Much hype has been swirling around the beautiful, immaculate productions of Mannheim-based producer Johnny D, and for good reason: he sounds like absolutely no one else. We checked in with the contagiously upbeat artist and shot out a quick-fire round of questions...
There are all kinds of rumours floating around the internet about your passport etc; everyone’s been busy speculating why you didn’t play in the UK for such a long time (we had quite a few problems trying to book you here up until March!). Can you set the story straight for us?
I’ll try to put it simply… I have no German passport! At least, not till now. Both my parents are from Eritrea (East Africa), but I was born in Germany after my parents took refuge from the 30 year long war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1978. One year later, I was born, so I only have a travel document which allows me to travel in the EU without any visa - but only the countries which have agree to the "Schengen" agreement! The UK and a few other countries, which are actually in the EU, have not accepted this agreement; for the countries not in this agreement, I need to get a visa. So life is not easy. And the last ten years were more surviving than living for me. Now is everything changed and life is more grounded...I would say?! At least for the naturalisation administration, I think!
How would you describe your ‘sound’ to the uneducated?
A mixture of house and techno with a shot of soul and funk...or rhythm and bass with changing elements, like synth, piano, vocals etc...
'Orbitalife' definitely went down as one of the tunes of last year – what’s the response been like for you personally?
For sure, ‘Orbitalife’ is probably the most known track from me and I'm really happy that my music has found the way to so many ears. But for me, the stories began much earlier, with the first release on Oslo Records, ‘Gualia’ EP! I was at further education in school at that time and actually I just wanted to study. My daughter was born right before the final exam - I don't know what the hell I could study after?! I was really worried about the future and could see this being the end of my musical dream because I needed to study, to be a father…making music couldn't fit! But then the reaction of this record was so great, I was totally surprised and stunned by the good reaction on it, which gave me new motivation to do music and the feeling I was doing the right thing. Life can goes up and down, up and down?...if that’s the rule, I should not worry about the next ten years :)
Do you enjoy DJing as much as you do playing live?
I'm the happiest guy if i can play music! If I DJ or play live, or if I’m just making music, it doesn't really matter. I would like to combine them! But till now I haven’t found my personality solution...
Who's influencing you at the moment?
The biggest influence in my music at the moment is my 2 year old daughter Soleil. She simply sets the pace right now :) But also my friends (Federico Molinari, Nekes, Ray Okpara, Nick Curly), other artists from every kind of music styles in this world, my piano and Ableton Live.