Olly Chubb, - on 19/6/12
Dadub are Italian duo Daniele Antezza and Giovanni Conti. Producing electronic music that draws in elements of ambient, dub and techno their first release came on A Quiet Little Bump in 2009. Since then they have become a cornerstone of the Stroboscopic Artefacts family, releasing two EPs, contributing to another and assuming responsibility for the label’s engineering, production and mastering process. With a vast array of interests and talents it made sense that they’d have a lot to say. Olly Chubb caught up with them for more than a few words.
You’re both from Italy but Dadub really formed in Berlin. Were you friends before or did you meet in Berlin? Daniele: We come from Italy. Gio is from Tuscany and I come from the South of Italy. Dadub was originally a project I began collaborating with the label A Quiet Bump, focused mostly in ambient, dub and mid-tempo beats. When I moved to Berlin in 2009, the project became a two-man project, and we pushed the idea of Dadub towards something related to our approach, instead of linking our identity to a specific genre. We were not friends before coming to Berlin, even though we studied in the same town some years ago. Some ‘coincidences’ in life made our paths parallel, until we met and started working together.
How do you find living in Berlin? Is it a good placed for you to be based?Giovanni: Berlin is the perfect city to live for electronic music producers seeking exposure, the possibility to perform live and the chance to build a network of contacts. It's much less expensive living here than in most of the first world metropolis, and there’s much less pressure than living in London, Paris or New York, financially, and on a human level. It allows musicians, and artists in general, to have many hours to dedicate to the creative process, without having to worry about putting together the money for rent and food, or being too crazy for the neighbours. Things are changing fast though. Berlin is in the middle of a transformation process that is destroying the magic that attracted people from all around the world over the last twenty years. The ineludible destructive wave of capitalism is slowly eating away the squats and non-commercial spaces that were the center of alternative culture. You can really feel the air is changing and we can only hope that this cleansing process won't transform Berlin into another fashionable and soulless vetrine of western spiritual misery. Rents are going up so quickly that the quarter where we live saw an increase of almost 200% in about three years. The quality of life, as described by economic and social indicators, might be increasing, but I like to live in places where the rich and spoiled people wouldn't even think about passing by - in these places I feel life is closer to reality. Less hyped by the commercial propaganda, there's more space for genuine human contact and a way of life that allows us to concentrate on our work, without too many distractions and temptations.
You have other interests and talents (such as art and digital projects). Do you still explore these? Giovanni: I've been using MaxMspJitter for some years, working as a sound designer and a software and hardware designer for interactive audiovisual installations. It was the best thing I felt I could do to earn some money and avoid wasting time when I was living in Italy. Actually, I'm dedicating parts of the rare free time to real-time 3d algorithmic visuals, trying to recreate the mathematical beauty of life with digital tools. We’ll probably use some of these visuals for our live shows in the near future, but I want to be sure it won’t look like video wallpaper. It should have a strong aesthetic tie to our music. It's quite a laborious and complex work to do but I feel it could really be a way to render our musical vision on another plane of perception. Let's see how it develops.
You talk about having a mutual curiosity. What do you mean by this? Does it help fuel your relationship and artistic approach? Daniele: The curiosity is maybe one of the most important feelings that human beings can have. Both of us have always been fascinated by art, science, creativity, technology, culture, sound; so it became natural for us share our projects. There’s nothing particular that takes our attention 100%, it's a matter of approach. It's more the love in discovering details and magic instead of the result in itself. We can spend hours working on the same sound for example, but at the end our aim is not achieving perfection, it's being lost in the game of creativity, triggered by our creativity. We have our tools, our ideas, our feelings and we just try to share our world with those interested in our sound and vision. For all these reasons it's extremely easy for us work together: when the ultimate aim is not related to "market rules" and business, all becomes natural, without wondering why it's happening.
Sound structure and design is clearly important to you. Daniele, you studied with Enrico Cosimi in Rome – tell me a bit more about that experience. Daniele: I had the chance to study with Enrico Cosimi during 2008, in Rome, in a school called IITM. Even though I've never been attracted by "academic approaches" or by music schools, that experience was really important for me. I had the opportunity to study with a person who taught me how to get a specific and complex sound starting from emotions instead of circuits. His huge knowledge in sound synthesis and his wisdom in sharing that knowledge gave me the skills to apply my technological background and focus my inspiration on feelings, instead of conceiving the techniques as if they were the aim of a creative process. It's a matter of points of view. I don't want to say that technique is not important, especially in the world of electronic music, where we have to manage complex technological systems. I mean that technical skills should be used only as a tool to achieve different aims – such as sharing and communicating feelings through sounds and vibrations. Learning how to manage a sound source with a teacher like Enrico Cosimi made me able to put my knowledge in this perspective.
What do you think this fascination and knowledge of sound lend to your music? Daniele: The knowledge of sound that we have is a powerful tool, but it's not the primary thing that inspires our creations. It's useful when we use it to make real what we have in our mind, but at the end we take inspiration from lots of things – from philosophy, technology, spiritual experiences, private lives. We learnt, and we actually learn day by day, how to use this fascination of sound to express ourselves; it's not that fascination is our final goal.
Do you feel this attention to detail often gets overlooked in the dance music scene? I find that the DJs and performers working in dance clubs are more worried about sounding similar to each other than trying to pursue a strong aesthetic identity. What really pisses me off is that this behaviour is mostly driven by a commercial intent, getting more gigs, getting more money and feeling more successful. There is an obvious lack of courage and self-confidence that is totally detrimental to the evolution of music as a language and artistic expression, and, vice-versa fits perfectly with the consumerist intent. Talking about producers, it's even worse: just open the Beatport homepage and try to go through the fucking Top 100 – then note down how many tracks stand out for some peculiar approach to sound or novelty factor. I bet your list won’t be longer than 5 tracks. Same sounds, same structures, same atmospheres. Sometimes I think that it takes more time for the mastering engineer to finalize the track than it took the producer to make it. Maybe I’m really stupid and maybe I totally misunderstood what I'm doing, but for the way my personality is built up, I really don't care wasting my energy on producing music that doesn't bring something new to the table, I always hated to repeat myself and I need to feel that I'm going one step forward each time I come close to a mix down.
So you obviously produce as well as master. Do you think this dual insight give you an advantage or a different method? Do you feel mastering has helped improve your productions, or vice versa? Giovanni: I would like to answer that this double approach only generates positive effects – but it really takes a lot of self restraint in the production stage to limit the interventions on the surface of the sound, to avoid overdoing it or doing unnecessary things that, in the mastering stage, will result mostly in problems and infinite loops of corrections and retouch. Mastering out tracks is the most energy consuming activity we have to deal with, it's something that really can swallow our time without resulting in major positive effects. Slowly we get closer and closer to the details and if we don't manage to keep the general picture in mind, we risk fucking up all the previous hours of work spent in arranging and mixing by crushing everything, over compressing and equalizing the tracks in a way that isn't natural and respectful of the initial intention of the track. And if deadlines are tight, and usually they are, it really can get stressful and mental. Obviously there's an advantage, from a producer point of view, knowing exactly what will happen in the mastering stage, and being able to produce in a studio that is equipped with mastering tools. It took us a while to realise our mastering speakers are a double-edged sword. They sound so clinical, detailed and emotionless that it can be hard to understand when a track is finished. By hearing all the fine details and textures down to the smaller grains, we are never satisfied with our tracks and always need to change an element a bit, then another, then another. Self-restraint is the key, and knowing that if the track works, it's not only because of all the little details but also because of how all the elements align, in a meaningful or powerful or emotional way.
And producing… You mention a love of Lee Scratch Perry’s style? Daniele: Our mastering skills are often a useful tool in production; not only to achieve a "good sound", but also even to break out and overcome the limits of what is perceived as "right" and what is perceived as an "error". Being mastering engineers means that we are interested in learning how to manage sound from all the possible perspectives, conceiving sound both as psychoacoustic phenomenon and an emotional tool; it implies that when have to handle postproduction jobs, we should know when some techniques are used in a "right" or in a "wrong" way. Well, this issue is really interesting especially when, during the creative process, we go exactly in the opposite direction, trying to forget and overcome the separation of right and wrong, using our knowledge to create sounds without limiting ourselves to what is considered right, following what our inspiration is telling us; or, following Lee Perry's way, we try to upset the sound. This is the link between our approach and dub culture. It's precisely this idea - to be completely free in experimenting with what our souls feel. It's a matter of approach and mutual curiosity, not a matter of musical genre. We used to refer to Lee "Scratch" Perry’s sound not because he was the main mind behind dub culture. He's a symbol, the most famous one; we can talk about King Tubby, Prince Jammy, The Scientist and all those producers and dub masters that gave us the vibes of being free and don't follow the rules of what they call "Babylon". Dub, in the end, could be interpreted as an approach that not only refuses rules, but doesn't even think they exist, letting free your imagination in creating visions of music and other worlds.
Dub techno can be quite a worn genre and you talk of identikit sounds. What sets you apart? Why are you different? Daniele: Dub techno conceived like a genre is something that is easily identified, but we simply are not interested in that. It's quite boring listening to tons of chords produced by different producers, using the same waves, with the same effects and atmospheres. We don't even wonder why we can be perceived as different, and we don't try to be different. We just want to develop our emotional language to share what we feel and communicate our vision of dub. So, being part of something or being apart doesn't interest us. We follow our inspirations and we live these things in the most natural way we can. If we start to put a label on the things we're doing it means losing freshness and inspiration.
How would you describe the Dadub sound? Your music is a mix of abstract and straighter styles. Is there a unifying theme? What are you trying to convey when you produce a track? Giovanni: Being optimistic, I'd say our music is powerful and straight to the core, unaffected by trends and fashions, trying to stand on its own legs and walk through time and space. Connecting traditions and canons that span from the ancient times of tribal music to the modern digital era. I don't think of myself as an electronic musician. Though we obviously use electronic and digital tools to produce music, I don't follow its associated trends and aesthetic as a genre. In contrast I actually try to steer as far as possible from the digital music clichés. I feel that limiting oneself to follow an already known path is an utterly dumb and self-defeating strategy for musicians. Music has its own rules and harmonies, and rhythms are based on mathematical principles that inform life itself. That's my focus, reference and inspiration. But cultural rules, stratification of taste and judgments of value based on commercial success . . . Man I really like to piss on those and find my own way of doing thing! Not only in music but also in all the activities I get involved with. And I'm truly diffident toward music journalism as it's often only a tool for building hype more than a honest evaluation of the quality of a piece of art, often backed by promotion agencies who seek to push their clients higher in the money food chain. Honestly, I don't give a shit about who's cool at the moment, who won the last press awards and who's selling more records or collecting more audience. I respect people who manage to bring the evolution of music one step further forward in the human path to understand and rediscover our origins, our present and our future. Art and music are spiritual gifts, ways of interacting with forms and energies that transcend our everyday life, entities that can expand our consciousness and make people evolve on a spiritual level, and, as such, I like to treat them, and from that derive our aesthetic and power. And when I say this, I perfectly know that a lot of people will think I'm a pretentious dumbass trying to play the prophet – it’s fine, I don't care. It's my own way of finding a meaning in what I do, but mostly it's something that comes from music itself, a reaction to the visions of power and beauty that music allows me to access when I compose and perform. These feelings resonate in me and direct me toward my own approach to my work. To each his own. If people are satisfied with spending money to dance to music that is made purely for the financial benefit of club owners and DJs, music that doesn't work at all on a spiritual and energetic level, but mostly on a mechanical level, as a distraction from the emptiness of their everyday life as slaves for the money god, I accept it. But it doesn't interest me.
Do you think there’s a different relationship with the crowd when you play live (versus DJ'ing)? What do you like about it? Describe your intention with your performance. Danielle: When we play live we want to create a deep and intense connection with the crowd; it's not just performing our sounds, it's creating a bridge between our vision of the world and people's feelings. It's in that "layer" that our vibe becomes "real". It's a kind of communication impossible to achieve through words and concept – it's something related to our primordial connection with the earth, with the Beat. Even if our approach can sometimes be thought of as "conceptual" or mental, our performances are strictly focused on physical experience. Only through the liberation of body can our perceptions live different statements than our usual conscious one, let's say. You have to start from the physical layer and then when you have conquered that layer you can move on and bring the people to a more immaterial level of communication, perception and creation. Each live set is improvised, and, honestly, we try to rehearse as less as possible. We spend a lot of time in building the sequences and the sounds but then prefer to not oversaturate by playing too much in the studio. Playing without an audience doesn't really trigger the same excitement and concentration that we have when playing to a crowd, and to play our live set you need quite a lot of those, managing lots of layers and chains of effects that are always on the verge of exploding.
DJ’ing is easier and more relaxing. We can participate more in the event and don't need to keep stuff moving every half a second, though we bring the effects that we use in the live set to the DJ set, so it's always a hybrid DJ-live set. When you play live, it takes more effort to control the flow of energy and to get to that point where everyone in the place feels that something special is happening, like when a DJ plays a killer track and everyone goes crazy. When you're DJing, you can play ten killer tracks one after the other and it's easier to get closer to perfection. But then imperfections, breaks and sudden variations of tempo are also what make the live set special. The feeling that this thing is happening here, now and you feel part of it. When we play we're creating something together with our audience, not serving them a warmed up dish.
Where do you feel the club scene is at the moment? People have spoken of fatigue with Berlin… What is the relationship between the DJ and the floor now? Giovanni: I'm not a party animal and don't go too often to clubs, mostly because I find the music that's played in 99% of the clubs is utterly boring. Our everyday routine comprises about 8 to 18 hours of listening to music, so when I'm not working I seek more relaxing or inspiring situations, contact with nature and silence. It is necessary to rebalance the huge amounts of stimuli I get in the studio. When I go out or check for parties in Berlin, I see that tech house has taken the upper hand and unfortunately that's not really my cup of tea. It doesn't resonate with me too much. Berlin is changing fast. The kind of people who moved to Berlin or come to visit the city has shifted in the last years toward a kind of personality that is less wild, more homogenized and less interested in alternative ways of dealing with life. Internet hype is mostly responsible for this, and honestly I can understand why native Berliners are quite protective with the secret and precious situations that are not always advertised to a general public. Or they are not too friendly with foreigners, as part of the commercialisation of the city is caused by people like us moving here from other places where different possibilities and limits are imposed on reality; obviously it's not only a negative phenomenon, this continuous flow of people and identities helps to keep the culture alive, considering both sides of production and consumption.
In this city there is a concentration of producers and a vast, ever changing audience that you can reach everyday. The crowd of a typical Berlin club may be composed of 80% musicians, so technical skills are the first requisite, being able to manage the flow and keep people interested can be more difficult here because of the infinite offer of parties that people living in Berlin are used to having. Originality and personality are appreciated more and more as the commercial taste is spreading, and people with a real interest in music are looking more eagerly for something that can push things forward. Let's hope that after the financial markets crash more people will become aware that money is only an instrument of payment, not a means in itself that motivates all the worst actions that man can perform, included using spiritual gifts and practices to accumulate wealth, instead of spreading beauty and enlightenment.
Tell me more about the relationship with Stroboscopic Artefacts, Do you feel it’s a natural home? Do you share a similar aesthetic or style? Through Stroboscopic Artefacts we developed our touch, our artistic identity. The label grew up through our ideas, knowledge and hard work in the studio, and seeing that people appreciate all the hidden work we do behind the scenes is the best reward we can expect. For us, it feels easy and natural, being free to express ourselves within the label, as we are doing by with our album. Stroboscopic Artefacts has different souls, but there's the common intention to crush the boundaries and the limitations of ill-defined musical genres. It doesn't matter how each of us interpret that – what we like is sharing a platform where we can express our inspiration and try to bring forward the taste and sensibility of the audience.
Did you know Lucy before you began Dadub? How did that relationship develop? Daniele: I’ve known Luca for some years. In recent times though we lost contact, until we met again in Berlin, just two weeks after the official launch of Stroboscopic Artefacts. It was, and it is, a matter of sharing an important part of our view of the world. And well, about Stroboscopic Artefacts. We all know the rest of the story, I suppose.
You’ve remixed FSG, Lucy and Xhin. Do you enjoy making remixes? How does it compare to your own productions? Is there a different approach or idea? Daniele: Making remixes is interesting, especially as it's beautiful how you can reach somewhere so far away from the original sound that the producer gave to you. We usually remix tracks if the project says something to us, otherwise there's no reason to force ourselves in something that we don't feel is "ours". The approach and the technique are not different from our productions, because we don't have a fixed and well-defined path during production. We have our techniques and tricks but each project is a different adventure.
So, finally, what’s next for Dadub? We are currently working on our upcoming album and we are planning to do a couple of remixes in the next few months. We've got some gigs across Europe but we will probably try to concentrate on our album. It's a big step and we want to do it right.
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