The DJ playing looks quite unremarkable. His clothes are casual, little or no attention has been paid to his shoulder-length hair and his full beard is clearly not maintained in the fastidious manner du jour. He looks much like the kind of bloke you’d see in a record shop, who starts at one end and doesn’t finish until he’s looked at every record, his time spent wavering around the abstract hip hop and Brazilian folk sections, offering no clue to what he’s actually looking for. No-one at the club asks to take a selfie with him. When he works the EQ his body does not convulse as though receiving The Rapture. His fingers just move a bit and he gently sings along. Yet close your eyes, embrace his sound and there you’ll find magic. Stay for the long haul and you’ll be transported somewhere truly special. This is Gerd Janson.
Janson has long been regarded as a ‘DJ’s DJ’, while records issued by his label Running Back are widely played by a range of leading selectors. Many of his most high-profile dates have seen him display an uncommon flexibility, playing back-to-back with very different DJs who, in some cases, have much bigger profiles. Dixon, Prins Thomas, Marcel Dettmann, Ben UFO, Move D and Joy Orbison are among them, their frequent requests a situation he admits to feeling flattered by. “They always work with me,” he says a little sheepishly, deciding it’s due to his willingness to fit in with their style. “I’m the submissive one.”
This month sees Janson step out on his own, though, with a superb addition to the Fabric mix series. ‘Fabric 89’, containing tracks by Glenn Underground, Todd Terje, John Talabot, Boddika & Joy Orbison and the classic ‘Marauder’ by Late Nite Tuff Guy (in his HMC guise), delivers a snapshot of Janson in full flight. Its deftly chosen, well programmed house textures move expertly between the boldly melodic and the hypnotically sparse. “I thought the most honest thing would be to put on CD what I would try to do at that club,” he says. This is Janson’s first commercially released mix, bar one he did for Robert Johnson, the renowned Frankfurt club where Janson has had a residency for many years alongside Thomas Hammann, his DJ partner at the club and on that first mix.
“I like it when a DJ plays stuff that, if I’d heard it on record, I’d have said I didn’t care for it, but in their set it totally works,” says fellow German DJ Prosumer, who’s released on Running Back and issued music by Gerd’s Tuff City Kids project on his Potion label. “He’s one of those DJs who are good at putting records in a context that makes them shine.” When Mixmag interviewed Theo Parrish in 2015, before a night that paired Parrish’s Sound Signature with Janson’s Running Back, Theo expressed regret that Janson wasn’t there, “because that guy can play his ass off. All night!”