Deviating: Iron Curtis

Whether it be turning out skewed-and-soulful house or woozy hip-hop as Iron Curtis, or sculpting a more classic acid and techno sound as Achterbahn D’amour alongside Edit Piafra, Johannes Paluka rarely fails to grab attention.

His debut album ‘Soft Wide Waste Band’, released last year via Tensnake‘s Mirau Musik, exhibited a pastiche of sounds that brought together his love for melding analogue and digital working techniques over 14-tracks of luring house, queasy hip-hop and soulful techno jams.

Moving back up to the present day and Paluka has just released a split 12″ as Iron Curtis alongside the captain of the seapunk scene, Ultrademon. Shift 002 is the sophomore outing for the Singapore-based Mignight Shift label, who have previously released Canada’s Basic Soul Unit and Eddie Niguel. This nifty 12″ sees “two artists recontextualised from the conventions from which they came.”

We got in touch with Johannes Paluka and discussed influences, growing up in Nuremberg, twisting techniques and hooking up with Midnight Shift in Singapore.

Lets take it back a few years, what sort and sounds and influences were you soaking up as a child and through into your teenage years?

All praise for my musical education goes straight to my parents; both my mum and my dad were, and still are, music lovers. Never limited to a particular genre or band, always looking out for everything they were touched by music-wise. I grew up with a soundtrack of the cheesiest radio pop of the 80s (from Phil Collins to Rick Astley), to heavily diggin-deep-soul & funk (from Staxx, Motown, Philly soul, crossed later on with r&b and funk from the likes of Prince, Luther Vandros or Funkadelic) and singer & songwriter music (from Bob Dylan to Lou Reed and John Martyn). I got some Roxy Music and Talking Heads on my way too…

And somehow I kept on with that: “looking out for music that touches me whether it’s this-or-that” throughout my teenage years. I discovered hip-hop – my first love – at around 12, techno & house a bit later. I went to record stores without being able to actually pronounce any of the artists I was looking for, but totally excited about digging for music. Looking in the most uncool shopping malls with just a few deutschmarks pocketmoney.

Got me my first 1210s at 14. I wanted to become as cool as DJ Westbam (my first real “DJ-Hero”): his music actually helped me to discover electro and everything not 4-to-the-floor(ish). Drum & bass hit me big time, then the West London broken beats scene… Besides all that I was going to concert shows, doing rehersals with my schoolmate’s hardcore and math rock bands, but never lost sight of hip-hop, electronica and house at the same time.

Telling you all this, I realize what a mess that all was. I wondering how I was able to pass school and have friends at all.

You were raised in Nurnberg, could you tell us a bit about the music community in those days growing up, there were some interesting things going on right?

Yeah, Nuremberg is not too bad to grow up in. It is one of those typical “big-not-big” cities here in Germany. Half a million inhabitants and a cool music-scene; as written above I had the chance to see many different bands and djs. At a quite early stage of discovering clubs and venues in my hometown I felt a strong connection to the more DIY-kinda places, venues like “Desi” and “Zentralcafe” which became the spots were I started djing out.

And how about today?

I think the “vibe” from back then is still there, even if I only have the chance to go to Nürnberg every now and then. But my friend and dj-buddy Jool (aka Edit Piafra) and I are still throwing parties at Zentralcafe every 3-4 months. Always feels good to be back home though.

Where are some of your favourite cities/places to visit to enjoy or play music?

Puh, tough question! I had the chance to travel a lot during the past 3 years and have visited so many different spots in the world. To sum things up: as much as I liked to play out in Kassel, the feeling was mutual in Minsk or Singapore. 🙂

MNS002 Iron Curtis & Ultrademon Artwork for Web

Many of your tracks have unpredictable and complex structure and patterns, almost on a broken-beat vibe sometimes. Who/what influence your techniques?

Yeah, my roots are definitely in hip-hop and broken beats. Even if I try to do straight forward 4-to-the-floor beats, I always end up with something a little wonky or a slope in it. Of course, sampling is important, but I try to “hide” my samples as I think some of my early tracks tended to be a bit too obvious when it came to samples. Besides sampling I realized how much I love the mixture of analogue and digital working techniques. Having recorded a synth or bassline with my maschines and sqeezing and twisting it later on in software – that is what I love.

We love your woozy kinda hip-hop tracks – who are some of your favourite producers of this type of music?

Thanks guys! I always felt a strong connection to the more soulful and sophisticated side of hiphop. I was a sucker of everything ATCQ, Premier, De La, Pete Rock, Digable Planets, Mos Def and the like did. I discovered Dilla and Madlib through that. Now I really feel guys like Onra, the Stones Throw camp and others of that ilk.

Who’s music in general are you tipping for 2013?

So many good records out there, and hopefully some more good ones coming up in 2013 too. I’m so looking forward to anything guys like Lerosa, Joey Anderson, Christopher Rau, Johannes Albert, Baaz, Tin Man, John Heckle, Red Rack’em, the Smallvilles and RVDS are releasing… but of course I forgot a hundred other names in here!

You’ve just released a split record with Ultrademon for Shift – can you tell us a bit about the release.

Kavan from Midnight Shift got in touch the middle of last year. He told me about his plans release-wise for his label and that all sounded pretty cool to me. I met Kavan later that year in Singapore as the guys invited me over to play for their party at Zouk and I had such a good time with the Shifts! Really cool bunch of music lovers, just doing their thing down there in Singapore. I’d heard the first Midnight Shift Ep and as I was, and always will, be a fan of Basic Soul Unit, I thought this might be a good home for my music. Kavan introduced me to Ultrademons’ music and I’m really happy to be on the record with him.

What other output can we expect from Johanne Paluka this year?

There’ll be a couple of other IC tracks sooner or later this year, a bunch of remixes as well, alongside some collaborations and of course loads of new Achterbahn D’Amour stuff. By the way, Edit Piafra is releasing his first solo stuff soon too!

Interview: Josh Thomas

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