The latest addition to the Attack online store is DJ Faces a beautiful coffee table book chronicling “A Journey Through House Music” as told by portraits of over 100 of its most notable protagonists.
We first heard of DJ Faces when photos of the cover started popping up on our social media feeds ahead of this years’ ADE. Artists such as Black Coffee, Derrick May, Carl Cox, Louie Vega and Danny Rampling were getting excited about its release and sharing details to the gallery exhibition, which launched the book in Amsterdam a little over a fortnight ago. After twelve years of snapping some of the best-loved artists in dance music, the book is finally fresh off the press.
This mammoth project is the brainchild of Jos Kottmann a fashion photographer and dance music aficionado based in Rotterdam. Jos spent twelve years (about one-third of his life) capturing over 100 photographs of some of the most seminal DJs in dance music. He even took time off his honeymoon to shoot Roy Davis Jr. in London. In that regard, his wonderful debut book “DJ Faces” owes as much to his patient and understanding wife as it does his persistence and passion for dance music.
We asked Jos at his Amsterdam launch to tell us more about what led him down this seemingly endless journey, how came he close to quitting and the time Moodymann asked him to roll a joint before he could take any photos…
Attack: Can you tell us a bit more about your history and how you got into house music?
JK: That’s a difficult one because it started slowly. I was young but I was always into music and being a skateboarder I was always listening to ska and funk. Then there was a moment when I was sixteen that changed everything! We went to our first local disco and it was the first time we’d properly been out. We went to the local club, Alcazar. After that, we were regularly going to Cafe D’Anvers and there it was – that feeling – wow – this is another world! This music with piano or trumpet this soulful house and I was like – this is what I really love!
It wasn’t long till we started a party website to chronicle and list the best parties in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. That’s how much we loved it. My parents are massively into music, things like The Beatles, The Stones etc but music is all about finding your own path and I found mine with house as a teenager
This book feels more like a family album don’t you reckon?
It is for sure. It is a big family.
A bit like Southport Weekender. I’ve been there over forty times and that’s a family too – a family of people who all like the same music and come from around the world to see each other and share that. But it also transcends genres as all the DJs in the book know each other and they all share similar visions for how music should be and how you should live it. It’s a family affair.
House music has always been about family. The dance floor is about family, you know...
I think that now it’s changing slightly because EDM is so dominant. For me, however, they are two different worlds and always will be.
How come you decided to shoot in black and white only?
Black and white for me is more timeless and offers a greater sense of purity. I love it. I wanted to capture that timeless feel with the exhibition at ADE but also with the printing of the book. It’s about purity and only black and white can achieve that I feel.
How did you ensure continuity in the style over such a long period of time?
The continuity is mostly done just by flashlight. I’ve used the same one now for twelve years – the same simple, flashlight. However, over the years, and it was a long period, I’ve changed my camera and lenses a few times. Sometimes I’m using 35mm and sometimes 50mm. But it’s the flashlight that really tied it all together.
When did you have the idea?
The idea was born when I was driving to Amsterdam to make a portrait of Joe Clausell. Joe’s one of my favourite DJs.
I was on my way to help a friend who was promoting his party and as he was standing there I asked – “Hey, maybe it would be nice to make a portrait of Joe – can you ask him for me?” It was and it gave me so much positive energy that I was driving home thinking “fuck, I want to photograph all my heroes!” That was it.
Did you think it might take this long?
Well, my first picture was 27 September 2007. I thought it might take maybe a few years but then one of the problems was your interests change and your heroes change. So it was a constantly re-defining project in terms of what it was but also it’s really hard to pin down some of these guys! Like…really hard!!
I was driving home thinking fuck, I want to photograph all my heroes!
Who was the hardest to lockdown?
Jeff Mills and unfortunately he’s not in it. I tried for twelve years but in the end, it was “please stop asking”! It was disappointing as he is a prime part of the family and an undisputed DJ icon.
There must have been a moment you thought you might quit?
A few times. But, I wanted it to be perfect and that takes time. Also, it was time-consuming to find a publisher so eventually I decided to self publish it and there was a big learning curve there also.
It says it’s a journey through house, but strictly speaking plenty of artists involved are better known for disco, techno etc. Was that a conscious decision or are they all house for you?
Good question. I don’t know! A lot of people take it very seriously where things are categorised, and I always think it doesn’t matter too much. For me, it is that I have a connection on a human level and not a DJ level (i.e an image with some headphones or vinyl, etc). It’s about the connection and deeper meaning of the human side of being a DJ.
Tell us about all the traveling you did to complete the project.
Not all these guys come as often as you might think to Holland…so I had to go to them! I flew to Tony Humphries in Italy but since then he has been to Amsterdam. I also went to Marshall Jefferson in Manchester and when I was in New York for work I snapped Ian Friday. The best story was I was on honeymoon in London and Roy Davis Jr said he could do the shot. There was only one thing to do…go and get the shot!
Was there anyone you photographed that didn’t make it into the book?
A lot. For example, a large chunk were women but I made a conscious decision after a while that this book would just be men.
I’ve got plans for a follow up for just women as in the time I’ve made the book lots of amazing women DJs caught my attention but by that point, the book was getting too large and I needed to decide how to edit it all!
What would you have done differently if you’d done it again?
Nothing! In my opinion it’s perfect. I did everything, like for Jeff Mills, I did everything to catch him. I traveled all around the world to try to get in contact with these guys. I did everything I could possibly do.
Tell us a funny story from making the book.
Moodymann was particularly interesting. He never does interviews and photoshoots so I’m really happy to have him in my book.
I drove to Leuven, Belgium. That was a two-hour drive for me and I was waiting on the side of the DJ booth, then he came to me, “Okay, so you’re Jos,” “Yes,” “I’m Kenny,” “We have a photoshoot.” “Okay. Okay. Okay. Blah, blah….”
So I had to wait for an hour, and then another hour and we then went downstairs into the basement. It was quite dark so as I went to set up my flashlights he said: “First, before you begin, you need to roll a joint for me.” It’s not my kind of business, but I said, “Okay, I will try.”
After rolling the joint, I set up my light, and he then said, “No, no! No flashlight.” I said, “Okay…fuck”. So, I’m standing in a dark basement with Moodymann and the only thing I can do now is like a silhouette or something. He also had this fancy thing on his head…
So I started shooting and after I shot nine photos he says “okay, stop, stop.” And that was it…I had nine photos and I was praying one of them worked. As it’s Moodyman, I’m just really happy he’s in the book.
Thanks a lot, Jos. Great stories. Before we head off, can you share your favourite house tune for the Attack readers?
I’ll give you two! Kenny Bobien’s “Father” or Louie Vega’s “Elements of Life“.
DJ Faces is out now from the Attack store priced at £54.99. For a 10% discount as an introductory price use DJFACES at checkout.