Founded in early 2017 by Nico Mendez aka Modat, Johnny Johnny is a pioneering imprint, advocating a brand of house & techno music that “goes against the grain, highlighting raw forms & root fundamental under-the-radar grooves, often skirting around the outside of stereotypical four to the floor electronic music”. Incorporating vinyl and digital releases as well as events in Glasgow, the UK & Europe, the brand is run by Modat alongside his musical partner in deep grooves, Jacque Saravanté, aka Lauter. We invited the pair along for a guest mix & interview.
What are your backgrounds and how did you both get into music?
MODAT: Thank you for taking the time out to sit and talk with us!!
I’ve always had a general interest in electronic music, my background consisted of quite a wide range of things, if it was good to me I was listening to it – most likely Rock, Metal, Hip Hop and Punk. My tastes have always been very open and eclectic throughout my years. Off the top of my head from the likes of Sigur Ros, Depeche Mode, Pantera, Led Zeppelin, The Cure, Kraftwerk, Talk Talk, Talking Heads, to Wutang, Tribe Called Quest, Soulwax, I mean I could go on and on, but it was all staple growing up!
I got into music seriously back in 2010. After about a year of faffing about on my little Numark controller, doing online streams with a small group of friends, which was how my interest DJ’ing really solidified, I decided to start sound production in college and through that, met good friend Jane Jaya Ayres of Depth Charge who gave me my crash course in House Music. The rest is history I guess!
LAUTER: I came from a more Indie/Alternative background. My Dad was right into his music so he was always playing stuff like The Black Crowes, The Rolling Stones etc, so I naturally gravitated towards that and ended up learning how to play guitar. It was only until my cousins boyfriend at the time (shout out to John Lang of The Lang Brothers) asked me if I had ever looked at getting into DJ’ing and from there on out I was hooked!
Where are you based and how has your home country or town influenced your music & career?
MODAT: Good auld Glasgow Scotland is where I’m currently residing. Glasgow’s scene is pretty booming. I would say Techno is our staple here, but there is definitely something for everyone. The legendary Subclub never disappoints as well as the infamous SWG3 warehouse. You always hear international heavy hitters talk about how they play all over the world, but nothing compares to Glasgow crowds. Theres is a lot of love and passion for electronic music here, though it’s a tough love for sure. This city will chew you up and spit you out like bubbles sometimes, I’ve seen a lot of new club nights and artists come and go here.
One thing this city has influenced me on is to be original. Standing out and doing my own thing has always come first for me, I’ve always kinda gone against the grain when it comes to anything I do. I’m very conscious of what other people are doing, I think that shows a lot in my own sounds and with Johnny Johnny.
LAUTER: I would agree with Nick, there is something for everyone in Glasgow but it can be a tough game sometimes, especially from a promoters perspective – it’s all about being original.
You both run the label Johnny Johnny. Tell us about the label, where did the concept come from and do you have a music policy?
MODAT: The Label was started with the idea to create a platform for a close-knit, like-minded group of individuals to share and showcase music that highlights the more raw forms & under the radar grooves that skirt around the outside of your more stereotypical four to the floor electronic music. Starting the label was something that came very naturally.
The inspiration for the name actually comes with an odd background. During the time I was brainstorming for a name, friends had come across this very creepy nursery rhyme on YouTube titled “Johnny Johnny Yes Papa”. The narrative of the song is about a boy and various other animals that keep eating sugar and being questioned by his “Papa” which they all lie about doing. It goes on for quite some time and is uncomfortable to listen to, even the animations are creepy as hell! So for weeks after that, my friends and I walked around asking each other if we had been eating sugar and shouting “Yes Papa!” That’s basically how the label name Johnny Johnny was born.
Since 2017 we have built a hub that not only releases music but hosts showcases all over the UK and Europe, creating environments where all can join, let loose and truly be themselves. It’s perfect, and we are still very young since our fruition.
The music policy for Johnny Johnny is something I don’t really think about. I definitely didn’t want to pigeon hole the label into one specific genre or sound, my pallet is quite eclectic as well as Jacks, so we always come across interesting sounds when it comes to digging for what we want for the label. We have released quite a wide range of styles and sounds since the beginning. Basically if the music is good and we enjoy it we’re probably going to want to release it.
What advice would you give anyone thinking of starting their own label?
MODAT: First off, before you even begin to get the ball rolling have a clear idea of what you want to do. Running a label blind in today’s climate is definitely a huge mistake. The main aspects of your label that include the music, the artwork, mastering, marketing, and promotion you need to think about consistency. Things like that all need to be consistent, it’s not just about the music.
People lose interest quickly if you don’t deliver your products at a high level every time. The artwork is the main one, for example, I find labels that work to a template are a little boring. If you have something that is well thought out, visually pleasing and fresh to look at with each release then you are already offering more. I also think deciding on what format to release on can help you stand out. Some labels choose only to release on vinyl, making each release more exclusive and niche which can be cool.
Establish your brand and look, create an identity for your label, take time over your labels logos, image and get it right as it’s the first thing people see. Once you have these things on lockdown, I think it’s also important to decide what platforms you want to represent the label on, things like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and FaceBook are all great. But I’ve learned that you can spread yourself thin if you try and tackle too many all at once. Focus on the platforms you have more notoriety with, and then grow from there.
Tell us about your production processes – is each project different? And what are your key pieces of studio kit?
MODAT: A lot of guys I know seem to have a template they stick to, thats not the case for me, I mean I have my own work flow for sure, but I tend to start with a totally blank canvas at the beginning and just hit full serendipity mode. I love just pushing buttons and seeing what happens, it keeps thing interesting for me, I think that has a lot to do with why you can’t really put a finger on my sound. I would say that each project is different in a sense that I may have a general idea of what I want, but most of the time I just run with how the track comes together organically. So it might end up totally different from what I set out to do.
There’s quite a lot I really enjoy using my Maschine Mikro a lot for rhythms and grooves! My go to plug ins and VST’s are anything from Sound Toys, NI’s Massive, and I am really enjoying Korgs M1 at the moment! The Korg Monotron is a wicked little gadget as well, you get some really cool noise from it!
LAUTER: I try to make each track different but I usually go about it in the same way i.e picking what key I would like to make my track in, making a drum rack and trying to create some odd glitchy drums, laying down a solid bassline and then laying out and mixing/mastering as I go along. A key piece of kit I use would definitely be Native Instruments Reaktor, you can get some wicked sounds out of it! Also Ableton’s Simpler is definitely a tool that’s not used to it’s full potential. Get on it folks!
Can you tell us something people won’t now about each of you?
LAUTER: Believe it or not, I have never seen Friends the tv show. (WHATTTT?!)
MODAT: I wear two pairs of socks most of the time, I don’t know why, I just have always done for as long as I can remember. Let’s put it down to a childhood trauma that I have buried too deep to remember.
What do you have coming up in terms of releases and gigs, both on the label and for you as artists?
MODAT: I’ve been keeping my head down working away on a few new projects and EP’s. Also been working away with Jack on a few tracks that we are excited about. I’ve just released a free download with Music Is 4 Lovers, its huge crunchy techno / tech house, definitely designed for peak time madness!
Im going to be releasing my next vinyl EP JJW002: Modat – Bauer Beat EP through Johnny Johnny later in the year as well, which I’m really excited about, I think this will be the first time I’ve mentioned it as well so there’s an exclusive! We also have a couple of Johnny Johnny showcases planned for the rest of this year, the next one being the end of October, we are teaming up with local Glasgow heroes Boogaloo for an event in the Blue Arrow Jazz club, so really looking forward to that one.
LAUTER: Recently, I have been working on my alias Lauter – self releasing my own music via my Bandcamp page which has personally been a huge success for me! My usual moniker (Jacque Saravanté) has had some pretty solid releases this year on the likes of Johnny Johnny, Innocent Deep and Bosom to name a few! So it’s been good to focus on other projects, especially towards the deeper end! Gig wise, like Nick said, we have a few bits coming up towards the end of the year which we are both excited about!
How did you put together your guest mix for the radio show & what have you included – any exclusives or surprises?
MODAT: Me and Jack musically are on the same level these days, so its really easy for us to just rock up and knock out a set we are both happy with, which is basically what we did for this guest mix. (Thank you very much for the opportunity btw) We have definitely loaded this mix with a few Easter eggs for sure, lots of stuff from Johnny Johnny, some new ones that are coming out and some unreleased and vinyl only tracks thrown in for good measure.
We hope you enjoy it!
Check out the guest mix from Lauter & Modat on the Constant Circles radio show with Just Her: