V/O/I/D draft in yet another heavy hitter this weekend in the shape of TANSTAAFL Records' head honcho, John Osborn. A resident at Berghain's Substance night, John has established himself as one of Berlin's most reliable DJs. Also a regular at Panorama Bar, in recent times he's become best known for his TANSTAAFL Records night at the legendary club, Tresor.We lined-up a quick Q&A ahead of his gig at the Shelter this Saturday...
Hi John, how's life? What've you been up to recently?
Studying music theory further, making loops and attempting to get them to translate into actual compositions. Other than that I am sitting on my sofa writing this and listening to the new TANSTAAFL PLANETS release from Bill Youngman that just got delivered to my door.
What were your early influences in terms of getting into techno? The clubs, the records etc...
Sabresonic at Happy Jax, Lost at the Vox in Brixton and Fat Cat records. Those three things pretty much sealed my fate, I was hooked from the first night out.
What were you up to in London before moving to Berlin and what made you make the move?
I was working as a designer for a computer magazine, back in the days of dial up modems. I was playing at a few parties & clubs in London also. Then one day in 1999, through my ex girlfriend, an opportunity came up to move to Berlin. I had never even been to Berlin or even Germany for that matter - so I literally had no idea about the city and just decided to go and see what would happen. I was bored with london and I knew I needed to change something and leave the rat race behind. Best choice I made in my life so far!
What was happening in Berlin at that time? Which clubs and DJs held sway? This was before Berlin became such a Mecca for the electronic music scene that guys from Detroit started moving there, right?
Well Berlin still had a very strong music scene then, especially the underground scene. I watched the 'electro clash' scene grow which i have to say was a lot of fun, seeing Fischerspooner for the first time and Chicks On Speed. Was certainly wild days but then of course it finally got labelled as electro clash and by then it was over - it was never meant to last and i think that was the point. It was a good contrast to say, the Sonar Kollective, jazz/samba/caipirinha business house that was, for me, horrible.
What was the secret to carving out a career as a non-producing DJ for so many years?
I guess just having a real passion for dance music and understanding the point of DJing: playing records in certain contexts to make them become part of the foundation of a bigger picture or story. And a little luck.
What led you to take the plunge after so long?
Well it was something I always wanted to do - but when I started DJing I could not afford the equipment in the 90s. Hell, I had just blown my first student loan on my decks and a mixer and had to live hand to mouth for the next year but nowadays the software has got so good and is relatively cheap that I could start having a crack at it, and because of the years i have been involved in the scene I have a lot of excellent producers that can help me and offer me advice.
What were your direct influences at the time when you first started producing? And how have they developed since then?
NYC & Detroit House, Kassem Mosse and my label partner October and the world of dub. Pretty much still then same influences today really, but I guess you could add some of the UK 'new school' producers like scuba, Boddika, Joy Orbison and George Fitzgerald. I like their playfulness and cheeky britishness
Tell us about your label, TANSTAAFL, how the records and label nights have gone down, and the residencies you've held at nights like SUB:STANCE. And what's the Bristol connection?
TANSTAAFL was born out of the death of my partners label, Caravan Records. DJ October was pretty upset about this label going under and want to start a fresh. We decided to do it together as we are such good mates and have a musical understanding. DJ October is based in Bristol, hence the Bristol connection. We recently stopped the label nights after nearly 3 years in Berlin but it was at these nights that Eric Cloutier became part of the TANSTAAFL family and Is a real asset to the label. We all have our own 'sound' but we are all on the same wavelength. The label is doing great and we are really concentrating on putting what we feel to be high quality stuff out… this year is looking really good release wise.
Your career as a DJ has spanned various epocs and seen a number of sounds come and go; what is special about deep house and techno that gives it such longevity?
I think because there is always a core of people that keep pushing the sound and scene, keeping it fresh and also as it is technology led this also keeps things sounding new and exciting. And because techno & house is quite an intense spiritual sound, that once certain people hear it, your hooked. Its pretty fucking awesome.
Can you pick out a handful of names we should be looking out for that are emerging talents on your radar right now?
Joel Alters solo album will come maybe this year. He is a great DJ & producer. Bill Youngman - although he's been around for sometime he has a lot of new material and a new sound that sounds so damn good he has to explode. Many more actually but I am running out of time, I need to pack my bags and fly out to Asia and rock the Shelter's dance floor! Haha...
John Osborn plays V/O/I/D at the Shelter, Saturday 8th May, 10pm