Last year Sean Johnston played a memorable set at the Flow festival alongside Andrew Weatherall, whom he DJ's with as A Love From Outer Space. This Saturday he is back in Helsinki for a solo gig at Nolla. Sean Johnston has been involved in the British club scene since the acid house era. He also managed to survive the techno scene of the '90s. These days Sean is busy running the ALFOS nights and producing music as part of the trio Hardway Brothers who have gained reputation for their slow and energetic sound.

Last summer you played at the Flow festival. How did you find the gig and the Finnish crowd?

– Flow Festival was one of the best ALFOS sessions last year. The crowd were really receptive and Andrew and I were particularly in sync – we were both cue-ing up the same record to play next on a number of occasions. It was quite deceptive because when we started there was about 150 people and it was light. The sun set and we couldn't really see how many people were out in front of us. Then at one point the moon rose over the gasometer and it became clear the whole arena was rammed. A really memorable party.

Could you tell us a little about your background as a DJ and producer? You started out playing Chicago house, hip-hop and indie at the Welly Club in Hull, Yorkshire, if I'm not misinformed.

– Yes that's right, I came from the time before being a DJ has the cache it has now – I just had a big record collection. At the Welly in the mid 80's we were playing stuff like early Def Jam, early Trax and DJ International stuff alongside tracks like Rip It Up by Orange Juice and Steps of Emotion by The Farm. I moved to London in '88 and got involved in the Balearic / Acid House scene. During the 90's my taste graduated towards the Detroit Techno side of things. I started producing in 93 alongside some pals who were studio engineers - we formed Flash Faction releasing records on Andrew's Sabres of Paradise label amongst others. My tastes mellowed over the years and I started the Hardway Bros thing in about 2007/8.

Who have been your biggest sources of inspiration throughout your career as a DJ?
– My partner in crime Mr Weatherall has always been a constant. In the early days a DJ called Steve Proctor who was one of the leading Acid House DJ's in London took me under the wing and taught me a lot. In the '90s Rich Hawtin and Jeff Mills blew my mind. More recently people like Nathan Gregory Wilkins of History Clock, a French DJ called Vidal Benjamin and DJ Strangefruit of Mungolian Jetset have been very inspirational.
Your and Andrew Weatherall's night A Love From Outer Space at The Waiting Room in London has been running for two years now. How would you describe those nights and the music you play?
– We have actually moved our residency from London to The Berkeley Suite in Glasgow. But both the London and Glasgow nights have been very sweaty and a lot of fun for a school night! It's hard to give a catch all description to the ALFOS sound – but it's one part new beat, one part disco, one part balearic and a dash of techno I guess...
The manifesto of A Love From Outer Space is to never exceed a tempo of 122 bpm and you are known to often play slower sets than that. Why do you prefer to keep things slow?
– It's good to be able to provide an alternative to the norm. I don't necessarily prefer to keep it slow -  we just like to start slow and build it up. Although there is something about the 100-110bpm range which is relentless but funky - it just create some space around the beats and some sort of magic happens there which is hard to explain. The music has room to breath I guess.
What do Hardway Brothers have lined up for the rest of this year? Do you have any more releases coming up?
– It's going to be a busy year. There's a lot to come – a remix I did for Damon Martin on the new Disco Bloodbath label, a remix for Max Essa on Is It Balearic? and a remix for some friends of mine from Sweden called Paaniq. There is a new Hardway Bros track on the forthcoming Astrolab label compilation, Treasure Hunting which is out in June, plus I'm working on collaborations with Tal M Klein & Anthony Mansfield, Toby Tobias and planning on doing some tracks with my good friend Scott Fraser. Plus at some point I need to write a follow up to Mania Theme.
What can we expect on Saturday, musically?
– Just a cross section of grown up dance music that's exciting me at the moment plus some old favourites thrown in. Music to get the ladies dancing – the rest will look after itself.
Could you give us three tracks that might get a spin at Nolla?
Scott Fraser – Paraphrase Mine (Headman Version)
Haules Baules – Creeper
Pachanga Boys – Legs
Interview by Mattias Lodding


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Magnus Blomkvist
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