Tuff City Kids Talk Rejected Remix Roots & Style-Hopping Debut Album 'Adoldesscent'
According to the DJ Gerd Janson — one half of Tuff City Kids along with Phillip Lauer — the German duo's trademark is to have no trademark. "Usually if you ask a certain producer for a remix, for instance a Lauer remix, you expect to hear what the artist is doing in his own productions in that remix," Janson explains. "What we created with Tuff City Kids is that there's lot of different patterns we can apply. You wouldn't necessarily expect this signature sound. It could be a techno track or a 110 bpm cosmic Balearic [track]." After a stream of remixes and several EPs, the duo's assured, varied debut, Adoldesscent, hits shelves October 14th.
The two men met roughly a decade ago during a set by the DJ Radio Slave, and they have a finely honed comic rapport. Speaking over "Moroccan-inspired cuisine" in Brooklyn before a DJ set at Good Room, their conversation bobs and weaves as they cut each other off and finish each other's sentences. Janson's humor is sharp and direct, while Lauer tends towards the understated.
The duo estimates having put out 75 remixes to date, and rejected remix attempts helped form the basis for starting their own production career. "Sometimes when you do remixes they get turned down," Lauer explains. "We ended up having quite a few remixes that were not used that we liked," so "we took out the remix part," leaving only their original contributions. He invokes a German expression that he translates as, "Nothing gets sour."
"There was one label that was really picky about a remix so we ended up trying over and over and over again," he adds. "We had, I think, three records made out of this."
There's some dispute between the two over the reasoning behind making a full-length. "We did that Unterton record [the Bobby Tacker EP], and then Radio Slave asked us to do an album for him," Janson remembers. "But he asked exactly one week after Permanent Vacation asked if we were interested in making an album." "I didn't know that," Lauer responds. "My answer would have been, at one point, we for no reason said, 'let's do an album.'"
Janson: "I don't wake up in the morning, like, 'oh, I have the urge to write an album!'"
Lauer: "That's me all the time."
Janson: "Have you been writing today?"
Lauer: "All the time. In my head, it never stops — sometimes I wish I could have a break from all the creativity."
"The first idea we had for the album was to do every style of dance music," Janson explains. They walked back from that ambition somewhat, since, as Janson says, "it's hard to link them." But Adoldesscent has an easy fluidity and a familiarity with the intersection of '80s pop and dance music. The smattering of vocal tracks — including low, oily come-ons from Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and feathery huffs from Annie — reaches back to groups like Berlin and The Human League.
These vocalists may help bring indie pop fans to the record, but Tuff City Kids are more effective without singers. Adoldesscent's strongest one-two punch comes from the techno-ish "Nordo," which moves with methodical, brittle force, and "R-Mancer," a coolly abrasive number. The album comes to a close with a neat wink: "Farewell House," a serene, pulsating track that wouldn't be out of place on Musik For Autobahns, compilations of "ambient race car music" curated by Janson. "Our goal with [Adoldesscent] is for it to be something you would listen to in the car on your way to the club," he says.
Janson hints at further genre excursions in Tuff City Kids' future. "You still owe me that reggae baseline from the Roland Appel record," he tells Lauer. "He'll be like, 'four weeks ago, we recorded these chords, I told you to keep them,'" Lauer complains. "He's always saying, 'I'll keep them,'" Janson counters, "but he trashes them on purpose." What doesn't end up in the recycling bin is well worth hearing.