“If you ever get the connection between the music and weekends, it’s hard to get your hands off it… Even these days, if I start to enjoy weekend at home I become nervous after two weeks without playing music pretty loud.”
When talking about the German electronic music scene, almost every time the city of Berlin is mentioned. However, besides the German capital, one shouldn’t oversee the existence of minor yet interesting scenes spread over smaller cities over there. In the region of former East Germany, next to the Saxon capital city, lies one of such musical treasures – Leipzig. In 2008, three friends living in this city decided to establish their own label for the reason of being too shy to send demos to other labels. This imprint that got the title KANN now belongs to one of the finest independent labels presenting deep house music. LPs and EPs released on this label often perfectly reflect the easy and enjoyable atmosphere of the city itself. We asked one of the establishing members of KANN – Jan Barich aka Map.ache – to introduce the characteristic sound of Leipzig and KANN through his exclusive podcast. In our interview, he revealed not just the journey of the label itself but also his own that started with fancy hardcore music and gradually lead to the taste for electronic music. As a Leipzig born and raised, Jan also provided an unique insight to life in this city and as a former crew member of Conne Island club he explains the role and importance of the DIY art scene for the city.
Interview by Simona Hypsova
Photo courtessy of Thomas Krüger and Buki Good
Hey Jan! You recently got back from the US, right? How was it?
It was an awesome experience as I have expected and probably the best time of this year for me… I met only supernice, friendly and open minded people during my 6 weeks long stay. All in all, it was quite a positive and healing travel for me.
Have you ever performed in the USA as a DJ before? How did you enjoy your gigs? Was there anything that surprised you at the local scene?
It was my first time performing in the States and before my leave people told me that I shouldn’t be full of expectations regarding the local club scene. But what I have expierenced was a pretty candid versatile scene, full of crazy music-addicted people. Nevertheless I’m sure I got to know just a small part of the scene overseas, but this particular part was totally tailor made for me. I played at “real” clubs and at two super crazy warehouse nights as well. Generally, to me it seems that the so called underground scene there is a bit smaller and everyone knows each other from East to the West. What I also noticed was the fact that a lot of people are influenced by the exploding European scene. Most of the people went to Berlin, London or Amsterdam for a couple of times and these particular people were always talking about their impressions with bright eyes. Funny thing was I met about 5 different people who went to our outstanding KANN x Giegling 30h party at Conne Island one year ago without knowing before. I could enthuse about my travel more, but to finish that question: Yes, I really really enjoyed the trip from every perspective.
“Conne Island was the most important influence for everything I have been doing so far. It is a big political and cultural center that is managed by the community of hundreds of people trying to match successfully their different interests for 25 years. Everything is based on individual responsibility and a lot of opportunities around us.”
Now I would like to talk about the development of your music taste. In past interviews I found out you were into punk, post rock, indie or noise music before you jumped to electronic music. What artists or bands blew your mind in those times? Do you still listen to these music genres?
Yes, I grew up with hardcore, indie, post rock and experimental music in the early Nineties. I was quite addicted to a lot of unknown earlier emo bands from San Diego, also to the whole post rock scene from Chicago or the more experimental hardcore scene from Washington D.C. Let’s try to name a cross section of some acts: Sleepy Time Trio, Policy of Three, The Rye Coalition, Rorschach, Born Against, Fugazi, Sea&Cake, Tortoise, Papa M,Karate and many more. I would say I listened to quite “normal” bands for this kind of scene. And I’m still listening to a lot of music where I can easily forget about categorizations or think about if it´s electronic music or not. Generally I just love the music — even if it’s called pop music, as long as it touches me, I don’t mind.
You were also playing the drums in the bands Diario and The Hands Of The Wrong People, right? What do you remember from those days? At what age did you start playing the drums? Was music always something you wanted to pursue?
Music was always the biggest part of my life. I started playing drums when I was 14 and learned playing the instrument by having a couple of bands with other amateurs who wanted to destroy their ears as early as possible. The strongest project was DIARIO without a question. We have been a three piece instrumental trio and we recorded 4 albums and did a couple of extended touring across Europe (we played in Czech a lot btw). For me everything started with that musical project — thanks to this I luckily got the possibility to traveling around and playing some music and having a great time with friends and strangers. Becoming more and more part of the electronic music scene it was a seamless transition to keep music going. If you ever get the connection between the music and weekends, it’s hard to get your hands off it… Even these days if I start to enjoy weekend at home I become nervous after two weeks without playing music pretty loud. That’s why I don’t really feel the big difference between playing in bands and djing. And even if “live” music is more a physical experience, the feeling to get in touch with people you don’t know personally and possibility to connect to them just thanks to playing the music by djing that feels the same at the end.
So there was no “first thing” that made you turn to electronic music? No particular record or sonic experience?
As I told you about how I listen to music there wasn’t a certain point of “turning” as it doesn’t felt like a turning. I spent my youth on hardcore shows and went to 90s techno party afterwards. It all belonged together. And the sonic experience isn’t that special as for a lot of people from that time who discovered all the amazing british electronic music from labels like Warp, Skam, FatCat or Ninja Tune that became a welcome interface between stages and clubs.
At the moment, you are based in Leipzig. Did you grow up in this city as well? If so, has this kind of environment somehow shaped your artist personality?
I grew up here and got socialised by the local scene. But honestly all the great music I liked came from the other bigger cities. However, Leipzig was always good in bringing the „world“ to town due to amazing club projects like Conne Island where thousands parties and concerts have shaped my musical personality.
“This beautiful place Conne Island also gave me the opportunity to see how people can get along together despite different opinions and views: a lot of talking and common energy is the key.”
I’ve heard a lot about this place – actually, I found out that you were a promoter at Conne Island club in Leipzig for a long time. Are you still working there? What did you gain out of this working experience?
Conne Island was the most important influence for everything I have been doing so far. It is a big political and cultural center that is managed by the community of hundreds of people trying to match successfully their different interests for 25 years. Everything is based on individual responsibility and a lot of opportunities around us. After I managed to bring some favourite bands there, I was super lucky to get a real job there — working as a promoter in my “living room” where I have already been used to spent most of my free time. After many many years working there I decided to quit that dream job in order to focus more on my own music, djing and the [Kann] label. However, next to all that crazy and super versatile music experiences this beautiful place also gave me the opportunity to see how people can get along together despite different opinions and views: a lot of talking and common energy is the key.
When I was doing a little research for this interview, I read a few articles about Leipzig as a city and its character. Quite often I found statements like “Leipzig is the new Berlin” and I learned that many projects and places held in this city usually don’t work on profit based structure, there is a strong DIY approach. What is your perspective on this topic? How is living in Leipzig for an ordinary man and for an artist? Do you feel that the city can be threatened in the future by investors and rising gentrification (like its happening in Berlin f.e.)?
That’s a topic that can fill an interview by itself. But try to make the long Leipzig story in short: not without reason Leipzig got this hype during the past 10 years. It is a super nice place with a kind of interesting dynamics. A lot of sweet people living and coming to the town and a lot of stuff is happening almost every day. The good thing is (for me personally) the perfect size of a city that can keep a familiar character without getting boring or revolving around itself. And yes, it seems like that cultural projects that are based on a straight profit structure have a tough job in town. From my point of view that has many factual but as well ideological reasons. Leipzig was always a big bubble – however you wanna see it – that is always sceptical about needles from outside. And factual a lot of young people coming to town that is still cheaper than Berlin or other interesting cities in Germany. They are not able to spend a lot of money for entrance fees, drinks and stuff. So the cheapest places are the DIY places. That’s easy. There is no big money in town, no big spending power and less jobs. But nevertheless people keep moving to Leipzig to find something else than big money. So this intention of people that longing for an easy life, is maybe the biggest enemy of classic way of gentrification. It is more like an inner mutual gentrification of the so called creatives than a gentrification that is leaded by big investors. But there is always a big imbalance between hypes and reality. And let´s see how long the bubble can grow without blowing up.
“There is no big money in town, no big spending power and less jobs. But nevertheless people keep moving to Leipzig to find something else than big money.”
Thanks for this insight, we keep our fingers crossed for Leipzig, it’s such nice city… Anyway, back to your music journey. Your name is closely linked to KANN label which you have been running together with DJs/producers Sevensol and Bender. To me, KANN feels like an imprint which is made with love and true dedication. Smaller batch of quality vinyl releases and a DIY feeling which reminds me about the approach of another great small label called Giegling (on which you released a great record btw)… Could you tell us about the early days of the label and how it developed through time till today? Does the artst-friendly environment of Leipzig contribute in a good way to the label as well?
KANN is our label since 2008 and we have been running it together with my mates Bender and Sevensol. We started our own label because we were too shy to send out our own music to the other labels. For us, that was the best step to develop an independent platform for releasing the music we like. And without any business plan we just kept it going till now, while we have been trying to keep up our musical intentions and decisions for releases by our instinct. In retrospect, we started the label during good times, by the way the same time when Giegling launched their imprint, when it was much easier to get recognized by the scene and this encouraged us to continue the things we really love. And doing all this in Leipzig in the quite low compete atmosphere it was easier to connect with other clubs and artists. I think this proves the easy way of living in city of Leipzig again.
What were the main challenges you faced as a label through time? And what achievements of the label are you most proud of?
The biggest issue for a labels like KANN is always to keep up the connection between your vision, the music and the people you wanna reach. No matter what you do, you always do wrong and right decisions. You have to try to learn from it and be aware that you walk on a narrow line between your individual intentions and the world around you. Pleasing solely yourself while being ignorant about trends and hypes or satisfying the changing scene are always the both extremes you struggling with. For us, we believe that important is being open minded and trying not take everything too serious. We wanna keep our spirit in everything we do. That is the biggest challenge I guess.
Besides producing music, you also play b2b with Sevensol under the alias MANAMANA. I noticed that you guys rather stay behind the decks for more than 2 hours… What is your approach for these all-night-long DJ gigs? Do you carefully pick records ahead of the night or you rather wait, check the crowd and act more spontaneous?
Doing MANAMANA is always a changing experience for us as it is for the audience as well. It is mostly driven by the energy coming from the people. If the crowd struggles with our unsteady sound it is a bit hard to get to them… From that view “All Night” sets are the biggest fun we can have and taking people to an unknown journey, where even both of us don´t know exactly where the night is going to lead us to. It is always a kind of long night conversation with friends passing by, a lot of fun, surprising situations, some misunderstandings and placable divergence.
“The biggest issue for a labels like KANN is always to keep up the connection between your vision, the music and the people you wanna reach. No matter what you do, you always do wrong and right decisions. You have to try to learn from it and be aware that you walk on a narrow line between your individual intentions and the world around you.”
Under KANN records there is also a sub-label called Mana All Nite. Could you tell us a bit more about this imprint? What is the idea behind this label and how do you choose artists for its releases?
Mana All Nite is connected to our all night sets where everything can happen musically. Where KANN is a more artist-related label, the sub-label is more an instinctive platform for tracks of artists and musicians we play during our DJ gigs.
What is the next for KANN records in 2016? Where can we see & hear you guys live?
Next KANN is going to be a double EP by artist name Things From The Basement, who did one EP 2 years ago already. We are very much looking forward as there will be, besides his incredible music, also 3 remixes from Sevensol, Polo and myself. Then we are working on an album of Falke and some EPs are coming out within the next year. About live gigs, I’m super excited to play at Resident Advisor‘s Night at this years ADE in Amsterdam in good company with Actress and others. With Sevensol we will also be playing as Manamana this year as well.
Could you tell us the story behind C-heads podcast?
There is no big story behind the podcast. It is just an instinctive and a little bit of concept selection of older, current and future tracks that communicate on the same level of vibe to me. Even though I think that it can seem that all tracks sound a bit different from the musical genre point of view. For DJ, it’s sometimes hard to like and combine all that different faces of clubmusic from deeper, experimental, Detroit, modern and even pop stuff. I guess that this podcast is quite a personal one. Hope you will like it!