‘I was totally stunned with the rolling beats, the grooves and the dh’s behind that music. I was a guy who wanted to be active in music and couldn’t be passive; so I started to dj, at first with drum n bass.’ Johnny started making name on the DnB circuit around Mannheim but quickly got bored of playing it. ‘With time, you begin to grow up and want to discover new things, and so I began to discover other styles of music… Who knows; maybe I’ll play drum n bass again or produce it one day? There is no limitation for me, nothing is impossible! I try to be open to every kind of music, it just needs to be authentic and have a bit of soul… then I like it!’
His parents returned to Eritrea in North-West Africa after the war ended in 1992, Johnny has only been back several times to visit, having set up his life in Mannheim. ’The strange thing is I don’t feel anywhere is home really- neither Germany nor Eritrea, but this isn’t as bad as it sounds, it’s a good combination to create your own Space, like you do in the music, for example.’ Johnny quickly developed into a versatile artist active in the Mannheim Collective; meeting Ray Okpara by the good grace of their mutual hip-hop interest in 1999.
Credited alongside Ray and Nick Curly for creating this ‘Mannheim Sound’ Johnny says; ‘I met Nick about 10 years ago, we actually met in a club and realised we both worked together- once we figured out that we were both dj’ing we began to organize events with Ray.’ Nick Curly, Ray Okpara and Johnny D formed Rajo Music and started throwing infamous House parties at Loft Club in Ludwigshafen. It wasn’t long before Federico Molinari and Nekes, the heads of Oslo Records got involved. ‘We all just had the same thought about music.’
Nekes, Federico and Johnny all shared an apartment together and inadvertently set up a base, a hub of creativity, for all their musical projects. ‘We were running the club night, making great parties and everyone met in our house- it was the living room for everybody.’ He says. ‘It was at this time that we all came together, Nick, Ray, Federico, Nekes and some other dj’s/producers from Mannheim- some played house, some played techno or other music… In the beginning not everyone was accepting of each other’s styles but with time we became really good friends, and suddenly everybody was open to each other’s music. We all came together sharing music, ideas and sometimes the same computer!’
Johnny D’s style developed under the influence of minimal electronic music, prompting him to try his hand at producing. Johnny D’s first EP, Manipulation was released in November 2007, and his name was soon on dancefloors all over the world. It seems they didn’t see him coming! The last 3 years have been an incredible journey for Johnny, with bookings taking him on world adventures and his music being released on top labels like Oslo Records, Cecille, 8Bit and Safari Electronique. ‘Now I can pay my bills, can pay my flat… I mean, my dream has come true, I’m really happy that I can raise my life with my passion. The past 3 years have gone so fast for me; I’ve travelled a lot and seen many places.’ He says simply. ‘It’s nice to see that everywhere I go, the people are actually the “same”. They just have different cultures and languages. The music connects everyone, it’s our body language.’
Johnny’s track Orbital Life was voted the biggest breakthrough record of Ibiza 2008 and on the strength of that hit track, Johnny D has released a string of dance floor monsters that have seen him rocking the best clubs all over the globe, and become in-demand as a remixer for the likes of 2020 Soundsystem and Onsulade. His musical versatility makes it difficult to define his style, but one can safely locate his music and vinyl selection somewhere between deep-house, minimal, and techno.
Johnny D’s production has been said to have had a hand in ending genre wars, with Resident Advisor saying he has ‘further softened the already flimsy stylistic boundaries between house and techno’. ‘I felt there was something missing in the music, I thought; I like it when it’s hard like techno but also when the music goes deep, nice and smooth! I like some melody or a vocal that talks to you and just tried to find a solution for both, in harmonic way.’ Finding meditation in his music-making process he adds, ‘Deepness in the music doesn’t mean it has to be slow or soft, it’s more about the music having soul. And to make soulful music, you need to go deep inside of you.’
On his tour to South Africa he says; ‘I will let it surprise me and simply let the things flow. I’m not one to plan everything; I’m interested in many things like the culture, the people, the landscape and the food. But basically; how the people in South Africa party!’ While he doesn’t look for the next trendy soundwave, he’s influenced by everything around him, not just music. ‘I’m not someone to jump on the next hype.’ He says, ‘But I’ve heard a lot of sounds and music styles from South Africa, so maybe something will inspire me there!’ Dirty Toilet Sex Music maybe? ‘Sounds interesting, I’m sure it will be a good night! Dirty toilets I don’t care… Sex and music- everywhere!’
Dirty Toilet Sex Music featuring Johnny D at Aurba Lounge, Johannesburg 23rd Sepetmber, with local support from Coco Loco, Brothers Underground, Waide Lemos, Chris Palmer, Gavo, Rob Toca, Rob Sloan and Diggin4Dodge
*This is a FREE Event and space is limited so guests must register on the DIRTY TOILET SEX MUSIC Website in order to gain access to the event on the night.http://www.dirtytoiletsexmusic.com/
Dirty Toilet Sex Music featuring Johnny D at The Vault (Underneath FTV) Cape Town, with local support from Coco Loco, Ryan Sullivan and Helmut J
Dity Toilet Sex Music featuring Johnny D at The Origin in Durban with local support from Coco Loco, Brothers Underground, Agent K, Munro, Kyle Worde, Green JNR, Byron Klebb, Dakin Auret, Kingpin and more..
Details for Port elizabeth coming soon.