Athanasios Christos Kontogiannis Macias (a.k.a Ata) is a man of many hats—club owner, bar owner, label manager, chef, and DJ among them. It is in the capacity as the former and latter of these endeavors that he's most widely acknowledged: Robert Johnson, the club he co-founded alongside Sebastian Kahrs, sits among the finest party venues in the world; while his skills at guiding the crowds with his eclectic selections have made him a favorite among those who've dug deep enough to discover his work. He spends the rest of his time designing T-shirts, cooking at Frankfurt's Club Michel, or serving drinks in his bar, AMP. "I don't know any good DJ who doesn't have his personal style regarding fashion, art, and cuisine," he says.
Ata's journey started rather humbly upon his discovery of Kraftwerk, early hip-hop, and black dance music, and no sooner was he roaming the streets of Frankfurt with a boombox blasting out Grace Jones' Nightclubbing. It didn't long for him to find his way into the city's nightlife scene, before a trip to Barcelona opened his mind as to what clubbing really is: "the full load of acid house, strobes, and a DJ that was in full control—that was a totally different way of clubbing," he recalls. He returned to Frankfurt intent on becoming a DJ; bookings at clubs like Dorian Gray or Plastic came were quick to arrive, a perfect compliment to his work selling vinyl at the Boy Records store, a beacon at that time. It was here that he crossed paths with Heiko Schäfer and Jörg Henze, with whom he founded Delirium in 1992. After establishing itself as one of Germany's most popular records stores, Delirium served as a hub for the now legendary Playhouse, Klang, and Ongaku labels that Ata co-founded alongside Heiko, Jörn Elling Wuttke, and Roman Flügel.
By this point, Ata's reputation as a DJ was blossoming with nights at the Omen, Dorian Gray, and XS, but his stock shot up with through the Wild Pitch Club, where he set out to touch Frankfurt's soul with deep house music alongside Heiko, Roland Leeser, and later ND Baumecker. For five years they partied celebrated mass every Thursday, with an array of names from the international house scene being shepherded through the warm basement club at the Konstabler Wache. Things came to an end in 1998 as the Frankfurt scene continued to dry up: Omen club had shut down a year before and Dorian Gray was soon set to join. It was in upon this landscape that Ata co-founded Robert Jonson, the Offenbach-based club with a focus on the fundamentals: beautiful lighting, a majestic soundsystem, the finest house music out there, and a commitment to intimacy over enormity.
It goes without saying that Ata has long been a Robert Johnson regular; you need not look too far to hear about one his legendary marathon sets on his home turf. He still appears on the bill semi-frequently but he's been limiting his bookings to the bare minimum as he looks to invest his time in less taxing occupations. "I like playing records, but I've reached a point where I simply feel too old to go as intensely at it as I did before," he said to RA in 2011. Bookings outside Germany are as infrequent as they are anticipated.
Ata sets are slow-burning, eclectic affairs—he's a real "Selector," if you'll excuse the term. His stoic demeanor bears a stark contrast to the fun, energetic vibes he creates, and his XLR8R podcast is a perfect example of this. It was recorded live in Istanbul all the way back in 2003. "After so many years it still sounds so fresh," Ata explains. "Good music has no expiry date!" After hearing this, we'll attest to that. Needless to say, we've been excited to present this mix for quite some time.
Due to temporary issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.