For a group that formed only a few years ago, things have moved incredibly quickly for Berlin techno trio FJAAK. Felix Wagner, Aaron Röbig and Kevin Kozicki first started making electronic music as teenagers after spending their adolescence clubbing in their hometown, but it was only 5 years ago they first put out their debut release.
Although they’re regularly touring now, without really doing much other than their regular jam sessions, they’ve become one of the city’s best known techno groups.
Berlin itself has played a pivotal role in this: as well as being their clubbing playground before they started making music, it’s where they also met Modeselektor, who liked their rave-led techno and breakbeats style so much they signed them for 5 releases.
While the last few years working with 50Weapons no doubt helped raise their profile, this year has seen the group reaching the most significant point in their career so far. Their debut LP FJAAK came out on Modeselektor’s main label Monkeytown Records in January, and the group have spent the first half of the year playing in clubs across Europe and South America.
With their EC1 debut happening this coming Saturday, we interrupted one of their studio sessions to talk to Kevin and Felix on facetime about their lives since breaking through.
So your debut album came out this year. How has your day to day routine changed since?
Kevin: It’s a relief, because we’ve been working on way more music than we’ve released over the past few years. It was a nice opportunity to put out a lot in one time. It’s sick because you get a big reaction from people. Rather than just one track, people might listen for an hour and get a feeling about it or understand it in a different way. And I think it’s given us a lot of attention too. So after we put out this album, suddenly there are a lot of people thinking about us. It’s nice to play more gigs, too.
Where have been some of the most notable shows you’ve played recently?
Felix: The most exciting experience was definitely playing Bassiani in Georgia. We also met another guy there, and he’s come over just to jam with us. Argentina and Chile were sick as well. Coming to London for fabric is exciting too though.
Did you spend a lot of time going out to Berlin clubs before you were making music?
Felix: We went to Berghain when we were really young and have spent a lot of time at parties – it’s where I spent all my money during my youth. Then we started visiting clubs more and more often because we were playing there. It helps that we have a huge range of clubs here.
You’re all together right now, do you still live together?
Felix: We don’t live together any more, we did for a long time and now we see each other very regularly – maybe 5 or 7 days a week.
Kevin: Our flat got refurbished, and we had the chance to move into Moderat’s studio, so we spent 1.5 years there. When we were there we put some of our equipment up for sale as they had so much stuff. For example they had synthesizer stacked on each other, so there was so much to use.
How much time do you spend together now you’re not in the same living-work space?
Felix: We still meet at least 3 times a week to make music together. I don’t think there’s much difference to a full time job, it’s just that we work at different times. When you love it, and you want to do it, you have to keep pushing, and put a lot of work into it.
So you’ll spend 8 hours together each time you meet like a job too?
Felix: If we don’t meet, we’re still always working on this individually. We have a number of different projects we’re working with – it’s just about trying out and collating experiences. If making music is working, then I would say we work the whole day. Whether I’m writing an RA chart, an email, collecting samples or starting a new project, it takes up my whole life. I think this is really something you can quickly get good at if you do it in a certain way. There are people in music who don’t devote their whole time to it, and sometimes they get lost somehow. The industry is always changing, and you have to do a lot to keep up.
Do you think your age has helped you in progressing at all?
Kevin: Not necessarily in progressing, but in touring there’s a clear difference. We find it easier not to sleep and travel as much as some DJs, and as you get older it can get tough. It just depends on how fresh your body is – if you can’t sleep at the weekend, it’s difficult to handle.
Felix: But for most of the artists older than us, we understand each other in a good way, because music doesn’t depend on age.
You worked with Rødhåd on 50Weapons and more recently on your debut LP – where did you first come into contact with one another?
Felix: We first met each other playing together in London. We talked backstage, and then ended up on one of the flights ever coming back home to Germany. It was a jet stream, so the plane was shaking and fell – the lights came off and breathing masks fell down, then the exit lights started flashing. So it was something of an unforgettable meeting.
Kevin: We had a chilled studio session in Berlin after that experience, and now after playing together too we generally see each other here and there. We’ll work with him in the future too.
It seems like you spend a lot of time experimenting with others in the studio.
Kevin: It depends on day to day, but that is often the case. For example today, we invited our friend and just jammed here. These sessions usually use a number of different machines, and then culminate with recording a few tracks into Ableton, and later seeing if it works.
Where do you find most of your hardware?
Felix: More often than not we use sites like eBay and Craigslist. Used stuff is sold very often. If you do it well and buy stuff at the right moment, you can even make a lot of money from it. Looking at the rising price of Technics, people who had checked this 5 years ago and now making a lot of money from it. Earlier today we just walked past a store on the street 50 metres away from us – it’s a guy that just sells and refurbishes 1210s. Berlin is a very good place for that kind of thing.
How much has living in Berlin helped your relationship with 50Weapons?
Kevin: Before we met Modeselektor, we had our own label, FJAAK, and pressed the first record which we then got delivered to our home. We had plans to distribute it with Clone, but we’d also emailed Modeselektor.
Felix: They basically replied saying ‘OK’, came over and bought the records from us. They put a stamp on the other side – that became 50WEAPONSXTR02. And I guess this is around the time more people started hearing about us.