ART:CAST #128 & INTERVIEW Johannes Albert

Having come a long way Johannes Albert found his music platform Frank Music a little bit more than ten years ago. He calls it platform because it has proven to be more than a label but rather a space for him to artistically express his current musical state of mind and to release music from befriended or artists he has come across. However, ten years is quite a long time in the fast-paced electronic music scene, if not to say in the world. But Johannes has always managed to keep the label’s vibe burning also due to the fact that he has always managed to keep his own fire for music burning and produce the next record or track. Maybe therefore his contribution to the label’s anniversary package, which was out in December, called Dynamite was a perfect fit, nominally and musically. Still the pandemic has forced Johannes to undergo some changes. At an artist-level Covid has influenced his production-output negatively as he needs the dance floor for inspiration but surprisingly the pandemic made 2020 the most successful one in the label’s history. In the light of the label’s 10th anniversary Torture the Artist spoke to Johannes about Frank Music, his partner-in-crime Iron Curtis, the influence of the pandemic on him and other related topic. Additionally Johannes compiled the latest edition of the art:cast series, called the b-sides. 

Johannes Albert: Thank you! The long and winding road of running a record label, well well. First, let’s define success in the label business. It’s not money for sure. Especially when vinyl is involved. Frank Music works as a platform mainly for my own music and producers I come across. To establish this platform in the first place, I may call a success already. When we investigate the dance music area a decade feels like or rather is an eternity. I released different music 10 years ago and change is a big part of the game. My key-advice is always: do your own thang. Do it the way you feel and in the moment you want to. Personally I am not interested in creating a certain label sound. I’m more into making a certain record. Each record is different. It helps to stay curious for new artists, new music and technology. When I started, we didn’t have the streaming industry for instance. Also, you need to make decisions all the time. You need to let go and you need to look forward. There is always a next project around the corner. Another hint: when it comes to artwork, pressing plants, mastering engineers or distribution partners you better find someone you like to work with and better stay with them. My label journey took me around 5 distribution partners until I found the right one for me which is wordandsound from Hamburg. Julian Bender helps me out with most of the artwork stuff these day. I totally admire his work and I know he will deliver the goods no matter what. It lightens the heavy burden of choices, you know? Each record I’ve ever made was pressed in Leipzig through R.A.N.D. Muzik. Lopazz out of Heidelberg does most of the mastering and mixing jobs. We share this ridiculously great way of communication. 

Torture the Artist: Iron Curtis has been a label mainstay since the beginning and you also released two albums under your common Moon-moniker on Frank Music. Aside from rumors that a third album from you guys is on its way, what makes Johannes Paluka, Iron Curtis’ real name, the perfect label-mate and why is the label still run by only you?

Johannes Albert: You are about right! We are about to finalize our third long-player Moon III which will be out in May and you should expect nothing but French House. Johannes is my perfect production and DJ-partner. Why? In the studio or in the DJ-booth, he keeps on surprising me in a delightful way. When we turn on the machines there is always this vibe. For our new album we even have Zoot Woman as guest singers on board. You better stay tuned! 

Coming from the DJ-side of things I am always looking for the next track that makes the floor go wild.

Torture the Artist: Musically Frank Music has always covered deeper, disco-ish and ravey sounds. Where does your personal preference for the before mentioned sounds come from and how open are you for other influences, meaningly could you imagine to ever leave this sound path for the label or rather have a sub-label for this?

Johannes Albert: Coming from the DJ-side of things I am always looking for the next track that makes the floor go wild. However, I’m trying to leave this path occasionally. I started an Ambient series (two albums so far) and when it comes to sub-labels I think I tried it for a bit with my Edit series (“Hip Edits” – 2 records out) or with my Acid project “HNS-X” (4 records out). Still, I think there is too much out there. Too many names, too much of everything so I probably stay with Frank Music for the time being. Releasing only 5-8 records a year it does not make any sense to create another label on top. 

Torture the Artist: We all have favorite releases or tracks, what’s the release on Frank Music that maybe hits a bit closer than others to your heart, and why?

Johannes Albert: When Achterbahn D’Amour’s JX3 came out around 2013 it felt like a special moment. This timeless and exceptional track between House & Techno was a milestone for the label. I was so happy seeing this one making the cut in the clubs. What a shame the distribution went bankrupt and we never saw a single cent for the 500 sold vinyl copies. 

It felt like some sort of self-therapy.

Torture the Artist: The past two years have probably not been an artist’s favorite, but it seemed you used the time to increase the output on Frank Music, coincidence or intentionally planned? 

Johannes Albert: Since we all had a lot of time I increased the output on the label, yes. Honestly, 2020 was one of the best years in the label’s history. Came as a surprise! It felt like some sort of self-therapy. Having all this time at home I tried to make the best out of it. 

Torture the Artist: What’s your goal for the next ten years of the label?

Johannes Albert: Keep on keeping on? Looking for the perfect beat? Discover the next Giorgio Moroder? You tell me! 

Torture the Artist: What’s an artist you’d love to sign an EP/ album/ track from for the label, and why?

Johannes Albert: Perel is one of my favorite artists. Playing her stuff all the time and she’s just this great artist. She sings in german language which makes it even more special. Just listen to her new single Real on Kompakt. What a treat Annegret! Her music was a big influence on me when I was producing Milieu back around 2017. 

If you are into dance music you need the dance floor and it felt utterly weird and useless to make dance music during the pandemic.

Torture the Artist: How has the pandemic influenced your personal studio-routines, e.g. do you spend more time to work on music and feel that there is more of a balance between producing music and playing it in clubs?

Johannes Albert: I didn’t have this super crazy DJ-schedule before the pandemic, so I am missing the gigs. Like I miss them a lot. Having more time for producing, does not necessarily mean you make better music, because I need the club to get inspired. I think I had found my balance before the pandemic. If you are into dance music you need the dance floor and it felt utterly weird and useless to make dance music during the pandemic. I simply need to go out and make people dance, because it gives me energy. 

Torture the Artist: What has the pandemic taught you that you either want to avoid or do differently in the future?

Johannes Albert: Well, it just taught me to be grateful for what we have. I don’t know if I learned anything throughout the pandemic. It seems I was doing okay before. Maybe I learned even more to live in the moment and not to overthink things. Additionally I also appreciate being closer to my beloved ones.

Torture the Artist: Finally, what’s the track that always puts a smile on your face?

Johannes Albert: I would say it is Tilman Tausendfreund’s Life Is Good.

Words by Holger Breuer

Pictures by Gordon Schirmer

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