LE BAIN: You're from Cleveland, studied in Chicago, and have lived in New York and Berlin. Where are you based today?
JOHN ROBERTS: I moved back to New York from Berlin about four years ago but I still travel quite a bit so I have the feeling of being an eternal visitor here. I don't mind the feeling at all and I don't think it will ever really change.
You used to live in New York before moving to Berlin. Were you frustrated with the NYC scene at that time?
I actually really loved the dance music scene in New York before I left, although I was never really a part of it as a DJ at that time, just an observer. I originally moved to Berlin because the record label that I started working with (Dial Records) was based in Germany and I knew I'd have more opportunities and free time to focus on music there as it was comparatively still quite cheap.
John Roberts Glass Eights
In what ways was Berlin the right match for you as an artist?
I don't think it really was the right fit for me personally, but I knew at that time that if I stayed in New York I would have to get a job that dominated most of my time and I wouldn't be able to progress as quickly with music as I was hoping to, so I decided to leave.
Could you tell us why Panorama Bar in Berlin was a special club for you? Besides the traditional components of any clubs (the sound system, the line-ups, the promoters), what makes it a comfortable place to perform?
The guests at Panorama Bar have always made its really special place for me to play. They are open to anything; interested in learning about and experiencing new music. I think its rare to find people who are that open in any situation in life, so I feel lucky whenever I have a chance to share something that I've been working on with people like that.
The Brooklyn DJ Volvox told us "A lot of things about the Berlin scene are great but people tend to forget that everyone is really looking to Detroit, always. Detroit is the foundation.” Do you have some romanticism for Detroit yourself?
Although I grew up in Cleveland, just a couple of hours from Detroit, this influence wasn't something that I was ever tapped into, for some reason. My interest in dance music was always rooted more in Chicago and the UK for some reason.
You co-founded the Travel Almanac magazine, which defines itself as the ‘first true post-tourism publication’. Can you explain how you and Paul Kominek (from Dial Records) came up with that idea?
We realized that there wasn't yet a publication that dealt with the ways in which travel effects the lives and work of creative people, so we thought to make one ourselves. We decided concretely to work together on the project during a trip to Cologne to DJ for a Dial Records party. There was a mix up with the hotel rooms when we arrived and Paul and I ended up sharing a room that night and discussing our plans for the project in detail over a bag of McDonald's cheeseburgers.
John Robert Orah (Brunette Editions) preview
You just launched your own label Brunette Editions, which will publish not only music but printed works and books. How do you set up your priorities with so many projects on the way?
My priority is always whichever project I am most interested in working on at that moment. I think the outcome of creative pursuits is never really so great if you try to force yourself into them, so I just focus on what excites me and makes me happy at any given time. Then, in a few days or weeks when that becomes boring to me I move onto something else. That being said, I use this method within the framework of actual real world deadlines, which at this point give me a pretty concrete idea of when things need to be completed for each project.
In some weird way, I think your music looks like you. Do you think the artist’s physical appearance can tell us about his work?
I would actually tend to think in the opposite direction. Attaching music to a particular physical form seems a bit limiting to me. It is a melted form comprised of all of these different ideas and influences, people's instrument playing, production techniques, mixing and mastering styles, etc. In the end, its personality and 'appearance' is something all its own!