The Jahtari netlabel, established in 2004 by Jan Gleichmar is still in the ascendancy. The concept of netlabels has been floating around before, but nobody had done it as well as Jahtari with such a coherent outlook and music policy. Gleichmar – who is also releasing music under the moniker of Disrupt has formed an empire for digital dub lovers. Earlier this year he collaborated with two out of three memeber of King Midas Sound: Kevin Martin and Kiki Hitomi released their acclaimed Wonderland EP for their side-project Black Chow. Time to speak to Jan, how things are right now in Leipzig, why The KLF helped Jahtari in terms of graphic design and how King Midas Sound took over Jahtari:
Electronic Beats: 2011: how was it for you?
Jan Gleichmar: Very good! We are four people working here at Jahtari and for me this became a full time job. During the week I take care of all the administration and on the weekend I am currently touring with Soom-T. She released her album in 2011 on Jahtari and this is keeping me pretty busy. Until now, we have been all around the world, from Brazil, to France and Japan. Beside her I am also on the road with Solo Banton, an MC coming from London. And of course my own project disrupt I produce and play a lot, mostly non vocal, heavy bassline dub music. The label’s delevopment is making me really happy, 2011 seems to be a good year for us.
How did you get to make all this happen? Where did you actually start with your music?
Well, when I go back to the very beginning, I started off at Hardwax. During that time I was listening to a lot of Detroit Techno, Basic Channel, Mille Plateaux, Force Inc, all this stuff. At Hardwax I found the Rhythm & Sound releases and the reprodcution of the whole Lloyd “Bullwackie” Barnes catalogue. That’s how i got into off-beat tracks. There were no interesting Reggae releases during that time and I was more hooked by Dub, like different sounds shifting above each other, fading in and out in very slow-mo. There I felt really at home, that became my inspirational base. When I started to make my own music, I didn’t have enough money to buy me expensive instruments and production tools, so I did it on the computer. I didn’t worry too much about the fact to produce instrumental music with digital tools – it was the only thing available for me. And I was curious about making a classical Reggae track with different sounds. Out of this lack the Jahtari sound grew. Then I tried to look for a label, but it became very clear, that there are no labels releasing digital Reggae or Dub or whatever you want to call it. So I did one piece on a small Electronica netlabel, which convinced me to make a step forward and finally create my own label. Of course I didn’t have a clue about how to run a label, how to produce, do the promotion and distribution. But with every little step I learned a lot and mainly from other, more experienced people, too.
The whole look of Jahtari seem to come from one aesthetical direction, can you tell me a bit more about this?
Well, I think, this is kind of the look I grew up with. The 8-bit graphics and Atari looks, obviously Pacman. The Jahtari sound is heavily influenced by those first generation computer sounds from C64 and the very early games. You even can make music with those old processors, like the ones from Commodore. I am just about to learn it, my parents recently bought me a soldering iron. It was just a logical thing to choose these kind of graphics. It is simple, I like it. Especially in Reggae and Dub the artwork and the cover art is very important – sometimes people only buy, because of the good look.
How is the Digital Reggae scene developing in Leipzig?
Here we have a pretty vivid underground scene. There are loads of parties in squats happening. And our club grew over the time very constantly and we have a good fan base now in Leipzig. Actually you could compare Leipzig to Berlin during the 90ies. The commercial side of club culture never really did it to Leipzig.
And how Kiki Hotori and Kevin Martin of King Midas became part of your roster?
Kiki has followed our activities for quite a while and was already kind of a fan from Digital Reggae and Jahtari. She got in touch with us first to ask us for a T-Shirt. And so I got to know Kevin, I sent him tracks to play in his DJ sets. After some time Kevin asked me, if he can send me music, he did with Kiki together under the name Black Chow. That was the track ‘Wonderland’, which was put on a Jahtari compilation. They were good, so we decided to release the EP. We still bump into each other from time to time, that’s really nice. Maybe we will be able to start again with Black Chow in the future, but work is rowing up. King Midas Sound has my respect, it reminds me a lot f that dark HipHop style, which was pretty popular in the 90ies.