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Talking to the anonymous

Interview with John Talabot

Talking to the anonymous

30-12-2014 | 10.23

I’m a big fan of John Talabot. I’ve got a fair bit of his records, go to most of his shows in the Netherlands and my cat carries the same name. In the past I’ve done interviews for Trouw with both Marc Piñol and Pional from the Hivern Discs stable, but never with the headman himself. Now, my final interview for my favourite club is with one of my favourite artists. I was quite excited for the conversation, and eventually didn’t even tell him I named my cat after him, sensing it would be a bit unprofessional – even though the cat was sitting next to my laptop screen throughout our entire conversation.

You have quite a specific sound. Do you think it has changed over the past five years?
‘It is certainly changing. When I started producing as John Talabot, I was mostly doing stuff that I could dj properly, but soon found out I wasn’t even playing it because I didn’t like it. At a certain point I wasn’t that much into the punchy stuff anymore and started to appreciate a deeper sound. Trying to find a good balance between deep and hard, I used the distortion. It was my approach to this kind of raw sound. But it’s not about that anymore. It’s a way of developing, and by getting new gear; your sound changes over time. Music is about a bit of exploration, and it’s hard to constantly explore in the same direction. Changing it doesn’t mean you’re losing personality. For instance, my album was quite the challenge, because I wanted to try something completely different from the previous EP’s. Beforehand I didn’t know that I was going to be playing liveshows with my album. I made it thinking it would be good to listen to at home. Four or five months after the release, somebody came up to me asking if I wanted to do a liveshow at a Spanish festival. It would be a one time only thing, but there the XX came up to me and Pional and asked us on tour, so we ended up playing the tracks of my album for one and a half year long.’

Did you get bored of playing your own songs after touring with a liveshow of your previous album?
‘Yeah, I was really bored by that. Though… no I do still play some of my stuff, but nobody has heard it yet.’

Well, I know the Philomena edit. Who and what did you edit?
‘That is a super big secret. I don’t think the people behind it will find out, but I would very much enjoy it if someone comes up to me and tells me that they’ve found it. Like when Willy Wonka placed the golden chocolate bars all around the world, something like that. They would have to look for it, but I don’t think anybody will manage. I’m curious what people think of it, because it doesn’t fit too much with Philomena, or at least not with what I thought the label was like. It’s not that techy or housy. The edit has a mixture between 80’s and 90’s or a bit of italotrance. I like that.’

Want to join in on the quest for the edit? Try and find out! You can listen to it in this recording at Naturel Beachclub from last summer, at the 3:28:30 mark.

John Talabot’s real name is Oriol Riverola. I never got why somebody with such a cool name would take on an alias, until I found out he started of the John Talabot project in 2009 as an anonymous producer. Not being fond of the attention, he even wore an aluminium mask on his only press photo. But after a while, fame caught up with him and he had to reveal himself.

Was it easier when you were still an unknown producer?
‘It is way better to be unknown. I don’t like to expose myself, but on the other hand I really enjoy dj’ing as well. It’s very hard nowadays, wanting to play as a dj and be anonymous at the same time. I’m not going to play in the club with a mask. In the end I just decided to let the anonymity behind. Since I had to, I’m fine with it, but it is not something that I cherish. Some artists enjoy that the focus is on them, but I don’t feel it. People come up to me and say ‘you look so angry when you play’, but that’s just me being focused. I don’t like the fact that people pay attention to those things. And for playing, a dj doesn’t need to stop before and after his set. The music should just go on and the crowd is only supposed to clap at the end of the night. I never make a certain statement in my set by starting and finishing with my own tracks. Those things seem very dull to me, but maybe it’s because I come from a different dj background.’

I believe Job Jobse was the first to get you to the Netherlands in 2010 on a Drukpers night, what do you remember of it?
‘I remember that we started playing after dinner and there was no one there. Actually I have that set recorded. I think I have it on my computer somewhere. But I might better keep it for myself. I already put a lot of sets out this year.’

Since then you’ve played here quite often. What is your association with the club?
‘I feel that there is some kind of relation between how they do stuff and how I would like to do things. I really like the idea behind the club, a place in which everything is well taken care of. These kinds of clubs shaped something. It works as a seed. They’ve planted a seed and now you have to remove the plant. But you can still cut some leaves and put them back in different places. I feel that’s what happened with Trouw. I think the club addresses to young people too. I’ve never seen so many kids be truly interested in music as in Holland nowadays.’

Really?
‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure. There are always people asking me what I played there or –‘what track is at 1:52:6 seconds in your Melt! set?’ and I’m like –‘what?’ I don’t know. But these things always tend to happen in Holland. There are a lot of music nerds there.’

Your final party here is on New Years Eve. Do you think it feels like NYE or like a goodbye?
‘I think more like NYE, since I don’t like goodbyes. NYE is always a bit hard as well I must confess. Because I know that it’s a party day and people want to have fun. And sometimes I feel like they want me to play some stuff that I won’t. And at some point during the set you need to get that it’s a party and you’re allowed to play the hits. But I don’t have too much fun playing hits anymore. Though the club is almost closing, I didn’t think about that. But it’s a huge condition. Maybe I’ll do a goodbye set and play hits.’

You don’t have to play hits. 
‘I don’t know. It remains a question until I’m in the booth. I never do the same thing twice, so I’m not sure. But so far, it has always worked in Trouw.’

Text: Ruben Leter