This week's editor's pick revisits Clara Tehrani's feature on the identity and process of JANICE.
Clara Tehrani joins Loose Lips to share DIGGINGS - a series of stories that take a deeper look at underground techno's hidden gems. Kicking off with JANICE, an artist who's raised a lot of curiosity in the techno community for the quality of the music, the mystery surrounding the moniker and the extraordinary acceptance it has had amongst other artists in the scene!
We're very excited to present JANICE's first ever interview, along with an exclusive link to the artist's latest gig.
I meet JANICE at Kottbusser Tor. I’m late, just late enough to allow him to finish lunch quietly.
‘‘It just occurred to me how stupid it was to have eaten a burger now when I’ll be going to the US tomorrow’’ he confesses while we head down to Maybachufer to walk it off.
At 6am the following morning he is boarding a plane to Detroit, heading towards the iconic Movement Festival where JANICE will perform alongside DVS1, Ø [Phase], Luís Flores, Tommy 47, Denise Rabe and other artists at the Interface ‘Scene’ party on Sunday May 28 (the mini-American tour also included gigs in LA with Technostate on June 2nd and at Bar Americas in Guadalajara on June 4th).
Listen to the live recording of JANICE @ Bar Americas first hand HERE while you read through…
JANICE is one of those ‘boys that escalated quickly’. It’s barely been half a year since JANICE came out of obscurity, and he’s already become one of the hottest projects in the underground techno scene, quickly spreading far beyond his original base of Berlin. Last fall, within less than a month of each other, two incredibly solid records were released on a self-titled label created expressly for that purpose. Unsurprisingly, the records didn’t sit on the shelves of Hardwax for long. The most fascinating part is that, despite the appraisals from the techno community, little is known about the person behind JANICE.
“The whole Project developed pretty organically, as I never felt comfortable being in the spotlight or being (just another) techno artist especially in Berlin.”
As we walk along the canal, it becomes clear that he isn’t here to talk about himself; not out of shyness or modesty but because what it really boils down to is the music.
“Also, I was trying to gather as much honest feedback on the music I’m putting out as possible, and not revealing my identity would avoid prejudiced opinions on the project.”
There’s a remarkable maturity in his speech.
“I’ve been making music for quite a while and have had some releases under different monikers. Never with success, but the main problem wasn't the lack of success, it was more that fake artist image that I wasn’t 100% a fan of in the first place.”
It is indeed hard to imagine him posing for the classic DJ promo pic, putting on a sad face and gazing into the oblivion with expressionless eyes.
“I became very introverted about the music I was making and barely showed the tracks to anyone. Eventually, I had finished some tracks which sounded different compared to what I was producing until then. So, I showed them to a friend who was insisting on listening to my music. After his approval, I gained confidence and passed the tracks on to some other friends whom I thought had good taste in music, mostly without telling them it was my work. After some surprisingly positive feedback it all kind of fell into place and the whole JANICE thing came to life.”
He explains how creating an anonymous alias which was almost untraceable back to him was an essential step in the direction of authenticity.
“JANICE developed over a period in my life which was probably the most emotionally intense time that I had so far. When you produce something that is that personal, it is strange to have the people you know listen to it and know it is you. With JANICE, I could detach my real person from my artistic persona which allowed me the freedom to go all in.”
JANICE is made by all these facets: the music, the relationships, the minimal design, the emotional words… “give me wings // to cope with that corrupted future // let my church burn down” - reads the promo text for JANICE3 released on May 24. I ask if he wants to elaborate on the symbolism around everything JANICE does…
“On the records you won’t find any track titles, although I gave them names at first, names that came close to what I was going through at that time. As every record comes with a press-text, I chose to put the track titles as a poem instead of writing a meaningless sales-message.”
The meaning is all there, but it’s not in your face. It’s a meaning rooted in the emotion it provokes. It’s abstract.
The feeling of mysteriousness surrounding JANICE surely contributed to the way his name is spreading. After all, this is an industry of diggers, people who like to go after things - to connect the dots. People know that if something as good as JANICE is not blasting through the scene like an avalanche out of control, but rather growing solidly, step-by-step, then it is probably worth keeping a close watch on.
He smiles. “It definitely strengthens the relationship with the supporters of my music, people are interested in what is happening next.”
Amongst those enthusiastically advocating his music are artists like stranger, Freddy K and Vincent Neumann, who held a JANICE record high in the air while playing one of his tracks during an epic closing set at Berghain.
“It is flattering to get support from other artists and requests for bookings because of the releases, but also sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming. After JANICE2 was released, I just didn’t have the money to put out JANICE3 straight away, even though it was mastered and ready to go. At the time, I didn't want to leave a big gap between releases because I had enough material to put out. I felt a little rushed and thought about releasing the tracks on other labels. As I was putting the selected tracks together, I realised what they actually meant to me, so I decided to wait until I was able to afford the release myself instead of pushing it too much.”
JANICE live at Bar Americas in Guadalajara on June 4th.
Certainly, all the sudden attention raises the bar. There is a thin balance between wanting to ride the momentum, boosting the awareness of the project, and keeping the hard-earned authenticity.
It might sound paradoxical but that was exactly why JANICE didn’t feel the need to hide behind a mask or a hoodie or wig during his live performances…
“Nothing was decided until my first live appearance… I thought about it—wearing some sort disguise during the live acts—but again it started feeling too fake for me, too much like an act. No one cares who I am when I’m playing anyway, I think it would draw more attention to the person in the booth when the idea is precisely the opposite, to have people take in the music and forget about the person playing it.”
Yet, it also meant debunking some of myths. Namely that JANICE was a ‘he’.
One of the most frequent questions in the initial months that followed the release of the project was the gender of the artist. Often I would engage in a silent debate with myself over the odds and evens… The name, the image, the symbolism with touches of poetry suggested the sensitivity of a woman; yet, brave openness about that same sensitivity which fearlessly brought together hurt and hope, aggressiveness and tenderness, but especially the way the project got so much attention so quickly made me start to ponder if JANICE wasn’t a man after all. I ask him how intentional it was having these questions surface.
“The lesser that is known about the project, the more freedom people have to make their own stories, to raise their own questions.”
JANICE is conceptual, not premeditated. Everything comes in due time. Even the live set itself…
“Almost as soon as the releases came out, I started getting enquiries for bookings, but the live set wasn’t there. I focused on the releases first, and then started jamming around at home. More than finding a way to transition from track-to-track until the repertoire is finished, I wanted to find a system that was functional, but also fun, which allowed my feelings at the moment to be expressed without losing control on what was happening. I think the live set I uploaded on Soundcloud around Christmas last year was the third recording I made. I thought ok, now I’m ready to play live.”
In March JANICE started playing some live performances including Arena in Berlin with the Entropie crew, and at the acclaimed Distillery in Leipzig. It’s one thing is to play it at home, it is a different game finally taking it out.
I ask how it feels to play before a crowd, and how does he like life on the road?
“It’s still hard to tell as this whole thing is new to me… everything is exciting now. I was pretty nervous to play in my hometown, and as I chose not to wear a mask or some sort of disguise at my shows, it was also a kind of exposure of my identity. When I got to Arena that night, the room was already packed with people and they even had to stop letting people in. Playing in front of a full house, looking up from the machines into the crowd, seeing that face in the twilight smiling back at me, that is probably one of the moments I will never forget.”
And now Movement, Detroit... exciting. Is he nervous?
“I don’t know what to expect, really, I haven’t seen pictures of the place or investigated much, really. More importantly, I’ve been working on my act. In the past couple of gigs I’ve started making some adjustments to my setup, trying to make it more practical so I have more freedom when I perform. Live, I use Ableton with a simple controller, a TR-8, some pedals for filters, a Korg sequencer and the MOOG MINITAUR, which is the main source for my personal sound. Before, I was using the sequencer to trigger some sounds which was limiting because I could not update the samples easily, but now I am using it to trigger the filters which along with other details means I can easily, enjoyably play for 2 hours even though my live is set to last 90mins. So, I’m pretty relaxed, and excited.”
JANICE’s setup for the Interface Party @ Movement Festival in Detroit. (Source: Facebook)
Without even noticing, we had walked for hours, and we're now back in the heart of Neuköln, where we bid goodbye. I ask him the classical closure question: What’s your dream, JANICE?
“There will be some more music coming out this year on my own imprint as well as collaborations with other labels and artists. Insane booking requests keep coming in, I honestly couldn’t wish for more at the moment. I try not to overthink everything, keeping my expectations low and not to get greedy or overambitious, always remembering: could be everything, could be nothing.”
It’s almost as if he’s still trying to make sure things are really happening like it seems they are before he actually allows himself to celebrate the success. But by the end of this conversation it has become clear to us both the extent of his success: he is proud of JANICE and how it’s growing.
•• If you’re in London, JANICE will be playing Jaded at Corsica Studios on July 2nd. Event details here