An insightful interview with the forward-thinking Daniele Antezza of Dadub about the music industry, creative inspirations, childhood, upcoming works and more.
To mark Antezza’s new step in the world of electronic music and to know more about his artistic approach to work and life we invite you to read this insightful and inspiring interview with the artist talking about the music industry, his creative inspirations, childhood, upcoming works and much more. It is really rewarding after all.
Justinas Mikulskis: What was your childhood like? Do you think your childhood experiences have influenced your present creative endeavors?
Daniele Antezza: When I think about my childhood I must admit I’m a really lucky person, and of course it strongly influenced the person I am today.
I was born in the old part of Matera (Southern Italy), which is one of the most ancient settled areas in the world where the landscape is dominated by rocks and caves. Some of of my deepest unconscious memories come from this place, in part because my mother used to feed me on a rock in front of the wild “Murgia”, which is an area with unique natural features. The connection with nature has always been very important in my life in general.
I grew up in a very stimulating environment, especially in terms of music. Both my parents love sounds, and in general they stimulated my curiosity in many ways, and music often played a big part in this process. My father had a very beautiful vintage Galactron Hi-Fi home system and a very interesting vinyl collection (unfortunately, because of a robbery, only the jazz, blues and classical music was left, plus a few rock recordings). I still remember his care and attention to details and silence during his listening sessions and all his stories about the life of musicians, artists and composers. I learnt a lot from those moments, especially about patience and attention in listening. My mother is an obstetrician and because of her deep sensitivity she always used sound during her training sessions with pregnant women, using techniques alternative to the traditional western medical approach. My parents used a stethoscope on my mother’s belly when I was still an embryo to make me perceive the sounds and they say I especially loved Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert. I think that’s the reason why I’m endlessly searching for textures which can bring me closer to the notion of “amniotic sound”, especially in Dadub productions.
Another very important factor in my musical growth is my brother: we’ve been listening to our parents’ vinyls and cassettes together since we were children and we usually mess around with tapes. He’s actually the dub expert in the family (and also an excellent producer), and he is actually the one who introduced me to dub music more than 15 years ago.
My love for culture and freedom of thought have always been fundamental in my intellectual development ever since I was a child. It is these values that make my whole being react incredibly strongly and passionately, almost wildly when I’m confronted with something I see as injustice or unfairness. On the other hand, this background made it possible for me to revolt against the idea of personal/individual gain in every situation. For me, it’s more than natural to give up personal earnings if this makes the community of people I have around me better off. From my perspective, I earn much more in this way than by being greedy. Otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen to be an artist.
Inner8 - The Irony of Karma Part 2
JM: What is creativity to you? How do you see yourself in this perspective?
DA: I like to think about the idea of creativity in terms of the concepts of the Daemon (as developed by Socrates through Plato’s words) and the philosophical vision by Giordano Bruno.
According to the Greek philosopher, the Daemon was a sort of presence, neither evil nor good, who provided not so much the “right direction” as wisdom and “genius”. The Italian thinker was famous for his alternative vision of spirituality and for his deep degree of knowledge, more linked to the “ancient pagan religion” than to Christian doctrine. This led the Church to the brilliant solution of burning him alive.
In my opinion, creativity is the energy that connects human beings to eternity. Through creativity, human beings project themselves asymptotically to “divinity”. It is the energy that our Daemon gives us so that we can express our full potential.
For me, creativity is the basic element of my process of liberation as a human being. Creativity allows me to give life to my visions, my feelings, my monsters, my nightmares and my obsessions, and I can express myself freely, with no fear of judgment or repression.
Since I decided to devote my life to art and creativity, I’ve become a totally different person: much more open-minded and much more free from “psychological rubbish”… In a way, it’s as if I’m walking down a path where the specific goal is just a minor detail.
JM: Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
DA: One of the creative media I love but never managed to learn is photography.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of something apparently static that has a whole universe of living details inside itself. That’s why I love drone sounds I guess… but sound needs both time and narrative to be perceived; a picture is something that can show a system of universes instantaneously. It’s a kind of magic.
JM: What do you think is the most difficult thing about being an artist in these times?
DA: In my opinion, one of the most difficult things for an artist nowadays is the contextualisation of their role. Being an artist does not just mean producing something aesthetically beautiful (perhaps made by somebody else in the past), but it requires a deep analysis of the context. That’s because, at least in my view, an artist should be able to use their imagination to break the rules and the mechanisms that dominate the context of modern life.
In other words, an artist must try to create an experience that makes us perceive that another world is not only possible, but necessary.
The main difficulty for an artist arises when the artistic output comes in contact with the hyper-consumerist capitalist market: on the one hand there’s the need for the artist to survive (like for all human beings), on the other, there should be an aim to keep the piece of art pure, unaffected by market rules. Otherwise there’s a risk of turning the art itself into nothing more than a commodity. It’s not easy to keep these two opposite forces in balance, but it’s not impossible.
Another problem appears if good money starts coming in at some point in an artistic career. Usually, a generic system—from a microscopic cell to a socio-economic one at the macro level—keeps itself alive and reproduces its inner structures, potentially to infinity. If we consider the flow of money as determined by the actors in a market (sellers, buyers, institutions), it can be thought of as one of the structures that keep our system alive or, to be more precise, we might say that a certain money flow might increase the stability of the system. So, for example, if a musician produces amazing new music, new sounds or simply something that expresses something important, it will easily become a product that you can sell. That’s not a problem. The difficulties start if, in order to maintain their status, the artist (consciously or not) starts to follow the “market mood” instead of being true to the art itself. Even worse is when an artist starts to promote themselves as something alternative, while in fact behaving like a perfectly normal, conservative actor who plays the game within the same structure they pretend to criticise through their art until they themselves become part of the thing that maintains the stability of the system. This is a very common paradox.
The market and the system in general know just how dangerous artistic movements can be, but they are also aware of how much money can be made selling dreams to people. That’s why the strategy is always the same: when something “dangerous” starts to become a real threat the market seduces it by showing us how cool it is to sell certain ideas, and how cool it is for the creator to become a VIP, perpetuating the concept of exclusivity and inequality. This process puts art at a serious risk of losing its deepest content by making it nothing more than a cool and beautiful box that you can sell, consume and discard. It happened to the alternative culture of the 60’s and 70’s and it’s happening now with the underground movement of the 90’s. I have the impression that instead of experiencing the revolutionary potential of alternative cultural movements, all we ever get is the “coolness” of the people involved. I find it a bit sad and grotesque.
I often wonder why humans seem to love turning existence into a loop that keeps repeating, cycle after cycle.
JM: How would you describe the pace at which you work? How do you handle stress and pressure?
DA: Well, I think time is the most precious thing we have, so I always want to be in a position where I’m free to use it. If you can do that, that relieves a lot of stress and pressure. In my opinion, it’s extremely important how we use our free time, and it doesn’t matter how much free time we have: it’s all about quality.
In addition, I love the job I do because I have the possibility to fully express myself both in a technical and an artistic way, and observing how surreal the situation around the world is becoming, I can be just grateful that I have managed to build this space where I can act freely—this is another thing that helps me not get stressed out.
Of course, there are a lot of things to do and in certain periods I really feel like it’s an uphill struggle. Fortunately, I never feel this way about music composition. When I create sounds I completely lose my perception of time. If you are stressed you can’t create.
In general I try to avoid stress and tension by following the advice in an ancient Zen tale about a sword master. In this story, a rich person asks a famous sword master to train his kids and he makes the children demonstrate how good they already are at fighting in front of the master. Unimpressed, the master says he wants to test his best pupil. The young student, realising how futile it would be to display violence in that way, just walks away, laughing, thereby passing the test: the message is that a true warrior doesn’t need to fight if he is experienced and wise enough to get what they want anyway without using violence.
JM: What is your most defining moment to date, the moment that makes you feel that what you do is all worth it?
DA: When I meet somebody who is inspired by what I do, by my ideas, my thoughts and my sounds, rather than who I am.
Knowing that my artistic vision and the things I create can inspire people on a deep level is absolutely priceless. It makes me feel like what I’m doing is really worth it.
JM: How do you want your music to affect your listeners? What do you want them to take away from the experience of hearing your works?
DA: Music has always worked on at least three important levels of my existence, which you could think of as the intellectual, the emotional and the spiritual.
Regarding the first one, when I was studying economics and I began to understand just how insane the world out there really is, I always spent those moments of intellectual speculation listening to specific sounds (like Monolake, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Murcof, Alva Noto among others) that somehow changed the normal rules of perception, creating a sort of space where my thoughts could run free without obstacles. To me, that kind of inspiration means that art can play a revolutionary role. Of course, it shouldn’t just be a theoretical exercise: you must also be able to apply it, otherwise it’s just empty entertainment.
As to the emotional side, it’s a very intimate and delicate dimension. I feel that sound is a way to make my emotions manifest; it’s a fundamental mechanism for understanding and expressing myself.
Lastly, the spiritual domain. I’ve always believed that music can connect the human spirit to other dimensions. It is actually what humans knew before Catholic obscurantism arose, and certain cultures still keep this alive (for example, those cultures which still recognise the role of the shaman).
So, my dream and my aim is to make music that has the ability to trigger these elements when it comes in contact with a spirit who is able to experience it.
JM: You run Artefacts Mastering. In philosophical perspective, what does it mean to master a record?
DA: I co-founded AM Studio with Giovanni Conti at the end of 2009, early 2010, and fortunately things are going really well. After a number of years of working together we have built up a heterogeneous mix of customers who work with us precisely because of the specific approach we have developed.
From a philosophical point of view, mastering is of course primarily about very specific technical issues, but there’s also a huge component of it which is about different aspects of human perception in specific contexts.
What I mean is that when I have to master a track, I usually deal with delicate questions like “should I remove the “excessive” low frequencies because it is technically correct or should I try to understand what the producer is trying to say through his music before acting as a surgeon? And how do I understand the beauty of something that doesn’t speak to my personal taste?” …and so on.
To deal with these tricky speculative situations, I’ve found an interesting philosophical approach in the contemporary interpretation of “hermeneutics” developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his “Truth and Method”. Even though it doesn’t talk specifically about mastering, it is a deep investigation into concepts like “knowledge”, “taste”, “beauty” and “art” and how we interpret these concepts. In Gadamer’s model, a piece of art doesn’t belong to the creator; rather, it becomes “true” and comes into existence when somebody perceives it. From this point of view, the piece of art represents a world unto itself, a vision, and when it comes in contact with our cognitive world it leads to a sort of “fusion of horizons”.
This approach makes it possible to avoid judging a track I’m mastering “by the standards of my personal taste”, and it allows me to contextualise things I don’t particularly like. This way, I can see the beauty in a piece of music no matter how far removed the track might be from my own personal preferences, and no matter who the producer is or what their taste is I can avoid the trap of pretending to be “objective”, both as mastering engineer and as human being. I think that from the technical side, this way of seeing things gives me an ability to use the mastering process to emphasise the inherent beauty in any piece of music.
JM: Could you name and shortly describe 5 recent electronic music records that could stand as a good example of what the right audio mastering is?
DA: There are many, many well-mastered records, and the sound quality also depends a lot on the producer’s skills.
I can say that I’m extremely impressed and inspired by the work of engineers like Stefan Betke, Rashad Becker, Loopo, Matt Colton, Bo, for example.
JM: Give us an update on the music. What are you working on at the moment?
DA: At the moment I’m working on the mastering of my upcoming debut album as Inner8 for the label Undogmatisch that I’ve co-founded with Mirco Magnani (aka T.C.O.) and Valentina Bardazzi. I’m developing this work with the goal of making a live performance which will be supported by a very special visual show created by the visual artist sYn.
I’m busy preparing the second Undogmatisch release with my friend Mirco Magnani, a 4 hands album which will inaugurate a limited series of very experimental releases, but I cannot reveal more about it.
I’m constructing the architecture for what will be the 2nd Inner8 album and I’m working on new Dadub sound design with my partner Giovanni Conti.
Production-wise, I’m trying to develop new solutions for my sound textures, experimenting with a new hardware-software hybrid system setup.
Honestly, there are many, many ideas running through my head at the moment, but there is never enough time to realise them all.
JM: A hypothetical question, could you imagine our world without music and how it could look like?
DA: That’s a very interesting question and in a sense I sometimes feel like we are already living in a world without music… that is, we’re often surrounded by annoying random noise instead of music.
How can you define or perceive as music something that is made just to be sold for example? This is what I mean when I say annoying random noise.
By the way, a world literally without music is something my imagination isn’t powerful enough to visualise.
JM: What is your relationship with visual arts as a musician and as an individual? Moreover, could you talk about your favourite art works or even a particular art movement that inspires you?
DA: Visual art has been always something that fascinated me a lot, mainly because of the synaesthetic power of it. It allows me to express my creativity and imagination through images and interconnected structures in such a way that I no longer perceive a musical device as technical tool (even though technical knowledge is still fundamental), but rather as a palette of logic operators and vectors which I can connect (or disconnect) to express a concept in way that I recognise as aesthetically meaningful.
In terms of visual art specifically developed as support to and/or interaction with sound, it’s a form of artistic expression I only like when there is a deep and meaningful connection between the two media, and of course I cannot avoid mentioning one of the pioneering projects in this field: the “Poème électronique” by Varèse, Xenakis, Le Corbousier, composed for the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
For visual art more broadly, I really appreciate draw inspiration from the avant-garde movements (especially the Dada movement, Surrealism, the Situationists and to some extent the Futurists) for their ability to literally destroy and reconstruct traditional artistic and expressive language.
JM: Is there any cinematographic masterpiece on earth you could watch from time to time and still discover or learn something new? Please explain.
DA: There are many movies I could watch over and over again, where I always feel I find new details every time I watch them. The first one that comes to mind is “The Holy Mountain” by Alejandro Jodorowsky. I watched it for the first time about 10 years ago, and since then, each time I watch it I discover new symbols, new metaphors.
It allows me to question and redefine myself, my beliefs, my intellectual and spiritual views and so on.
Also, its aesthetics and its visionary approach capture my attention every time I watch it.
JM: Are you reading any kind of literature? If so, maybe you could share your thoughts on the last one you have read?
DA: Yes, I like reading books a lot, even if I’m not so compulsive about it nowadays as I was in the past.
I tend to prefer essays, mainly about philosophy. Recently, I read “One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society” by Herbert Marcuse for the 3rd time and I’m currently reading “Simulacra and Simulation” by Jean Baudrillard. The first text is about how the contemporary socio-political-economic context tends to homogenise all the different aspects of human existence into one single dimension, thereby feeding the existing power structures to the point where, arguably, consumerism becomes a form of authoritarian social control. What I find extremely interesting in this analysis is the ability of the author to be really visionary in his philosophical inquiry (Marcuse wrote his book in 1964), and the reason I’ve enjoyed reading it more than once is because of how it speaks to what’s happening in our world today. It’s a powerful analytical tool, in many ways.
The second one is about a deep analysis of the relationship between reality and symbols in our society. According to Baudrillard, reality itself has been replaced by symbols and human experience has become just a simulation of reality.
Speaking about narrative, a book I’ve read recently is “Q” by the pseudonym “Luther Blissett”. This text is very interesting mainly under two points of view. It’s first of all an excellent story during the protestant reform and it’s also a beautiful historical-political analysis of that period. In general it’s well structured to clarify many aspects related to the concept of power and domination.
JM: How would you like to be remembered?
DA: I would love to be remembered just through my music, that is the only thing that makes sense to me.