There are no adequate words to express our heartbreak at the tragic Ghost Ship fire last Friday night in Oakland. Along with so many others, we send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those lost. We also see it as part of honoring their legacy to make sure that the music lives on. Today we’ll honor producer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ Johnny Igaz, also known as Nackt, who was spinning on the second floor of Ghost Ship when the fire broke out.
It’s strange to write about it before his name has been confirmed, but at this point the hoping and praying for miracles seems to have crumbled into devastation. It is worth, of course, mentioning that so many of us who are musicians in the Bay Area have lived at, played at, partied at, and helped create spaces just like this one. The warehouse scenes in this city have been such an important part of music here at least for the 15 years I’ve been in town. Most of that scene moved to Oakland in a hurry when SF became financially unbearable, some of it was there all along. With a death toll up to 36, I think it’s fair to say this is the worst thing that has ever happened to the music scene in the Bay Area.
Meeting Johnny Igaz, a Bay Area native, is unlocked from time and space for me – was it a year ago? Two? I think we were outside somewhere. He has this smile – it stops you. It contains that spark of creativity, of magic and mischief that makes you want to cozy up to it. We exchanged info after talking for only a few minutes and became that uniquely 21st-century thing “social media friends”. I followed him on Twitter, Facebook, and most importantly Soundcloud.
Igaz’ sound – created under the name Nackt, a German word meaning “naked, raw” – is rooted in what many of those who knew him call an Encyclopedic knowledge of music and formed through hip hop, deep house and techno. His music has appeared on multiple labels including 100% Silk, Chillin Music, Popgang, Don’t Say Techno, and 3AM Devices. He is also the co-founder of several underground events in the Bay Area including Oupost, Rare Form and Deep East. Nackt’s Soundcloud contains hours upon hours of his DJ sets, original mixes, remixes and more. It is music for every part of your soul straight from his.
The first track I’ll share is an original of his – “Scheherazade (city mix)” – along with this quote from Voltaire (the 18th century French philosopher) which he shared with it, words which have been mistaken for Igaz’s because they so beautifully capture the man I wish I’d known better:
I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away? ~ Voltaire
And second this live set recorded a few months ago. It is a form of music therapy, and it reminds me why a good DJ like Igaz is really like a healer – they meet you in your darkness and skillfully guide you to the light. This set, from an Ambient Awakening gathering, is an awakening in itself. When he shared it a few weeks ago, Igaz said:
As the world tears apart at the seams and the crushing weight of reality seems unbearable, it is through human connection and music that I am reminded why life is infinitely beautiful even through the darkest days. ~ Johnny Igaz
To the friends and family of this extraordinary musician and human – thank you for everything you did to support his existence so he could bring this music to the rest of us. Thank you to his family, including his brother Paul, who encouraged and enabled his deep love of music. Thank you to everyone who ever bought his music, to the guy who posted on Facebook that he paid for three mastering sessions in advance so Johnny could make ends meet, to the labels that supported him, to every agency that licensed one of his tracks, and to those who answered his invitations with their presence. This music is his immortality. May it keep us dancing and smiling long into the future.
[An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Igaz’s brother. His real name is Paul Igaz.
An edit has also been made to properly attribute the first quote above to Voltaire rather than Igaz.]