LWE Podcast 92: Iron Curtis

Courtesy of Herr Mueller @183off.com

Johannes Paluka, the German producer better known as Iron Curtis, waited many years before dipping his toe into the world of releasing music. But upon finding out the water was fine in 2009 the Nürnberg native dove in head first into the house scene, racking up releases on Mirau, Morris / Audio, Retreat, Boe Recordings, and Mule Electronic (among others). Each single has shown off a different facet of his precise, deep-house sound, from twitchy garage-house drum programming to roving chord changes. More recently he teamed up with Edit Piafra as Achterbahn D’Amour on slow yet jacking acid cuts for Absurd Recordings’ Acid Test series, suggesting there’s plenty we don’t yet know about the burgeoning talent. As such, LWE tapped Paluka to discuss his busy 2010, the challenges of influences, and secret aliases, as well as for our 92nd exclusive podcast: a rock solid hour of house and techno that knows no boundaries except the ones of good taste.

LWE Podcast 92: Iron Curtis (62:33)

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01. Robag Wruhme, “Brücke Eins” [Pampa Records]
02. Black Jazz Consortium, “Message” [Deep Explorer]
03. Baaz, “Way Out Citti” [white*]
04. Tara Cross & Henk Wallays, “Microphone Connection” [Vinyl-on-demand]
05. Ta’Raach, “A BC Date” (Edit) [All City Records]
06. Moodymann, “The Set Up … Then Imma Come Lookin For You!” [KDJ]
07. Specter, “Bazerko” [Tetrode Music]
08. Blaze ft. Alexander Hope, “How Deep Is Your Love” (Acapella)
[157 Shelter Records]
09. Marcellus Pittman, “If The Earth Could Talk” [Unirhythm]
10. Jason Lev & Cedric, “Call Us Cool” [Truth Is Light]
11. Jerome Derradji & Rahaan, “The Way It Goes” [Stilove4music]
12. Jürgen Paape, “Triumph” [Kompakt]
13. Shake, “Simpatico” [Frictional Recordings]
14. 2562, “Aquatic Family Affair” [When In Doubt]
15. Iron Curtis, “In A Shady Rainy Backyard” [white*]
16. WK7, “Higher Power” (Hardcore PCK Mix) [Power House]
17. Stephen Brown, “Status Byte Part 1” [Djax-Up-Beats]
18. Unit Moebius, “Biosoft” [Bunker Records]
19. Mr De’, “Superugly” (Funk Piano Mix) [Electrofunk Records]
20. Sha-lor, “I’m In Love” [ZYX Records]
21. Tevo Howard, “The Instruction” (Acid Mix) [Hour House Is Your Rush Records]
22. Marvin Belton, “Love Will Find A Way” (Dark Dub) [Ferrispark]
23. John Osborn, “Epoch 4” (V2) [TANSTAAFL]
24. Gesloten Cirkel, “Insummer” [Moustache Techno]
25. Vakula, “Beat Ja” [3rd Strike Records]
26. Emmanuel Top, “Flux” (Sunshine People Edit) [white*]
* denotes tracks which, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased

What is the dance music scene like where you’re from in Nürnberg?

Nürnberg is a smaller city right in the center of Bavaria with about half a million inhabitants. You wouldn’t necessarily expect the active and lively scene we had there. That includes electronic music as well as many concert shows and other stuff; in particular the more DIY-related collectives like Musikverein in union with venues like Zentralcafe or Desi do a great job. Besides that, Nürnberg always had a strong techno crowd and some big venues with all sorts of parties and quality bookings. But of course you can never ever compare it to my new home Berlin.

You’ve been making music in various forms since your early teen years. What got you to start releasing your music into the world in 2009?

I never thought I would ever be able to release some of my music at all, but somehow I got in touch with some good people in the glory days of Myspace. Actually, one of the first people I got in touch with was Marco (Tensnake) from Mirau. He seemed to be interested in what I was doing and so the story continued.

2010 was a big year for both your profile as an artist and your discography, which expanded greatly. Was most of that material written in the years leading up to ‘10 or was it written throughout the year?

It was a good balance between stuff I did in 2009 and later music made right before the releases. Also I never delete any sketches and so I do have a sort of library. It’s really interesting to explore some earlier tracks that I maybe never ever wanted to finish at all, but some elements — and maybe it’s just a tiny little hi-hat — sometimes inspire me to go on and create something completly new.

By contrast, you’ve been much quieter in 2011. What accounts for the differences?

Regarding the release of my own EPs it’s true. But the last months I was able to tour around a lot besides doing remixes for people I like, releasing music on compilations and together with good friends (like that Achterbahn D’Amour EP on Absurd Recordings) and even under some new monikers.

What has changed for you in the last year or so when it comes to production?

There is always a constant change of interests when it comes to music. I’m lucky to have friends around me who also explore new music and artists and its a constant exchange of new music and influences. Somehow I got a bit more self-confident about music I made and never expected to be released ever. A big thanks goes out to the guys at Retreat who put two slower, kinda hip-hop-ish tracks on my EP for them.
Besides my never ending love for house I also got into techno again, but that’s a process that’s continuing for a couple of years now already. Production-wise I think there wasn’t a big change at all, also because I
never had a certain formulaic way of making music. But what I can say so far is that I try to deliver better mixdowns.

It’s common for artists who are just getting known to start releasing with whomever asks them to. What have you done to insure a level of quality control that keeps you happy about what you’ve done so far?

I think it was a matter of luck, gut feeling and my own taste in music. I was really lucky to get in touch with the Hamburg-based Mirau guys as I was loving their label beforehand, and the artwork and their appereance felt just right. Apart from that I’ve always liked various music and artists from Hamburg and so the circumstances for my first release were quite good. After that release I got some requests but I was lucky to be able to choose within these and so it went on.

How did your Achterbahn D’Amour project with Edit Piafra come into existence? Did you and he have a clear vision of what you wanted to make together in advance? What are your plans for the project?

Jool (Edit Piafra) and I have been DJing together for more than six years now. We became close friends and we share a similiar taste in music. Jool has always been a kind of a quality control for me because he’s always following my musical output. And as he is the one who was already turning knobs on 303s and 909s (while I was still thinking a 303 is a postcode) it was more of a natural process to do music together. I don’t know if we have a clear vision about what we are doing there but as it feels good. We’d love to continue working together and just see what happens. We did a couple of remixes and, hopefully, we’ll do another EP Absurd. For me it is also a bit of a relief because I somehow try to escape the expectations people have for my Iron Curtis output. My taste in music is quite diverse and together with Jool I might be brave enough to do a proper techno record or some stripped down slo-mo acid tracks.

One thing in particularly I admire about your productions is that they balance influences with your own ideas — they rarely sound like you’re imitating those you admire. Do you find that balance difficult? What helps you avoid becoming like so many producers who simply emulate?

Oh, thank you! Of course I do like it if people try to sound like their idols, but I think it is always necessary that you wan to try and create something on your own as well, even if it’s just on top of a Larry Heard sound-alike tribute track. To be honest, I don’t really think about it. Sometimes I get inspired by some sounds or elements of classic tracks but I try to avoid sounding a 100% like the music that inspired me at that certain point.

A lot of producers right now are hung up on Chicago house, but you seem to draw more influence from the New Jersey/New York style. What about that scene attracts you so much? Who are some of your favorite producers from there?

New Jersey House sounds definintely had a big influence on me. Of course I admire the work of Kerri Chandler, Tony Humpries, Winston Jones and Strictly Rhythm records from that time. I think it is the “get down and dirty, and have a good time” feeling in many of those tracks. And also that combination of rough bass lines and heavy kickdrums combined with soulful key and string arrangements. But nevertheless music out of Detroit and Chicago had influenced me as much as New York did.

Your drum programming tends to be rather intricate and full of changes. What inspires your percussion patterns? What encourages you to make so many changes and avoid easy programming?

I think that’s due to my broken beats roots. I was really infected by that first and second wave of West London broken beats around 2000. Guys like Daz-I-Kue or IG Culture were doing stuff that was already more like music from the future when it came to the drum programming. I do like stripped down to the bone drums as well. But I also do get bored at a quite early stage when I produce music and tend to overlayer and re-arrange all the time, so I guess it’s just my way of doing it.

Tell us a bit about the mix you made for LWE.

I tried to make a mix that somehow shows the way I DJ and that is a mixtape I’d pass to a good friend as well. It contains some of my all time favorites besides stuff I discovered in the past few months. After finishing the mix, I realized it contains many tracks from Detroit-based producers (like Mr De’, Moodymann and Shake) but that wasn’t planned and just came by sorting out records that might fit together. It is always really challenging for me to do podcasts because I always try to do something that makes sense for the ones who listen to it. So, I do hope that you guys like what I did!

What’s coming up from you in the next year or so?

I really would like to do an album, but nothing is planned yet. And besides finishing some remixes I’d like to focus on making music with friends like Jool or Baaz.

I know you probably get asked about this a lot, but beyond a love of Joy Division, why did you opt for the name Iron Curtis? Do you still like the name as much now as you did when you started under it? Any other aliases planned?

I think my choice of that name was based on the mood at the time around 2008. I was finishing music that sounded a bit different to the stuff I was doing before. And as I had always been into aliases I thought it was time for a new one. I never was a 100% sure about that name but I somehow ended up with that foolish play on words. And yes, there are already some other aliases circulating, and some of them have already released records.

trakssss  on July 27, 2011 at 7:25 AM


Moishale Steinbach  on July 27, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Love it. So goooood!

nick  on July 28, 2011 at 7:23 AM

In a Shady Rainy Backyard — I want it – where can I get it? great mix

Joseph Hallam  on August 3, 2011 at 1:11 PM


Msendy  on August 8, 2011 at 5:47 AM

Beautiful. Cheers to one of the great – The Iron!!

Oliver Linley  on August 10, 2011 at 9:15 AM

hot dang! i want every track on this mix and i don’t say that lightly

Nick Turner  on September 1, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Quality mix! Also love his production

kuri  on July 9, 2012 at 8:25 PM

finally got around to checking this guy’s productions out and a cut above the rest of the deep house fodder out these days. glad i picked up on this mix too before it fades…


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