Englishman DJ Joss Crooks is an interesting man with "golden" hands, sensitive ears, talent from god and a classic Newcastle accent.
For years he was a resident DJ here in Prague, moving down here straight from Amsterdam, where he was living and deejaying for 2 years. In Prague he was the soul of the project called Technical Support, for the last two years have been throwing some of the most interesting parties in the country.
Technical Support's regular DJ line-up was originally DJs Gus, Marek, Charlie, Pussypower and Joss himself, with a the most common guest being DJ Geert of Belgium. Some of you might remember their most productive years from 96 to 97, culminating with the already legendary Hostomice festival. Free open air party in the fields by Cernosice, regular events at Ladronka, Cibulka followed, and they've played along with Naceva in the Roxy and clubs all over the Czech lands and Slovakia.
This all without sponsors and with a clear message on their (usually wicked) posters: "Music with intention". Anyway, Joss Crooks is a bloody good DJ and his name could regulary be seen on the posters for Planet Alfa's events as well as clubs all around town, among them those wild places, may they rest in beats: Slunicko, Klub X, Bibita and Subway. Joss loves techno music but his deejaying qualities allow him to mix'n play whatever vinyls he can get his hands on. His own collection of records is large and includes pearls such as Andy Weatherall remixing My Bloody Valentine.
Joss lives in Sarajevo in these days, following his music mantra and havig good time with locals hungry for the music. Since Prague and Technical Support just have lost DJ Gus, who moved back to London, Martin (The mysterious Hostomice invisible man) and I hope that Joss will come back home soon.
THINK: Joss, you lived in Prague and you were a part of Technical Support and then you started to work in Bosnia. How come? How did you end up there?
JOSS: Well, I was in Prague and I was invited to play in a bar in Sarajevo, the owner of the bar was Morgan, an Englishman. He invited me there, I went, I played in his bar and then I started to play at parties in Bosnia. It is like Technical Support, a collective of people who have the interest and enthusiasm to organize as much dance culture as possible and to interact with people from abroad at any given time and we always do.
THINK: Occasionally you still come to Prague to play at parties, you played at Cibulka Festival recently. Are the parties here different from the parties you do there? What's the atmosphere and vibes like?
JOSS: The scene here in Prague has been going for quite a lot of years and in Sarajevo, well I know for sure they had a big scene before the war. Former Yugoslavia was very Bohemian and moving very fast with culture and stuff but now it's very difficult. The difference is the people who go to the parties there. To me, it seems that they really appreciate it for what it is.
Whereas for example, in a normal western European city, it's kind of taken for granted. I still love coming to Prague to play and the atmosphere at Technical Support parties is always the best atmosphere I have ever seen at a party.
In Bosnia I think the atmosphere is, well, not always excellent but different because people go with the intention to have a good time. It's not taken for granted too much. It's such a new thing there so they appreciate it and realize what it is. They appreciate what I'm doing and what the Bosnian people who are involved with the organization are doing for themselves, you know, because normally it's always just some foreigners coming to do something and it's kind of frustrating for them.
THINK: Exactly what kind of music do you play there? What do they like the best?
JOSS: Well, in Sarajevo they like very hard techno. But when I first went there I played a lot of house and lot of trip hop. If it's a big dance party they prefer it to be constantly progressing and quite hard techno. But they are not close minded to other forms of music. It just takes longer for them to accept it because it's really new. For example, the minimal Detroit kind of techno style of music. That's taking awhile to get accepted there. They want me to play the hard underground set because it gives them the most energy at parties. Another thing is that there is not such a big open drug scene. Most of the people who go to dance parties dance all night without drugs and don't drink much alcohol because they don't have enough money. That could be one of the reasons why they want some hard kind of energy giving techno.
They don't have the same access to drugs as they have in Prague. It's a shame but the drug scene plays a big part in techno parties. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, it's just the way it is. If the music is a little bit experimental they might not understand it that much. It's the same with the drum'n'base music we play there. People don't really like it. There's a very small group of people who come to our parties and actually love drum'n'base and jungle. But we keep on promoting it. It will take awhile.
THINK: Are you planning to bring any of the Bosnian Dj's to Prague?
JOSS: Yes, we're going to try to organize something with the people's bus, an organization of people wanting to interact in Sarajevo, organized by a girl named Nadja. The aim of it is to take artists to Bosnia and interact with artists there, have parties, do some workshops. The future project, I hope, will be to eventually hand over (to Bosnian Djs) the equipment, register IMA (Interactive Music Association) a non-governmental organization which will give them easier access, you know, the spaces, the permission to run their own workshops and dance music scene. That's why I'm there, it's not for me. After the wasr they seemed to have nothing.
THINK: And how was the scene in Bosnia when you got there?
JOSS: Terrible. There were very few Dj's, playing very bad... well, mixing very badly and it was a very small scene, so when I arrived it was an instant boost to the scene.
THINK: How did the project you are working on get started?
JOSS: Well, the project started just by me living there, playing at a lot of parties, and doing other things. Then people from Sarajevo actually asked me if I could help them, showing them how to mix records and how to do this thing or that. So I started doing free workshops and I did that for six months, teaching various people - Croats, Muslims and Serbs - how to mix with no politics or ethnicity. And that's how it started.
THINK: How did they respond? Were they willing to learn and enthusiastic enough to play?
JOSS: I think the younger people were, definitely. The older people had a lot more pride and were bit embarrassed to come to someone like me, what they call "a stranger," and ask for help. But the young people, my group are from 19 to I guess 24, those people were very enthusiastic and didn't have any problem with coming and asking for help. I think it's the younger generation who always come forward and want to learn something, whereas the older generation might have some little pride problems, you know, especially if I'm a foreigner they, as far as it is in Sarajevo, are not as open to it
THINK: Where does the money come from? Who is sponsoring you?
JOSS: Well, after the first six months then I made a proposal to an organization called OSCE (Overseas Security Central Europe). This is a humanitarian organization very similar to the UN. They control the elections, make sure that it's democratic and done correctly. They are very heavily involved with the political thing there. So I gave the proposal to this organization, the department of Media Development, and I waited 3 months and it was granted to me.
The money comes from them and they are funded by a world wide campaign. They bought the equipment and they pay me a small amount of money every month so I can live there and carry on the Cross Entity Youth Interactive Workshop, which operates between the two disunited entities of former Yugoslavia, Srbska (Banja Luka) and Sarajevo. And I occasionally go to Mostar to participate there also. So the youth workshop tries to bring people from the two entities together who would otherwise not have much contact with each other because of what has happened. Try to create new friendships and interaction.
THINK: Is that the final goal?
JOSS: Now we have this equipment, which I still can't believe, and the final goal is to teach the people how to do this as professionally as they can. They are showing very good success at the moment for the amount of time they've been doing it, maybe 7 or 8 months, and there are 6 people who can really hold their own. I would like to bring Interactive Music Association to Prague for one or two events. It's in the works but I'm not sure right now when that will happen. And then have another bus, this time instead of going to Sarajevo to go to Srbska, to Banja Luka and to bring artists from Prague - painters, musicians and anyone who has something positive to offer to the people of Banja Luka.
THINK: Is there still tension between the two sides - Bosnia and the Serbian Republic?
JOSS: I guess officially there is because of what has happened there. But with what I'm doing, I mean the people in Srbska are not as tense as the people in Sarajevo for example, and they're not so mentally or physically effected by the war, so it's very different. When we go to Srbska it's kind of "more normal," more relaxed and easy going, you know, people are more free and open minded. The parties in Srbska are different but none of them are better than the others, you know. It's a different scene and you've got to understand that.
THINK: Are there any good record shops in Sarajevo?
JOSS: No, there are no record shops at all in Bosnia. I have to go to Austria or come to Prague to buy records. For the workshop I went to Austria to buy a quite a lot of records and was very expensive. So getting more records is in the future, but for now I don't think it's worth while even taking records there because what we're doing at the moment is still very new. We will have to progress further before we can afford to purchase new records.
THINK: Did you meet any good artists there?
JOSS: Yes, there's quite a few. There's one group which is traditional rock'n'roll/metal and they're called Ziktar (which means f*ck off) and they are very very good band. They were fortunate to be touring in Italy when the war broke out. They've also played in Prague on Vaclavske namesti. Most of the band culture is totally split up. Now, for the new music, there is a guy called Adi Lukovac & Ornamenti.
He and 2 other musicians do experimental electronic ethno and they've just completed an album. They have a small studio in Sarajevo at the EFM Radio station, and they are helping other bands to record. These people are doing great things for themselves and for Bosnia because they are giving access to people who wouldn't normally be able to record because there are no other studios. So watch out for Adi Lukovac & Ornamenti.
THINK: What's your plan after Bosnia?
JOSS: After Bosnia I'm not sure what'll do, I mean, I love Prague and I probably will come back to Prague, but who knows what the future will bring.
THINK: Thank you and good luck!