Interview: Johannes Albert – ” If people go freakin’ nuts I just sleep much better that night, you know?”
5 years of “Frank Music” that’s the perfect reason to have a quick chat with label owner Johannes Albert. Strongly connected to Würzburg and Franconia in general he showed his love with the name of the label. Now residing in Berlin, Johannes loves to play all kind of stuff. Whether it is disco, 90s house, or what ever. During our conversation we got to know his “Let’s be Frank” side of his character, on top he shared some insights about the label, his productions and what he does during his DJ sets. You can experience an excerpt of his DJ set from the 5th of december at Farbfernseher, Berlin as Ohrenschmaus Podcast #037.
Hey Johannes, thanks for your time. Your label „Frank Music“ celebrates his 5th anniversary at the moment. How does that feel?
Hi there, well how does it feel? It makes me feel good on the one hand. On the other hand time flies and flies and flies. It does not feel like 5 years at all.
Was it your plan from scratch to establish a label that lasts for such a long time in these days where labels seem to pop up and disappear after one or two releases?
Nope there wasn’t any plan at all. I just wanted to do one record from scratch to see all processes involved. You know from creating a track to have it on vinyl in the end. I wanted to see all of it. The mastering, the cutting, coordinating the pressing plant et al. There was no plan to make it a label straight away. But it was really fun and I liked most things about it so I continued and I think the 3rd record or something was something like a milestone if you wanna call it like this. Well let’s not call it that meaningful, maybe there was just a point where I thought “jep, let’s continue to make records”. Well actually I just did it if I remember this correct. No business plans involved. Damn!
Many of “Frank Music’s” output features yourself, friends and collaborations of yourself with other artists. Besides that you for example had a Fred P remix for your album, was it your intention from day one to have a platform for yourself, friends and producers you worship? Or do you also feature guests that’ve sent you demos you liked?
Well it’s exactly like you say. It was mostly about my own stuff as well as people around me. Of course I would love to put out the next Marcellus Pittman or Todd Terje record but I should keep these fantasies to myself. Actually I get some demos every now and then but there is not really room for that on the label. I mean I do like 3 or 5 records a year so I can’t put out anything else. I mostly listen to demos again these days but actually I shouldn’t… haha. Let’s be frank, it just feels like waste of time mostly. I don’t wanna be rude or something. I know it’s hard to get your music out there. It’s just that I won’t put out anything that’s not coming out of my circle because I need a personal connection. Or maybe I just wait for the next “Knights Of The Jaguar” that is floating into my demo folder? But wait, there is no demo folder. I think as a label dude you want to explore things. You want to find them, rediscover them or make things work. If you just get sent a soundcloud link it’s probably way too easy. I can imagine to work with other artists as well but I don’t think this will come out of a demo. Maybe I get pointed towards an artist or I just like the output of her or him so I will contact them. For now the artist stable is quite full I think.
What is the main idea behind “Frank Music” and what makes it so durable and special in your opinion?
The main idea is just to release my music on vinyl the way I want it to be. Plus as a little platform for my friends who also make music. Anything is possible so maybe I will release other artists as well one day but for the time being it’s just a tiny platform. My wallet makes it durable since record production is awfully expensive. Well honestly I don’t think it’s very special. It’s just another house label. But which label is special anyways? I still do believe in certain records and not really in labels. Take all the still famous “L.I.E.S. Records”. I do love the current Randomer one and I play it every time. But then there are 10 complete useless records before and probably after. No disrespect, though. I got quite a few. That makes me a good fan of this particular record but not especially the label. Right?
That sounds legit. Do you think to run the label ends in more opportunities and bookings for you as a DJ?
I can’t really say but I assume. Actually I play loads more since I started that little imprint. So maybe yes. I mean if your music gets around, you get around or something. I don’t know if this is connected to the label or just my productions. It’s a funny though that I never had a proper hit. I always sell around 300 to 500 copies per release, sometimes even less. It seems that quality lasts longer? I wish. Finally people mostly like the full package so yeah there are more opportunities.
So when you’re booked, what’s your approach when you spin records? Do you play records that keep the party going and leave the listeners in a kind of comfort zone or do you like to challenge them as well?
Well that’s a good one. Usually I try to keep the party going and not just going. If people go freakin’ nuts I just sleep much better that night, you know? Jokes aside I can’t stand all this teacher-bullshit. Why are people going out? To have fun, to have a good time, to have a couple of drinks and most importantly (always!) to DANCE after all. I just provide the soundtrack. So first of all the party counts. Second I always try to squeeze in the not-so-obvious dance tracks. For me these tracks are always obvious but maybe it’s not the latest hyped stuff you read about on these online portals. Just kidding. So it’s more like I love to challenge people within their comfort zones. If that is even possible. We are all lucky since we can choose from 40+ years of amazing dance music. And I always enjoy variety. Otherwise I get bored easily. Best moments for me are like when a super die-hard young techno boy will dance to the sweetest disco music. You don’t get this when you play disco from the start for 4 hours straight. You have to guide them and get them there. Then it works. That’s why I like long sets. I simply like too much different stuff. Also a thing I learned is that you will always need some tools. You need this records to fit in the crazy, the wild, the different stuff. But what is a tool anyways. Take these Italo Johnson stuff. It’s a must every time, they always work on the floors. But it’s not like boring tech house, it’s still so special in their own way. My kind of killer-dj-tool so to speak. So this is a safe one. A not so safe one would be an old nitty gritty acid banger if you have more of a smooth-loving crowd. The other day I played a really fancy gospel-house record by Sounds of Blackness. I was really nervous since it’s just so over the top with the organs and vocals. But it went down like a storm because people were ready for it or I just got lucky. You never know. Anyways I always love my crowd. As long as two people are dancing I am all in. And I’m grateful. A challenge is a good thing but it has to come naturally and not forced. I mean who wants to clear the floor by playing something completely different just to make a statement? I like it the way people dance and freak out to it. One can play the same record in so many different ways. And it depends on so many factors if it goes well or not. Same for tempo changes. Sometimes I would play just one single track that is maybe 20 bpm lower than the last one. Just to get them up again with the next one. Actually when in doubt I will always go for the big anthems. Yesteryear I didn’t have the balls to do it but it gets better and better. Taking a risk is fun as well. But I still have so many things to learn but I am willing to get into it. Ha!
It seems like your a big fan of disco and 90s house. You often incorporate those tracks in your DJ sets and mixes, how did you fell in love with disco and the early house stuff?
Now that’s a boring story. House Music got me into DJing around 1997 and I love love love house music ever since. What’s the foundation of all this? Exactly, it’s disco. So after getting Saturday Night Fever at the local flea market you go further down the road and dig deeper and you end up with Larry Levan, Arthur Russell or whatever. Before discogs and youtube it was even harder, kids. Actually the early house stuff came way later. I didn’t really had the late 80s and early 90s house records in mind all the years. I was more about music from 97 onwards (or on the other hand like 77 to 82 disco) and the classics obviously. Now it’s like…well it’s a bit of everything. I don’t care if a record is hot off the press or dusty from 1984. Sometimes you gotta repeat the mantra: “a good record is a good record is a good… you know”. And in my world the dance floor is always king. But I must admit the early 90s stuff is something I only discovered like 4 or 5 years ago. It just happened and for me I always need some change or more like addition. I don’t feel like I’m doing something different every second year. I couldn’t do it. It’s more like I find even more stuff that I like. The other day I went to a second hand record shop and only listened to 90s “early rave” as they were calling the box in the store. I found amazing tunes. Cheapos as well. If you go away from the obvious you will always find music you love. Sometimes I wish a day had like 38 hours so I could even listen to trance or whatever on beatport. I bet If I would spend 8 hours listening to crap I would find THE one track I will absolutely admire and play. For me this is even more important these days when it comes to being a DJ. Listen to as many tunes as you can and pick out the good stuff. It can be very hard I know. But it’s always worth it. Well, mostly…if it gets to depressing I put on some Sade and the smile comes back.
On top of that you also like to play cheesy tracks with a big smile on your face. As a producer you’ve already put out quite a few edits which sound pretty funny and cheesy as well. Are those edits a tribute in a kind of way or how is the process of choosing tracks you want to edit?
Haha, well thanks. I am the cheesemaster certainly. You gotta love cheese anyways. I just can’t help it. I just fucking love to make people dance and (almost) every time it happens there is this smile it seems. Maybe this is why I play all this positive, happy shit. Edits? It’s a bit of both I guess. Of course it’s a tribute. Anyways the term “edit” is always a hot topic. I play more and more original tunes (always best) and for me an “edit” is not like a music category. The other day I heard some straight 114 BPM “edit set” on soundcloud that was like the most disgusting thing I’ve heard all year. Polished, digital sounding pitched-down house with some lame disco samples for one hour straight? I don’t get it and I thought this was very 2011 or something. Don’t get me wrong but I don’t understand 80% of this so called edit stuff. In doubt original is always best. Always! For me an edit is something that honors the original all the way. It’s just an option to let people know about some tracks that got lost on the way. Plus some minor changes to make it work in a DJ set. Let’s talk about the “HIP EDITS 02” that was released two months ago. Well there is one edit I made and three edits from my good friend Jool of Achterbahn D’Amour, a regular on frank music as you can say for sure. The story behind my edit is that I bought a house album from 1988 because I liked a particular track. At first I just wanted to play it like it was but the intro wasn’t really playable. Plus there were some cheesy parts that are even too much for my kind of cheese. So I just made a little, tiny edit to play it out. Finally I decided to release it. For the other edits that Jool made it’s like we would like to give them new life or a reminder for people out there who didn’t know about it before. Long lost tunes that are hard to get on vinyl or just forgotten. That’s the main purpose behind it.
Besides your edits playground you released “Hotel Novalis” your first album back in 2013 which added new facets to your releases. How did you end up making an album was it your plan to create one or was it some kind of a lucky coincidence?
Well it’s still a producer’s dream to make an album and I had like 2 to 3 sketches on my hard drive that wouldn’t fit on a proper 12”. So I gave it a go and did some more “album” tracks. It’s a lucky mix of coincidence and a little plan. The artwork did the rest. Jan-Kristof Lipp, I salute you. Flowers and Wurst.
When it comes to producing music in general, how do you start? Are you the guy that jams and wonders what comes up or are the person that has a clear strategy from the beginning of each track?
Well since I never have a clear strategy in life it’s more like I just do something and see what comes out of it, or not. For remixes it’s a bit different and sometimes I have ideas in mind or use a certain hardware so I know a little where to go. But I usually start the classic way. Just a kick and a clap and I go from there. Anyways it’s weird. I don’t see myself as a producer. Somehow I am a true DJ who makes some wanna-be-tracks every now and then. Morgan Geist is a producer. Still I feel that it gets better.
Your tracks most of the time come with a certain roughness and sound a bit dirty. It seems like you’ve found your very own sound over the last years. What is your trademark sound or what is featured on typical J. Albert tracks?
Well thank you man. Are you serious? My own sound? I dunno. I like it a little bit dirty for sure. I use these 1/8 hi-hats a lot. Classic drum sounds. Roland Junos. Maybe simple and utterly predictable arrangements? Really I don’t know. But be prepared, my next track on “Frank Music” is more like emotional-trance-house. Dirty sounds will appear later on again. Or maybe even some ambient? I don’t even know where to go. It’s just that I like so much different music, it gets too wild in my head at times. I am probably best at making warm, classic house music with a certain twist but as said before I would like to go elsewhere as well.
At the end all the best for the next 5 years or more of “Frank Music” and all the other projects you have, where can we get in contact with the “Frank” side of life? Rumours say there are some birthday parties going on in the end of January.
Thanks man for having me and the time you put into your blog. Well I look forward to meet you all in the beautiful city of Nuremberg where we will be playing at K4 for the 5 years celebration. Here is the full schedule, I would love to meet each and everyone of you in ze club. Besides I have this little blog http://frankmusic.tumblr.com/ and you can catch me on soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/johannesalbert and on the f to the book https://www.facebook.com/JohannesAlbertFM Cheers!
for our 37th installment we got in touch with house maestro und disco lover johannes albert. after quite a few releases and his first lp “hotel novalis” on his very own frank music label he definitely came around a bit.
5 Years Frank Music | Ze Tour:
22.01. Disco Zwei | Mannheim
23.01. Geneva Club | Köln
29.01. Prince Charles | Berlin
30.01. Zentralcafé im Künstlerhaus (K4) | Nürnberg
12.02. Golem | Hamburg
20.02. MS Zufriedenheit | Würzburg
27.02. Galerie Kurzweil | Darmstadt
PHOTOGRAPH © Yasuhiko Nakamura