‘All of the Hardway Bros and one half of A Love From Outer Space.‘
I know where she’s coming from, Space is where we both belong’ A.R. Kane
From mountain scaler to highly respected purveyor of the finest music money can’t buy, professional beat-raconteur and upstanding member of the disco dance music community, Mr Sean Johnston creates ethereal sonic landscapes both in his productions and behind the decks of any dancefloor. DJ’ing since his formative years in the frozen Northern reaches of Yorkshire Johnston has been many things; Acid-House Veteran, Techno Survivor, Alpinist, Hardway Bros and Freelance Disco Consultant but it is his recent production work and now legendary club night that he has best become known for the world over.
From the early 90’s institution that was Sabresonic (also releasing on the label) to Disco Bloodbath, Sean has played at many of London’s landmark clubs. He also plays regularly at Berlin’s premier underground venue Salon Zur Wilden Renate, festivals in French castles and the Dalmatian coast, as well as across the whole breadth of this fine aural landscape we live in. Moving to London back in 1988, Johnston got to know Jeff Barrett of the highly respected Heavenly Recordings and Mr Andrew Weatherall. “We’ve been in and out of each other’s orbits ever since.” It was in a recent orbit on a drive down to Brighton one night that Johnston & Weatherall discovered they shared a love of the slowed-down rhythms of new beat, disco, kosmische, and weird, slow psychedelic music. From this journey, grew the beginnings of A Love From Outer Space (ALFOS) club night. “There was no masterplan to slow things down, it was just that Andrew and I had been listening to the same type of music and we thought, okay 80 people in a basement, we’ll give it a go and see how it works out.” says Johnston with customary modesty. What ensued has gone on to become one of the most revered clubs of recent times. In an age where residencies don’t exist Johnston and Weatherall flipped this concept on its head. A refuge from the frenetic ‘velocity’ of modern developments, ALFOS is an oasis of slow in an increasingly sped up world – the club’s manifesto never knowingly exceeds 122bpm. “The ALFOS sound is the distillation of 25 years of record buying by two music fans. The kind of music that we play is very similar in attitude to the Balearic stuff that Andrew was playing 20 years ago but it’s informed by all the progressive house and techno of the ‘90s, disco, psychedelic music, kraut-rock; kind of a distillation of 25 years of listening to music.” says Sean. You could also throw ambient, balearic, proto-house, dub-sonority, un-disco and other experimental curiosities into the mix but these are mere labels; what’s important is the ethos engendered within it all. This is body music for discerning musical ears, first and foremost. What started life in fabled dingy Stoke Newington basement The Drop has mutated into a worldwide phenomenon and gone on to influence a whole new wave of producers. Such is the night’s popularity, the meteoric ascendancy has seen the pair take ALFOS to clubs and festivals throughout Europe. Sean and Andrew now hold down a cult residency at Corsica Studios in London, a Glasgow base at the Berkeley Suite, as well as the yearly, near mythical scenes from the Croatian Balearic festival jewel in the crown; Electric Elephant. Their epic 5 hour set in 2013 was one of the most talked about – and rightly so – sets of the summer. But A Love From Outer Space isn’t an exercise in rose-tinted retrospection or self-applauding egotism. This is a clear stretching of selection which journeys further, towards the peripheries, giving new life to old, leftfield eccentricities and airing the young and recent in proximity, with finely judged style. When asked where they unearth all these obscurities Johnston replies “They’re all out there. It’s just that we’re digging in different places to other people. There are a few obscure things we play, but the majority of any of our sets is made up of music we’ve sourced from outlets open to anyone. It’s not stuff we’ve been sent, downloaded or promoted.” And herein lies the beauty of Johnston’s approach to music. “I’d like to be Adrian Sherwood’s teaboy for a few weeks. He opened the door to Dub for me and made me want to know how records are made.” As one half of revered production outfit, The Hardway Brothers (he now often produces under this moniker solo) and prominent voice in earlier classic-acid project, The Flash Faction, Johnston has also successfully transferred this innate understanding of a dancefloor into studio alchemy.
Sean’s productions in their own right have, as Hardway Bros has graced Beard Science, Aniligital, History Clock, Astrolab, Luna Flicks, I’m A Cliche, Is It Balearic? and hot New York label, Throne of Blood. He is an in-demand remixer, having reworked artists such as Alien Alien, Max Essa, The Asphodells, Haules Baules, Adonis, TOY, Tal Kein & Anthony Mansfield, Craig Bratley and Ajello. With a plethora of remixes and productions in the pipeline for the likes of Ewan Pearson’s Misericord label and S’Express each one shows an increased and profound comprehension of the ever expanding musical landscape..