Max Durante Interview
Max Durante belongs to the old Italian school, to that sector of veteran artists forged in booths and on improvised stages that were formed at a time when each territory enjoyed its own scene and style. But Max did not limit himself to nourishing himself solely from his scene and, from the first years, he became interested in different movements, both European and American. The 80’s was a testing laboratory in which the Italian artist absorbed a quite diverse musical culture, giving him great control over multiple genres and techniques.
– How did you experience the Roman music scene in the 80s? What Italian artists marked you?
This is a complex question because the 80s are the years that formed me, from here we can understand who I am now and why. The 80s were for me like an earthquake of information and events that changed my life.
In the 80s at school, I was very lazy, I loved being with friends and where I applied it was only in drawing and music lessons, in fact, the teachers suggest my parents send me then to art school. Here I found much more interest and studying Futurism I knew Luigi Russolo and his theory of looking for the sound into the noise. So then when I studied Marcel Duchamp I knew the use and meaning of the word underground because the master in a conference in 1961 said that art was not for everyone and had to become underground.
So to answer your question I have to start from far away and now you will understand why.
What distracted me from the study was the sport, at that time I practiced American Football and there I met a guy who introduced me to his brother who shows me the hip hop culture (graffiti, breakdance, electrofunk and rap). His name is DJ Ice One and I became part of the hip hop scene but just for a short time… But sport was not the only reason why I was listless to go to school, I say this because from 1980 to 1984 I often followed my brother Enrico, who in those years was active in different bands and was the component of one of the first Roman punk groups. Many times we came at home late at night because he took me with him to clubs like the UONNA club in Rome where in the early 80’s I first listened to the EBM, the industrial, the new wave, etc … Then he takes me often to his concerts so I start to listen to punk at the same time.
At one point, unfortunately, my mother fell ill and quickly entered a terminal stage and unfortunately died in 1985. I was about to turn 15 years old. I walked away from everything and everyone. This great suffering led me to grow very fast.
I stopped following my brother, I stopped going to school and what saved me from the sadness was the music. But it wasn’t listening to music so I refused to go to the clubs for a while and started using music as a therapy. When in previous years I followed my brother in the studio I had the chance to play the drums, I discovered that creating rhythm was like a kind of cure for me. After losing my mother, art was my refuge, drawing gave me a lot but music gave me even more. I decide to get back to hip hop because I needed to express my pain and the influence of my studies led me to express myself through creativity. So I started to practice graffiti then breakdance but watching the b-movie as beat street and wild style I decided to learn the art of the dj and I started first to practice the art of scratch then at the same time I discovered the discos. But if I have to name a DJ who in the 80s fascinated me without a doubt it was Marco Trani. I didn’t follow his music or the disco music, my first passion was the electro, but what excited me about him was the great dj technique that I inherited from him.
After scratching and looking at great djs like him, I learned the mixing technique and I started training as a DJ. The hip hop culture for me was just a parenthesis. EBM / electro and immediately after the acid were the musical genres with which I started. What really influenced me in the 80s was the history of art with Russolo and Duchamp that I learn in the art school, but my brother is undoubtedly my mentor. He made me discover a lot and then on my own I’ve discovered something more, I had many experiences, as you can see I don’t know from which scene I come because I lived them all at the same time.
But what made me a DJ, it was the strong pain I experienced with my mother’s death. I needed to escape from the suffering, the music became my refuge and when becoming a dj I started to live again… I turned my anger into energy and I started to DJ in 1986 first on the radio then when I felt ready in 1987 I started to DJing in clubs and I started traveling out first for curiosity and ended up in London, where I found myself. It was the end of the 80s so I found myself first as a spectator of the first acid parties than in 1989 they forbade them and so I found myself a spectator of the first London Rave. So I could tell you in two words that the events and the misfortunes brought me into the scene to the point of making it part right away. It was all so fast that I rode various scenes without experiencing them all at the bottom. But what marked me was the rage and the freedom of expression of punk, the dark sound and especially the beat of EBM and the melancholy of the dark and new wave. I went crazy for the distortion and at the same time I was in love with the 808 beats that I still use. And what I still love and follow are the theories and experiments of Luigi Russolo. But what change my life or I can say save my life was the art of the DJing, it was love at first sight. Everything was spontaneous and immediate, those years gave me a great baggage and I had seen the future and I learned the mathematical formulas to learn and evolve.
– In your early DJ years you worked mainly with styles like EBM, electro or acid house, in the early 90’s you imported rave culture to Italy, were these clandestine parties what motivated you to create techno?
In the early 90’s we were a great team I wasn’t alone I’m among those who imported that kind of sound and this culture in Italy. I gave myself so much to the scene because besides being a DJ and Producer, I also organized, because to create a scene before the music you have to create the party. After returning from London I wanted to create a rave that was totally dedicated to the techno. Together with the D’Arcangelo brothers, we created the most important and fundamental Italian rave in 1991, the Plus 8 Rave. This rave gave the start to a true series of rave. We were the protagonists of these events and create the Italian techno was a natural step. For me starting to produce music was an opportunity to throw away the anger that I had fed with the suffering.
As I told you already in the 80’s my desire to compose music was already strong. Then the art of djing showed me the way. But without a doubt to answering to your question: I will say YES, but not only the clandestine parties that I prefer to call Rave but the repression and all the problems we had to face during the early 90’s made me want to create the Italian techno as a form of protest a music that reflected our anger.
We were the rebels, at that moment I immediately understood that we could be the new punk but it was called techno.
– Your influences are very diverse, but which style do you feel most comfortable with?
Hard to say.
I had to create it.
So I will say the sound of Max Durante.
I feel comfortable with what I do from the beginning: the industrial techno but in my own way. Where rhythmic force prevails. For example the sound I produce on the Sonic Groove and on the Aufnahme + Wiedergabe, this is my sound, this is what represents me and that makes me feel comfortable. Dynamic and hard sounds that maintain a techno shape with EBM and industrial elements.
– How have your methods of producing music evolved, do you continue to use techniques and machines that you used in your early releases?
I change machines often because I get bored really soon. The approach, the attitude is always the same. Evolution is the right compromise between instinct and research. Nowadays we had dynamism and powerful sound that in the 90s was impossible to reach with our means. Now you can reach the right balance between analog sound and digital systems. I have abandoned the midi and synch I prefer hard disk recordings and I use field recordings too and over electronic instruments, I use also electro-acoustic instruments.
– You released The Experiment in 2018, this is your first album after more than 30 years of career, do you plan to recover this format in another future release?
I have always considered myself a DJ and for this reason, I have never bothered to make LPs I always thought it was more important to make music to play and as fast as possible and to make more release because I always need new music to play. This is why I have produced many ep and single. Lp is a format that contains many tracks that you could use for two or three ep.
Anyway right now, I’m working at the same time on two new LPs and new Eps too, many surprises for the new season, I like 2020, sounds loud and instead of slowing down I’m working deep in the studio and I’m in full creativity a real full immersion. Now I’ll make several LPs because now I have the patience to tell you everything I’ve seen and I’ll do it through my music.
– Fabrizio D’Arcangelo is collaborating on this album with him and his brother. How has your relationship with Fabrizio and Marco been in your career?
Fabrizio and Marco I know them for a while we know each other since 1990, we have never lost the contact, myself and Fabrizio we talk very often. The first time I met them was on the 1990, because I was looking for people to create the team to organize the RAVE and they were the first crazy people they say yes and so we started to create rave and in the meantime, we produce the first techno records together and we still keep our collaboration alive, we are brothers of music, brothers of life. A sincere friendship perhaps the only true one I have in the old Italian scene.
– The sound of Automatic Sound Unlimited was very advanced and futuristic for its time, how would you define it?
The sound of the modern era.
The sound of the present.
My strong influence in the various musical styles that at the time I called it my musical confusion gave me great visions + the vision of the D’Arcangelo allowed us to draw the sound of the future- We had deconstructed the techno, inserting industrial klang and EBM accents, plus we use distortion and nervous bassline, we thought of doing experimental music but in reality, we created the roots of the Italian industrial techno, we were the precursors of the modern industrial techno.
– The New York music scene influenced you at your earliest stage, what did it mean for you to work on a label like Sonic Groove?
It means a lot to me.
I played Frankie’s records since the beginning and loved freestyle (electro from Brooklin) since the early days. Then I met Adam back in 1993 in Zurich because we performed at ENERGY 93 in front of 25,000 ravers. Then we met here in Berlin after a while. In 2014 I sent my first demos, then Adam he called me right away and told me this is the music I need. Adam is a big fan of my music. From there I started to be part of the Sonic Groove I recorded 3 eps so far and there will be others in the future. In music, there are no favors if your music deserves you are welcome. We think in the same way we come from two difficult cities he from New York, I come from Rome, in our life nobody gave us anything for free. A true friendship was born between us, which does not interfere with work.
– You’re a producer and label owner, are you one of those who think that in order to understand and perform these tasks you have to be a good DJ first and foremost?
No, I don’t think so …
You need to be brilliant and live with love and passion, this is important.
The dj is the one who invented the techno and most of the related styles so the approach in music productions its natural to him, dj and musician are together the best formula for produce music. But for manage a label you don’t need to be a producer, a DJ or a musician, you need other skills and sometimes a good DJ or a good producer cannot reliable for the role of label owner.
– What happened to Prodamkey and Analog Dust?
When you get bored you think that at some point beautiful things end up just for don’t lose their value. I was tired of the digital system and netlabels, for a rebel like me this was poison.
– How does an artist with more than 30 years of career see the new generations?
Like a professor who sees his own students, ha ha ha (joke, but not quite).
Young people are the strength, techno is synonym of young, but these guys need to rebel, I always try to encourage them either with my words and with my music.
I try to make them understand even through my interviews that I suffered in my life, no one gave me anything, I’m an orphan but I’m not complaining, that’s why sometimes they find me too tough as a soldier but I just try to show them that life is hard and we must take it seriously and therefore we cannot be condescending. We must create our road, everything is born with sacrifice. They are used to buying everything but passion, respect like talent, you can’t buy that.
We must re-load the knowledge its good to resist but now it’s time to rebel and we must start doing it through the music. Youngers need our knowledge, they do not know fear, but this doesn’t help them, sometimes they are presumptuous. They need to understand that we don’t need to copy or be influenced we have to go further in the name of techno.
Anyway coming back to your question depends on what kind of attitude you wear. I am I feel part of them, when I came here to Berlin I didn’t tell my story I let my music speak.
I am one of them. There is no past, no present, no future it is all an illusion. There are diverse dimensions I can say that I am fortunate to have seen a lot and I have lived several generations. I can say this generation is a good one. We are surrounded by many replicants but there are also many valid young producers.
Thanks Max, it’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Thanks to you for asking me interesting questions with which I can reach young people because they are not to blame are under pressure from a corrupt system, but this music will make us and them free from this prison. So we must give strength to the young, they claim space because they say that we old-schoolers we are too elitist, I want to tell them something :
Talk less, because many of you, who don’t complain and do the facts are now by our side. We need warriors and not victims. Less words, more action. I’m with you…ahead.