Oslo or Bust with Gerd Janson

The short transfer from Oslo Lufthavn to the city is the closest we ever get to the DJs and artists that pass through Jæeger’s booth every weekend. It’s the most time we ever get to spend with the artist, where they are no occupied at the job at hand and we’re not shouting over the enormous presence of a Funktion One system at each other. We get to kick back, as they normalise to a ground-level air pressure, while the Tesla almost drives itself. The scenery, with its splashes of fleeting green intersecting the ubiquitous grey of the multi-lane road ahead, hardly inspires, while the quiet hum of the electric motors underneath us add to the perfect conditions for a conversation. With our guests at ease and our questions at hand, it’s Oslo or bust and this week’s guest is Gerd Janson.

Gerd Janson boasts the type of credentials that even RA’s top 100 DJ can’t compete with. Residencies at Robert Johnson, Panorama Bar and Trouw; a Fabric mix on its way; and a successful label like Running Back are just some of the highlights on his impressive resume. Admired by fans and peers alike for both his solo appearances and as one half of Tuff City Kids alongside Lauer, Gerd Janson is one of the most sought after DJ’s for any club with a forward-thinking music policy. His sets can go from the club-charts to the more obscure corners of House and Techno, maintaining that balance between entertainment and enlightenment as the present, past and future collide through his sets.

We pick up Gerd at Oslo Lufthavn and we find a witty and amiable personality in a fine mood. His German accent is quite shallow and his answers to our questions show an adept hand as an interviewee. There’s never even the slightest hint of an ego, and you forget that your talking to the same man that sports that impressive resume as he’s as eager to talk about music and clubbing as we are about asking him. So while were in the car, let’s start there…

I heard a rumour that you would drive from your residency at Robert Johnson to Panorama Bar.

No never! That’s too crazy. (laughs) I like driving, but that is too much. It would take 5 hours. If I would finish at Robert Johnson at 10 and played at Panorama bar in the evening at eight it would be too crazy. Who started that rumour?

I’m not sure, but it might have something to do with the fact that you weren’t drinking at the time and you can imagine how stories get exaggerated from there. I do believe you partake in a drink or two now, though. I know Prins Thomas enjoys his Belgium beers and single malts. Did he have something to do with your decision to start drinking? 

I still don’t drink beer. Prins Thomas sparked my interest in single malt whiskeys, I have to give him that, but when I actually DJ or party I still don’t drink. I’m a private drinker. I still consider myself a non-drinker in that respect.

Good to know for later… While we are on Prins Thomas, you often share the booth with him. What is it that draws you to his artistic personality? 

I just shared a flight with him from Amsterdam to Oslo, coming from ADE. He’s approach is even broader than mine when it comes to dance music. We’re friends outside of music, and we don’t always have to talk about music. He has a larger than life persona. He is almost like a Norwegian magnet so if he decides he likes you or takes you in, then it’s hard to get away from him. I very much enjoy his company in the DJ booths. He is one of the greatest living DJ’s on the planet.

Much like you… especially considering your associations with Panorama bar, Robert Johnson, Trouw and Fabric. What makes places like those so special in your experience?

When it comes to clubs and I think that holds true for Jæger as well, there are some things that you can’t always put your finger on. There are ingredients that bring it closer, ingredients like the sound; considering things like the shape of the room; the people; how the people are treated in the club; music policy, all these little things, bring the molecules together. Having said that, all those places do it very well in different ways, but I still wouldn’t take up the responsibility if someone approached me to build a club. I think the bottom line though is the people.

People’s musical tastes can be quite different depending on where you go to, and your quite broad, so do you ever plan your sets ahead?

No. I have a routine for certain pockets of the party, but it’s never planned?

Getting back to venues… I can imagine you can be quite selective of the places you play at. Do you have any specific criteria for a venue?

I’m not picky. If the money’s right my mix is tight. (Laughs)

Are there any new venues that have gotten you excited?

Yes, I played De School in Amsterdam two weeks ago, which is kind of the follow-up to Trouw. I liked it a lot. It’s totally different to Trouw. It’s dark it’s a basement, it has a low ceiling. The vibe there is great. I also played Breakfast club in Tel Aviv for the first time recently, which I really liked that. I’m pretty open.

If the opportunity is there…

I’m curious.

Let’s talk about the Fabric mix, which will be out soon. You obviously couldn’t have known that they would have lost their license at the time, but how much significance do you place on it now?

I hope that my mix isn’t gonna be the nail in the coffin. They’re closed for now, but as far as I understand, the label will go on anyway. The mix after mine is by Scuba, and I’m sure they have a few lined up after that one. Of course it’s a bit of bummer for them that it’s not intertwined with the dialogue of the club. I’m not a big fan of laws behind nightclubs. I know the whole story, but they tried everything in their power to guarantee a safe clubbing experience. I read one comment that said, “if prisons can’t keep drugs out, how should nightclubs be able to.”

Considering those ingredients you mentioned earlier, what do you think will be lost for good, if Fabric goes?

I think Fabric is one of the places that is kind of the playground and the godfather of what came after in London. They had a music policy and a party policy that sparked the fire for all the other parties that are happening in London, so they are, in some ways, victims of their own success. I believe that a city like London also needs Fabric as an anchor, where you know this is a “super club”, but they place emphasis week in and week out on UK-specific music on their Friday. I think it’s important to have a steady rhythm, and not only have one-off parties here and there. They changed the way clubbing worked in London a lot.

Many people we talked to suggest that nothing would change and the scene would just move on. On the back of your experience, what would your opinion be on that sentiment? 

I’m not clairvoyant, so we will have to wait to see how it goes. It goes two ways: If this is just a sign of the times, it will become harder and harder for clubs and parties to work. If this is just an isolated incident to Fabric because of where it is and what happened there, then the scene would just move on. But I don’t think the scene would just move on.

Jæger has rallied behind Fabric in some part because of the universal repercussions that this will have on electronic music and the scene. Have you been able to discern any affects of Fabric being closed at any of the other places you’ve played?

No, I couldn’t say I have. I think what’s nice is that there is a big level of solidarity in London. People are trying to do something about it. It has a unifying quality in a very competitive landscape. People do care if an institution like Fabric runs into trouble and they stand united.

On to Running Back. Many label owners turn DJ to spread the sound of the label, and mainly stick to the label’s catalogue, while in your case it’s the other way around and the label comes after the DJ. How do you represent the sound of the label through your sets?

 Any criterion for a release I put out is firstly, ‘do I like it’ and secondly, ‘would I play this’. Then there’s of course music for different occasions, certainly. For example, there is a Tornado Wallace album lined up, and I would say most people would argue there is not a single dance track on there. To me there are at least two or three tracks I would play at Robert Johnson when I start the night there. And then there’s stuff like KiNK, peak time music, and the more you get busier as a DJ, the more you find yourself in the peak time slot, and that also informs the way you pick and play music. If there’s a common denominator, I try to place it for every phase of the night. It also comes from my DJ approach to be more open minded, which can include stupid records as well as intelligent ones, and that’s how I also try to steer the label. You are also dependent of what people send you.

How would you describe the sound of Running Back from there, colourful? 

Yes, that’s good or rainbow music? (indistinguishable)

Rambo music?  

Yes that too, Rainbow and Rambo music. (Laughs)

So, if some comes across the label with no knowledge of you, would you hope that it reflects of you?

I think that some of those records are very different I would just expect people to take it for what it is, to look towards the artist more than the label, that’s why my name is never on a record even as an executive producer. It’s not a Gerd Janson type of label, so I would expect people to listen to the music.


*Special shout-out goes to our host Ivaylo Kolev for putting the questions to the man and taking care of our guests week in and week out!