INTERVIEW #047 / MAX DURANTE [SONIC GROOVE]
“We have lost the freedom to express ourselves, to be different from others”
What was supposed to be an interview turned out into a real Techno manifesto, thanks to Max Durante accurate and wise socio-cultural analysis of the movement. A must read!
Hi Max, we are glad to host an electronic pioneer such you for this 50th episode in our podcast series.
Hey ... my pleasure… thank you for inviting me!!! Wow 50! I like this number J
You started to involve in music in 1986, which makes it 30 years of devotion for electronics. Is it true when people say that Techno has a cyclic evolution throughout its history?
In 1986 I created a radio program in a small radio, and in 1987 I started my DJ career. Me and Techno grew up together J. I started to deejay and the techno was born. In the 90s in many interviews they asked me, ‘’ the future of techno ‘’ and I always answered Techno is the future!!!
When it comes to your question I would say Yes, but this happens because we want it, instead of daring and going ahead!!!
This happens because in the modern era, Humans are losing their imagination. They’re not looking ahead or inventing anymore. This is a big problem in the young producers’ scene, for them it is much easier to copy… this is the problem of the modern techno made by the youngers. It’s a shame because at their age we were ahead, we were wilder, we were not afraid to dare… You know if no one dares nothing changes!
Techno comes from the word: technology, it is a music in constant evolution and once again I can confirm that techno is synonymous of the future! As it’s been 30 years that Techno exist, I think it is a natural process that many generations, every few years, are looking back the 90’s. Now we are into the simulation of the 90’s golden age, the years where techno had the highest peak of experimentation ...
Techno originally took its shape in the streets, with smart people in Detroit starting to produce Techno tracks at home and then got into a real proper studio. Techno speaks of life, Techno reflects the world where we live. The 90s were fundamental. But the beginning of the 2000s were the worst years of the Techno movement, where minimal or tech house were put at the forefront, but fortunately from about 10 years Techno is back to evolve again, back to dark and sometimes syncopated sounds ...
We are back in the 90's !!! With a difference that now anyone can produce a techno track ...
We need to dare, if we want that Techno evolve again!!!
When you look at the modern electronic scene, is this how you thought it would look like 30 years after the start of your career?
Well, we thought 30 years ago that today we would be flying in the sky with our cars ... J, but I don’t see cars flying… Actually no, I did not expect everyone to become a DJ or a producer ... I’ve never expected that Techno, productions, djing would be for everyone, that looks a little strange to me…Perhaps I would not have imagined that Techno become music for the masses.
At the beginning it was just for a few, so maybe we missed something.
We should go back to the UNDERGROUND and as Marcel Duchamp have said in 1961, art is not for everyone, we need to go underground... It’s true!
We can say that you come from the Rave scene, right? I guess the definition of the Rave spirit has a bit changed over the years… What is left from the Rave spirit in the modern techno scene?
Absolutely …I come from the real 90’s rave generation. I’ve discovered acid parties and then the Rave in London at the end of the 80’s …I was so excited that in October 1991 in Rome I’ve organized one of the most important Italian rave, The Plus 8 rave…
In the 90’s I’ve performed in the best Italian Rave, in Europe, in Suisse like the ENERGY 92, 93, CUBIK 94, 95…etc…
The real concept of the Rave was to bring down the sound barrier… to escape from the club. It was a non-political event, an atheist event, multiracial, colorful and was open to all (gay / straight / trans / fascist / communist / Christian / Jewish / Muslim / rockers / punk / etc ... ). Every raver had to leave violence, politics, religion, sports at the door. Nobody has to be equal, and hasn’t necessarily the same ideas but at that moment nothing else mattered but the music. It was a village for the modern society, a limbo where a tribe live with a single creed: techno and dance!!!!
First of all, the Rave does not exist anymore. Now they call every party Rave... but we are very far ... the spirit has changed, now all the young people dress the same, they are no longer free mentally as we were.
We have lost the freedom to express ourselves, to be different from others. Young people need a jolt, a new input. They need more personality, more courage!!!
Probably what they have inherited from the Rave is the desire of sharing and staying 24 hours dancing non-stop ... but we’ve lost the true essence unfortunately.
The 90’s were hard and aggressive; I’ve written at that time a sentence about the Rave:
RAVE MEANS DELIRIUM, EMOTIONAL DELIRIUM, GO TO ECSTASY FROM PLEASURE, NOT DELIRIUM INTENDED AS CHAOS!!! (Max Durante)
RAVE VUOL DIRE DELIRIO, DELIRIO EMOZIONALE, ANDARE IN ESTASI DAL PIACERE, NO DELIRIO INTESO COME CAOS !!! (Max Durante)
Do you think there is still place for innovation in the electronic world? I mean in terms of new sounds not in terms of technology, even the two are related.
Yes, but it depends on us, as I said before, we must dare!!!
You’ve lived in Rome, Zurich, Paris and now you’re settled in Berlin for about 3 years. What is so particular in this city that makes you feel home? Can we say that the “rave spirit” is still alive in Berlin?
I 've lived a little everywhere just because I get bored easily. I was born in Rome, and there, the 80’s and the 90’s were fantastic!!!
In the mid 90’s I was living in Zurich I was there for 4 years… In Paris I have been for a time, like in London ... But Berlin is definitely the city that I love and where I will live for a long time! Simply, Berlin offered me the freedom to be myself. It is a living city, a city that understands the evolving needs of the modern citizen.
In berlin anything is possible as far as possible! In Berlin there is a high rate of solidarity, respect and humanity... Berlin is MAGIC ... Berliners are ahead!!!
In Berlin the underground still exists, the real one, where there are still the squats and punks.
Here you can talk about underground you can live the underground, this is a fundamental element that brings us back to the rave! Here the party never end … WHAT ELSE … RAVE ON!
Let’s talk about your first steps in the scene. You started mixing in Italian clubs in the second part of the 80’s. What was your first encounter with electronics back then?
I’ve discovered the art of the scratch in 1985 through two cult movies ‘’Street Beat’’ and ‘’Wild Style’’ and I fell in love right away... and I started to deejay.
In 1987 I have been performing in clubs. In the late 80s I went often to London and I discovered the acid-house, the acid party, techno and Raves. As I said before, when I came back to Rome, I started playing acid in 1989 and techno in 1990. And in 1991, I’ve organized one of the largest Italian RAVE and at the same time with the brothers D'Arcangelo, we’ve created Automatic Sound Unlimited, which was the first Italian industrial techno band and we’ve recorded the first ep in 1992.
Actually the gold era of the early rave scene in Roma ended at around 94, due to several issues: the presence of far right supporters in raves, press defamatory campaigns, greedy and unprofessional organizers… If you look back on it, what did you learn from this experience?
We were very young and organizer have taken profit, looking only for money. And they ended up destroying everything. Let's say that I knew already that human being is consumerist and capitalist.
I’ve learnt that we must preserve what we care about, what we love, and we always need to count only on ourselves.
As a DJ, as an artist, you should not be afraid to express your own self, both with words and with music, and you have to face life with courage and cunning. Live your dream because if you live it then it becomes reality!!!
Your early productions were pretty much electro oriented. Back then you teamed up with Keith Ticker, one half of the legendary Aux 88 duo. How did this collaboration start?
My first productions were a fusion of techno, noise, and acid. Ten years later, it became more electro-oriented. I have produced records with Keith Tucker and then Anthony Rother.
I began to work with both when I met them in Zurich in 1998. We became good friends we had many points in common, and so we began to work together. When all is spontaneous that means it MUST happen!!!
Actually you did many collaborations since the start of your career: the D’Archangelo brothers, Anthony Rother, Alexander Robotnick… What do you find interesting in collaborative production? Is there any other collaboration planned in the near future?
If I like their music and so conversely, if we have some ideas in common, the desire to experiment... We have to concentrate on our music, but one-off collaborations can be a brilliant way to find new forms of sound .
I have open collaborations with D'Arcangelo and with Retina.it. I have some material that I have to finish since years ... many artists have asked me to collaborate, but before I need to finish my new ep.
Any chance to hear some new electro material from you in the coming days?
Probably… it depends… I create music according to my mood…
You created two labels in the 2000’s, Prodamkey and Analog dust. Both are in hiatus now. How different was it to run a label by that time from now? And do you have any project of running your own imprint in the future?
Yes right, I don’t have any more time and passion to handle a label. Actually it was quite the same, but before there was more label but they sold more records. I started recording for various labels and nowadays I produce records for Sonic Groove and Kynant, and I'm also preparing other material for other labels. I'm not going to run a label anymore cause I’m too busy to create my music…
You know, either you create music, or you manage a label ...you can do both but it’s better if you focus just on one topic !!! my experience ;-)
Let’s speak about your latest outputs, especially the ones on Adam-X Sonic Groove. From the track names we can feel a political aspect in “Insurrection of inequity” EP. What were the main ideas/stories you wanted to transmit?
Techno talks about what's going on around, it comes from technology, it feeds social problems and live in wealth and in poverty ...
Living in Berlin means living the underground, music breathes through a changing society.
I live one step from the famous R94 which means Rigaer Strasse 94. It is one of the last buildings occupied since the fall of the wall. I found myself one night in a riot between the R94 and the police and so came out ‘’Insurrection of Inequity’’. This track is the soundtrack of what happened a few months ago... I do not compose my songs by a concept an idea or a story my music speaks of what surrounds me. My music talks and smells about the real life!!!
On the Metastability EP, there is that intriguing track called “Italian decay”… What do this title refer to?
I am referring to Italy as a nation that now is in full decay. The political mafia has consumed everything. It was an Avant guard nation full of resources. Now I do not recognize it anymore…
Speaking about Italia, there is no doubt that the last couple of years Italian Techno are at their best in the global circuit. Do you think there is something that explains this high level of creativity in the Italian techno scene?
I would say the Italian techno is in excellent shape from the beginning ... you find that in recent years it’s in a maximum splendor? Probably in a country that does not offer anything more, where it is really difficult to live and create a life for a variety of problems, maybe for those reasons imagination grows the desire to emerge.
When we look deeper in the Italian scene, we can see two main artistic movements in Techno. One is more oriented to deep and ambient Techno represented by the likes of Dino Sabatini, Donato Dozzy and Giorgio Gigli to name a few, and another is more focused on industrial harsher sonorities including yourself or the Monolith records crew for instance. Can we say that those two movements both represents the legacy of the early sound of Rome? And are those two subgenres interacting with each other?
We can probably say that they are two different things but they still interact...
I come from the first scene that precisely has created the first Italian techno, no doubt I still have concepts and sounds related to the early 90s and undoubtedly all the Italian scene has an eye on the old scene where I come from... there is no genuine interaction but there is a lot of respect, and of course it is a scene that continues to influence new scenes…
Few years ago, I remember telling a friend “Acid Techno is back!” while listening to the first Alien Rain release. Do you feel that this genre is gaining more and more popularity again?
Every 7 years the acid is back in vogue. Probably when producers are in artistic crisis and they have no more ideas, the acid is useful. It is a genre that is very popular since 1986.
The last time I saw you playing was at Krake, and I thought, wow where is this guy taking his energy from, after 30 years of djing?
I think my passion and love for music gives me all this energy!!! I still have a lot to say, I love to create emotions through the music, I love to share them with the crowd. Receiving energy and love from the audience during this years has created a lot of energy in my sets!!!
Your artistic skills go beyond music creation, as you’re also into graphic design. Where did you get this passion from? Do you think the graphic/visual aspect is sufficiently emphasized in the modern techno scene?
Since I was young I love photography, I love to draw. Then I went to the art school. I love music and I love design, two arts walking in parallel. I think graphic art and techno has always had a good relationship. What I find perhaps insufficient are the visuals but especially in Berlin where everything is dark and what takes shape is just the sound ...
What new artists/labels would you recommend to check out at the moment?
Right now it's hard to tell you who and which labels, there are too much, hard to remember it. I always gave interest to young people, but now are returning many old schooler and maybe we need to look back to them to find a new way!!
Can you give us a glimpse about your future projects?
Records, lots of records and many surprises that I cannot announce now otherwise there are no more surprises.
Thanks a lot Max, we hope to see you very soon somewhere, keep the Ravy spirit up!
Love and respect
Thanks to you… We will see ya soon on the dancefloor. Stay true stay underground !!! peace.