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Feature: Ae:ther [Interview + Premiere]

30 min read

Born and raised in Rome, with German DNA and a diverse musical palette Ae:ther is an artist who has quickly established his pedigree as a formidable producer and selector through scintillating DJ sets and a batch of stunning releases. Now based in Berlin, the 29-year-old has returned to the motherland where he is steadily cultivating a reputation for haunting melodies and narcotic rhythms. With strong connections to Damian Lazarus at Crosstown Rebels and the Afterlife crew, Ae:ther has considerable industry support with his focus on delivering high-quality dance floor ready cuts that channel his love for ambient electronica and transmitting deep emotion, while keeping the energy levels high.

Hi Ae:ther, thanks for sitting with us today! Tell us where in the world you are today and what your plans for the week are. 

Hello, thanks for having me! I am currently living in Berlin. At the moment I have no plans to move to another city. I found a good harmony for my life in Berlin. Living with my wife and my kid sometimes helps me to disconnect from music and the world around.

Tell us more about your story. How did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a producer and Dj?

I got in touch with music through my family. They were focussed on the arts in general. The first contact with electronic music was when I watched Jeff Mills' “The Bells” on TV and from that moment on I started toying with the idea of becoming a selector, starting to produce, approach electronic instruments.

Tell us about your record/music collection, where do some of your early influences live? Or can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

Hope you don’t mind if I list 6 tracks... ;)

I have different records from different genres who changed my perspective of music at an early age during my teenage years. They influenced my creativity a lot:

The first one is for sure the most innovative record of all time The Beatles - "I am the Walrus”. During that period, and we're talking about the beginning of the 70s, creating all those effects in a song was impossible, also the nonsensical lyrics John Lennon wrote (on purpose), it all sounded amazing! I was kind of fascinated about it when I was a kid. The video was deeply psychedelic, with those half animals half humans dancing in an unknown landscape.

The second one I have is William Onyeabor  - "When the Going is Smooth and Good”. This man from Nigeria, that lately became a priest, was a stunning musician with weird ideas and sounds. Kind of funky, disco from the 70s. Some people said that most of the expensive synths he owned was only because he was related with the Russian local mafia. It's a fascinating story of this man who created incredible music. This record is happiness and as good as the name itself.

Changing the genre more towards the 80s, Kate Bush - "Running Up The Hill (A Deal With God)” is a piece of art to me. A song that's relying heavily on beats but also has heavenly harmonies with mysterious vocals talking about dealing with god. The artist was quite eclectic and bizarre sometimes and was discovered by Pink Floyd when she was a little girl. When I heard it for the first time I literally had goosebumps. I also had fun creating an edit of it that I play during my sets sometimes.

Underworld - "Rez”... what a banger! It would be too easy to mention "Born Slippy" ;) There's nothing like this. An infinite buildup with synths that literally send you to another dimension. A real old school rave track! This is something where I really get inspired, watching the waveform of the song growing is something incredible.

Rival Consoles - "Untravel” – I Just found this song 2 years ago. A smart song, really emotional, with 4 or 5 elements. The artist finds the right melody and harmony that doesn't need anything else... no beats and nothing but the baseline creates the rhythm, just a classic that will never disappear.

Last one is Aphex Twin - "Tha” – a raw song, really dirty, with a synth sound so light and calm. The melody is long and complex. At first time you don’t realize the art, which really starts to shine after you listened to it many times. The track has this synth that I often try to use as a reference. A song with a story and a soul that never bores you. Best track for me.

So you've lived in Rome, London and Berlin, all for lengthy periods. How have living in these cities and also shifting from different homes throughout your life shaped the music you make and your career path so to speak?

It was really hard to leave my family and friends, being far from home, and not being able to be there when some of them died to stay with them till the last time for following what you love. However, I believe that I sacrificed all of this for a good reason. Rome is beautiful but difficult for rising artists, if you don’t know those 3 or 4 people who control the city. It's even harder for a person like me, who is not really into "public relations". Because of this I chose to move to London. I thought that for growing up –  as a person and also as a producer – it's good to have some change to find the right stimulation. I believe it's generally good to challenge yourself in life through other cultures and keeping your mind open to reach the right inspiration. London was perfect for all of this. Different people and hard to make a living. Berlin is not the final call, but sort of, I am really happy here and my life has completely changed. A lot of the "techno world" happens here. I produced my album here in the last two years.

Your first album ‘Me' was recently released on Crosstown Rebels, it's a stunning collection of music. Tell us how it began to take shape? Was there an initial goal of writing an album from the beginning or did this happen organically in a way?

The idea formed when Damian Lazarus and I started talking about it. We wanted to make it happen in 2019 and I finalized the tracks. During the past two years I produced like 30 tracks and some of them were perfect for an album. All in all it was a very natural process.

I get a distinct astral feel from the album. From a compositional perspective and also design wise. That said, there is also an emotional side to it, particularly tracks like "Tina" and the title track "Me". Can you share any inspirations you had behind the those particular pieces?

The inspiration was to try keep a deep state of relaxation and add strong emotions. My inspiration stems from emotions and feelings in my daily life. “Tina” was the name of my grandmother. A person who believed in me, raised me and pushed me towards music. All songs of the album are correlated with each other. I was trying to find the right harmony that that shines through in all songs, I never used too strong beats or too difficult melodies.

For as cosmic as this album (and your sound in general) is, there is also a very genuine feel to it. What are your go to tools in the studio and what featured heavily on this album?

Well I would like to keep the secret for a while. That said, I used both digital and analogue synths. It’s great to work with the best of both worlds. Cut a sound or a waveform, process on a machine, put it into a sampler, then export again and send it through a modular synth and then export and process on an external effect and cut it and process it again etc etc etc... it's a long process that can lead to random melodies. I think we should never stop experimenting. I'm always on the hunt for new synths...

We're thrilled to have hosted the premiere for 'We'll be Together', walk us through the production process on that on and where did the vocal originate from?

I was trying to find a vocal for a new song last year that would sound different – not in the classical sense with a singer and clear vocals. So I found this acapella and started cutting the words to create sentences. The chord sounds give a good harmony and the rest came together naturally. Very happy about this work and I am grateful that you will premiere it.

How did you end up with the final track selection and how did you go about cutting stuff out? There must be a point where it becomes quite difficult letting go of certain pieces?

Yes it was kind of a long process. At the beginning, there were 15 tracks, but some of them were not good for the flow or I just wanted to keep them for a single release and so on.... It was difficult but it was necessary to take some tracks off the album, but they are still there and unreleased.... ;)

How difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listener’s perspective?

As I said, initially there were a lot more tracks. With the help of Damian I made the final selection, focusing on a flow that allows you to listen to the album anywhere and in any situation. You should be able to listen to the album from the beginning to the end.

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process. Now that it’s done and out, what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

I don't know actually, I am just happy and I don't want to think too much about the past and instead focus on the future. Finish one work and go straight to the next.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And will they be?

It could be the next step and the thought of it gets me excited. We are planning to get remixes for some of the tracks and are discussing who to ask. I have already sent out “Tina” to one of my close friends. It's a duo... you can probably imagine who I'm talking about. Lets see what happens...

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight

The digital era is mostly good. Everything is easier and more accessible, but it also killed the essence and the hard work of an artist. I try to avoid digital-only releases, because I think all tracks have a soul and you need to be able to touch it and feel it; the cover of an album or the weight of the vinyl. It's also important for an artist to hold something in your hands.

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. Given your quote in the album press release about expressing your feelings and emotions across the LP I would say this is certainly true of yourself. Describe how satisfying it is to see a dance floor unite to something you've written.

It's a great feeling. After a long time of producing, creating ideas, experimenting and researching I find it really satisfying. What is really important for me is to be myself as much as possible during the next years trying to avoid the change of the music industry and the criticisms.

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?

Good question... I usually find new music in records stores. Staying 2/3 hours in a store searching for something good and different is great. I'm not always able to express myself the way I want while deejaying. When you think you are ready to test something new that you bought the day before, you sometimes realize that it's not the right time for it. Sometimes also when I am traveling I like to explore and go thought online stores like Bandcamp, Decks or Phonica. Those are my essentials for searching something unusual.

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

Probably Alien, or Interstellar and similar ones. I would like to create a score one day. I hope I will be able to do this in the future.

There are a lot of factors which affect the perception of an artist other than his music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? and what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

It's not my main focus, but unfortunately it's really important nowadays. I would like to separate my private life from social media. I can see that the audience wants to see the real life of the artist and not only the shows and the music. However, I usually don’t like "Instagram deejays", but those are only my thoughts at the moment, maybe something will change, who knows.

Current five favorite tracks?

Kas:st - Hold Me To The Light (Tale Of Us Remix)





Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Spend time with my family, have time to relax and do something normal besides partying. I am lucky to have a gorgeous son with my lovely wife. Sometimes it's hard to keep it all together with my life in the music industry.

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year and to begin 2020? Any releases or special dates we

Probably an EP on Crosstown Rebels after the album. I am working on new music too and I will know really soon what will happen and on which label. Stay tuned!!

Ae:ther ‘ME’ Album is out now on Crosstown Rebels
Grab it here – http://bit.ly/2qOEqFM