“Welcome to our house.”
The members FJAAK from Berlin all share one apartment, which also houses their studio. Why not sneak in our writer Anton Teichmann so he can enjoy a typical night (if there is such a thing) with the band?
The place is located near a big crossing in Prenzlauer Berg. Upon walking there, I get surprised that there still are young people who move to this area nowadays.
I arrive at 9:30 with a sixpack of beer in my hands as a gift, Felix Wagner opens the door and shows me around the large flat. In the very back, the rest of the band is hanging around with some friends. They smoke, talk and watch women football or bad shows on the local TV stations. I make myself comfortable and open a bottle of beer. What follows next are long conversations about the history and the development of FJAAK, Berlin club culture, their hood, Berlin-Spandau and vinyl.
FJAAK, that’s Felix, Aaron Röbig & Kevin Kozicki. If you paid attention, you might have noticed that the name of the band could have something to do with their first names. Correct, expect that the name also is a remainder of the time when they were a quartett, with Johannes having left the band a while ago.
It all started in 2009 in Berlin-Spandau, Felix and Kevin were neighbours, Aaron and Felix went to school together. Their first studio was in their parent’s basement. Back then they didn’t know too much about electronic music but an important place of musical socialisation was a local record store called „Musicland“. It still excists today and it’s where Felix bought his very first vinyl – a 2×12“ compilation called „In The Streets“ (see picture). 8 tracks for 7€ – he bought it, so he can start DJing right away.
The guys talk a lot and very fast, sometimes all of them at the same time. I try my best to stay focused and continue to drink more beer – just in case.
Most of the evening, we sit around in the living room, sometimes one the guys gets up and puts on a record. Vinyl is the medium of choice within their peer group – a friend of them who is hanging out with us (and who happens to be the son of a well known label boss in Germany) describes it like that „Other people go to Kotti to score some heroin – we are addicted to vinyl“. They all agree: „You just think about buying music a lot longer, you wonder if the track is any good and if you really need it. Vinyl gets scratches, which you can hear on the record“. It’s also a lot more challenging to DJ with vinyl, as Kevin puts it: „With vinyl, you hav to learn how to DJ first. If you use a laptop, the technology is doing that for you“. Naturally, FJAAK’s release on vinyl, too. „Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to DJ our own tracks“, the band says.
Later on Felix shows me some other music of his – they don’t just like techno but have another passion as well: Rap. Together with his roommate Claus Georg, he’s got a (yet unreleased) Rap side project, which sounds quite promising to me. We continue talking about German and American Rap, share our favorites, listen to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and to the German rapper SSIO.
I want to know about FJAAK’s influential clubbing experiences and how this might have shaped their sound as a band. Early on the guys left the outer borrough Berlin-Spandau to go clubbing in the centre of Berlin, to places such as VCF near Alexanderplatz or to parties at the now refurbished Gleisdreickspark, which helped to shape their ideas of a musical underground and the sound of it. And of course Berghain quickly became a go-to place for them, too..
FJAAK also organised their own parties in Spandau, which is where they first started to DJ because nobody else wanted to book them yet. These open air parties were pretty elaborately done, almost like little villages in the middle of a forest, with professional equipment, generators and all that. This went on for a while until, as always, the authorities came and shut things down. FJAAK love looking back at those times, they feel that they’ve made Spandau a bit more exciting back then. Ironically it is now this part of town which first more or less legalised spontanious open air parties.
FJAAK got their first club gig by telling the promoter of the club Rekorder that they’ve already played his club and that they want to come back, which wasn’t really true. He booked them anyway and liked it so much that they became residen DJs there. And soon after the band got to play Berghain as well, their favorite one, where they still play regularely.
It’s now past midnight, time to touch upon the more serious topics of being a musician, such as the financial situation. The guys from FJAAK live a very focused life, instead of spending too much money on going to bars or restaurants, they rather invest in new gear, as the wish-list is still pretty long. There is this funny video of theirs on Facebook which shows their fascination with musical gear pretty accurately. But in order to be really safe, all of the guys go to universities: Kevin is studying industrial engineering while Aaron and Felix are becoming tonmeister.
It’s 2:30am, their friends go home and we are now sitting on their balcony, looking at the big crossing with beers in ours hands. The band tells me that they have been living in this place since October 2014. Before that, they all shared one big room. The neighours now are pretty relaxed, despite the fact that they also have their studio in the flat. It’s nice to hear those kind of stories as well. They chose this area, because they wanted to live centrally and close to the airports (and Berghain of course).
The guys know their studio by heart, „it’s like somebody painting in the dark“, they tell me. It’s no surprise when they emphasize how the good the workflow is in the band. They still share the same ideas and when all three of them like a new track they produced, they are sure that’s going to be sick. And FJAAK seem to be producing fresh tracks all the time, even when we are sitting in the flat, drinking and talking, at least one of them takes out a laptop and works on new ideas.
Time to sleep, the guys arranged the guest bed in the suspended ceiling, which reminds me a lot of my old appartment – I still manage to sleep very well.
In the morning we meet again in their kitchen over bread rolls with cheese and fresh coffee. The band has to leave soon to meet their labelbosses from Modeselektor to show them some new songs. I want to know how the partnership with Monkeytown came about. The story is rather simple: The band send music to many different labels and at one point Monkeytown started showing some interest. They kept on making new stuff and then released on the (soon after 50 releases defunct) 50Weapons sublabel. The singles sold pretty well and the band is now working on an album. It’s supposed be an album which you can listen to at home but it should still be a continuation of their singles, which are rather club oriented.
We say our good byes, not without promising to stay in touch. In fact, we soon meet again at Reeperbahn Festival where they played two celebrated sets. Especially the last one at Prinzenbar was incredibly fun. I’m very sure that the word of the special appeal of their live sets will soon spread.