In discussion with Flemming Dalum on “Mr. Game” by Klapto (1983).
Of all the options in that field, why did you choose „Mr. Game“ for this interview? Was it the record that had the most impact on you? And is it maybe genre-defining as well?
It was very hard for me to choose one single record for this interview. I have approximately 100 personal Italo top favourites which all did it for me back then, and now over 30 years later they still mean so much to me. I guess I chose „Mr. Game“ because it‘s really so Italo all the way. To me it contains all the classic Italo elements and I really thinks it captures the essence and pure vibe of Italo. At the same time I also think this record defines the genre very well. Personally I love the early sound of Italo the most, particularly the sound around 1983. Another record could have been Koto’s „Chinese Revenge“, which also blew me away back then. Pure synths all the way.
Did your instant love for Italo Disco connect with a taste in music you had before, like electronic Post Punk, Disco and later Synthpop?
Yes. I actually discovered synth music from UK around 1980. Artists like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Human League, Soft Cell etc. I was simply very fascinated by the new sound universe of synths becoming a bigger part of dance music. I even bought some synths and played in a band for some years. Digging deeper into this synth music led me to discovering Italo, which had an even bolder and more spacey attitude. I was instantly totally blown away. It seems to me that they somehow tweaked the synths a bit more, maybe due to shorter production time and maybe less producer experience, I don’t know. But I think they came up with a very unique result. A sound and style never heard before, or even since. Later the Italo became more well produced, MIDI controlled and so on. Italo actually ended up too well produced and became more commercial. By then the magic was gone for me, around 1986.
There were Disco productions in Italy from the late 70’s on, but usually Italo Disco is associated with a sound that surfaced in the early 80’s. Why do you think it could be so unique and popular at the same time? Was it a novelty effect, or just good Pop merits?
I think the Italians where outstanding in capturing the vibe of the music trends in electronic dance music in the early 80s. They where clearly inspired by the UK scene and of course other musical subcultures around. But they added that charming unique Italian twist to it, which made it so very special. Actually I can hear if a track is Italian or not in a split second. Over 30 years of listening experience has had a huge impact on me. I’m sure other lifelong Italo freaks are also able to instantly tell if a track is from Italy or not.
In my youth in Northern Germany, Italo Disco was mostly cherished by people who would else rather listen to Hard Rock and charts music. The clubs it was being played at usually had a program that tried to cater to low and common denominators. It was certainly not hip. Was it the same in Denmark at that time?
Only few Italo records were played in the Danish clubs in the early 80s. US and UK music was clearly dominating, no doubt. But some clubs played the most commercial and popular Italo records like Gazebo’s „I Like Chopin“, Ryan Paris’ „Dolce Vita“, Fun Fun’s „Happy Station“, and Raff’s „Self Control“.
Instead of browsing local record shops for Italo Disco, you went straight to the source on trips to Italy, visiting distributors and labels. Which is quite similar to the efforts European Rare Soul collectors in the 70s made on US soil. Did you purchase the core of your collection that way, at that time?
Yes, it was impossible to get all the Italo records here in Denmark with no internet back then, so I had to get them by travelling all the way to Italy. So mainly I got them from the famous distributors and labels like Il Discotto, Disco Magic, Non-Stop, and famous shops like Merak and Disco Service. I took eleven trips in the years from 1983 and 1986, and inbetween the trips I was in close contact with Il Discotto and Disco Magic and also a great record shop in Firenze, called Disco Mastelloni. Basically I managed to find all the records I wanted and got a 100 % complete collection back then. Read the rest of this entry »
It has been four years since the legendary German electronic music pioneer Conrad Schnitzler has passed away, and I am very sure that at this very moment a person, or more likely, several persons are wondering just where to start with the gargantuan archives he left behind. From the late 60s until his demise he pressed record more than others, and his vast officially released output is surpassed considerably by what has not been released as of yet.
Every music consumer nowadays can only struggle with the amount of music that is returning to attention, and then on top there are all the releases that never were before. Legions of thorough and not so thorough specialized labels handle this output, but they mostly deal with a manageable back catalogue. And then there is Conrad Schnitzler. In retrospect you can take a whole lot of what we are familiar today in terms of electronic music, trace it straight back to what he was doing decades ago, and inevitably put a proto tag on it. And he was doing LOTS of it in his studio, heaping up well deserved credentials in the process, from the very beginning until the very end, day in day out. So how do you approach such a legacy? You need time, for sure. You need dedication, definitely. You need expertise, of course. But you also need an idea how to comprehensibly legitimate all the effort. Probably only Schnitzler himself will remain the only person to ever have heard anything there is, but thankfully he was also helpful to others aiming to reach as far as they could. When m=minimal label head Jens Strüver was granted access to Schnitzler’s audio library in the early 00s he suggested the Con-Struct series, in which Schnitzler’s archive would be constructed into new compositions by other musicians, and Schnitzler agreed to it. The first installment was handled by Strüver and Christian Borngräber, followed by Kreidler’s Andreas Reihse after Schnitzler’s death.
It is important to note that the series is not meant to be a tribute to finished recordings by means of remixing. The history of electronic music is littered with unnecessary remix compilations. Don’t get me started. But of course there are rules to the exception, where the remix is as advanced as the landmark music it is remixing. On the top of my head I would like to mention LFO’s version of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s „La Femme Chinoise“. And the main reason I am thinking of this particular remix is that for me it is a fine example for the ideal combination of source material and the remixer’s own artistic signature. Both YMO and LFO have their merits, and with this pairing, they multiply (pun alert). More often than not reworks are disrespectful to the original, because they are too respectful, thus watering down the originality of what they are reworking, resulting in a mere convenience product. But as mentioned, free interpretations are not the main idea behind the Con-Struct series, let alone remixes, but Schnitzler sure would not have been content with just being flattered by other artists, however weighty his artistic persona.
Which directly leads me to the third Con-Struct album, curated and rearranged by none other than Kurt Dahlke, better known as Pyrolator and member of German electronic Post Punk miracle Der Plan. Though of a later generation than Schnitzler, for me Dahlke is another seminal pioneer of electronic music. He knew his Buchla and his numerous other synths and devices and what to do with it, and I am totally convinced that his impact should never be underestimated, and may later be con-structed itself. An inspired choice. In his own words, Dahlke wanted to „present a side of Conrad which I had always heard in his music but one which often goes unnoticed: a darker, technoid side. In my opinion, Conrad has always been one of the great pioneers of classic Berlin techno music.“ Well, upon hearing the album the proto can again be tagged, to techno this time. This may not be drone plus kick thunder usually associated with the city’s current according club soundtrack, it is more of the 90s kind, when a plethora of sounds permeated the scene, imported or locally grown, and folders were still closed. As that is what makes pioneering days so exciting, and so easy. Nothing is settled. It will be eventually, but not right now. Let’s explore every idea we have. Which makes this album so enthralling, as both Schnitzler and Dahlke supposedly went through such a phase several times throughout their career. So on the one hand you have Schnitzler’s lifelong love of musical adventure and his ability to anticipate represented with Dahlke’s selection, on the other hand you hear Dahlke’s musical preferences and signatures reflected. „I must admit, I could not resist the temptation to add one or two of my own ideas. The original tracks were so inspiring, I just had to.“, Dahlke measures his input. Frankly, I am more of a Dahlke than a Schnitzler scholar, but I sense understatement.
In discussion with Call Super on “My Answer” by Charley’s Vault (2000).
How did you come across „My Answer“? Was it in a record store, or in a club?
A club. The End in London.
Why does this record mean so much to you? Is this a time capsule of a certain kind? What is its appeal?
It very much is. Although it is of its time in certain ways I don’t really feel it has dated. It was a record that I heard quite a few times before I had any idea who it was. I was usually too shy to ask DJs back then and there were lots of tracks that you would hear and just know because you’d heard them before and maybe one day you’d actually turn it up in a store, or meet someone in the club who could tell you, or it got used on a mix. Which is how I found out what this one was.
The thing I love so much about it is it creates a mood that is perfect at any time of the night or morning. It has the exact balance of menace, tension, joy and release that the perfect DJ tool needs. The mixdown is really nicely done, the way it ebbs, flows and kicks at certain points. I have a distinction between what often gets called ‘tools’ which to my ear are usually just drum tracks with a stab or a pad or something and the really useful stuff which usually has a fair bit more going on and can always take you up, down, reset, roll out, maintain… anything that you ask of it. This is one of those tracks.
I guess most people stay true to their formative years in the clubs of their youth. What made The End so special?
It was a club that was very well designed. Loosely based upon The Tunnel in New York but with a crucial difference of placing the booth in the middle of the floor so the DJ was cocooned by the crowd, who were in turn were cocooned by the sound system. The fact that this set up existed in a tunnel created two opportunities. The first was that it was very easy to lose yourself at the back by the system without feeling any disconnection from the place. The second was that this architecture created a particular atmosphere that I think must have meant certain DJs would have fun in a way that more disconnected settings don’t encourage. Its obviously a truism to say that good DJs play to the setting they are in, whilst bad DJs do the same thing no matter where they are. Well, this was a space that I feel coaxed the best from people.
I went maybe twice a month on average for about two years, then less frequently for the next few years because I had relocated to Glasgow, but in that time almost every night held surprises at what had been played, or how it had been played. The video of Mills covers a little of that ground. You cannot understate the importance of having these experiences to draw on when you end up doing this for a living, your own constellation of places and people that inspired you. That’s what gives you your distinct voice and I feel massively grateful to have had that club incubating me. Read the rest of this entry »