Exclusive Interview With Chopstick & Johnjon
A decade has passed since the masterminds behind the Suol label, Chi-Thien Nguyen and John B. Muder, set out as Chopstick & Johnjon (Mix) with a clear mission: to blaze a trail through the international House and Techno scene. Those ten years seem to have passed in the twinkling of an eye. This Friday Chopstick & Johnjon will bring themselves and Daniel Bortz to Amsterdam for a Suol showcase at their favorite spot in Amsterdam: Studio 80. The second area that night will be hosted by ourselves, featuring Kevin Duane and Kimou on the line-up.
Hey guys! How has 2014 been treating you?
I think the year that brings to life your first album can’t be that bad, but we have to say we were amazed about all the great feedback and the love we got for Twelve. We just can’t wait to travel and play play play now!
The two of you have explored electronic music intensively in your beginning years (from hip hop to electro to techno and beyond). What eventually made you settle in the house sound?
For us, house was the result of extensively listening to hip hop, funk and soul in our childhood. It just feels right when we’re in the studio and start making music.. and when things come natural, one should not stand in the way by doing something not-natural.
Chi Thien, was there physical harm involved after you called John’s studio skills “amusing”, during your very first studio session?
We never physically harmed each other intentionally so far and it would take a lot more than “amusing” insults to get to that point which we both doubt will ever happen.. We’d rather laugh at each other’s skills and then learn from each other.
As you said, you recently released ‘Twelve’, your debut album. Why did you wait so long before producing an album?
We always said to each other that we want to feel ready to make an album … ready to make an album that would matter to us, not “just” 12 dance tracks. We had to make music together, get used to each other and get into a flow. Also, the circumstances weren’t perfect for some time. Our label wasn’t at the point that we could take time off for the album without worrying and we’ve been building our new studios for last 3 years before that, so that didn’t help the process either. So at the beginning of last year we realized that everything fell in place and we started right away.
You said you didn’t really have a central idea when you went into the studio for the album. Looking at the end result now, what story do you think the tracks on Twelve are telling?
Everybody around us who has known us for years said Twelve is the logical consequense of our musical journey in a longplayer format. So even though we didn’t sit down before we started and talked about a plan or anything we are so in sync after 12 years that we knew it would represent us and what we love and when Chris came into the studio we knew we were on the right path.
What song from your childhood has had a lasting impact on you to this day?
Thien: There’s probably a few, but the first which comes to mind is Tomaso Albinoni’s “Adagio in G-Minor“. I used to play it in school and the sad melody has caught me right away when I heard it the first time and since then it has been a great companion throughout the years. In the end it’s all about the melodies.. and this beautiful piece of music has such a warm, heavy, beautiful, but yet sad melody. Hard to describe it really.
John: I’d say it’s “Ride Like the Wind” from Christopher Cross. It was one of the first Pop Songs I really loved and every now and then I have to listen to it again.
Next week you guys will be hosting a Suol showcase at Studio 80, with Daniel Bortz headlining the event. How important has Daniel been in the success of Suol Records?
Daniel just fits perfectly in our roster and he filled exactly the position we thought he would take in there. For us it was always important to have a broad spectrum of artists that have a vision and a heart, and Danny has both.
You yourselves will be giving a performance as well. What new treats have you got in store for the Amsterdam crowd?
We just received 2 of the 3 remixes we wanted for our second album single “Run Slowly” so we are super psyched to play them out. André Lodemann and Few Nolder both did an amazing job and now only Quarion’s mix is missing.
You have had multiple gigs and label nights at Studio 80. What’s your relation with the club?
We are fans of a long lasting relationship with our partners, that’s the only way you can build something together and the first time we met Jaap he told us exactly that. So we became regulars and are very happy to this day.
What’s your favourite club in Berlin?
It’s tough to say … we have had our SUOL residency at Watergate for a couple of years now and it’s great working with them. So you’d find us there on a regular basis … But a sunday afternoon at Panorama Bar doesn’t hurt either.
Is it still creatively rewarding for an artist to live in Berlin anno 2014?
For us Berlin still has everything we need. We have most of our artists, our label headquarter, our studios and our lives here, so the “new” is gone anyways. Most important for us is our infrastructure now, if it’s in Berlin or Clausthal-Zellerfeld doesn’t really matter that much.
You have been in the A&R game for a pretty long time now. Can you share some of your wisdom and experience with budding young label owners?
Make sure that every track you sign is really worth it. Imagine taking your own money in your hands to make a vinyl, cd or any other physical format – so think twice before you spend it on something you’re not sooooooo sure about. Some tend to be less critical if it’s only a digital label but thats exactly where labels differ. If you’re in it for the long run, pack yourself up with determination, money and a whole lot of patience.. oh and yeah.. talent is pretty important!
[To John] What are some of the benefits of being a Ryan Gosling lookalike?
Haha … I’ve been telling my girlfriend the same thing for months now and she still doesn’t believe me. No, for real … if that was true it would mean that I have to be more famous than him, because I can actually do more expressions with my face than the one he has mastered.
Haha, thanks for your time guys, see you next Friday!
Chopstick & Johnjon | Daniel Bortz | Kevin Duane | Tsepo | Kimou |