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A story to every bassline: Jan Golly

From Heidelberg right to the moon

Intertwining decades and genres, Jan Golly’s musical style cannot be pressed into a specific category. Instead, he plays records that he likes, with influences from the harder side of techno, house, garage, drum&bass, but also minimal, which he combines and melts into a colourful and skillful set.
Jan fits into any gig hour and spins records that spark a bundle of energy on the dance floor. Thanks to his lively, cheerful manner and his profound knowledge of music coupled with a passion for discovering new things, he has established himself as one of the best producers and charismatic DJs in the electronic music scene in the Frankfurt am Main/Mannheim area. It was all a matter of timing, and so after moving from hip-hop to DnB and other various intersections, he began to embark on a path towards a minimalist-influenced techno sound. He is part of the BE9 crew, a resident of Parker Lewis, and got his own label, Kaleidoscope which captures perfectly the diversity of subtle tech-house, paired with uplifting and skippy grooves that give the genre a unique, flowing feel.
We wanted to ask him some questions and find out even more – so we did.

In addition to this interview, Jan shared a 3-hour extract of his Parker Lewis warm-up set for Rhadoo at the beginning of 2019. You will find the mix at the end of the chat. Enjoy!

Hey Jan, lovely to see you! How are you?
Hey Jules, lovely to see you too! I am very well, thank you! And you?

I am good, too! So let’s dig right in. Tell me a bit about your musical roots. Are there any influences from your family’s side?
It was surely my dad who laid the foundations for me, being a great guitarist himself and having a drum kit in the basement. So I started to play the drums when I was quite young.
How old have you been when you started to play the drums?
There are some old family videos when I was jamming with my dad in the basement, I was a little boy. Unfortunately, that was gone since my dad moved out when I was about 9 years old and then we haven’t had any contact anymore for a while. Luckily my older brother who still lived with us back then started to go out for parties in Frankfurt, that must have been around 2001, right after Omen was closed.

Means, your brother was already into electronic music back then?
Exactly. He showed me a lot of music and through his collection of mixtapes and CDs, I had my first contact with electronic music. I remember some old trance mixes from DJ Rush, but also some of the nowadays legends like Sven Väth, Chris Liebing, Richie Hawtin, or Carl Cox. Also, my neighbour provided me with my first jungle tapes, so I started to listen to Ray Keith for example.

Does your brother still own these tapes?
I just recently spoke with him about that, unfortunately, most of them got lost. But he still has some of them.

They must be worth pure gold now…
Unfortunately, my brother moved out when he was 18 and I was just about 11. Around that time I also discovered a passion for drum and bass and breakbeats. Luckily, a friend of my brother lived across the street still and so I hung out there a lot, also making my first “other” experiences…

That was probably very important in Heidelberg, to have someone to take you by the hand.
Absolutely. We didn’t have any place to go, especially at that age. But he already organized his first parties in the backyard with some DJs from Frankfurt. I have just recently seen some old pictures from that time.

That would have been my next question – do you remember your first proper party?
It was this one, the backyard party. I can even show you the old flyer for it.

And how were you back then?
That must have been around 2005, so I was 12. As said, the guys organizing the party were friends of my brother.

Do you know if they still play?
With Yana Heinstein I released my first EP. I met her back in 2005 when I was 12, and she provided me with Ableton and some samples. Years later we had our first release on a label, which was very unknown though.

And when did you feel the drive to stand behind the decks yourself for the first time?
From the very beginning. I was always fascinated by turntables. I even knew about the 1210er when I was only 12 years old. I had some catalogs of Elevator and so on. But I didn’t have any money, and since my parents split my family also didn’t have any and my brother moved out at that time already. This is when we started to go out for the first time in Heidelberg.

And from there, how did the story continue? After Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Mannheim happened to be next probably?
It’s just been Heidelberg for a very long time. But I started to play very quickly and also organized a few underground raves myself.

How did you finance this, since mentioning that you were quite blank at that time?
At first, I didn’t have any equipment at home, but I got a Macbook from my Mom for my graduation. Then I borrowed a very cheap controller from friends. Before, I already started to play around a bit and recorded my first drum and bass mixes and uploaded them to YouTube.

Do you still have them?
They still exist, yes. But it’s only 10-minute recordings as YouTube didn’t allow any uploads that exceed this limit back then. I listened to them again, but it was very hard.

Very interesting to see where your path has led you since. How would you describe the influences leading to your trademark sound and how would you describe your own sound in general?
What I play and what I produce, that’s two different things. I think, and especially since Covid, my sound has changed a lot. I feel like I am not alone with this, a lot of producers and DJs face the same struggles – but still, I see myself more as a DJ than a producer. But what I produce is a lot influenced by jazz drums, a bit of swing, and also breaks, which is common in the drum and bass. And the trippy, playful sound I play, I wouldn’t call it micro-house, is rooted in minimal, jazz, and breaks as a generic, but also UK garage had a very big imprint on me.

You are indeed a very good DJ. I remember the golden Parker Lewis times back in the days when almost every month you played alongside some of the biggest names in our scene. You also played b2b with most of them, too – Raresh for example.
Yes, I played b2b with all of them, except for Rhadoo.

How has that been for you?
The situation with Raresh was exceptional because he asked me to play with him. I didn’t know what to say, I even asked him if he is kidding me. I played the warm-up that night, and after listening to my set for some time, he told me that he had expected to be able to pre-listen on two channels, but Parker Lewis had this Rotary Mixer that I have at home now, and it wasn’t possible. I thought to myself, is he serious, if I can do this that he could do this above all – I mean it’s Raresh we are talking about here. For him, this was a proper exercise. That was a sick moment. And when he asked me to share the decks, I said yes, but only after I headed to the bar quickly…

What a moment for you! And how do you prepare for a night like this and your gigs in general? How is your approach to finding new music? For example, if you would play a set at Robert Johnson, would you prepare it or just go with the flow?
Go-with-the-flow for sure. That’s how I always roll and always will. You never know how the audience will be, how the vibe is, and what kind of people will attend the party. With a lot of smiling friends dancing in the front row, it gives you this epic feeling because you can play whatever you like. It was at Parker Lewis where I could transport my sound in the best possible way because I felt so comfortable. I usually feel very good behind the decks, if it’s in my area or in Switzerland or China as I am able to connect with the crowd most of the time. It’s a lot harder when it comes to podcasts, like my recent mix for Meoko for instance. If I have to record a mix, I usually take a month where I create different folders that I check every 2-3 days, and add things or reorganize them. I don’t create a tracklist upfront though.

Parker Lewis Closing Party
Parker Lewis Closing Party

Sure, a podcast is usually played and listened to more than once. It can be stopped and also you never know how the audience reacts.
Exactly. I think I overthink a bit – a bit more than I should, my friends can confirm. But my expectations are high.

So for how long would you consider yourself a DJ now?
For my age, a very long time, but at my first gig, I was playing drum and bass.

Would you still dare to play it?
Most of all it’s action. You play a new track every two minutes, you do cuts, and are more present. With 3 decks constantly running you are very busy.

It’s all coming together when listening to your sets now, You know how to handle the decks, and mix very fluently but never boring.
I never leave the mixer when I DJ. No matter if I play one, two, three, or even four tracks at the same time. And that is what I believe. If you play this kind of music you need a constant change but the same flow.

I also noticed that you can serve any playtime. No matter if it’s warm-up, peak or closing, you manage to always pick up the crowd on the right spot. That’s quite impressive.
Thank you, that’s a beautiful compliment. I give that credit back to Parker Lewis, after my recent count, I must have played there about 70 times. When Covid hit, I was reminiscing a bit about these times and looked at old flyers and so on.

How many of these parties do you still remember? Or which one stuck to your mind the most?
I remember many special nights there, also a lot of nights that I didn’t even play myself. I made so many great memories there, playing with my favourite artists and even Idols, who influenced my sound from the very beginning and thought me so much by just watching them and listening to their music.
But if I narrow it down to 5, I’d start with a night with Herodot back in 2017 who always has been one of my faves. And he also is more of a DJ than a producer. I learned a lot from him. Then there was this night with Cristi Cons, celebrating the release of my first vinyl that I played as a test pressing. We also made a great connection and had an amazing night. Also, the three events with Rhadoo, Praslesh, and Raresh were exceptional, ranking the night with Rhadoo first for sure. We played like we knew each other for ages and just continued the party until 7 am, though there is a curfew in Mannheim for clubs after 5 am. No one was allowed to go upstairs anymore, sweat was dripping from the ceiling already. That was one for the books.

And if you could go back to a club tomorrow, which one would you choose?
Robert Johnson. Fullstop.

Why Robert Johnson?
Because I had the most exciting nights and mornings there. It’s has a very intimate atmosphere and the best sound experience.

Uf. I miss it, too! Do you remember your first party at Robert Johnson?
Sure. It was Praslesh. Afterward, we went straight to the studio and I produced my first vinyl.

I remember this party. That was not soooo long ago actually.
Indeed. I was already playing in Heidelberg or also Mannheim every weekend, I just didn’t have the time to go to Robert Johnson. Especially Heidelberg feels like a tiny village – actually, it kind of is one.

We already spoke so much about Parker Lewis, how did you meet the Mannheim crew back then?
A friend from Heidelberg introduced us, it was at an afterparty, after a night I played with Hector. That’s where I met Dominik Grunert and André. I knew Dennis Kusi who I’ve met at the Mono Partys at Karlstor with Felix Neumann, who also founded Mono Label. Felix was from my area and when he had to move away, he suggested me as his follow-up to Kusi. But the Mannheim Crew itself, that all happened because of Parker Lewis.

Parker Lewis really used to be a creative hub for all of you. Blessings in disguise, it just closed before the pandemic happened.
Totally. It was very sad and I miss it a lot. I miss going there by train within 20 minutes. It was like the stem that all branches grew out of, it created so many memories and made lots of great connections. I have to add another one to the ranking, it was the night with Barac at New Year. We exceeded the curfew until 11 am and as a last Track I played ODE #FF0099 B. I had tears in my eyes when people were applauding at the end of my set. When I got home the next day, Barac had added me on Skype and gave me compliments on my set. That was special.

I remember being there, too. It was special, indeed. In my opinion, it’s very important to have this kind of base. It grounds you and lets you appreciate your roots. But now tell me a bit about your recent projects, what have you been up to during Covid times?
Well, retrospectively thought it might not have been the best decision, but at first, I thought, now that no one is playing anymore, to put the records I wanted to release on hold for a while. I was waiting for 2 artists that wanted to remix my tracks, but I didn’t receive any feedback from their side anymore when the pandemic hit and in the end, my sound had already developed in a different direction so I didn’t even feel the urge to follow up on what I had planned before. So I had the idea of creating my digital sublabel via Bandcamp and use the internet traffic to share my music, like many other artists as well. You can stream and people can pay what they want.

And what are your future plans for the label? You have your digital concept, do you plan to include friends and other artists as well?
Fabe and his label Salty Nuts is a good example here. I said to myself, how could anyone know I produce music if I don’t release anything. Up to now, I have released four EPs, including the one on my own label. So first of all, I created this label to represent my music and release stuff, that might not be appropriate for any other label. I think that’s the concept of all DJs who run a label and that is how it should be, have a platform for the stuff that you like. But for now, there aren’t any big plans. Since I work a lot more because of Covid, there is not enough time.

You are just saying this yourself, you play digital and vinyl. How is your position on the everlasting discussion about the vinyl-only DJ?
Everyone should do whatever they want to do. I have the uttermost respect for any vinyl-only DJ who can melt so many different styles so fluently and beautifully, but there are very few of them. I don’t see myself there. If it wasn’t for all the digital promos I received, I could never create so many nice musical moments in my life. I am also influenced a lot by the Romanian sound, and the best tracks were never released a couple of years ago. All the underground anthems, the secret weapons you heard once before, you somehow receive them because you know the artist or friends share it. That’s just how it is, if you send out your own tracks you have to expect for them to be shared. That’s why I am happy to share my tracks with everyone.

Just recently I have been invited to one of these Telegram-Groups, where people share music and just send it to everyone and I have to say I was a bit shocked…
Yes, I know some of these as well, but that’s not what I mean and far from good. I mean, especially for the bigger but also smaller labels, people just share the .wav and master files two days prior to the release. That was never my style, also Soulseek for example. I was lucky enough to be able to connect with people from an early stage on and so we shared music with each other, like Cosmjn for example. He was part of the “new generation” if you want, we are the same age. But this bonus doesn’t count anymore now.

You managed to stay young anyways. You also played in Romania a couple of times already, didn’t you?
In Galat was my first gig in Romania, and then I played this Sunwaves pre-party b2b with Herodot at Guesthouse. In the end, I finished playing with David Nicolas from Sedee, we turned on the light so to say. That was a lot of fun. Also, I played at Eden, back in 2016 and I remember I didn’t even want any fee for that, I just asked them to pay for my flights. That was my first gig there.

I guess that is something you wouldn’t do anymore today…
No. That’s a long time ago. And even if money is never my motivation, you somehow need it. But this trip gave me so much, I met Nu Zau who introduced me to a lot of other people there, like Livio & Roby who I cherish a lot.

Thank you so much, Jan for this really easy-going interview and for sharing so many of your precious moments with us. I’ve got two more questions: Is there any recent musical discovery that you would like to share? And – what does music mean to you?
What music means to me? Hard to say but to sum it up in one word: Love.

 

Jan Golly 3 hour mixing and warmup it up for Rhadoo at Parke Lewis 19.01.2019 

 

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