitions are the two big topics of our times. I tend to argue that I am still the same guy. I also felt very insecure and self-conscious about anything and everything I do. That’s still the case. The Japanese Whisky thing is a rare occasion in public… mint and ginger tea all day… I recently read that alcohol is not only bad for your liver but also for your bran. Who would’ve thought?!
I think you meant to write brain. So that might be true.
See… the first symptoms already got me. And I only had a glass or two.
Wil: “And speaking about enjoyment: there was a time where I started to hate writing. I not only did interviews, features, but also a lot of reviews. A Lot.” I know that feeling. Thank god Alasdair joined the site when he did!
W: When you do something too much though it does drain you of a lot of the creativity and energy that you once had for it. Do either of you have that about DJing and Marco is this why you’ve thrown yourself so much into this? The guest edit I mean.
G: A big part of it was also that it became unpleasant when you met people whose records you not only hailed. I try to be a polite and nice person… it made me feel uneasy. And also I thought – especially with my own label – that it’s weird that you become very active on the ‘creative’ side of it, but still linger on the critical side of it as well.
W: I don’t really write as much as I used to now and when I do it’s with people whose music I really, really like… apart from Marco’s of course. So it’s still exciting.
G: I think that everything that you do because it is a passion of yours and that becomes a profession after a certain, will leave you looking for different passions. Wanting to do something is very different to having to do something.
M: Right, I just like to keep myself (too) busy but by diversifying what I do definitely keeps me off suicide watch. So doing the label now, making music, playing records and helping out with this "blog", keeps it doable for me. I get bored quite quickly.
G: I think I have the same kind of balance with the DJ work, the label, remix and production tasks. But in my case, it is not so much boredom, it’s sheer angst. Or a working class ethos misunderstood.
I think creativity and angst are very closely linked. But you've obviously grown as a DJ in profile over the past few years. According to a certain poll by another blog you are bigger than Jeff Mills now! How does that make you feel?
The detailed answer to that would need more space than the internet can offer. The short answer is: nonsense! I think it is due to the fact that I deejay as much in a week as Jeff Mills maybe does in month. And that is because he is a smart man and I am an angsty hamster.
Ha, well if you ever need that pseudonym there you go. Angsty Hamster.
Ploughing the fields of clubland might lead to that… when it comes to creative contributions my record doesn’t looks so good anymore then. I can’t ring those bells.
I mean, I guess it's not up to you to decide that. But it makes me wonder, do you think about your own career as an artist from a journalistic point of view? Or to put it less mildly, What would Gerd Janson the mint tea drinking journalist think about Gerd Janson the hibiki swigging DJ?
You mean, if I ever write features about myself in my head?
Ha, well no, that might be a bit disturbing.
I can get out of that trap really easily.
W: Or Marco writes a whole feature about Gerd x Gerd.
G: We are reaching Being John Malkovich territory now, right?
M: Yes, this is where the interview gets super meta. Being Gerd Janson.
W: Perfect title. I’ll get someone onto recreating that film cover with Gerd's face x1000.
M: Not me hopefully.
G: That’s fine by me. There would be just a lot of white teeth behind that door that have leftovers of mint leaves stuck in between the spaces.
Stop avoiding the question Gerds!
So my exit card to that question that aims at music journalist criticism about crowd pleasing cheesemongers like me. I like to dance. So that lead me into everything related to club music. I went out dancing and raving from 13 years on. And probably will until I die. I just told Move D last Sunday morning, “I am afraid we have to do this, until we drop dead, David!“ So, my old supercritical university-discourse-eager self would have thought: at least you can dance to it.
"At least you can dance to it." Well… I couldn't think of a better epitaph or way to end this interview!
Haha! Good! Glad that you didn’t ask what I think about music-journalism today!
And for my final question, what do you think about music journalism today?
Haha. I love it! What Ableton did to the music, the internet did to music journalism. Happy times!
You use Ableton, don't lie.
Only reel to reels, old desks and some Atari Computer in case nothing else works.
W: What the internet did to music journalism was get artists to write their own ‘content’!
G: And the journalists to repeat that.
M: Having me as an unpaid intern for a week you mean.
W: Nothing pleases me more than that Marco.
G: You are a content catcher. Click bait, if you will.
W: Marco bait.
M: Still better than click house.
G: Click House will be the Jersey of tomorrow. Young Click. If you ever start to rap.
W: Not so Young Click.
G: Yeah, won’t that be a problem soon, Marco? We are looking at the same wall with Tuff City Kids.
M: Yeah, how TUFF are you really??
G: Tuff as nails, but I meant the ‘Kids’ part.
W: Tuff City Men.
G: We can turn it either into TCK or use another word for kids that will make me look like Harvey Weinstein but would at least be gender-ambiguous.
M: Tuff City Divs.
G: Tuff City Squids.
M: OK, the editor says we have enough material, I think that went pretty well! I could go on chatting shit with you guys for hours, but I have actual work to do.
G: Great! Me too. I have to write an article for a book.
W: This has been great!
G: Thanks to both of you. Felt honored to be asked.
M: Yeah I asked the top 29 DJs of 2016 but they all passed. So glad you did it!
G: My pleasure! Bye Bye!
M: Thanks loads, and hope to see you soon! My assistant Wil will be in touch with an edited transcript.
W: Yes master.