Part 2

How do you prefer to make use of technology?

Honestly, it's just a tool. We are using technology in our set-ups, but we are not technology people. We are more romantic. I only want to learn what I have to know to do my thing, just what is necessary to do what I need to do. I don't want technology to drag me into the music. I want to think about something and then use technology to take me there. I don't want to use the tool as the track. I want myself to be the tool.

So before you even put your fingers on the keyboard …

… the music is there in my head.

What would one of these ideas for a new piece be like? Would it be an image, a sound, a melody?

More a state of mind. Most of the time, I'll put on a field recording of wind or street noises of a city or a drone from the fucking Neptune recording and I'll put a big reverb on that, so I'll feel like I'm next to Neptune. When we started two years ago, we collected a lot of  handmade field recordings and we have a decent library now. But the real music still has to come to us. All of these field recordings are just a preparation for the actual music making. It's like lighting a candle and then moving around a dark room to see what is there.

How would you compare the importance of the sound to the importance of the composition?

This is a very important distinction. Striving to get the best sound is relative. It doesn't exist. You can find the best sounds of this synth, you can make your composition sound amazing. But the idea at the basis of this sound has to match it. So the balance is very important. I feel like I am the one who is more inclined to the idea and Matteo is more inclined to fix the sound. This is the process most of the time. If my mix is slightly raw, Matteo will fix it a little bit. On Endless, it was a little bit different, because we did the mix-down together. But we did it with the same approach.

Having said all that, the sound is definitely very important. 20 years ago, I would have said it's more important than the idea.

I find it interesting that there is a certain sound in all of your music, but the arrangements are always completely different. It sounds as though they're improvised, although everything is probably very carefully composed.

Yes, because we don't follow a pragmatic scheme. The sound has to follow the arrangements. Sometimes, it indeed sounds like an improvisation, but it's not - and that's important. Let's call it a detained improvisation. This is hard to do, but it's a pleasure as well.

The question came up when I was listening to your remix of "Disco Gnome" by Thugfucker. It's the same track, just mixed differently.

Yeah, but that's a remix and things are different with remixes. I don't want to be arrogant, but we're good remixers. We can take something from someone else and make it proper. The sound is not by us, so even if the sound is not pure, we can make it work and then the balance will be good. But if we start from zero, it's more complicated, because our signature is on everything.

I'd be really curious about what you had in mind in terms of the sound for Endless. It would seem sound had to be incredibly important on that one.

We built that release slowly. We built the set-up from scratch and we're still working on it. It took us two years and at one point, we said okay, we have fifteen tracks and a concept. We'd met Nils, we'd attended a Max Richter concert and we felt more confident and open in our career as Tale Of Us to do a classical album. Now it's done, we feel relieved, because we delivered something different as artists. But the sound is still a work in progress.

While we were mixing Endless, we were already changing the old set-up of the piano and the Korg and the electric piano. The track "Notte senza fine" was the last one we did. Two years ago, it was the first one to get recorded, and at the end of the process, after two years of improvements, I re-did it with the new set-up. In the first version, it was missing all of the texture, it was just a piano riff. It reminded me of Siberia ... it was a bit Russian, somehow. Initially, we'd decided that the riff was too stupid at the beginning and not to use it. When the album was complete, however, it seemed to be missing something and "Notte senza fine" was suddenly perfect. We used a Korg Stage Piano and a Clavia, processed with an electron filter. Just an enhancer and saturation. From there, the piano goes to a loop machine by Boss. So I can basically dub the stuff before the loop goes into a delay and then into a reverb.

So the process of achieving the sound we want is endless. But the idea, the core of the composition, was always there. The riff is part of your life, it is the biggest thing you have as a composer. No matter what instrument you play it on. The music leads you on.

Did you transcribe the music?

We didn't write it on bar lines, because it would have taken ages, but we may do it for the next album. We will try to be more focused and get a more interesting overture and some reprises. But it came out very honest like this. And that*s important, because Endless is already very challenging for listeners. Our followers have to put their faith in it. It's difficult for someone who was used to listening to our previous releases.

There are still elements that you recognise from previous pieces, though. The strings on the first track, for example.

The vibe! The place is the same, the same drones, the same spacey, epic feeling. But at one point it stops. Like a kind of resurrection …

I would assume the sequencing of the album must have been very hard.

Honestly, no. Because we record real time and we're very good at editing audio in Logic.  That places the sounds more in the mix. So you're already playing a composition. Audio and velocity are already part of the composition. Even the latency! It's interesting, it's grooving. We play everything for real, we record it and then we work on it. Or sometimes, we leave it as it is. The track, "Venatori" was done like this, it's one take. "Distante", on the other hand, has a lot of edits, but we had to do it that way, because we wanted it to be crispy clean, both clean and rough. It has to take you to another place, different from the other tracks. We worked a lot on the intensity of the backgrounds.

And then there are these long stretches where almost nothing happens. I could imagine it takes a lot of courage to allow that to happen.

Courage and patience! It's difficult to stand in front of an instrument and not to play. Pianists, guitarists, everyone likes to play really virtuosic. The thing is not to play the instrument, just to throw something at the instrument and listen to the sound that comes out. Or playing the instrument in a different way.

We decided to include long pauses of silence. In these instances of silence, your brain is asking whether the music is still there. And then suddenly, it emerges and there is this connection between your life and the music, your emotions are becoming a part of the track. It feels like a pause inside the silence, a subtle texture in the silence. There, in that space or texture, hides the gloriousness.

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