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Feature: Carlo Whale [Interview]

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Since 2013, experimental Italian producer Carlo Whale has been making waves, developing and honing his craft in his hometown of Cagliari. Inspired by his surroundings he has worked to present an emotive, distintive and unique sound by pursuing boundaries between music, technology and nature. Classical-trained musician, he has deepened his connection with synthetic sounds with a degree in Electronic Music at Cagliari Conservatory under various influences that range from Erik Satie to Nils Frahm to David August.

Carlo Whale’s organic approach to music finds his emotions reflected in the nature around him and with this mindset he aims at turning those emotions of a moment into music through a unique and mature production technique. With no signs of slowing down, Carlo has found a handful of quality releases landing on labels such as Einmusika, Steyoyoke, Inner Symphony, Poesie Musik and Manual Music, and establish himself as one of the most exciting breaking-trough artists of 2020. We had a chance to catch up with Carlo for an exclusive interview on the cusp of his new EP for Paul Hazendonk’s Manual Music. Enjoy!

Hi Carlo, thanks for joining us, how are you today and what are you up to? What are your plans for the week?

Thank you for having me! I’m doing well, I’m excited for my upcoming release that will be out next week, and currently busy around the promotion and stuff… Haven’t plan the rest of the week yet, but I can say that I’ll definitely hit the seaside at some point: this is the best time of the year, because the weather is still nice and warm and beaches are not so crowded as most of the tourists are gone. Very relaxing and inspiring.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a DJ and producer?

Back in the days my mom used to make housework while listening to some 70’s disco music and I remember I got hit by Chich’s “Le Freak”. I guess it has been some kind of game changer for me, the track was stuck in my head and I’ve listened to it like a million times. Later on, in 2011 I found out what a DAW was, a friend of mine showed me how music was made and all of a sudden Ableton became my favorite hobby. I’ve been self-training for a few years and in 2015 I decided to enroll the conservatory.

Tell us about growing up and living in Italy, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

I love being Italian. Italy has a great history and art tradition. You can’t go anywhere, from Rome to the small village, without bumping into some piece of art of any kind. Art is present in our everyday routine and beauty affects our lives on a daily basis. When it comes to music, Italy may be not the biggest exporter but is well known for its vocal traditions and predilection for melodies. I guess this is some kind of an influence on everybody’s taste, but ultimately is about how each one interiorizes and process those external influences to create his own taste.

Name five tracks that were most important in your musical development and why are these pieces so significant for you.

I always get this question in interviews and I’m always happy because I have the chance to mention them all, otherwise it would be freakin hard to choose. Influences are so many and so different that it’s just impossible to narrow them down to only five pieces!

This time I’d go for:

Lucio Battisti – Mi Ritorni in Mente
Nirvana – Polly
The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again
Radiohead – Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
John Cage – In A Landscape

You’re a classically trained musician, do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

Not really. I know a lot of great producers who haven’t studied any classical instrument. It can add value and maybe bring some inspirations to your compositions but it’s not a necessary element. It really depends on your writing style. I’m also convinced that thinking out of the box is the ultimate basis for being original.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

I’ve been affected as everybody else, especially during the lockdown. I’ve read a lot, watched some tutorials and courses about productions and spent a lot of time making music of course. I had to cancel a few summer gigs and that was a bummer, but in the end I’d say that the lockdown has brought some positive side-effects to my routine, as I took the chance to laid back a little bit, rethink priorities and define some healthier habits.

Once nightlife eventually resumes what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

I figure that the resume will be phased. We’ll eventually come back in small clubs with small events for a very few people. Those mega-festivals that raised their popularity to the sky in the past few years I guess we won’t see them for a while now, and this ain’t necessary a bad thing. We’ll have the chance to be more connected with the audience as it used to be. Promoters will need to cut their budgets so chances are that they will decide to invest more in breaking through local artist. Every historical event of such a global impact brings an inevitable disruption and changes can be positive as well. We need now to walk the right path and embrace those positive changing opportunities.

What’s something that you do now (regularly) that you didn’t before COVID-19.

Well, I exercise more regularly now and I eat healthier. During the lockdown I finally had the chance to dedicate more time to my social media interactions with the ones who follows me and got to know some great people I’m now regularly in touch with.

What is the current state of nightlife in Italy?

Shut down. Everything is paused, some places are closing down forever. The government did let some open air clubs reopen for the summer with some strict rules, but then the infection numbers started to grow again, politicians got scared and closed everything down again. Now we just have to wait.

You have a new EP out this week on Manual Music, tell us a bit about it and please walk us through the production process on the title track ‘Melancholia’.

Yeah, I actually made the track almost one year ago now. I wanted to make something reflecting my mood at the time, blue and gloomy. Not that something in particular happened to me back then, I was just moody with no particular reasons. I kinda live with that mood to be fair. I wanted the ultimate expression of those feelings.

On a technical side, I started off writing the melody, as I do most of the times, and shaping for the perfect sound to go with it. I instantly fell in love with that lead sound, so wavy and elusive, so I started building the track around it. One of the early fans of the track was Marino Canal, to whom I sent the work in progress demo. He really liked it and started playing it all around. I have a great memory of his set at the Vivrant Showcase at last year ADE, he played Melancholia as the opening track and I was standing in the crowd getting goosebumps. I saw the reactions of people around me and it was there when I tought that the track could actually have worked.

You made your Manual Music debut in January of this year with ‘Daydreams’, what was it that made the label an attractive home for a follow-up EP?

My actual debut on Manual was in 2017 with one of my favorite tracks “+5st”. Then I did an EP last year which included one of my most successful tracks to date, “Trust”, and finally earlier this year came Daydreams, which has been picked for the Global Underground Adapt 4 compilation. So yeah, I have a really good relationship with Manual and Paul is a great guy to deal with. I would say that Daydreams was some kind of a follow up to Trust, as I feel that the two are kinda related sound-wise; but Melancholia is something quite different to anything I’ve made so far, I really feel it as the most personal track I’ve done to date.

I think for a lot of artists music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true for yourself? Where does your inspiration come from? And was there anything specific which inspired the tracks on your ‘Melancholia’ EP?

What you’re saying is definitely true! Music is the main way a composer can express himself, if it isn’t a reflection of his experiences and states of mind it would be totally aseptic and impersonal. You might as well have it done by some kind of artificial intelligence or algorithm. I try to put as much emotions as I can into my compositions, I’m convinced it’s a great way to get to know those emotions and process them. As I mentioned before, I was experiencing some blue times while working on Melancholia with no particular reason. It was there that I realized that I actually enjoy feeling like that. I embrace being lonely and feeling melancholic, it’s just part of who I am, and I think it’s good when I manage to put those feelings into music.

Who do you show your music to first before introducing it to a broader audience or sending it out to labels?

I think it’s important, before you send your music out to labels, to get some feedback from fellow musicians. I usually send my works in progress to a couple of close friends and a few producers I’m close with, as I know that I can trust them and their opinions. It’s not unusual that I get precious feedbacks from them, that help me getting better final results.

Describe how satisfying it is to see a dance floor unite to something you’ve written.

It’s simply one of the best feelings in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to experience it a couple of times, a great one has been last summer in Istanbul: people went crazy about my tracks Bipolar Disorder and Trust, I saw the crowd exploding on that drops. Was something incredible, I still get goosebumps when I think about those moments. Sometimes I go back watching footages of that set, it’s one of the feelings I miss the most especially these days that we can’t play music to fans.

What’s a piece of gear or software that always gets used when you’re writing a track?

I use my Prophet Rev2 a lot and Serum as a VST. First one has a sound I really love, and I enjoy get creative with Serum because of its endless possibilities.

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

I really enjoy when my friends send me new stuff to listen to. Back in the days you used to borrow a 12” or a CD, today we send each other Spotify or YouTube links but in the end the essence isn’t compromised. I don’t think there’s anything bad about new Technologies, even when an algorithm suggests you new music based on your listening habits. You are the one who keep the final decision. You still get to decide whether you like something or not. It’s all about you and your taste. If you’re a lazy piece of crap that get satisfied by anything you find at your fingertips well, that’s all your fault and there’s no reason to blame technology. This can be applied to music, but also food, clothes, anything… Technology is a powerful tool in our hands, but it’s on us to use it right.

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so, why?

Oh, hell yeah, I’d love to score a movie! There are loads of classic movies that I would have loved to put my music on. One above all could be “Inception” by Christopher Nolan. That one is a masterpiece, it’s so mental that would have been an incredible inspiration for sound design! You know what, maybe I’ll try to do something with it in my spare times… Christopher, if you’re reading this, get in touch and let’s talk about your next movie!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Sport and friends. But also taking time for myself and being alone.

Current five favourite tracks?

Rival Consoles – Articulation
Art School Girlfriend – Outside
James Blake – God Speed
Nils Frahm – A Shine
Mattew Dekay – Heimereise (Adriatique Remix)

What does the remainder of 2020 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

I think I had a decent strike of releases this year, and yeah, being consistent is one of the key if you want to get noticed, but I see records nowadays having a very short shelf life, and that’s a bummer! So I decided to leave Melancholia the right space, and for that reason I’ve got nothing planned for the rest of the year to date. I’m working on some stuff for 2021, might have something ready but nothing that I can share yet. We’ll see what will happen!

‘Melancholia’ is out now via Manual Music: https://bit.ly/30XDZZ2

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