After hearing their stunning debut album, Basar, it felt necessary – nay compulsory – to get in touch with Dirk and Nomad to get the down low on their Africane 808 project. It’s clear from the LP that their musical influences and knowledge is deep and multifaceted, elucidated by the accompanying interview and mix below. They also hint at how they’ve arrived at such a unique sound – a potent combination of experience, digging and open mindedness. Press play and lose yourself in a rich tapestry of sounds from around the globe. There’s no tracklist on this one, so you’ll have to get guessing – we could only get one, so post your finds in the Mixcloud comments!
Hi guys, how has 2016 started for you? Been up to much exciting?
Naw, not really. Berlin winters take the excitement out of this time of the year and save it for the summer.
Dirk, your formative musical exposure seems to be with bands, whilst Nomad yours seem to have been from a production stand point. Is that correct and, if so, is that apparent in the way you approach work in the studio?
We both are self-taught producers, but Dirk has a more academic musical background and into playing jazz in different formations, while I am more of a sampling nerd, which both comes great into play in our music. We don’t need to rely on sampling other people’s music, but can create our own sound libraries of instruments we play and record. This makes our sound unique.
Obviously you’ve been collaborating now for a few years. Has there been any significant changes from Cobijas to Basar, either in your influences, studio setup or creative processes?
Sure. We always try to update our technical set up and abilities. We learn and try to avoid to make the same mistakes twice. I think most significantly the quality of the mixes changed with the different rooms we worked in. Our current studio we share with Mouse on Mars is definitely the best sounding one, and it’s much easier to mix and record there.
When we listened to Basar, there was a unifying element to the album as a whole even though so many different styles were explored. Could you put your finger on what it is, and where do you think that comes from?
It comes from being open and having the skills and the experience that enables you to compare and evaluate your moves. In the first place we love music very passionately, but without borders and boundaries. We both can respect music from any source, as long as it carries truth and is emotionally moving. We have different personal musical histories and everyone has their own favourites, but we try to join them and let them inspire us to do something new. We’ve been growing with dance music from the eighties until now, analyzing it, collecting it, playing it and dancing to it. And that is just one aspect. We also been listening to Afro, Latin, teggae, jazz, blues , ambient, rock , folk and classical music. For us, Johnny Cash is as important as Miles Davis or Fela Kuti.
While we’re on the album, let’s talk about some of the guests. How did you select who to feature on the album and what do you feel they brought to the project?
We worked with only our friends and family. Not one of the musicians were “bought” into the project. We’ve all known each other for many years. Ofrin is an old friend of mine that I introduced to Dirk one day when she needed some keyboards played for her band, and they got along and started producing some tracks together. Nova was my partner in producing the decoration for the Vulkandance parties since four or five years ago. I didn’t know that she also had a band and only found out by accident hearing them play. We invited her over to the studio, and half an hour after she heard the track for the first time and our ideas for the refrain, she had written the verses and we started recording. Alex and I go way back from DJing and hanging out in the same kind of worldwide – eclectic disco/dance music – digging scene. I invited him over to play at our Vullkandance parties. He always promoted our tracks and spread them to a lot of DJs, which resulted in Phil from Golf Channel asking us for tracks.
Dodo is the drummer for Mouse on Mars, so we already knew him from studio sessions, and being a regular around the MOM studio which is kind of the base of our extended family.
The funniest encounter is probably how I met Eric. We were both on a Munich to Berlin bus, both touring – he coming back from playing with Ebo Taylor’s band and me from DJing. We sat next to each other, and started chatting about music when we realized that he was playing in a band that I had three original LPs from in my DJ case, which was pretty funny! The Bus broke down on the way and we had to spend the night on the Autobahn and got delayed for eight hours, so we really had time to talk and become friends. Later I introduced him to Dodo and Dirk and a year later we started jamming in the studio.
Going back past the album, we need to know about that video for ‘Lagos, New York’. What is going on!? Any strange backstory / inspiration for it? And who’s guilty for throwing the shapes?
Hahahaha, yes that’s funny indeed. We decided to shoot a video for the track, and Dirk invited his friend the filmmaker Lennard Brede to bring his camera. As a set we decided spontaneausly to shoot in the abandoned factory next to our studio. On the way to the location , we picked up our friend Mirko Hecktor who came from an afterhour DJ Gig at Wilde Renate, and looked like it, too.
We decided that we do one single ongoing shot, and that Mirko and me would just improvise. I put on a sheep costume and gave Mirko my Jalaba, Lennard set the camera and we rolled. One take, that was it! So actually Mirko is the one throwing stuff around while I am just crumping in a pile of plastictrash in a sheep scostume.
Previously you’ve referred to yourselves as a “transcultural listening music project that likes to make people dance.” That’s a really interesting concept. Are there specific cultures you’re referencing here that you’ve been influenced by in relation to the Africaine 808 project?
David Byrne and Brian Eno with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was a pretty crucial experience when I was 14/15 years old. Other than that I’d name Steve Reich, Throbbing Gristle, The Velvet Underground, Lee Perry, jazz and hip-hop, Primo + J Dilla, disco, rocksteady, Nigerian boogie, punk rock, indie rock, krautrock, country and folk music and of course the entire tropical music history , including all the dance music from Africa, Cape Verde, the French and Dutch Antilles, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Columbia.
Electronic music sometimes finds itself thrown into the middle of debates about cultural appropriation. With a name and sound invoking Africa, is this something you’ve been on the receiving end of? Do you think there’s a responsibility to be aware of this multi-faceted issue?
It’s always beneficial to get your head out of your ass. There is so much great things happening at the same time as a lot of achievements collapse. We see the loss of rhythmic culture all over Africa. I am speaking of rhythms getting wiped out or forgotten, simply because kids are too lazy to learn to play them how their ancestors did. At the same time you got a crazy hype in the West about preserving African music. You got kids here that learn about the great heritage of African and world music for the first time, through actually contextualisation in a house or techno setting , which is funny.
At the same time you got kids in Africa being fed up with learning to play real instruments, and trying to imitate western values. Phones become the new soundsystems and poorly produced drums and vocalizer vocals on Mp3 the standard. And then there is everything in between. I think it helps a great deal to be aware of music history and how it’s linked to slavery and how it reflects our movements and timelines as a human race. It’s never wrong to learn to respect the roots of your culture.
Let’s talk about the mix. Where did you record it and what on?
It was done at home and I generally use Technics turntables with Ortofon system to digitize my vinyl and a common Terratec Ivinyl Soundcard without a preamp in between. I know this is not the setup a lot of nerds would choose, but I don’t believe in the use of pre-amps to rip files. For recording I use Audacity. Vinyl restoration is mostly done step by step in Audacity or if the vinyl is severely worn out, it’s fixed with a low grid of the Click Repair programme.
Was there a specific mood you came into the mix trying to capture, or was it more a case of pressing record and seeing where you ended up? Has a fluidity between the two of you developed over time?
It’s always a freestyle. Not one mix is ever like the next, which would be silly, assuming that there are thousands of records out there that want to get played.
Finally, beyond the album, what’s on the horizon for you guys, release wise and live dates?
We’re playing live at Watergate in Berlin, this weekend with Dodo on Drums, then there’s the six years of Vulkandance celebration on 4th March, with ISA GT (Colombia) and Tropical Treats (Sofrito) and us. We’ve also got DJ Nomad @King Of Kong in Warzaw (12th March), Africaine 808 Live in Rotterdam (1st April), Amsterdam (23rd April) and Paris for Nuit Sonores (6th May). As for the next release, we’ve got a 12″ coming out on Golf Channel in March called Everybody Wants To.