John Roberts nous a tous touché en plein coeur avec son album Glass Eights sorti sur Dial fin 2010. Depuis, il est demandé partout et le voilà pour la 3e fois à Paris à l’occasion de la ME.002. Interview.
How are you ? How do you feel eight months after the release of Glass Eights ?
Im good thanks…im in Paris at the moment. A lot has changed since the release of the album…I have spent a lot more time touring which is very exciting, but can also be taxing mentally and physically.
How can you explain the excitement for your album? No, it’s the wrong question. It’s because your album is great. So, what is the history of this album? (Inspirations, collaborations, working time)
Haha, well thank you. It’s a bit hard for me to trace any sort of linear history of the album at this point because it’s been a couple of years now since I started working on it. For me, the creation of it was a very solitary thing…I spent a lot of nights in bed just sequencing things on my computer with headphones. At that time I was working at a gallery during the day, so when I’d come home I would usually just eat dinner, get into bed, and continue working on the album…I guess then it was sort of a nice release for me after working on things for other people all day. Through this gallery world though, I met a friend of mine Carson Chan, and we started to work on a track for the album together (“Went”), so that was really nice for me…to finally get to share what I had been working on with someone and have them contribute to the process.
You’re American, right ? David Lieske, Peter Kersten and others are all German. So how have you joined the DIAL team?
Yes, I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I met David & Pete through Romy Zips who is a good friend of their’s and also was the booking agent for all of the Dial artists at that time. We met a few times in New York and Berlin and I gave her a CD of what I was working on at that time and she passed it on to David and Pete who eventually wrote me a very sweet letter asking me to be a part of the label. I had quit my job in New York sometime before that and decided, with the encouragement of Romy, to move to Berlin and try doing music full time.
Now, what are your relations with the dial artists ?
I really love all of the other Dial artists and feel close with them even after knowing them for just a few years now. I think the label, and also the friendships between the artists, really works because everyone involved has core parts of their personalities that somehow compliment each other.
Even if I have an idea on the question, what is different between DIAL music and all other kinds of techno ? What is your a message, your goal?
I think Dial is a special label because they completely trust in their artists and are not afraid to release all different types of music, regardless of genre. They really believe in what their friends are doing and I think you can really feel that through the releases. Personally, I am just trying to create listenable music that is a direct reflection of wherever I happen to be in my life at that point in time.
I know you launch a The Travel Almanac magazine with Paul Kominek (Pawel). Can you tell me more about it, travels, cinema … ?
Yes, Paul and I recently released the first issue of our magazine, The Travel Almanac. We have been working toward the release of the first issue for a couple of years now so we are quite excited that it is finally in stores around the world. The basic premise of the magazine is to give creative people (that we like) a voice about the topics of traveling and temporary habitation. In our first issue we spoke to David Lynch, Javier Peres, Terence Koh, James Murphy, etc. It has really been an amazing project so far, and we just began work on our second issue which should be released in October of this year.
Do you have time to visit all the cities where you play?
No, unfortunately not! Most of the time I just travel to a city mid-day, arrive in the evening, have dinner, play a show, return to the hotel, sleep, wake up, and go to the airport. It is an incredibly strange way to travel and I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone. I think it’s always so much nicer to spend a few days in a city. I decided recently that four days is the ideal amount of time to spend somewhere….Enough time to try the best restaurants and wander around, but not enough to get tired of the people or notice the problems a city might have.
Where do you want to go back (For the beauty of the city and for the public)?
Well I am actually here right now! I have always wanted to spend more time in Paris, so this time I came to the city a few days early and have really been enjoying walking around and seeing everything…Paris has to be the most beautiful city….Although right now it is incredibly hot.
Yes, I think it is the same in all the country. And have you already visited Paris ? France ? Do you want to do anything particular in Paris?
I visited Paris for the first time when I was 16, and then didn’t come back until my early 20s. Now I am trying to come a couple of times a year. Today I am going to walk along the Seine, try to buy a new pair of pants, and go to a Japanese restaurant for dinner that a friend recommended.
Do you have ever played in Paris?
Yes, I’ve played records twice here before…Once in the Rex Club, and also in la Gaité Lyrique… Both were very nice experiences….but I haven’t played live here yet, so i’m really looking forward to that.
How do you prepare your lives? I saw two lives of Pantha Du Prince. The first time was one week after the release of Black Noise, and the second was 7 months later. I noticed a huge change. The first time he played his album as he knows how to do it(it was beautiful) and the second he played in connection with the public and it was better. I compare it to you because there is something more melodic and more spiritual than in a tech house live for example so maybe it is more difficult to prepare it.
The live set has sort of been an ever evolving thing for me. As time goes on I add or subtract equipment, songs, and pieces of tracks. I am quite happy with the way It has been going lately but I think preparing a live performance for a club environment when you don’t necessarily make the most club-friendly music is sometimes a challenge. It is kind of a struggle between conveying the subtleties of the original pieces of music, but also being respectful of the fact that there is an audience there to see you that would sometimes like to dance.
The lives that impressed me are those of Mathew Jonson and Bodycode. Did you ever seen?
I haven’t seen Bodycode, and I haven’t seen Mathew Jonson play live, but I did watch him set up for his performance in Amsterdam which I found really inspiring. He had an incredible amount of equipment and cables snaking all over the table. I felt really lucky to witness this because it really reminded me of how complex or simple you can get with a live performance….and that is what I really like about it. There are endless possibilities if you feel like putting the time in.
The ME.002 line up is great. Will you listen one of these artists in particular?
I’d like to see Ricardo Villalobos. I haven’t seen him play for six years so I’m a bit curious as to what he is up to lately…
Are there other artists that you really like?
I spent the other night listening to some of the old Lawrence albums (I had never listened to them from start to finish), and they were really special and beautiful. So right now I would say that he is the electronic artist that i’m most interested in actually.
Danilo Plessow (MCDE)? I listened to your latest remix for him. I love and I really like all his productions too. Do you know him personally? Other projects with him?
Yes, I do know him personally. His girlfriend came to a Christmas party that I had in Berlin a couple of years ago and as the party was ending, Danilo was coming back in town from playing somewhere….so he came over and the three of us had some drinks and talked for a couple of hours…They are both such nice people. Danilo and I haven’t talked about any new projects together yet though!
Last question, because everybody wants to know. What are your short-term and long term projects ?
I am just starting to work on tracks for a 7” that I am planning to self-release. After that I will be working on a new 12” for Dial, and my second album.
Great. Will follow that. Have a nice day.
Thank you, and thanks for taking the time to talk with me.