ST Interview with Dadub

photo of dadub for interview

Photo by Michele Marazia.

In the first interview after a long silence, Daniele Antezza and Marco Donnarumma of Dadub talk about the project's ideology, past, and future.

Almost 5 years have passed since Dadub's You Are Eternity came out on Stroboscopic Artefacts. Up until that point, Daniele Antezza and Giovanni Conti had been very active, each year spreading their dub-infused techno-ish electronics throughout the scene (here is their 2013 mix for Secret Thirteen). In the silence since then, we have heard reverberations of Dadub's sound in the works of many other projects -- the vision had made an impression.

For a long time, it seemed perhaps Dadub had done their work and moved on to other projects, but this year they are finally back with a release. A three-track record, Rituals Of Resistance, came out on Bassiani and became the Tbilisi-based club-turned-record-label's first non-compilation release.

The change in Dadub's sound was obvious. At some point during the project's hiatus, Daniele Antezza had found another partner in dub, the performance artist and musician, Marco Donnarumma (Kuoyah, The !S.A.D!). The duo quickly set about reimagining Dadub, creating new processes, trying to free the sound. We are glad to see the project so alive!

In this interview, Daniele and Marco talk about the past and the future of Dadub, the state of the scene, politics, Berlin, and more.

TADAS ŠVENČIONIS: After a long break, Dadub returns. Before we talk about the new, (perhaps) it makes sense to bury the old. Daniele, how do you see the Dadub project until this rebirth – what was it about, how do you view the music that was made and the times that were had? Is this a rebirth or a continuation?

DANIELE ANTEZZA: Ok, let’s then get started by talking about what happened after You Are Eternity, our debut album for Stroboscopic Artefacts released in early 2013. Without a doubt, that album represents one of the key milestones of my whole life, because in a way it's the realization of a dream, something that I’d been relentlessly haunting day by day, for years. The joy of being able to survive through my passion for music was incommensurable, but even more important to me was that I could spread the Dadub vibe and the message behind it in the scene. We had an impact.

Historically speaking, You Are Eternity positions itself at the beginning of what I'd call the “electronic music underground mainstream-ization process.” The popularization of what once was the “underground” in electronic music is neither bad nor good by itself, it’s something that we have to deal with, as artists and individuals, because it raises many questions about the way we all work.

The philosopher Mark Fisher, in his Realist Capitalism, explains very well how the creation and marketization of a commodity derived from an idea of “alternative” (or in our case of “underground”) is something that de facto supports and justifies the status quo. In other words, if we buy and sell stuff conceived as the “alternative” as if it was a conventional commodity, we simply discard its inner transformative value. If we give importance only to the shell of something, we annihilate its potential energy of transformation. That’s why marketing and PR are currently so fundamental in the post-underground scene. Again, Fisher is enlightening when he talks about PR-production and imposition of market mechanisms.

It seems to me that the music we did between 2010 and 2013, and in general the sound we developed with Stroboscopic Artefacts, anticipated many trends and inspired many artists, both at an aesthetic and conceptual level; this is one of the most beautiful accomplishments that has ever happened to me. But this aspect does not imply that Dadub will continue to walk that path. I'm not interested in replicating that formula, it's time to bury it. So, if I think about the actual Dadub I feel comfortable talking about a rebirth.

Apart from my personal motivations there’s also another key factor behind this rebirth: the new collaboration with the sound artist and performer Marco Donnarumma, who's now an integral part of Dadub. I had been following his projects for several years since I first watched a video of this full body tattooed guy carrying on stage big pieces of concrete to control and generate sounds and visuals by exploiting the activity of his body. When I found out that his complex artistic projects are also supported by solid and deep theoretical research, from philosophy to science and more, my admiration was immense. That’s the approach I admire in artists. I do not focus much on their ability to be appealing and marketable: I like substance.

When Marco moved to Berlin we had a chance to meet, so we started to share our approaches, passions, and dreams, and for me, it was more than natural to ask him to be part of Dadub, as well as for him it was more than natural to accept, I guess. We then built a very low-fi production studio at my home and we started to play together there for several months, until my Dadub Studio was officially launched in May 2017.

Obviously, a lot of time has passed, but also the duo has changed. Marco is a very established artist with a very strong identity. It seems inevitable (or perhaps I’m wrong?) that his entrance will dramatically impact the Dadub identity – what is your relation to that idea?

DA: The Dadub sound is already much different from what it was, and it has already mutated beyond our control. It's part of our DNA, cause one of our primary aims is to deconstruct and question ourselves as human beings, as artists; this leads us to relentless experimentation with new sonic textures. Luckily, I share with Marco a huge common background, and his strong personality is fresh air for a project like Dadub, it's an energy of change. I still remember the first jam-sessions we did together: I had the feeling that in a way he'd been part of the project since always... but at the same time I felt this new strong identity, this river of creativity plugging its essence into the project. Priceless.

At a deeper level, Dadub is somehow not just about myself and Marco, it's about something else that does not belong to us; the primordial vibe of the project remains the same. I've been always fascinated by how the Upsetters (Lee Scratch Perry's band) evolved: in all their records there was always a continuous turn-over of different musicians, and thus the band was never the same. Nevertheless, they have always maintained the same vibe. This is exactly the musical dimension I feel Dadub deals with, si licet parva componere magnis.

Marco, you have recently said that you see your primary passion as performance. Are you bringing a performance element to Dadub? How do you imagine it?

MARCO DONNARUMMA: I think the performance element has always been part of Dadub, also prior to my arrival. Overdubbing, for instance, is a staple in most of Dadub previous productions, and that’s a typically performative technique.

I wouldn’t say that I brought something to Dadub, rather that my approach to sound - as a sound designer, performer, and acoustic vibration nerd - has opened up different ways of delivering and producing the Dadub sonic imprint. This is an ongoing process; for instance, these days we moved to a new setup where we improvise and record our sessions, instead of sitting at the laptop and compose a piece. Dan plays drum machines and effects, I play bass guitar and keyboards, and together we experiment with various - sometimes extreme - forms of overdubbing on each other’s sound sources. This method is greatly liberating, we don’t even have sync anymore, and the music sounds much freer. Feels like we’ve discovered hot water, but it takes time to completely transform one’s setup while still retaining a certain timbre, sonority and distinguishable identity.

Daniele, as someone who likes to conceptualize music and sound, how do you conceptualize your new Rituals EP?

DA: That's true, I do love to conceptualize, even though this process usually comes after my music production process. I think the act of creation should be free of any thought, it should happen through a process of “de-thinking”. I tried to do music by creating a concept first, but I ended up bored. The EP name Rituals Of Resistance is inspired by a concept developed by the anthropologist Philippe Bourgois, which we can refer to as “Cultural Resistance.”

Bourgois' analysis shows how some illegal practices are de facto just another side of our “civilization,” and it brings the attention to the uselessness of the blind politics of repression.

This can possibly be applied to many social practices, that’s why we abstracted such a theoretical corpus and applied it to the techno/electronic music scene in Tbilisi, and therefore to our EP for Bassiani, where clubs are places where so called “minorities” (like the queer community, for example) find themselves free to experience their identity, without being repressed by the dominant conservative society they belong to.

What is the relationship between error and control in the music of Dadub?

DA: The idea to exploit “error” in the creative process has always been a distinctive element of our identity, kind of a pillar for our aesthetics. We love being surprised by our own sounds and we refuse to follow any pre-existing and well-identified aesthetics. Of course, we have our influences, but using our machines to re-create something that's already been done is an approach which does not belong to us.

Regarding “control,” things are a bit different. Years ago our creative process was free only when we were working on the initial ideas of our tracks, then the composition was typically led by an almost maniacal control of all the elements and details, especially during arrangements and mixdown. It was the same for our live shows: sounds and effects were created through a free process but performance and narrative were under full control, improvisation was banned. That’s why almost all of the music produced till 2013 was mainly computer based.

Now things are pretty different, mainly because we decided to switch to a properly improvisational musical dimension. As Marco explained, we now use a new setup where control has almost disappeared. We want to focus on the essence of beautiful and new sounds, and thinking too much about what we do distracts us from our main focus. We want to feel that what we're doing when we jam will never be repeated, so we are attentive towards creating something that'll never happen again.

That’s why we have developed a feedback-based hardware set up, which also includes a bass guitar, and have reduced as much as we can any sync between our respective music production systems. By producing music in this way, the mixdown and arrangement also disappear from our creative flow, because the improvisation session we record has basically already been mastered through manipulation of the feedback-system itself - it feels liberating. From a certain point of view, it's like 15-20 years ago, when we were both playing in metal bands. We were there just for the sake of music, sharing dreams and ending our sessions laughing just for the joy of having created some music. That magic is now happening again, and it’s so precious, we’re glad to have re-discovered such enthusiasm.

I get the sense that you are both people who think about politics a lot. Do you view your artistic activities (not necessarily the art itself) as political and in what sense? Daniele, as someone who names Michel Foucault as one of your key influences, are you finding hope a difficult thing to come across nowadays?

MD: As for me, first of all, I believe artists have a responsibility towards their audience in that they must respond to the challenges of their particular time. Even more so in the current time we’re living in. Each artistic practice is different, implies diverse contexts, and prompts various implications, but, especially given the incredibly screwed situation the world is in, denying or overlooking that responsibility just make things worse. I never liked this way of saying it, but today's socio-political system - with populism and extreme-right becoming mainstream - requires it: if you're not trying to solve the problem, you're part of the problem.

I don't think there's much hope. The planet is going to change, it's a matter of fact. In 15 years or so, the world will not be what we know. We have to be ready to understand that we have screwed it up, and all we can do is try and develop some empathy towards each other and towards the “others,” anyone and anything that is different from us, but still lives and breathes on the planet. The worst is happening now, and it will become even worse, as the years go by. I'm not saying that we should sit idly. Everyone should definitely do something, anything that is relevant but with the clear idea in mind that our lifestyle will change drastically in our own lifetime. Drought, constant wildfires, famine, forced migration, and wars. It's all happening now and it will only increase.

DA: I think that despite what we can think about politics, every human action has a political meaning. To deny that means that we're just refusing to take responsibility on the fucked up world we live in and to be conscious of the impact on a large scale of our single actions.

Talking about Michel Foucault, his books literally opened my mind, and I owe a lot to his deconstruction and analysis of culture, politics, authority, and power. It's always a guide for my theoretical speculations. So, if you're interested in my view about our future: I have no hope, I think that humans deserve extinction. Our minds are so asleep, so lost. You know, I often have the vision that we are carrying in us, on a micro-level, the same dynamics that are destroying our planet on a macro-level, as well as an atom might describe a galaxy… and we're doing literally nothing to challenge the status quo.

As Dadub, we decided to label our new music “Post Apocalyptic Dub”. It's simply because the Apocalypse is here and is already happening on a global scale: fascisms everywhere, environmental disasters, human exploitation, discrimination, racism... I could continue the list, filling a whole book. What do you call all this if not the Apocalypse? Can you see any hope by looking at humans fighting to buy a stupid commodity, standing in line for days and fighting against each other on Black Friday?

Wherever you are in Europe (and further away), the cultural influence of Berlin seems to be overpowering, especially when it comes to music. How do you view the success of Berlin in this sense and its relationship to your art? In what sense is it freeing/restrictive?

DA: True, the Berlin influence is still dominant in the world of culture, art, and especially music. It's a city where certain practices are not only still admitted, but also incentivized, which makes the German capital a kind of Mecca for so many artists, a strong magnetic pole as it was for us years ago, and from this point of view, the Dadub imprint is intrinsically linked to Berlin.

It's also true that during the last decade many things have changed across Europe and the world, so we no longer feel that huge cultural/artistic gap between Berlin and other cities. With all the due differences, many dynamics do not strictly belong to Berlin anymore, and I think that this process will continue following the same trend, even because Berlin is no longer that poor place where creative minds used to find a shelter: the ongoing gentrification process is, unfortunately, stronger and stronger, life costs are rising at ridiculous levels, many things happen just for the sake of business and trend, life-rhythms are becoming more frenetic, stress is much more common between people.

I'm very curious to see what'll happen in the next 5/10 years, and something is telling me that for Dadub it is perhaps time to geographically re-collocate, still keeping, of course, a deep link with Berlin. So, if you ask us if we feel freedom or restriction in Berlin, our reply is we probably feel both.

Marco, I read this one weird interview, where it says that you have badly damaged your hearing and are using hearing aids. Is this true and could you elaborate on the effect it has had on your relationship to music?

MD: Ehehe, yes and no, it’s actually a little worse. At the time of that interview, doctors told me my hearing was damaged because of excessive exposition to loud and amplified sounds. Which made sense at the time, given that I had spent many years at raves and sound clashes with my head inside subwoofers. However, we recently discovered that that’s not the main cause of my condition. Apparently, I have a genetic condition whereby I’m becoming increasingly deaf.

It is not possible to predict how much of my hearing I will lose in the future and there’s nothing I can do about it - apart from protecting my ears as much as I can, which everyone should always be doing anyway!

This obviously has been hard to swallow, but that’s what it is. You know, there are sounds in my previous pieces, from 2005 to 2011 or so, that I cannot hear any more. I know those sounds are there, but I simply cannot hear them. This has made my relationship to sound and music much more complex, but it has also given me many new ideas and prompted myself to ask newer questions about what it means to experience sound and vibration, and especially how acoustic vibrations affect our state of being, together with other humans and with machines.

Is there a reason why you decided to release Rituals on Bassiani as opposed to Holotone/Stroboscopic Artefacts/some other label that’s ‘closer to home’?

Rituals Of Resistance happened quite naturally: we were talking with our friend Tato from Bassiani and it came up that they were starting to push their label by releasing whole EPs/Albums rather than VA, so we sent them some snippets and here we are.

We think that the tracks and the concept match perfectly the strength of Bassiani’s socio-political battles, and vice versa, this socio-political dimension fits very well our own approach to music making.

About Holotone: at that time I simply did not want to release our Dadub return on my own platform. Now though, we are indeed working on a Dadub mini-series of limited vinyls on Holotone. The series includes several vinyls, one side is a Dadub Original and the other side contains Dub Versions produced by a range of top-notch producers we esteem. The series will launch in early 2019 with the participation of Ena and Pure, among other great artists.

Regarding Stroboscopic Artefacts, in my view, the essence of the platform has changed a lot if compared to what it was 6-9 years ago: at that time the aim was to experiment and to propose a new aesthetics to the scene, breaking boundaries by intelligently fusing aspects of Club Culture and Electronic Music. The platform still pushes good music today, but the output mostly follows the 4/4 functional standard of techno and electronic music, something that does not fit with the nature of Dadub.

If there were no physical limits at all, what would be the ideal live show for you?

MD: An arena built out of speakers, pretty much in the vein of Pink Floyd’s live at Pompei, but with more speakers and subs.

DA: I fully approve Marco proposal, and I would add a proper Analog Mastering Rack on stage, just to push the bass more and more and more and more.

What are your future plans, both as Dadub and individually? Are there any grand projects that you are eager to pursue?

DA: Conquer the world, smoking spliffs, drinking whiskey. We think we should do trap music.

Reveal Playlist
01. Luigi Russolo - Risveglio Di Una Città
02. Inner8 - Studio II su feedbacks & riverberi [Unreleased]
03. John Cage - Williams Mix (1952)
04. Technophonic Chamber Orchestra - Introphonic [Suite Inc.]
05. Vladimir Ussachevsky - Sonic Contours
06. Grün - Deep Green [Dromoscope]
07. Iannis Xenakis - Concret PH
08. Bretschneider & Steinbrüchel - Basis [12K]
09. Dadub - Unbroken Continuity [Stroboscopic Artefacts]
10. - Zucchine Alla Scapece [Hefty Rec]
11. TCO - Prune [We Play! Records]
12. Brian Eno - Signals [Virgin]
13. Dadub - Vibration [Stroboscopic Artefacts]
14. Demdike Stare - Kommunion (Alternate Version) [Modern Love]
15. Grün - Fioritura [Dromoscope]
16. Dadub - Soundscape 1 (Atonal Festival 2013 Liveset) [Unreleased]
17. Ina Ynoki - Kosmos [Dromoscope]
18. Dadub - Arrival (Atonal Festival 2013 Liveset) [Unreleased]
19. Ina Ynoki - Mutant [Dromoscope]
20. Barry Truax - Basilica
21. Fabio Perletta - Field: Atom(s) Entropy [Farmacia 901]
22. Resina - [Track 12, from Disco Compatto Numero Uno / Idroscalo d'Autore]
23. The Bug - Skeng (Autechre Remix) [Ninja Tune]
24. William Basinski - Melancholia I [2062]
25. Arovane - Evlecc [DIN]
26. Resina - Muschià [Mousike Lab]
27. Alva Noto - Prototyp P [Raster-Noton]
28. Jan Jelinek - Moiré (Piano & Organ) [~scape]
29. Julien Neto - Voy [Type]
30. Deru - Spread Your Arms [Merck]
31. Arve henriksen - Opening Image [Rune Grammofon]
32. Pan•American - Inside Elevation [Kranky]
33. Lullaby From Itsuki Village (Flute & Sitar)
34. Ceephax - Nordic House [Firstcask Records]
35. Mogwai - A Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters [Chemikal Underground]
36. Japanese Traditional Vocal And Instrumental Music
37. Marsen Jules - Œillet En Delta [City Centre Offices]
38. Marsen Jules - Œillet Sauvage [City Centre Offices]
39. Lula Pena - Rosa [Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation]
40. Colleen - I'll Read You A Story [Leaf]
41. King Midas Sound - Surround Me [Soul Jazz Records]
42. Chris Clark - Indigo Optimus [Warp Records]
43. Rechenzentrum - Ahab [Kitty-Yo]
44. Icarus - Fijaka [Recordings Of Substance]
45. Shuttle358 - Frame [12k]
46. Julien Neto - III [Type]
47. DeepChord Presents Echospace - First Point Of Aries [Modern Love]
48. Rhythm & Sound - Aerial [Rhythm & Sound]

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An interdisciplinary journal, offering eclectic mixes and smart interviews with original artists and label owners as well as contemporary art reviews.

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