Monday, October 29, 2012

TEA with Dino Sabatini


The word "dark" is commonly used to describe the work of Donato Dozzy, Giorgio Gigli and Dino Sabatini. The three lynchpins of contemporary Italian techno.

But is dark really the right word? Be it hypnotic-drone, brooding minimalism, deep techno or the many other ways its been penned, does this necessarily need to translate to “dark” and “sinister”? Ask Dino Sabatini if he is a “dark musician” and he would probably laugh.

Dino Sabatini and the Munich based imprint Prologue have played an important role in rejuvenating a strain of Italian techno since the latter parts of the 2000s. In 2008 Sabatini help launch Prologue with the “No More” EP, following up with the "Daughter Of Phorcys" EPs in 2010

Since these releases the label has cultivated a “sound aesthetic” that Dino Sabatini is often credited for providing. But what differs Prologue from other labels pushing a similar sound is its artists outside of Italy like Samuli Kemppi, Cio D’Or, Milton Bradley, Iori and Mike Parker are producing music that shares many parallels, but also inventive differences, with the original leanings of Dozzy, Gigli and Modern Heads.

In 2012, Sabatini took his music outside of the studio and away from hardware, and started collecting sounds and samples from all over world and infusing them with tribal themes and influences. The result was Shaman's Path, his debut long player for Prologue and a personal interpretation of the bridge between life and the afterlife.

Pat Woodley-Davis caught up with Dino Sabatini over Skype where the two spoke of Greek mythology, tribal rhythms, the role of the Shaman, a new Modern Heads album and Japanese tea. 

Italians seem to be fascinated with the darker side of music as you have spoken about by citing Italian acts Lory D, Sounds Never Seen and Goblin as influential. You also enjoy talk of The Cure, Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division. Why are you and so many other Italians attracted to this “darker” sound?
Well I don’t know, because of my age? Maybe dark music was the music of my time? I don’t know many people in Italy who are listening to dark music at the moment. But people could be listening to productions from Elettronica Romana? With Giorgio Gigli and Donato Dozzy, we tried to make something different from the start, with our own ideas and concepts. Maybe I am the darkest, but everybody makes music for our environment. Claudio PRC, he is one of the guys who is following our style of music. Nowadays too many people follow the same sound. I don’t know why people say “your music is dark”. Sometimes I don’t feel like a dark musician (laughs).

Tell us about the tribal influences in your music at the moment?
With Shaman's Path, it was an experiment to find something different. For example, I used more tribal sounds because I was looking for - and - found some different, minimal sounds I could use inside my dark place. It mixed things up from the dark techno and also opened up my point of view. It was also partly a technical reason. I produced the album in my studio, but the album comes from everywhere, some of the tracks were made around the world. This is the first time I have experimented with digital production. With Modern Heads it was all analogue, but with Shaman's Path, I recorded some sound samples and voices from around the globe. Reaktor is like a huge library of sound with digital machines. I found it hard to stay in my studio, so I thought why not have my studio around the world. 

What brought about the move away from darker techno into more tribal techno?
Tribal for me is the root of the rhythm in music. It’s the root of techno music. Tribal music is a big thing, especially with rhythm, it’s a big thing in house music. Now I just try to find the right mix - a new era - to merge techno with some tribal sounds. It wasn’t so much research into African sounds, I have a great respect for African people and their music and I don’t want to mess with that, but for me it was just an experiment to have the right mix of techno and tribal stuff. I like that rhythms can very hypnotic. 

The CD will be released as a mixed album. Is this so the album can be listened to as an entire piece or concept? 
Yes of course. Listening to the CD version you can tell I followed a concept. The main concept was to create a bridge between reality and imagination. The shaman figure looked to represent that. Shamans are considered by some tribal populations as a link between life and afterlife and to be able to cross that bridge people have to follow particular paths. Shaman's Path is my personal interpretation of that.

Do you think this is what techno producers must do for techno albums to become more relevant than ten individual tracks coupled with an intro and outro?
I think everyone should do what feels right. I think it depends on the type of media you want to use. My project was to make a CD and a vinyl package. I thought I'd give the album a different direction, find a good compromise between normal listening and club listening.
Mike Parker says Tom Bonaty is fantastic to work with and very supportive of artists. When deciding to create an album, did you discuss it with Tom for a specific release on Prologue?
I’ve been working with Prologue for a long time now and I know how Tom wants the music. Usually when I am producing for Prologue, I know what he wants. With Shaman's Path, there is a Prologue touch. My first EP with Prologue is different to what I am producing now. At the beginning, Tom wasn’t totally happy about my style, but then I did the Daughter of Phorcys EP and it was totally different. With Shaman's Path, I just came back with an idea to keep it less techno, but to also follow the Prologue ideal, to include some ambient stuff, but still in my style.


A press release claims that you are one of the artists "responsible for providing the well known Prologue sound aesthetic". How does it feel that people have said you have shaped one of techno most contemporary and forward thinking labels?
This is a big question (laughs). It’s true, I was responsible for the first musical touch on Prologue. I don’t want to take too much credit, I have contributed, but every artist has done something important. Everyone has contributed in his or her own style. For me, at the beginning, it was just my point of view on the music and Tom agreed with that. 
Did you think that Prologue would become the label it has when Tom first contacted you? 
No, believe me at the beginning I thought it was a joke (laughs). Tom asked me ‘Hey, Dino, can I have your tracks because they are amazing’, but then it was two years until they were released (laughs). But after the first couple of releases, I realised what Tom wanted to do with Prologue. After the second release by Giorgio (Gigli), I was able to see that Prologue would become a great label and now they are arguably one of the bigger labels in the world, which I am really happy to be a part of. 
How is your own label Outis Music going and how did your first start it and why? How does it differ from other labels you have worked with?
With my music, I don’t always want people to say this is right or this is wrong. I want to be able to decide myself what is right and this is my reason for Outis Music. With Outis Music I can decide to make different music, you know? I can just follow my own ideas without interference from other people. Also, I can decide to collaborate with people like Giorgio Gigli, Brando Lupi and Donato Dozzy, but in a friendly way, with no pressure. I get a lot of help from Alessio who runs K1971 promotion, he is one of the owners of Elettronica Romana. For Outis, it’s a label that follows a dream, like Elettronica Romana, which is just to make music with my friends or on my own. Obviously it will be different in style to my output for Prologue or others, but at the moment I like what I am doing with Outis. 
At the moment I am careful with what I'm listening too. I try to escape from techno sometimes. I have a lot of requests for remixes or to make tracks for other labels and sometimes I struggle to find the inspiration to think “this is fucking cool”. So sometimes I like to take a couple of months off and listen to other things and find something different. 
Tell us about the connection Outis Music has with Greek Mythology.
Yes. I’ve loved Greek Mythology stories for a long time, so it’s a good feeling to have these stories and my music come together.


You seem to collaborate a lot. Do you enjoy collaborations? 
With Gianluca (Meloni-Modern Heads), it was a duo, together we experimented with different sounds and the experience was different, a total live experiment. We played a couple of times completely live, like once at Panoramabar without any computers and it was a total experiment. Then of course, we focussed everything on techno music. But our lives went in different ways, I moved to Berlin and he stayed in Rome with his son. We decided to collaborate over the internet, but again that is different. 
Are your collaborations done in the studio?
When you have a close relationship, like me and Gianluca, you are able to work together to share ideas. If I’m working alone, it’s different. That’s the problem with collaborations. It was the same with Giorgio, he came to Berlin so we were able to make something together. Now usually when I go back to Rome I try to meet with Donato (Dozzy) and we try and take a few days to make music together. The reality is now we share tracks over Skype and make music using Skype as a communicator. Music is about friendships and feelings as well as the music. 
So different things happen in the studio that don’t when you collaborate online?
Of course, of course. When I’m in Rome, each day is a new kind of light. It’s really important for me. In Berlin, there isn’t much light. Maybe this is why I made some darker tracks (laughs). But usually when I go to Rome, everything is different. I meet my old friends, my family, the feeling is different. 

How have you seen your productions evolve since the early days of Modern Heads, but more specifically since the "Daughters of Phorcys" EPs.
Daughters of Phorcys was my entry into a certain kind of techno music. Modern Heads was different because of Gianluca’s touch. But with Daughters of Phorcys it was the first time I had an idea of the construction of my sound. It was very important. Also, it was almost a mistake. After the album, people recognised my name and thought that I was doing Modern Heads on my own. So I split with Gianluca, and we decided to do a different project together, still Modern Heads, but... Maybe it’s time to do a Modern Heads album. Maybe it will become one of my projects in the future. 
What’s coming up for Dino?
The Modern Heads album is an idea. I’ve spoken with Gianluca about starting it up again, but now I have my own concepts and style, we need to find a different style. We need to find some time and we need to stay together. I want to meet up with Gianluca sometime next year for a few months and work on something. We’ll see what we can do. I hope it works, Modern Heads was my first project and I love Gianluca as a friend, so I would love another shot to do something. I’m working on a tour for Shaman’s Path and trying to work out a live set. My live set is totally different. I want to put more importance on the live set, I want to be able to transmit clearly the atmosphere of my album in a live setting. I hope that by December I am ready to do it live. No problem with DJing, but I want to prepare a really good tour for the live set. 
Finally, what is your favourite tea?
Vanilla. Also Japanese green tea, but vanilla is my favourite. 

Interview: Pat Woodley-Davis
PIcs: Tea Gaurascio

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