No-nonsense club sounds from an anonymous trio.
In a 2012 profile piece, Kristan Caryl was left groping for information on the Berlin-based production outfit ItaloJohnson. 18 months later, we're still unsure what to tell you. The group's overriding message (which they communicated through a "spokesman" via email) was a desire to let the music do the talking. So let's focus on that. ItaloJohnson have just released the eighth instalment in their self-titled vinyl series. Its three simple, arresting hardware jams are very much a continuation of the series' overall vibe. "We don't have a master plan or a special old-school ideology," they told Caryl. "We just do the stuff as we like it, just go with the flow." There is an air of functionality attached to ItaloJohnson's music, but little touches like the vocal on the third release's A-side, or the synth-strings on the fifth release's B-side make their tracks more than just DJ tools. They've also stepped out of their self-contained world a couple of times recently, turning in bumping remixes for Hotflush (The White Lamp) and Tsuba (Spencer Parker).
ItaloJohnson's low-key approach may frustrate the press sometimes, but it hasn't harmed their DJ careers. So far in 2014 they've played Berghain, Trouw, Concrete and Corsica Studios, and have a set at Dimensions festival in Croatia on the horizon. Their style is a straightforward but hypnotizing meeting between house and techno, which shines through brightly on this week's RA podcast.
What have you been up to recently?
We have been playing quite a lot lately, and we've met a whole bunch of decent and interesting people, and have been hungover in many inspiring places. We crafted a remix for Hotflush and, not to forget, just finished working on our 8th release, which we're really happy about. It's been a while since our 7th release.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The three of us met up on a Sunday in April with our packed record bags. We recorded the mix in one go with two Technics 1210 and an Allen & Heath mixer. We also put the biggest speakers we could get into one of our living rooms to generate some kind of a club feeling—the neighbours really loved us for that. We just totally forgot about a crowd. Next time we will definitely hire one.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
There are two crucial factors that lead us to record the mix in this particular way. One of the aspects is the selection and the arrangement of the tracks. The other one is how we mixed and recorded the piece.
Concerning the selection it was important for us to give the listener a hint of each and every one of our styles. Some of the tunes are declared evergreens to us that we always wanted to present in a podcast, others are supposed to show our emotional side, and yet others are manifesting our more dry and repetitive bias. Something that was really important to us was to compile a mix that could have been recorded some years ago or could maybe be recorded in some years—something as timeless as possible according to our standards. The way we mixed and recorded the whole thing should give the audience an idea of the aesthetic that forms our DJ styles. It surely can be described as a club-oriented mix.
How do you usually approach three-way DJing?
We usually hold some kind of a phone conference not to bring the same records. We also make sure as death that the clubs are providing more than just one bottle of booze for us. While one of us is mixing the others are celebrating—how should it be otherwise. Apart from playing back-to-back-to-back pretty much everything is off-the-cuff decisions and other fortunate accidents.
Is there a mood or feeling you try to evoke in your sets?
Our sets are naturally quite long and improvised. From the starting point of the set we are taking the people by the hand, trying to generate a setting in which everything is possible. For instance, this could be an ecstatic, fist pumping house moment, which is rather often the case. On the other hand there is definitely the hard-hitting techno moment that can flow into a repetitive and infinite loop sound, which is causing a meditative state of mind. In the end the actual hidden agenda is being an essential part of the ceremony and merging with the crowd.
What are you up to next?
The very next upcoming thing is ItaloJohnson #08, which will be released on May 5th. This year we will seriously try to release more than just one record, since it was only one last year besides an essential remix for Spencer Parker. We are really looking forward to spring / summer time, playing a number of shows in attractive venues like fabric, Space and Dimensions Festival. Another highlight for us will definitely be playing at Trouw one more time before they have to shut down—sad as it is. Nevertheless we will try to spend as much time as possible in the studio. Still trying not to reinvent the wheel.