Ferris Bueller put it in a nutshell: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” A decade has passed since the masterminds behind the Suol label, Chi-Thien Nguyen and John B. Muder, set out as Chopstick & Johnjon with a clear mission: to blaze a trail through the international House and Techno scene. Those ten years seem to have passed in the twinkling of an eye.
But things could have panned out totally differently. If Johnjon hadn’t waited with the patience of a saint before their first studio meeting – when Chopstick, his future studio, DJ and label partner turned up three hours late – he might have taken exception to the comment that his production skills were “amusing”. And if, in turn, Chopstick had not listened very closely as Johnjon took to the turntables, weaving one record after the next into an electrifying, atmospherically dense set. Maybe these lines would never have needed to be written, but despite all the initial adversity and apparent contradictions they both recognized their common ground, how they augmented one another – and the potent energy their symbiosis could unleash, which hasn’t changed, right up to today.
Both as joint label managers and as a production team, they’ve come a long, long way since then. Techno, Electro, House, Hip Hop – during their early years in particular the duo set about exploring electronic music like kids in a sweet shop. Fearless and bold, they surrendered themselves to the moment, but with the Suol label they seem to have found their spiritual home for the time being. Suol’s forerunners, Criminal Records and Baalsaal, were important stages in allowing them to hone their profile and gradually acquire the necessary know-how to develop an internationally-successful label. We learn from our mistakes, as the saying goes and all those diverse influences crystallized aesthetically too, as they gradually created a collective sound concept, which is based on their shared experiences – unaffected by the intense maxi single craze, which sometimes strangles the creativity and carefree mindset of the House and Techno scenes.
Over time, their collaborative tracks started to become slower and more organic. What is today commonly known as Slow House was for Chopstick & Johnjon a natural outgrowth of their passion for Hip Hop and Groove in particular. House music that kicks ass. The creative pair compliment each other perfectly – both in the studio and behind the decks. Thien, the classically-trained ‘muso’ and John, the former Hip Hop DJ with an ear for tight, compact arrangements. The chemistry is just right: tracks like “Clear Eyes” from their “Friday Night Lights” EP, “Keep On Keepin’ On” with label-mate Fritz Kalkbrenner on the microphone, or their biggest hit to date “Listen” are all proof of that.
Despite being busy these last few years tackling market demands with EPs and remixes, they’ve finally managed to put out a full-length opus by the name of “TWELVE” (release date April 4th 2014). This is an album in the classical songwriting sense. Fortified by House predilections taken from the musicians’ obsessively detailed and intoxicating dance floor beats, the album presents its own clearly compacted and self-contained realm of sound.
Behind the decks they form a DJ duo that is always perfectly in sync. Whereas others tend to fire all canons in a single volley, a Chopstick and Johnjon DJ set is like a drawn-out foreplay session, a tease. A good groove doesn’t need a rave signal. They’ve mastered the art of slowly, imperceptibly turning the House thumbscrews tighter and tighter until they have total command of the dance floor. Chopstick and Johnjon are consummate experts at bringing a party to the boil at 116 bpm.
With Suol, the successor label to Baalsaal brought to life in 2009, they are in the process of cementing their long-term success as an A&R team. Featuring Daniel Bortz, Till von Sein, Trickski, Tender Games, Meggy and Fritz Kalkbrenner, they have put together an illustrious roster of artists within just a short space of time.
Their conquest of the world of House continues.