Given the trouble in tracking down any personal info, the last point seems a fair place to start. Are they pure revivalists? "Phew!" exclaims IJ's elected spokesperson. "To be honest, we don't really think in these terms. We don't have a master plan or a special old-school ideology. Though we don't have a very modern workflow when producing music, it's not 1994 anymore. We just do the stuff as we like it, just go with the flow."
Said flow has so far come on six EPs since 2010, shortly after "divine providence" brought them together. Why did they hit it off so well? A similar sense of humour and penchant for "getting shitfaced in the same establishments." What any of the members were doing before that point is not clear, and neither can anything be taken from their coincidental moniker. "[The name] has nothing to do with the sound we're doing—no Italo disco. It is technically impossible to explain, but some basic facts include: summer 2009, an open air party on the riverside, a lot of booze and a fundamental misunderstanding..."
Nor do track titles give anything away, with all six EPs arriving completely untitled, allegedly because "we are a bit too lazy to come up with names for every single track. They are actually not so song-oriented that they really need a name. Catalogue number and/or colour of the stamp should be enough to know what one's talking about and, for now, we don't have any plans to change that."
In times when the information super-highway grows more and more congested by the hour, such reticence may consign a normal act to complete anonymity. There are certain things working in ItaloJohnson's favour, though, which means in 2012 they can be as secretive as they like and still attract plenty of attention. Like their love of analogue gear and an unwavering passion for vinyl. Both are brand bolsters extraordinaire right now, though the latter has deep roots. All three members bought vinyl in their youth, including everything from early '90s hip-hop to intelligent drum & bass, hardcore, rave and even classical piano studies.
"Shit simply sounds better when pressed on vinyl, period," writes the spokesman once again. "Plus, the experience value of a record you're holding in your hands is way higher [than with a digital file]. In the very end we just want to play our tracks on vinyl, that's it."
They aren't the only ones. Prices on Discogs for their records are almost double the original value in some cases. Not bad for a group who claim they are "in no way trying to reinvent the wheel" and who never sent a demo anywhere, instead deciding early on to deal with everything themselves as a way of complete control. So, what exactly are they trying to do? The music itself suggests they simply want you to dance while feeling something. Be it the deep and cantering kicks of ITJ01; the brash techno loops of ITJ04 or the cut-up vocal stabs and mechanical grooves of ITJ05, ItaloJohnson's music is as powerful as it is unassuming; as fun as it is functional.
"It's definitely in part about functionality, [as was] almost everything we grew up with and the 'parties' we have been to. [The music we make] is mostly the music we want to play or buy on vinyl, so we just do it ourselves. In a nutshell, we simply make the records we would buy. But at the same time, this doesn't necessarily mean that we're only digging bouncy house—we love techno, but also deeper stuff. Dancing to it, listening, buying it, and so on. We are open-minded when it comes to music, but a project also needs focus. So for now, we like to go with bounce, but you never know..."
that 'likes', 'supports' and 'plays' are
much more important than the music itself."
Complete control is key—from their online profile to their music, release dates and artwork—because ItaloJohnson do everything themselves. All music comes on their own label of the same name and, to date, there have been no remixes. The trio haven't remixed anyone else either, stating that they might someday when their own musical to-do lists are cleared.
"Since ItaloJohnson is a project, not a label in the proper meaning of the word, we can't feature other artists. You already mentioned that we don't have written names or titles on our records, so the remixer wouldn't get any credits for his work anyway. For running a label in a strict sense, we would have to deal with bugging things like royalty statements, listening to tons of demos, unreliability in regards to deadlines and such. We want to spend our short time in writing music and playing shows."
"An important part of our workflow is that we record most things on the first take, leaving all little 'errors' and 'try-outs' in if we like them. Our sound is not that overloaded with different elements, we'd rather keep it simple but effective. The variations and unpredictability of analogue gear enable [our music] to still be entertaining and kicking."
Knowing crowds at clubs like Trouw, Panorama Bar and Harry Klein will likely agree, because though notions of anonymity and facelessness can come over as stuffy as faddy, an ItaloJohnson set is anything but, bouncing from buoyant and bassy jams to stark acid via stern house to techno with apparent ease. At best, then, you could say they are serious about fun.
While plans already exist for an ItaloJohnson live show, they point out "Rome wasn't built in a day" and that they are still very much focussed on making music. If music is their focus, then, isn't it only natural to want as many people as possible to hear it? Doesn't hiding in the shadows somewhat go against that? "Sure, but we're not hiding at all," someone explains. "These days one could get the impression that 'likes', 'supports' and 'plays' are much more important than the music itself. People seem to stop listening; they just follow the big names that are driven by expensive marketing campaigns. We neither can, nor want, to go that way. We are just telling our story. That's it. The music will make its own way."