Name: Anthony Cardinale
Occupation: DJ, producer
Current Release: Innocence on Ellum Audio
Recommendations: I’m really into fashion as art (e.g. sneaker culture). The British brand Represent I’ve been liking lately. Music-wise, the new Jessie Ware album has been in my rotation, as well as Allen Stone. He’s one of my favourite artists, check out his new album Building Balance.
If you enjoyed this interview with Avision, find out more about him and his music on Facebook, Soundcloud and Instagram.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started DJ’ing about 15 years ago when I was 12. I’m influenced by a lot of NYC DJ’s, guys like Danny Tenaglia and The Martinez Brothers. Carl Cox for sure. My cousin Victor Calderone is one of my main influences. My Dad was in a wedding band and knows how to produce, that really helped draw me to music, having it always be around when I was growing up. Disco was part of my early music experiences being played in my house.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I agree with this about preceding originality. Very much so in the beginning I wasn’t necessarily emulating other people’s sound, but more breaking it down and copying the arrangement for the kind of music I wanted to make. Trying out things to see how certain sounds are created.
For me, the development as an artist happened in a few phases. The first part was just getting used to making music and figuring out how things worked. The second, developing my sound and making it come alive. Now I’m working on mastering my sound and just seeing how far I can take it.
About 5 years ago when I felt that I reached a point that I knew what my sound was, that’s when I created the Avision alias and I’ve been using it since.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
To be honest, I was a bit spoiled at first. I started DJing at teen night parties when I was 14 to sometimes thousands of kids in New Jersey. My main goal was always to play in clubs in NYC though, so a real challenge was to take what I was doing there and to transition into the real scene and play different music for a more mature crowd when I was still only 17.
Now the challenge is to take what I’ve been doing and break into cities and countries all over the world. When I’m producing my own music, it’s just me in my basement having a great time by myself lol.
When I’m DJing, I get to see the immediate reaction to what I created, that’s what makes it interesting. This music’s not made to sit in a library and listen to lol.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
It’s a DJ’s job to go play music for people and to make them have fun, to come correct musically with the right track selection, and to create a memory of an experience for people. Seeing the experience of people’s reaction to what I’m playing influences me to get in the studio and create in a certain way. If I see people react to a certain track or sound, I can take that back with me and experiment with new ideas in the studio.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first setup was a Gemini 4-channel mixer and CDJ 1000’s. Then computers started to come more into play with Traktor, and a lot of the DJ’s I was watching were starting to use it. Now I don’t use a laptop, just CDJ’s to get the feel back. Pioneer really nailed it with the new CDJ’s, they’re really the most important piece of gear for me, it’s really easy to sort through your music now. The V10 mixer is fucking great too, I love it.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Because of technology I can make music anywhere I am with just my laptop. This has enabled me to bang out tracks a lot faster. Having a DAW like Logic, there’s no excuse for someone not to make a good sounding record.
Humans can excel with the natural feel of a musician; I personally play everything in (drum hits, etc.) so it doesn’t sound too robotic. Machines excel at the processing side, and the organization. Computers are so powerful these days, a machine can help take your sound to the next level if you know how to use them properly.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wake up, drink some water and have an espresso. During this quarantine, I’ll either take a bike ride or go for a walk. Then I get into the studio and make what I have to make. I start producing pretty early in the studio, and then take a break for dinner, hang out with my girlfriend/watch a movie, and then I head back into the studio late at night. I try and make life and creativity blend.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I start going through the music I already have first. Then I’ll usually start to download new music from Bandcamp, Beatport, and then go through promos. I’m usually looking for anything that I have missing from my set that may fit in (something for peak time, something for towards the end, etc.). I make playlists, but never decide which track to play when.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don’t think about it too much during a set to be honest. I just want to have fun, and the other people there to have a good time too. I don’t get too nervous unless it’s for a really big gig, but after the first song or two everything starts to feel natural.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
I take the approach that it’s a journey. Sometimes I start in heavy and keep that going, sometimes I start heavy, and then drop the vibe down and pick it back up. If I’ve played too many bombs in a row, I’ll try to play something melodic to break it up, and vice versa.
It really depends on the set length for planning ahead. If I know that I’m going to play an extended set (5 hours+), then it’s more of a marathon vs. a short set. I don’t plan ahead; like I said earlier I don’t decide which track to play when ahead of time.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
It’s improvisation for me. The music is there and already created, but where I’m going to play each track and when is the improvisation. As I keep going on, I feed off the crowd and adjust to what they’re doing, and also try and push them in a certain direction.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
When you play something for a crowd you get an instant reaction to what you play. At home, it’s just up to me to decide how good it is. At home it’s experimentation, and with a crowd it’s verification.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
It’s a push and pull. People are coming to see me play a great set, and I want people to have as much fun as possible while doing my thing. I’m not going to come play for a crowd that may have a certain expectation of a type of sound and play something completely out of the blue necessarily. At the same time though, I’m not going to compromise with what I want to play. That’s the balance.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
Going to a new city or country for the first time, creating a vibe in your set, and getting the applause & whistles at the end is super satisfying. A few people left just jamming with you and that have stayed the whole night is really satisfying if you are playing a closing set.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Music is constantly running in my head. For me, my approach is as simple as turning what I hear in my head into sounds. I don’t think too philosophically about art and being an artist before I create something, more so when I see people’s reaction or someone else create something then I tend to think more about it. I’m working on my debut album now, so maybe after it’s finished, I can answer this question differently.