Get To Know: Gerd Janson
Gerd Janson is everywhere. Globe-trotting club-resident DJ, worldwide festival regular, overheated song of the summer creating producer and fifteen-year label head veteran, there seems to be no stopping him. Contextualised within a moment, Janson has seen (alongside Shan) the release of his smashing Surrender EP, on ReGraded, played universally lauded sets at UK festivals, Houghton comes to mind, and overseen a Tony Humphries curated 15-year anniversary signalling Mastermix for Running Back, all in a single summer. There’s a happy harmony to this seasonal trajectory. Start with a short, sharp bang while rolling into a summer long deliverance of continued, assured quality before settling into the oncoming autumn via a landmark celebration served up by a US music legend and personal idol. Indeed, all of this seemed reason enough to sit down with Janson. Unsurprisingly his recent exploits were covered with ease via his energetic, productive hyperactivity, one which seems to drive many DJs/producers. Janson went above and beyond, and as our conversation unfolded he let us in on what appears to be his underlying appreciation for the way things should be, a kind of principled musical idealism, at the heart of which lies the natural enjoyment of music. Ultimately, it’s music by music for music with an awareness of what is realistic. Across EPs, residencies, his label, collaboration, festivals, Craig Richards and Tony Humphries, Gerd Janson was kind enough to gives us a brief insight into how it should be done.
Let’s start off by talking about your recent release on ReGraded, ‘Surrender’, a summer anthem. Midland has said previously that seeing you play at the Panorama Bar in early 2015 was his inspiration to start the sample based disco/house sub-label. Can you tell us how this release came about, what you originally envisioned (with Shan etc) for the release and what the creative process was for the record?
My hazy memory doesn't allow me to say anything definitive about it. All I remember is, that Sir Midland told me about [what he] said, "the inspirational factor" - that is one of the most flattering things you can tell another DJ, I guess. So, I think I offered to do something along those lines for the label or he suggested it? Or we both wanted it anyway? Whatever it was the guiding lines were pretty clear: sample based disco/house like you said yourself. With the B-side preferably being a B-side and a sub cooled counterpart to overheated A-sides. The creative process was just that doing a sample heavy, filtered goulash house track and balance it out. Weirdly, we had the B-side ready before the A-side. But who wants to know these boring details? When we had "Surrendered" ready - which fits the bill of an over the top track that you love to hate and hate to love ("…but the original is so much better…") - Midland's top team approached Patrick Adam's top team and cleared the rights. Voilá!
Having held residences at some of the worlds most sought after clubs such as Berghain’s Panorama Bar in Berlin, Trouw in Amsterdam, Robert Johnson in your hometown Frankfurt and being a regular at Phonox in London and DC10 in Ibiza recently - can you tell us in your opinion what the art of being a successful resident DJ is and why you feel it’s important for venues to implement this?
The definition of what a resident DJ is, has been morphed and shifted in a way that strays afar from its original meaning. A resident DJ used to be the person that played every weekend, every day or even just once a month in a venue/club. Either the whole night or as a preparer for guests. Nowadays, a brief stint of let's say one to three month or a monthly revision seems to be the resident DJ by definition. That changed the work and ethos of such DJs immensely. They used to be able to create individual hits and club anthems (week in, week out) that shaped the club and evoked certain reactions by its audience (I remember when certain records could only be heard in certain clubs by certain DJs). It was a give and take and an exchange between the DJ and its crowd. Of course, that happens every night as well, but not in quite the same way. Now, it's a form of clubbing globalization that is not necessarily a bad thing. But to answer your question in that global way: great sound, good monitors, a good-humoured dance floor, trying to find records people respond to in different environments and an ample DJ booth. in a nutshell: attention to detail.
In an interview a few years ago you said that you have “a bit of an almost unhealthy obsession with old Tony Humphries radio tapes” and that “he is one of the few dance music architect's that I have never seen in the flesh”. Being released next month you have a Running Back Mastermix compiled by the US dance music figurehead himself, Tony Humphries, celebrating 15 years of Running Back. Can you tell us a bit about how this came to fruition with Tony?
That was actually a really simple one. Matthew Styles who helps me out as a label manager, shares my obsession regarding the man. Since he started working for the label and taking over a lot of the joyless duties, he also has the capacities of turning fantasies like this into reality. As the driving voice behind it, he got in contact with the management and Mr. Tony Humphries was up for the task. So, like almost anything with the label, a pipe dream turned reality.
And I imagine you have you seen him play now?
Yes. I had the honuor of even playing after him at Panorama Bar.
The Mastermix itself - can you fill in those that haven’t heard what the Mastermix features?
It's a classic label mix as they were common back in the day. A DJ like Tony Humphries (he used to do it for labels like Striclty Rhythm and Irma), gets access to the back catalogue and puts his icing on the cake. In this case, you get the typical thriving Hump sound with the likes of Todd Terje, Tiger & Woods, Leon Vynehall, Mr. G or Paul Woolford. Sounds great in the car and almost like a KissFm Tape from way back then. Thank you, Mr. Humphries!
Philipp Lauer, Mark Barrott and yourself make up Talamanca System. I read something about a remix request by Mark, but can you tell us more how you and fellow Tuff City Kids comrade Philipp formed with the International Feel boss?
It just happened. I met mark in Ibiza a few years ago. He gave me a synthesizer. I didn't want to accept. He insisted. I told him then we have to remix something. He presented a track of his own down the line. It turned out to be 'Balanzat' and we not only remixed it, but also helped with the original. That helped to form the group. Mark visited us in Germany with some ideas he already had. We fleshed them out, added our ideas and more or less recorded an album in a day.
Talking about the album recently you said, “it’s like a vision of what it could have been like here [Ibiza]. It’s a fantasy, basically. - can you expand on what you mean by this?
Mark and me agree to disagree on that subject. I think - as much as I love it - the whole thing became a bit of a hoax. If you want an interpretation of Balearic music, you can either go with that of middle-aged men who regret that it's not 1988 anymore and tell you something about Adonis dancing with Sade. Or you grab a daily newspaper and look up the pages that say Amnesia, DC 10 or Ushuaia and look for an up-to-date definition. Talamanca System is about being trapped on that dance floor in 1988, while reading an essay by futurologist Ray Kurzweil. But most of all, it is supposed to stand on its on. As an utopia that is more concerned with having fun than following a dogma. I studied history and a fondness for the past, but as we all know nostalgia is a crackpipe. So don't suckle too long on it.
Balearic is a sound you’re lesser known for, do you have some go to Balearic artists you listen to? In particular artists that may have influenced you and your approach/style when producing the Talamanca System debut album that was released a couple of months ago.
The so called Balearic sound is a mixture of different things and very disparate individuals. See Mastercuts Classic Balearic for proof. Or explained to me, what the Nitzer Ebb and Sade have in common. Like explained above, it was more about creating a feeling and a fantasy than a pastiche of a certain sound that never was - except for a bunch of records that were played here. Actually, like a resident DJ thing...
Earlier this month you played a brilliant set at Houghton, a festival curated by Craig Richards - do you have a history with Craig, if so, can you tell us about how you know him?
Thanks for the compliment. Like most people these days, I know Craig Richards as the stalwart from Fabric. And that should lead back to your second question. He is the last resident standing. What he did for and at Fabric is pretty much the quintessential art of deejaying as a resident: week in and week out. Carving your own sound in conjunction with your dance floor. And pretty much the best-dressed chicken in town, too. My admiration for him went as far as asking him about the perfume he was wearing, while playing there.
The festival has received very positive press. What did you think of the festival and the line up that Craig curated?
A best of good times. But what would you expect from someone who has been doing this for so long. A well-balanced line-up with all the different genres and micro-genres of this thing called dance. Plus he managed to get some of the best people working behind the scenes (sound guys, artist liaison etc. pp.) to sail the Houghton ship with him. Like always that is the secret recipe to a good party: the people. The setting helped as well and the fact that it felt a little bit secluded from the rest of the world: bad cell reception and empty batteries. So, that sprinkled a little bit of the old magic over the whole thing.
What does the rest of 2017 entail for you and your other aliases as well as your imprint Running Back?
More of the same! KiNK's long player Playground is around the corner and I keep doing, what I am doing: building studios that never get finished, playing parties, remixing records, releasing records.
If you had to play one track as the final track for a months worth of gigs - what would it be right now?
Subject to change, depending on the direction of party: Odyssey - Hang Together (Keep Schtum Version) or Underworld - Born Slippy (Alma + Mater Edit)
Intro: Hugo B
Interview: Ben C