Interview with Dial's John Roberts

Posted by Oliver / Matt / Jordan, October 8, 2010 03:35pm | Post a Comment
This week sees the release of John Roberts' debut album, Glass Eights, on Hamburg's Dial label. A deep moody excursion through the sound of Electronic House music, Roberts' debut long player on the ever consistent Dial is a sure fire winner. Melancholic & oozing emotion, this album will stand the test of time.

John took some time out to answer some questions for the Amoeblog…

You are originally from Chicago, correct?

I was actually born in Cleveland and lived there for 17 years. I moved to Chicago for college and ended up living there for about five years.

When did you move to NY and what prompted the move to Berlin?

I decided to move to New York in 2007 and spent just about a year there. I was living with some close friends who decided to move to Berlin around the same time that I started working with Dial, so we all decided to go together.

What got you interested in house/techno music?

I started to get seriously interested in house by visiting a small record shop in Cleveland called Grand Poo-bas. I would go there about once a week and pick out one of these bootleg mixtapes that were coming from Chicago. I listened to those tapes repeatedly in the car and when I was at home on headphones. Shortly after I started buying some Dancemania records. (I also accidentally bought a bunch of terrible breaks records in the process because I had no idea what I was actually looking for.)


What were some of the first house/techno records that had a major impact on you?

I think around 1999 I got a copy of this DJ Milton 2xLP called Chi 2 Da I. I used to have that and another EP by DJ Slugo called The Switch Over that had this track "Butterfly" on it. I used to just spend every night mixing those records together and wondering how they were produced.

When and why did you choose to start to make your own music?

When I was living in Chicago I bought this Jimmy Edgar CD, Bounce, Make, Model, and listened to it a lot. I realized he was actually my age and had already released this record on Warp, so it seemed totally possible that I could also release a record in the future. I was buying some deep house 12"s at that time and listening to some Italo disco and I guess just feeling like there wasn't really a genre that I was completely 100% into…So I decided to try to start making my own tracks that combined the appealing parts of the different genres that I was interested in.

What did you do before taking on music full time?

After I finished studying I worked as a graphic designer, a waiter, an assistant at a printmaking studio, a gallery consultant, and a gallery assistant for varying amounts of time.

Who were your musical influences when first getting involved with music?

Around the time I started to produce music I was listening to Juvenile, Superpitcher, Jimmy Edgar, Frankie Knuckles, Cass McCombs, DJ Slugo, Elliott Smith, Lime, etc.

How did the deal with Dial come about?

I was visiting Berlin and met Romy Zips (a.k.a. Snow), who was DJing and working for Dial at the time. I ended up giving her a CD of some music I had been working on and she gave it to the Dial family at a going away dinner that they had for her (she was moving to New York to spend some time with her boyfriend). That night I received a really amazing letter from Carsten Jost and Hendrik Weber (Pantha du Prince) asking me to be a part of the label. I knew from the letter and from spending time with Romy that it was something that I wanted to be a part of.

What was it like hearing one of your records being played in a club for the first time? Do you remember who it was/where?

What I remember most was hearing Seth Troxler play an unreleased track of mine at a warehouse party in Chicago in maybe 2006 before I had released anything…He was really encouraging so I would send him everything that I was working on at that time, but I didn't expect him to play any of it in public. That was the first time that I ever got to see how people would react to something that I made, and it was really satisfying.

Tell us about your production set up.

I use a rotating cast of old synths and drum machines that I buy and then sell or that are borrowed from friends, a broken turntable, some instruments like the violin, xylophone, drums, etc., a tracker for sequencing, and Yamaha NS-10M studio monitors.

Was there a concept behind the Glass Eights album?

The concept was to create a work that would function as an actual album rather than a collection of tracks gleaned from previous EPs. I really wanted to make something that someone would want to sit down with and listen to all the way through, rather than a record you buy because it has one or two nice singles.

Upcoming projects?

I've been doing some remixes for friends lately that should be coming out in the next few months. I did one for Pawel, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Creep feat. Romy from The XX, Darkstar for their new album on Hyperdub, and I'm currently working on one for Superpitcher that I'm really excited about.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Thank you!

Purchase John Roberts - Glass Eights LP here
or the CD here.

Connect with John here on Facebook or Myspace.

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Glass Eights (1), Dial (8), John Roberts (1), Interview (341)