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WAX ON, WAX OFF!

A rare look inside the elusive, musical minds of Italojohnson

Italojohnson
Italojohnson

ItaloJohnson are real party starters. That is basically all we know about the mysterious Berlin based trio, but it’s all we need to know.

Whether playing underground basement parties or headlining festivals, threading together house vibes or unloading heavy techno weapons, they know how to make the dancefloor a visceral, jacking place filled with many happy boys and girls.

Propping up their vinyl-heavy sets are many of their own fantastically functional yet endlessly fun tracks, all of which are untitled and are self released. As the 10th EP is ready to land, and ahead of the threesome joining us for a DJ Mag party at Egg on 30th January, we quiz them about their favourite records, and favourite places to buy them. SOME TICKETS STILL LEFT!

THE VINYL COUNTDOWN!

E-Dancer 'Banjo (Funk D’Void Remix)' [PIASB 022T] [PIAS] Recordings 1999

With this piece I associate big, intense emotions from a dynamic time for me and my friends in our late teens. Changing school and life careers, a sad goodbye, touching memories and melancholy.

Until then, emotionally I had never been impressed and touched that deeply and sustainably by any other song.

We discovered it — like countless other musical treasures — listening to the radio show The Steve Mason Experience” on BFBS London.

Some time later I accidentally found the record at Otaku Records in Hamburg and almost freaked out. As some kind of soundtrack to that period in my life, with its dramatic composition and grand finale, even after all these years, played in the right moment, this piece still gives me the shivers big time.”

Don Disco 'Swing Ibero' [r.3000-03] Research 1997

Finding this record — or rather this record finding me — was by far the most important and epic record store situation of my life. That’s a great reason why going to record shops and buying physical media is a big part of DJing.

This record was kind of a never-ending story over almost 15 years. Recorded on tape from Steve Mason’s radio show, I remember listening to it at our skate spot but having no clue which track it was or who made it.

At some point the tape vanished but over the years the loop kept popping up in my mind.

After six or seven years I heard Ricardo Villallobos playing the track at Club der Visionäre. It wasn’t too packed, but I was too stoned, so didn’t ask for the track, which I bitterly regret for many years.

Afterwards I borrowed old tapes from friends and spent hours and hours on a Steve Mason tribute page checking playlists and listening to YouTube videos without any success.

Then, in 2013, I was at the infamous record store Space Hall and all of a sudden the guy who worked there put on this track loudly. When I realised that it was 'that' one I was petrified, completely overwhelmed. I could not believe it.

My hair stood on end. Being right out of it I told the guys that they were witnessing the musical moment of my life, that I had been fruitlessly searching for it for 15 years and that I definitely wouldn’t leave the shop without that record, whatever the cost. He tagged it with €50and I paid it without batting an eye.”

Fortran 'The End Part II' [31R-006] 31 Records 1998 

'The End Part II' is the only drum & bass record that I own, but one of my very favourite records of all. We discovered this beauty on Evosonic. It was just presented as Ed Rush ’n’ Optical on 31 Records.

Internet and mail order were beyond me then. Besides hip hop and techno, ‘90s d&b — with its dynamics — felt like a great sound for skateboarding and for DJing in our rooms. There is a certain kind of raw jungle that takes me directly back into that time when I listen to it.

Buying it for peanuts on discogs, the record took its seat of honour in my record collection. With its dry and structured drumming and mystic/psychedelic vocals it catapults me back to the late '90s, to the skate spot, to my friends kids room whenever I put it on. This emotional power is absolutely insane and way more intense than any photo or picture could ever be for me.”

DJ Misjah 'Megaspoon' [X-026] X-Trax 1998

Once in the early 2000s I saw DJ Misjah play this in a three deck set in Hamburg at Phonodrome. It wasn’t deep, but percussive, dry and extremely functional. I just love this track.

Around that time when it came out, I bought it at the legendary Container Records in Hamburg, where we made our first steps in record shopping.

A simple track, obviously without too many big emotions, but with a drop that makes people go crazy over and over again. It just works. I played it in any kind of set, in my first sets, in my last sets, in hard and even harder techno sets and house sets, in basements, big clubs or open airs.

I remember when I played the track at our first gig at Panorama Bar. When my schoolmate from back in the days (who also still has it) recognised it he just raised his index finger with a broad grin. And at the drop after the break the whole room freaked out. This moment was unforgettable for me. Lunatic!“

Moodymann 'Forevernevermore' [KDJ019] Kenny Dixon Jr. 1998 

The lettering 'Forevernevermore' and that face with the wire-rimmed glasses were the only information I had about this record many years after I lost sight of it, but never got it out of my head.

This track is the soundtrack of my first steps on the turntables. I don’t have any clue how many hours in total we have listened to this song. I still remember when my friend and I borrowed this record after the sessions at our dude’s house.

As neither of us had turntables and a mixer, we played the record on his mother’s hi-fi turntable in her living room. We immediately sank into the repetition and the soothing aura of this song, tried to scratch a bit with the totally unsuitable needle and lost it again for hours, which simply flew by.

Today this piece, even just thinking of it, catapults me back to that time and these situations. I see and feel exactly how were sitting there next to each other in the living room in front of the player. Absolutely priceless as a source of tangible memories and feelings.”

Marschmellows '2834 (Richard Wolfsdorf Remix)' [r.3000-04] Research 1997 

“The very first time I heard this track was in 2004, on a recording of Ricardo Villalobos’ infamous set at Harpune in Düsseldorf.

I was mesmerized by its superior sound design, its forward-looking arrangement and its complexity. I would listen to it over and over again on my crappy Siemens SL45 which was the first cell ever with an integrated MP3 Player — 32MB WTF! The set itself was already poorly recorded, the file was even more poor — 64KB MP3 and that was the f-ing future for now.

I figured out a great deal of track IDs already back then by asking people like Julius Steinhoff at Smallville Records in Hamburg, for e.g. Minimal Man 'Chicken Store' and Swayzak 'Japan Air', which were brand spanking new at that time.

In 2009 I ran into my Swedish homeboy who is now a member of the cryptic SHXCXCHCXSH. We went deep on Villalobos tunes especially productions before the year 2000. He started buzzing and beatboxing “2834...” I started to shiver — was almost paralyzed, I squeezed his hand, looked him deep in the eyes and asked him: “You know what that this?!?

Two month later one of the ItaloJohnson members gave me that rather pricey record for my 26th birthday, been playing it ever since and planning on buying a second copy soon — before its too late — just in case. I still cannot comprehend that this has been made in 1997. Been hunting and gathering Research records ever since.”

LoSoul 'Soul Down' [Play081] Playhouse 2003 

“This badboy is by far one of my most played house records ever and it has definitely inspired one or another ItaloJohnson production.

Back in 2003 it was simply referred to as minimal, these days kids would probably just call it a tool.

First time I heard Soul Down was in 2004 played by the notorious WMF resident DJ Highfish (former member of The Whitest Boy Alive) at the Click club in Hamburg, which was without a doubt the best club Hamburg has ever ever had! I deck-sharked half his set that night, fortunately he was rather relaxed about it and fizzled out some IDs with a smart smile on his face almost like he knew someone (or rather just me) would ask for it.

Unfortunately by the time he dropped this beauty on Playhouse I had already asked him one to many times so I decided to let it go and enjoy the rest of his set. Only seven days later I was at this other club called Echochamber which was in the very same building as the Click club. Märtini Brös. were playing live that night on the main-floor — butt-naked and hammered. Solomun was playing dope “minimal“ gems on the smaller, more intimate floor for hours.

The moment I entered the room he dropped 'Soul Down', I went straight up to him and asked him what it was. I tried to find this record everywhere in Hamburg, went through every single Playhouse shelf in pretty much every single store known to me... no chance, it was over one year old and according to the dink of a shop assistant at Otaku Records, apparently 'no repress ever' he snapped at me. Later on he told me about this new thing called Discogs... and there it was, my very first shopping experience on Discogs in 2004. Buyer Feedback Positive.”

The Plan '4-Bit Logic' [PLAN001] The Plan 2005 

“I don’t even know where to start on this one? This track simply is fantastic, just everything about this release is absolutely fantastic.

'4-Bit Logic' is one of these hybrids that you can play in every jacking house set, in every banging techno set and its a great closing track on top of it. (This also counts for the A-side 8 Miles Wide.)

First time I heard this goddess from Detroit was at the Fusion festival in 2005, Marc Schneider from Word & Sound (who remains to be one of the best DJs on planet Earth) played it at the so-called Turmbühne on that memorable Saturday around 1pm. It blew my socks off.

The ID I figured out shortly after the festival by watching Richie Hawtin’s Live at TDK Time Warp Mix 2005 DVD. I ordered the record at Smallville Records (which was right at my doorstep), Lawrence ordered it for me at Submerge Detroit. Sadly The Plan has released only one more record after this masterpiece — why? Plan A is the past, the present and the future of techno. Boom.”

Baby Ford 'One For Sorrow' [BG022] Background 2001 

“This one I discovered in 2009. Cassy played it during ADE at Trouw’s basement floor on a Sunday morning around 8am — serious vibes! First I though it was 'Sugarspoon' by Baby Ford & The Ifach Collective because that one is featured on Cassy’s 'Panorama Bar 01' mix and it just sounds like an edit of 'One For The Sorrow'.

Both tracks have been released in 2001. Cassy who apparently is an expert when it comes to Baby Ford gladly told me what it was and she also made sure (with a wagging finger) that it's not 'Sugerspoon'. I have never been seriously looking for this record even though I always wanted to have it.

Just a couple of months back I accidentally stumbled over this great rarity at Power Park Records in Berlin. An outstanding second hand record shop in Friedrichshain. The mysterious owner called me over to the counter and seriously asked me, if I we're looking for something special?

He pulled a record out from under the counter, a white label saying 'One For Sorrow EP'. It took me a bit of a moment to understand what I was holding in my hands, once I did, I instantly started drooling... preoccupied I put the needle on the record to make sure it was the real thing. That was the moment he knew he could charge me anything for it. And he did. And I paid.”

LTJ Bukem 'Atlantis (I Need You)' [GLR003] Good Looking Records 1993 

“This one over all. Originally released on Good Looking Records under the band name Apollo Two 'Atlantis (LTJ Bukem Remix)'.

No doubt Daniel Williamson was significantly involved in writing and producing this miracle of a tune. No idea at all where any of us has heard or identified 'Atlantis' for the very first time but it sure was a mind-bending experience and an expansion of consciousness.

Around 1996 an old skater friend of mine gave me this mix on tape LTJ Bukem & MC Conrad at Dreamscape 1993 which contained 'Atlantis' and other future classics. The tape broke eventually. In 2000 Bukem released 'Producer 01', a compilation of his masterpieces on CD, tracks like 'Demon's Theme', 'Music' and of course 'Atlantis'.

The Vinyl was for the first time ever re-released in 2012 with a rather meh remix by Marky & S.P.Y. obviously I got my self a copy. I could go on and on about this tune, how it's probably been written and produced, its sample sources.. but I think the most important thing is to listen listen to it. 'OK, Take it slow & easy, We're goin' in.'”.

TOP OF THE SHOPS
Spacehall Records (Kreuzberg, Berlin)

Spacehall is without any doubt our most favourite record store. Sure, it’s not an insider tip but they keep re-stocking old and new label catalogues like maniacs, which every once in a while provides that magic digging experience.

You can tunnel yourself for hours through labels and artists who have not released anything in over 10 years and somehow these shelves are being filled up over and over again.

First time I entered the old Space Hall (they moved to an even bigger facility in 2010 on the same street) was in 2003, an old pal of mine was raving that you can basically find everything in there, which almost seemed to be true back then.”

The staff there was greatly feared: if you asked that chain-smoking renegade of a shop assistant — let’s call him S — for the wrong record or artist, he would redline you and give you a hard fucking time.

Then again, if you would ask for the right ones S would dig out some serious gems (which you would have to buy). Once I even charmed a smile out of him by asking for an Elevate record, it was a great moment.

Spacehall still provides a bit of the old magic but it’s super-duper fresh at the same time. Berlin offers a great deal of outstanding record stores, but Spacehall has the most formative influence on us.“

Container Records (Reeperbahn, Hamburg) 


This is the place where my long journey of buying records began in 1998. It had the best selection in northern Germany and is a real institution. I remember the first time we entered the shop on the 1st Floor of the old house on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn. Downstairs there was a shop for street and “scene”wear.

Trawling through the different sections I found many labels and artists which we had been listening to and taping almost weekly since 1997 from our biggest source of musical inspiration — The Steve Mason Experience radio show on BFBS London.

It played UK stuff, Continental European and US stuff. It was stunning to have all the virtual labels, which you’d heard just by name before, right here in your hands. Skipping through, checking on other catalogue numbers or records you have never heard of… it was the beginning of a deep passion.

On our way home I had records from Jay Denham or Jamie Anderson and labels like Elephanthaus, Drumcode, Spielzeug, Wavescape etc in my bag. Since then I regularly spent almost all my pocket money driving from the suburbs to the city and record shopping at Container.

Together with the pioneering radio show these two institutions outlined the cornerstones of my musical identity. I have some records I bought there that I’m still playing today after more than one and a half decades. Thank you Container Records. RIP!

Power Park (Berlin, Boxhagener Straße)


This shop right in the heart of Berlin’s Friedrichshain needs to be mentioned here. Power Park offers a well sorted and wide stock of second hand and new records from rock music, jazz to disco, house and techno all the way from the '80s right up to today.

A lot of well known artists from Berlin and beyond stream in and out, buying and selling records so there’s always an interesting exchange. There is also rare stuff, as well as a generally high quality selection that is well taken care of by the more than passionate and cooperative dealer.

Directly connected to our distribution and homebase, Diamonds and Pearls, it’s rather a family business and is quite valuable in these dynamic times of fewer physical outlets. Top!”

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