Jozef K’s records have been played by Micheal Mayer, Dubfire, Joris Voorn, Maya Jane Coles, and countless others, releasing music on labels such as Sasha’s Last Night On Earth, Acid Test, Tensnake’s True Romance, Steve Lawler’s VIVa Music and many more. BBC Radio 1’s Pete Tong has been a huge supporter or Jozef’s tracks for some time which proves Jozef’s talents in the studio as well as behind the decks.
Jozef K was made resident DJ aged 19 at Sankeys in Manchester for Tribal Sessions. Playing alongside the biggest names in house and techno and as you would imagine for a teenager is something that only dreams are made of.
When the opportunity to speak with Jozef K came about I grabbed it with both hands as I was aware he had some huge releases on the horizon on some of the biggest labels such as Last Night On Earth and Stil Vor Talent. Also, everything was made that little bit easier knowing he lives a tram ride away in Manchester so it was a simple decision. I thought I would go a pester the guy and see what he has to say about his music, productions, Manchester and the music scene, and China…
Jozef was answering a mountain of emails when we began speaking on what was a typically grey day in Manchester. I asked Jozef what was it that first grabbed his attention about dance electronic music? “I heard ‘Steve Bug – Painkiller ft. Miss Kitten’ when I was 15/16 and I was like fuck, this is fucking great I need more of this shit… and here I am 13 years on. I was mainly into hip-hop at the time but I was hooked on house and techno from the first bar of the bass-line.
We went on to speak about some of Jozef’s early influences… “Nas, DJ Shadow, Dr Dre, Eminem, I was a total hip-hop head until age 15. Maybe that is why I like repetitive elements.” Jozef went on to add “My older brother Tommy was always showing me new shit too, that gave me a musical headstart I think, I just ignored all the rubbish Britpop bands (that he hates now too). Some notable artists he introduced me to that made an impact on me were The Knife (man I love The Dreijer siblings), Gil Scot-Heron, DJ Krush, Jose Gonzales. DJ Shadow was the one artist Tom introduced that made the biggest impact, ‘Endtroducing’ was a very important record to me, I have a tattoo related to that album! I wish that he continued creating these atmospheric, life affirming hip-hop beats instead of the forays into krunk and hyphy, but I respect how he always has pushed the envelope. My Dad was/is a pure funk and soul man, so we grew up on James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield in our house, he says that all other music genres are rubbish haha.”
“I think James Brown was house before house was house so there must be something in that in terms of my taste development, sure Sigmund would have a comment on that.” Joseph then played me ‘Sex Machine” by James Brown… “Listen to the groove on this, simple as fuck and funky as fuck.”
Jozef then played me ‘God Made Me Phunky’ by MD X Press feat Mike Dunn and said “not much difference really is there? Still simple, still funky but just a harder kick drum and quicker.”
“My mum was a punk, so she says anyway… that also played the viola (once for the queen… dead punk mam!) and some piano… she also let me steal her vinyl of John Martyn – Solid Air (not so punk), which is a prized and one of my all-time fave records… thanks, Mum! Another of my 5 brothers, Jake, was in a band, who were pretty good I thought, (they once beat Maximo Park in Battle of the Bands in Manchester, not that I like Maximo Park but they went on to certain levels of success) so I guess there was a lot of music around for me as a kid. I am trying to get a vocal from Jake, that would be gangster to collab with him.”
Jozef went on to add “I guess the one band me and my whole family agree on are Fat Freddy’s Drop. Wandering Eye is just a fucking groove. I went watching these with my first ever girlfriend and the lead singer got each band member to do instrument solo, very James-Brown-esque. Just getting that in there yeah, I have actually had a girlfriend alright.”
As a 19-year-old Jozef was asked to be resident at Sankeys in Manchester for Tribal Sessions which was an institution at the time. I asked Jozef how the opportunity came about and his first thoughts on the opportunity…
“I think because they asked me to do a warm up set and I actually played a warm-up set! A lot (not all of course!) of young kids in that situation would be tempted to steal the limelight but I appreciated the poetry and importance of how a night should build musically… and fortunately, despite my young years due to this understanding, that night I kept it deep. Greg Vickers the Tribal Sessions legend sung my praises and that was that I was playing every week.”
“I think Greg Vickers was pleased not to have to do the first 2 hours any longer too! It was usually me, Greg then an international headliner like Jeff Mills, Trentemoller, Joris Voorn. Great times, age 19-23 doing this… come on, it was an absolute dream! Greg Vickers is hands down my favourite DJ to play back to back with, no ego between us, musically in harmony and feel truly at ease. He lives in Peru now and no longer spins but Greg next time you are in Europe and decide you want a blast.. ring me.”
Whilst talking about Sankeys (which is sadly no more in the city) I asked Jozef his thoughts on how its closure affected Manchester’s music scene and culture… “another day, another beautiful thing sucked up by another human’s desire for monetary gains, when it all breaks down it is just ego, as usual. The city will always miss a club that was part of its heritage but it will move on like anything else. Manchester still kicked post-Hacienda.”
Jozef is an artist that cut his teeth as a DJ long before he moved into the world of production. I asked him if he thought this helped him in his career in any way or whether he would change things if he could start over…
“It would have been better to start making solo records sooner but fuck it, at least I have. Everything happens for a reason, maybe the music is better this way as it means more and I have learned a lot. Or maybe it isn’t, who knows?”
Moving onto Jozef’s productions he is a man that has a lot in the pipeline over the coming weeks with a new release due on Music For Freaks in November. I asked him to tell me a little about the track… The A1, ‘Rudy and Marlowe’s Theme’ is a vintage disco sample cut over a 909 drum groove on one side, and a warehouse vibe, stabby house cut on the other with Shabba Ranks speaking over the top, the title is ‘Variations On A Theme’. The release also features remixes from 2 friends of mine, Posthuman and Hector Moralez.” Jozef went on to say… “can I just point out that I made this track (Rudy & Marlowe’s Theme) 2 years ago before and ‘Mella Dee – Disco Techno Tool’ came out? As I just know some people are going to pull me up on that, I can show you the Ableton file. Rudy and Marlowe are my 2 new nephews and I figured they could look gangster to the other kids at the nursery if they had a house track named after them.”
Jozef also has releases due out on Sasha’s Last Night on Earth, Stil Vor Talent, DJ Pierre’s Afro Acid, Waze & Odyssey’s Street Tracks, I Love Acid/Balkan, and Pfeiffer Records. I asked when we could we expect to see these releases on the usual download sites, and how many releases are coming our way in total… quite a few by the sounds of things… “I think 10 or 11. And a lot more to come.”
“I am continually trying to make music in a dream-like state that exists within my mind and the releases coming on these labels are definitely a vision from that. I can access a certain part of my brain and that zone just knows what the music is meant to sound like.”
“I have other acid and techno cuts coming that are more dancefloor focused. But on these labels mentioned, the records are designed for the club but made accessing this dream state. I thought of doing separate aliases for my varying sounds, but I just thought, fuck it. It’s all me, I like everything, so why not make everything? A dope Amsterdam label has taken an acidic Berlin techno record from me, and yesterday I was making some deep 90’s sounding MK organ track with a vocal. When I was younger I think I was really concerned what people thought of me, but now I just don’t give a fuck, as long as I am being honest, who can say anything? And also, one thing I have learned is that no-one really gives that much of a fuck either, you think they do, but really most people are too far worrying about themselves to really care about you.”
It is not the first time Jozef has released music on Sasha’s label. I asked him what was it that he thought Sasha liked about his productions… “Emotion. I make music from the heart… I am not trying to make shit that sounds like someone else’s record, which feels commonplace at the moment. I don’t know at all if Sasha thinks this but I hope it’s that anyway… it must be something. We both cut our teeth with Manchester residencies at a young age, so maybe he sees a little of himself in me? If he even knows anything about me at all.”
At Decoded Magazine we are huge fans of Jozef’s work alongside Winter Son. I asked Jozef if we can expect any more music from them both in the future… “It’s lovely to know you guys are fans! Thomas Ragsdale (Winter Son) put this project on hold as he is mad busy with his composing work. He has also recently set up his own label, Soundtracking The Void. But one thing I can say is, we have just started working on a jungle project, think Skanna/Source Direct… Though, never say never on another Jozef K & Winter Son record.”
All this talk of producing and projects, I just had to ask Jozef if he has a particular workflow when he is in the studio… “I try and go in with absolutely zero intention, as I feel this approach is similar to a stream-of-consciousness literature writing method. It gets what is inside out and is the most honest way to write as well as a place I find most comfortable to be myself.”
“To flip that on its head, imagine you go in the studio thinking right I wanna make a 127bpm acid house jam. Like you could do it, cool, BUT you set yourself guidelines and limitations, imagine you go in with no intention… it is just gonna be what is inside your soul that comes out. Total cathartic release. Cathartic is a sick word, google that shit if you don’t know it. And if you do, I sound like a wanker right now, but I love you anyway.” I eased Jozef’s concerns by admitting he is talking to a wanker so no issue with this chat at all! Plus I also love the word!
We went on to chat about some of Jozef’s favourite gadgets and he told me his favourites are “Juno 106 Reaktor plugin. Fucking mint.”
Moving away from productions and studio I was keen to speak to Jozef about more of the Manchester music scene and the WHP in particular. Many people in the city have the opinion that the WHP has a monopoly over the nightlife in Manchester. I asked his thoughts on this… “In a way, there is a monopoly as the guys behind it run a lot of smaller events vicariously and the main guy Sascha is the night mayor of Manchester or whatever the fuck the title is. The concept of a bigger company getting bigger at the expense of smaller one is just how the world works and it is what it is. They book some good artists so whatever, that’s good enough for me. But there is still always gonna be some promoters booking the new shit in Manchester before WHP get to them… that is the game now I guess. And I fucking love those guys, the underdogs slaving away booking names who put their first record out tomorrow and just hammering the promotion to break even. That is the shit, they are my people. I have been them.”
“There was a rivalry at times between Sankeys (who I was resident for in Manchester prior to their closure) and WHP, so I don’t see WHP booking me any time soon. I guess stranger things have happened but would be a surprise to hear that booking from my agent haha. That being said the current booker might not even know who I am. Fuck knows, that is another thing I learned as an artist; not to concern myself with the opinion that 1 person has of me when there are literally thousands of other people out there… most importantly I learned to primarily focus on the work I am creating myself. The rest is secondary, void of any real substance (i.e. other people’s opinions) and is ultimately outside of my/your control. I hope this is something the reader can take away from this too; just worry about what you actually can do yourself.”
When I am 80 looking back over my records, as long as I can feel that this is a true representation of where I was at at the time, then that is what counts.”
Jozef went onto tell me a great little story… “once in my early twenties, Sankeys were facing administration and one of the guys at WHP emailed me to come in for a meeting, I didn’t even reply. I just couldn’t do that, leave a team that I was part of, I know a few others that did similar and no disrespect to them, play your own game etc, but I have always been loyal, must have been my upbringing… maybe it was the music diet of James Brown, John Martyn and gangsta rap!”
Manchester is a great city for places to kick back and chill and it has some great hangouts. I was keen to know some of the places Jozef likes to kick back and chill in and around the city when he gets some downtime… “Eastern Bloc Records, Koffee Pot, Temple (fave bar ever), The marina at Ancoats looks really nice at night time, the lighting is sweet. I went to the opening of the new club YES. They have done that up beautifully inside and a really wicked ethos behind it, hats off to those guys and all the best with it.”
“I just love exiting the train at Piccadilly and walking through the centre, gets me amped up, especially on a Friday evening, can’t help but have an ever so slight Liam Gallagher swagger walking through Piccadilly gardens.”
We moved onto to speak about gigs and what Jozef has planned over the coming months. He is set to tour China again for the fourth time over New Year… “4 shows across 4 cities, the last time was 6 but a couple of the shows were a little too remote, this time is gonna be 4 killer shows. I Feel really lucky to be doing this for the 4th time.”
I went on the ask Jozef what it was he loved so much about China… “I love how the sociological norms are just totally different to here, it feels like you are on another planet at times. Shanghai as a city is just phenomenal. It is so expansive, can get a subway for 20 mins in any direction and it’s still skyscrapers. Also, I made really good friends with the promoters out there it is reaching a point of feeling like it is just a friendly visit.”
Before we parted ways I asked Jozef if he had anything else to add, and he said… “yeah I am mad into this Confucius teaching at the moment – ’It does not matter how slow you move, as long as you are moving forward’.”
Well, there you go, folks… I hope you enjoyed reading the interview as much as I enjoyed speaking with Jozef. He really is a truly inspirational artist and we here at Decoded Magazine whish him all the best for the remainder of 2018 and the future. Hopefully, we will catch up with him again in 2019.
Jozef K’s upcoming gigs:
Saturday 20th October – Oscillate, Blackpool
Saturday 27th October – Nowhere Leicester, 4th Birthday
Saturday 9th November – Pineal Groove, Manchester South [Debut All Night set]