The “Astronauten” mini album released on Dominance Electricity was certainly one of electro music’s highlights in 2011. Reason enough for an interview with the space musicians Dagobert Howe, resident artist of the Dominance label since the mid 90s, and Serbia’s electro shooting star Vladan Cvetkovic aka Kalson.
Congratulations you two, for the great collaboration! “Astronauten” received only rave reviews, a fan in Argentina even had the cover art tattooed on his arm and the songs are still rocking my iPod. How do you feel about it?
Dagobert: Thank you! I'm very proud of the release and feel very comfortable with it. The guy with the tattoo stole my idea! (laughs).
Kalson: I feel honoured to be a part of it! The great artwork by Juan Giménez, our tracks on coloured vinyl, the big poster – I love the whole package!
Dagobert: Between us – it's also the first of my own records that I actually play out in the clubs.
How did this come together? How did you meet?
Kalson: I was always a big fan of Dominance Electricity and Dagobert's releases. In 2009 Direct Control and I invited him to play the Exit Festival in Serbia. We kept in contact after that, exchanged sounds and ideas, which ultimately resulted in this collaboration.
Dagobert: The starting point for the collaboration was when I played Kalson my track “Astronauten Weltenraum” and he wanted to do a remix. He has a great feeling for catchy ARP sounds and his classic 606/808 beats give a good contrast to my own rhythmic structures.
What are your musical backgrounds and biggest influences?
Dagobert: I listen to a lot of different music all day. From classical to movie scores and experimental ambient. In the clubs I like dancing to some French electrohouse, Italodisco and some dubstep. And if a good electrofunk jam starts, my body spasms start all on their own. (laughs)
Kalson: I was always impressed with deep, cold synth atmospheres as well as funky basslines and well-arranged rhythm sections. In the beginning the biggest influences I had were from the music of Pink Floyd, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk and Vangelis. Now I'm also listening to various experimental and "four to the floor" styles and of course, electro in different forms.
When and how did you start to make music? What was your first equipment and what do you use now?
Dagobert: It's about 20 years ago now, since I hit my first cheap keyboard's keys and it sounded like music. Sometime in the early 90s I met the rap duo “Prime Dominance” aka Kretzschi and Rascal who had an MPC-60 Sampler/Sequencer. Together we made our first tracks. I remember one time I was jamming around and Rascal said “This sounds like Hashim!”, but at this point I had never heard of this guy or his music before. I also learned a lot from the time I was jamming with M. Köppe and the whole Benkenstein gang who had lots of quality music equipment. When I finally got my big old lady, the “MPC-3000” I caught fire. I still use it to this day, plus some Roland synths and a good computer with some fat VSTs for mastering and fine-tuning. But most of the stardust is still coming from the old lady.
Kalson: I got into production in 2005. I started with learning simple DAWs and researching vintage synths and gear in general. I later switched completely to digital production as for me it's more reliable with a wider range of possibilities. If you know which analog synthesizer you want to use, it won't be hard to find an emulator of that synth in the digital world. And another reason I prefer digital: no cable chaos.
How would you describe the style of your own productions?
Dagobert: The basics are probably called electrobreaks, breakbeat, electrofunk and IDM these days. But I don't want to give myself any style-labels. It's all too much a mix of things with tons of different influences and I always try to make things unique. I call it ELECTRO and that's it. Electro with a bit of star softener. (laughs)
Kalson: I also don't like to categorize music, especially when it comes to my stuff. The basis definitely comes from electro, but I enjoy making new things and mixing it with other forms of electronic and non electronic music.
Dagobert, your song “The Question” seems to be a hymn for the S.E.T.I. (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) institute. Do you believe in E.T.?
Dagobert: I want E.T. as my concierge, a Starship Trooper as a buddy and a Spacerwoman as my wife. No seriously, I think it's great that there are people who dedicate their lives to find answers to those questions. S.E.T.I. is a project where people collectively listen into space with simple tools. Most of my life has to do with sounds, so it's fascinating for me to even think of listening to what's going on out there. I know that it's pretty unlikely that life on this planet is unique in the whole universe. Just think of Gliese 581g. Far, far away, not a very comfy place, but a good chance for extra-terrestrial buddies and a new audience ...in whatever form. (laughs)
Kalson, your song “Collosseum In Tokyo” includes Japanese vocals. Tell us a little about it. What is the song about?
Dagobert: That’s what I wondered as well! (laughs)
Kalson: “Colosseum In Tokyo” was originally made by DJ GIO MC-505 from Italy and Dr. Shingo from Japan. The original version and lots of remixes have also just been released on Disco Volante Records. For my remix, which is also released on the “Astronauten EP”, I re-created the vocals to be able to edit them better with the vocoder. It ended up being an almost completely new song, just sharing the lyrics of the original. The translation would be:
Tokyo 24 o'clock, don't stop the beat, until the sky gets bright.
Tokyo 24 o'clock, don't stop dancing, until the sky gets bright.
You both previously released on Dominance Electricity. Tell us a little about it and how you got signed.
Dagobert: After some time on Magic Mayer’s label Harzfein Records, things weren’t really working out that well. I had already known the Dominance crew for a while so they gave me the chance to release my stuff. Sometime after “Global Surveyor 1” and the “Sure Shock” 12” I remember we sat in Kretzschi’s old apartment, the heating was broken, and I was jamming the intro to “Ready To Rock” at about -10°C with gloves on. We were all blown away by this track and so I began to work on my first long player for Dominance.
Kalson: Back in 2008 I heard that Matthias Weise was looking for fresh stuff for the third instalment of the Global Surveyor album series on Dominance. So I began working really hard on a number of new songs and in the end I was really happy that “Waiting In The Valley” became a part of this epic album and the label.
What are your local Electro and electronic music scenes like in Germany and Serbia?
Dagobert: Since there are just a handful of labels left releasing electro today I’d like to say cheers to all of them! Good to have you! The Berlin scene was always important for me. Dangerous Drums – good people there and open-minded. I was often there and left many litres of sweat in the clubs. I have to confess I don’t really have an overview of all new releases and artists. If it’s rocking, I’m on it.
Kalson: Speaking of electronic music in general I think the Serbian scene is quite big in all 3 major cities, Novi Sad, Belgrade and Nis. You can hear any kind of electronic music from drum n’ bass and dubstep to minimal, techno, house and EBM, etc. Not many people listen to electro, but we do our best to push it. Beside the Elektrana stage at the Exit festival, my brother, me and our friends from BAUK (Base of Alternative Art and Culture) organise an event for various electronic styles called "Bekstvo u Prirodu" (Back To Nature) for a crowd of about 5000 people where we also play electro. In the wintertime we focus on smaller electro parties in clubs all over the country for example with our friends from E75 Records.
Your top 10 electro favourites of all time?
Dagobert: Mean question!
-Aural Float ‘New Frontiers’
-IF ‘Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass’
-Sektor 69 ‘Ohrwurm Records’
-Full Moon Fashions ‘Always Feed The Fish’
-Mantronix ‘Needle To The Groove’
-The Prodigy ‘Smack My Bitch Up’
-Jon Hopkins ‘Cold Out There’
-French Stereo ‘Cosmonaut (Hyboid Remix)’
Kalson: There is so much good stuff but I'll give a try. Without any order:
-Dynamik Bass System ‘Arabian Dreams’
-Dagobert ‘Bass Invasion’
-Faceless Mind ‘Drakskeppet’
-Sbassship ‘Four Dimensional Existence’
-Blastromen ‘Escaping Don't Compute’
-Legowelt ‘Get In’
-Anthony Rother ‘Destroy Him My Robots’
-David Michael Cross ‘Future Man’
Favourites of your own productions?
Dagobert: Everything on the Astronauten EP. Also ‘Dark Power’, ‘Inharmonic Whispers’ and ‘Activity’.
Kalson: ‘Digital Baroque’, ‘Colosseum In Tokyo’, ‘East Universe’ and my remix of Tellefunk ‘Masina za Ples’.
Dagobert, your self-titled debut album from 1997 has also just been re-released on Dominance. How do you look back on all the years and what has changed the most?
Dagobert: Looking back I can only say that releasing this album was the bomb for me. The ‘Inharmonic Whispers’ video played every night on TV in the ‘Space Night’ programme – it was crazy. I think since then my tracks have become more danceable. More on point and not overloaded with every idea that went through my head. I’m thankful to be able to do what I do. I also have to say that the whole sci-fi side of electro was always very important for me. Where would electro be without Star Trek, Star Wars and the blah about robots and machines – without the fantastic look into an exciting future? It’s great to see how things are kept alive with so much love. I hope it will never stop and that we will reach many more people with it.
So what is the future all about? Will the world end in December 2012 or will mankind conquer space one day? What are your plans?
Kalson: In both situations I will grab a bottle of Scotch, some nice blonde or brunette and play some Weltraum music. (laughs) Beside a lot of partying in the winter season, I'll be working on an album and probably some other things.
Dagobert: That whole “end of the world” nonsense is really just getting on my nerves. Until the alleged “end” I’ll be working on a new concept album with some fat experimental electro sounds and spacey ambient. And in between, I’ll hopefully find some time to work on some of the remix requests I received. As far as I know, the next release on Dominance Electricity will be the “Electrofunk Resistance” various artists LP, that Matthias Weise has been working on in top secret for quite some time now. Watch out!