Why do we dance in the darkness? What is it that makes us come back to it? And dance longer and longer each time? To reduce this social gathering to simple entertainment would be closing our eyes to something that has shaped a new form of artistic experience. One in which we surrender to our senses and accept transcendance as a state of being. Few have been willing to take the arduous path of seeking the meaning of our collective experiences. Too often we face a wall: our human nature pushes the desire of one and only truth, one and only answer. But wouldn’t truth lie in more than solid principles? Wouldn’t it take multiple forms and multiple faces? This conversation with Lucy seems to have brought us closer to comprehension, it wasn’t however without leading the trail to new interrogations…
Some seem to see the medium as an end/purpose but you seem to perceive it as a duct, what are you trying to express?
I have been analyzing the club culture for a while and what I understand of it is that it’s not just about having fun, I see how important it is as a social ritual. The artist has a huge responsibility. Dancing to obsessive rhythms and losing your mind into verticality is just our western way of doing something that has been done in all the cultures since millennia. The artist becomes the medium for that state of being and decides where this mass of energy will go. Contemporary techno DJs are a kind of modern shaman. This is why I say it’s a huge responsibility. The people in the crowd are offering their intimacy in that particular moment and this particular space. You are very lonely when you dance to techno, you are in your own world and clubs are strongholds of this culture. What you see then is a very individual experience, not a collective one like in the case of house or disco which are more about sharing. Techno is more meditative, but still we allow ourselves to reach this certain state because we are surrounded by other people. So yes it is an inner travel, but it is possible only because of the social ritual. The DJ has the power to decide to open certain doors and closing others. When the magic happens on those nights when you really loose it. It’s not about selecting tracks anymore, it becomes an instinctive wave of sounds. It takes off. You loose your logic mind and you start thinking by other rules that are driven by energy. That is for me DJing and that is how I see the image of the artist as a medium. I just drive the energies that come through me to the crowd. Sometimes, it seems like they come from my side, other times from outside myself, then I become a medium.
You studied cognitive sciences, in which level can we find this idea in your music?
I studied linguistics and cognitive sciences applied to language learning. Making music is similar to this approach. The educational approach is of course more academic and less instinctive, but having knowledge about how the brain works in relation to learning. Learning would mean in that sense interpreting external stimuli and giving it a specific meaning which depends on your brain patterns (education, genes, etc.). The processes are the same, we are still talking about a language when we talk about obsessive rhythms. That kind of language is of course multilayered and way more ancient than the coded languages. The first drum patterns came before the first word – I’m not sure about that though (laughs). All that knowledge is a gift that I keep with me.
You define techno as an approach to music rather than a musical genre, can you elaborate?
After the modular live set that I played yesterday, someone came to me and asked me how I called this type of music. I told him I didn’t want to call it (laughs). I think that it’s the role of the audience to process the music. When you perform this processing is done instantly, when you produce the public is distant but it works in the same way with just a different processing time. When I talk about techno, both as an artist and as a label owner, I don’t stick to a set of aesthetic rules. When I approach an artist because I’m interested in what he/she is doing it’s because of the approach to creativity rather than a sound. When I can feel the artistic process I know I can trust this person. The result is not important, what counts is the process. This is why the experimental performance I did yesterday came to my mind, it’s rare that I can do something like this. Mutek and the Museum of Contemporary Art were a perfect place for it. I could have taken an easy path, people would have danced and would have followed me, but I decided to bring something different. Both ways are authentic. What I did yesterday was sharing with the crowd processes that happen only in my studio, a very intimate space where I find myself alone. I wanted to show and share with the people what is happening when I create. There was no right or wrong, the point was the process, I didn’t want to show something awesome and finished. It needed maybe more attention and patience for the listeners, but it was meaningful.
Becoming more and more specific in an approach and a genre, what did you find in the microscopic?
When you talk about microscopic and macroscopic you refer to the scale of things. Thinking about life only with these levels reduces the possibilities because every level in between permits to swap the possibilities too. If you are able to achieve this swap – that can be applied to everyday life experiences like love for example – when you have this ability, you sacrifice stability to honour a cycle. The process is never-ending, accepting that things are relative and that every microscopical thing can become a universe. That’s also why I don’t share this western scientific vision of life: observing every microscopic thing to find the root of it. There is no root. We are microscopic and huge at the same time, we are huge for the ants and microscopic for the universe. It’s all a matter of scales.
Percussions refer to rituals: what is the importance of going back to this primitive state?
I don’t like the expression ‘primitive state’, for me it’s a constant state that we forget sometimes. I wouldn’t call it primitive, it’s too romantic. The patterns have always been the same and make us recognizable as human beings. I can refer myself to Jung and his theory about archetypes: the basic structures below the immediate forms of things. It can be seen once again in different scales. For example if you look at a city, you can interpret it as a human construction with geometric patterns, it can be perceived as a civilization that goes against Nature, but if you look at it from a satellite, you can see that it has a biological shape and that it adopts the forms of the territory. You can apply this kind of shapes to music. When I make music I’m trying to recognize which archetypes makes us recognize something as techno. Then I take those archetypes and I manipulate them so that you can still perceive it as techno, but when you put it in confrontation to the “standard”, you see that it’s something else. I’m very interested in this confused zone, confusion is a good thing (laughs).
These overviewed city shapes, isn’t it Stroboscopic Artefacts’ graphic identity?
We discussed how we wanted the Five Years Anniversary to look like with Oblivious, the artists collective in charge of the visual identity of the label. In the end they decided to take these really old drawing of cities, change the colours into grey and put them on a black background to give it a distance. That way you can’t recognize what it is immediately. It gives the impression of a sterile map, flat from the top. It has this idea of universal sense of aesthetic. Which is a typical process of any abstract pattern. Like what Mondrian did for example. The finish product of his pieces are abstract and coloured rectangles, but when I saw the preparation drawing for them, I was astonished to realize that they where in fact canvases of trees. Drawing after drawing the most realistic tree began to transform into basic shapes becoming unrecognizable: a primitive memory of a familiar shape. It works as well with the language; when you repeat 200 times the same word, you get detached from it’s meaning and you hear only the sound of it, like repeating a mantra. But it’s not necessarily loosing the sense, it would be more like diving in it, like opening it to reveal it’s power.
Based on Krishnamurti’s reflexion, could you say that techno has the power to change people from the deep inside, do you think there’s a social, economical, (hence political) aspect related to it?
For me techno is about a private revolution. I don’t believe in massive revolutions. There’s an indian saying that I really like: “so that everything remains the same, we need to change everything”. This private revolution is a transcendental experience. Whatever tools you use to reach it, whether it’s drugs, sex, art, music… It’s your own way to reach this verticality, a particular moment in which you escape this horizontal life, this routine of going to work, going back home, sleeping and then doing it all over again the next day. I see this closed existence imposed by others as a very sophisticated slavery system. Some of us took that decision not to enter this cycle, it is very difficult to achieve. In this moment in the club, you are allowing people to get out of this horizontal pattern and experience other levels of perception. When the party is over, maybe that state of mind can remain. I’m not there to persuade people to take one path or another, what I’m there for, is to show them another way of perceiving things, or at least it is what I try to do. Like inserting a little bacteria in their mind that would stay there and develop into a very useful infection.
You mentioned the term “horizontal life”, should life be more organic/cycling to you?
When I started making electronic music I was also studying percussions a lot. I discovered this incredible instrument from India called Tablas. I found something extremely different in the oriental music: there is no starting point, no origin or apocalypse like in our culture. It’s a cycle. The rhythms are completely different and it brings another philosophical level. In a typical drum pattern, Indian rhythms always end on the one, leaving it open. It brings another problem that we have which is wanting to possess things, it is our major illness in my opinion. Things are not yours, you can experience them. It’s very hard to live that way, but it’s a path I’m trying to take.
Stroboscopic Artefacts is “a platform where beautiful minds can express themselves”, can you tell us more about the idea behind this platform?
When we started the label in 2009, I had just arrived in Berlin. I started living in another way. I found that pure expression of myself was really the way I could feel comfortable with my life. But I always had a problem with solitude. For me art is about sharing and communicating, there is no happiness without it. I felt this urgence to build something that would bring together different visions into one polyphonic voice. At the beginning the idea was more to build a collective or a space, like a commune. Finally it appeared that a record label was the perfect place for this community. It was about bringing these ‘beautiful minds’, people that I find very inspiring, together. It doesn’t mean that we always get along, on the contrary there are a lot of fights and arguments, but this is what triggers important artistic processes. I released stuff that I could not understand at the moment of the release, but I did it because I trusted the artists and I knew they wanted to express something.