Members: Amedeo Giovanelli, Matteo Giovanelli
Occupation: Producers, DJs
Current Release: "Never Give Up" on Ministry of Sound
Recommendations: There is a book that we think personally, can change your life and that we would recommend to all readers: "The gesture and the word. Technique and language. The memory and rhythms" by Leroi Gourhan. It's an anthropology so be careful, and surely to watch at least once in your life. In other hands, you should try to watch Werner Herzog movies, this is a good starting point.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mathame, visit their facebook profile or soundcloud account for current updates, tour dates and much more music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Amedeo: We were in our Headquarters, Mount Etna. It was 2011 when we understood we could do something together, but we both had different experiences with weapon music before. Matteo had a crush on synthesizers, hip-hop djing and breakbeat since 2000. This taste came from old rock to early synthesizer experiments such Kraftwerk, Vangelis, deutsche Kraut Rock and Soundtracks, plus some years playing piano and studying music theory. He completed his studies with a bachelor’s in media arts and Cinema at NABA, Milan, along with so many forward-thinking teachers (Monico, De Kerchove, Ascot) and he also was a teacher there actually.
Matteo: Amedeo had a completely different approach, he grew up with my influences, such as early Warp artists. He learnt how to play the Violin and Clarinet; he had been DJing with my vinyl records since he was about 10 years old. When he turned 16, we decided to do something together, so we built our cave and began to plan our evolution.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Matteo: You are right, there is a learning curve that is essential to understand how it works. You start in your bedroom, with your laptop, dreaming of something big, you start to understand techniques and of course you are attracted to some sounds and try to recreate them. I receive hundreds of releases and demos every week from people that are trying to recreate the same technique we use in our tracks. In a way it is ok because it means that I made something good, in another way it is critical because you see how easy it is to copy nowadays and you find yourself asking where is the creativity, where do these guys make that music come from and where they want to go trying to copy in a such clinical way? How deep, strong and new is that tiny voice that tells you "how" to make your music. Because you know, there was this cinema director that said that the most incredible, original and beautiful fishes are very deep in the ocean as much as you can imagine. And we totally agree, one day everything changes. One day we started to feel a different urgency, so the most important question was to understand how the equation of music + big sound system = energy, that reacts with people’s bodies. So, first of all you need to be a dancer, you need to enjoy the crowd in musical events and try to understand how the magic works. Then of course, once you've realized something, make it your own and try to recreate that magic.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Amedeo: The greatest misunderstanding we had was at the beginning. Matteo comes from a full analogue conception; samplers, synthesizers and even custom modulars you know, vinyl integralism over digital, mp3’s and these kinds of concepts. So, after years we realized that all of this argument is fun because it gives you a sort of identity. Our brains and everyone’s brains are a lot faster than any combination you can achieve with analogue equipment: the realization of an idea is very slow and in this time window you progressively lose the edge of the idea, eventually you have to compromise and lose the original freshness you had in mind. Analogue equipment to me is like a rabdomant wood, it’s like when you go to find gold when you have really no idea where it is. On the other hand, our approach is different. Most of the time we already have in our minds what we want to do.
Matteo: I’ll tell you a secret, from the very beginning the core focus that defines our musical aesthetic is time relations in a danceable ecosystem: from the research we did called ‘Skywalking’, for example. Sometimes we write some musical ideas on paper, while listening to other authors or we sing something on the phone. When we know what we are doing, the digital ecosystem is the best way because it follows your speed during the evolution of the process. Also analogue equipment can help you to achieve “THAT” specific sound you have already in mind, you need to integrate both and above all, when you start touring hard you need to be smart and find a way to get ideas and transform it in a musical weapons in a very.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Amedeo: As we said before, our first studio was composed by using samplers and vinyl, then came synthesizers and drum machines. We buy and sell most of the traditional synths, from dx7 to 303, from minimoog to prophet: our economic conditions weren’t great, so we never had a proper studio. ‘Timeshift’ for example was produced with a laptop and cheap headphones just bought near a train station. From this year, we can finally say that we have a real studio with acoustic treatment. So definitely, there are no real important things to do when we try to create music. The difference is mix and mastering. You need a proper way to listen and process sounds and there is no argument against that. But in terms of creation every rule is broken. Just make sure to follow, and I repeat follow your own rules.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Matteo: We have this aesthetic concept in our mind, which is that there is no real division between natural and artificial. Technology is just the way a complex organism interacts with the environment. Each species has its own way of interacting with the outside world and all of them are unique, peculiar and if you look carefully, we can say that all of them are "technology": If you watch beavers making dams they are only using a technology that they know how to interact with, the environment that surrounds them and take advantage of. So to return to the question, there is no substantial distinction between humans and machines, let's say that it exists on an aesthetic level but in any case, biochemistry and physics tell us that we are little more than very complex organic machines that have developed an interesting understanding of the Universe. It is not necessarily true, but still effective and able to face many problems against which humanity has always sought solution. As far as music is concerned, surely the machine and especially when it is very complex and advanced becomes almost an extension of ourselves and our inner world so it becomes very interesting for those who create find the way to make this clear.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Matteo & Amedeo: Surely every artist today has a digital alter ego which is their workstation with which they have dialogue with for many hours and from which the reciprocal exchange in the act of creation flows. There is almost a mystical halo that binds this relationship and that, in addition to having complete trust in each other, there is also a sort of feedback that brings the process between sight, hearing, the brain, the hand, the chair, the monitor and the computer almost in a "trance" phase in which time and space dissolve as well as the beginning and the end of the ideas and merits of paternity between things. We don't think we can say more, it should be tried.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Matteo: We are quite aggressive on this. We rarely manage to collaborate in an effective way, we have a very personal way of writing, as explained before and often this phase lasts for a long time but above all, when we do something good it always comes in that phase that I expressed before, of "technological trance". So, collaborating with someone new even from a distance was difficult and not at all effective. On the other hand, we must say, with some artists this “magic” also occurred remotely. It is true that there are people and sensitivities that resonate even from a distance and we are very fortunate to have artists like them alongside as travel companions, who are able to share sensitivity and visions that are not always easy to understand, even and above all when it seems that a sort of 'market' goes against certain choices.