Giovanni Civitenga is set to drop his debut album as My Dry Wet Mess on Brainfeeder affiliate and beat scene veteran Daedelus’ Magical Properties label towards the end of this month.
The Barcelona-based producer’s vibrant and joyous Irrational Alphabet LP is a breath of fresh air, injecting an oft-forgotten sense of fun into his off-kilter and quirky bass mutations. Drawing on the pristine melodies of pop and RnB as much as he does the slouching beats of hip hop or the penetrative bassweight of dubstep, Civitenga creates an explosive and technicolour world of sound.
Veering from the jarring Yesterday Forever through the lazy, stumbling funk of Dysfunctional Behaviours to the regimented and rapidfire kicks on Disappointing Patterns, the drums buoy MDWM’s deft and evocative synth work, while retaining a swagger indebted to years of hip hop fanaticism. Unafraid to colour these beats with a bright melodic brush, he orchestrates grand synth collisions, which burst on impact and shower the percussion with prisms of light. However, unlike many of his conteporaries, he balances his busy and unstable constructions against a clarity that immediately sets him apart, never forgetting the importance of a strong and emotive melody.
From the ecstatic Diagonal People to the more somber and reflective Yours Truly (which you can download at the bottom of the interview), MDWM takes you on a dizzying journey of the senses. Like a child first discovering the world, Civitenga’s productions are hyperactive and bursting with ideas, exploring heightened emotions while retaining an endearing naivety. As he says himself of the album on his Myspace page: “I hope it’s gonna make your ears feel like the back of your mouth when u eat something delicious. That would make me happy.”
Ahead of the release of Irrational Alphabet I caught up with Civitenga to discuss the project, his pop sensibilities and the integration of the aural and visual. Read the interview with the articulate and humble producer below and make sure you pick up a copy of his album when it is released next week.
Hi. So who and what is My Dry Wet Mess?
My Dry Wet Mess is Gio, 27 years old, grew up in Rome, currently based in Barcelona. MDWM is only one year old though, since the project started as the result of some kind of a creative crisis in summer 2009.
When did you first get into production? And what impelled you to do so?
I made my first beat when I was 15 years old. Hip hop was everything to me at the time and I rapped and I had a rap crew, so I wanted to understand how the music I liked was made. My father gave me an Atari running Cubase (from some kind of external cartridge!) and got me a Boss sampler for my birthday so I started sequencing really simple stuff…I haven’t stopped since then. It was a long way to where I am now but what I do is really close to what I was doing back then, and I feel like I have as many things to learn as I used to. I still make music in an attempt to understand how it’s possible to actually make something as good as the music I like.
Is your unorthodox approach in any way a reaction against your father’s involvement in more traditional media? Do you have any classical training?
I don’t have any classical training but I wish I had. I never seriously picked up an instrument and studied music because by the time I began being interested in music, the kind of music I was listening to was made with samplers, so I learned to do the same. Plus, I’ve never been into manual skills at all…I’m not interested enough in that kind of skill to go trough all the practice required to learn how to play. I kind of feel closer to a writer than to most musicians, my father included. Its not a reaction to him at all though, he actually never pushed me into music even though I wish he did, but he always supported my love for it. I’d like to study music theory though; honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t done it yet.
Having worked on different projects under different names, what did you set out to do with the My Dry Wet Mess project?
In summer 2009, after a strange year where I kind of lost focus of where I wanted to go music-wise (partially because of an album release leading nowhere and a sudden refusal from a label for the following album), I woke the fuck up and decided I had to start from scratch. So I sat down and made tons of tracks, most of them shit obviously. I’m still trying to do what I want to do, but in the meanwhile I came out with a few decent tracks and learned a lot of things.
How does it feel to have the album complete and ready to enter into the public sphere?
Man, it feels really good, especially because it happened pretty fast. For 8 months I worked on music straight trying to get some decent stuff out, and at some point I felt so frustrated that I thought “ok maybe music is not really my thing…” Then Alfred (Daedelus) heard some of my tracks and decided almost immediately to release them, which was crazy because I was sending demos and shit and no one would really care. I can’t wait to find out what people think of Irrational Alphabet, this material means a lot to me, it comes out of a lot of head banging and frustration… and my roommate is gonna kill me if putting up with my beats 24/7 wasn’t worth it.
Your album is coming out on Brainfeeder-affiliate Daedelus’ Magical Properties label. How did you first link up with him?
My friend Martin Allais (http://juntosotravez.com/), who has been making visuals for Daedelus for a few years, asked me to collaborate with him to make something different that the usual VJ set, so we started developing some ideas for Daedelus and eventually he decided to fly us to LA to perform live visuals during his remix of The Ring Cycle. During the rehearsals in Barcelona I played him some music I was working on and that was it.
I see ‘Irrational Alphabet’ as being a beautiful pop record at its core. Would you agree with this?
Yes! It actually makes me very happy to hear it because most of my inspiration comes from pop mainstream stuff and I take it and treat it in my own lo-fi way but always trying to keep those elements I dig in pop music, it’s really important to me. I don’t think I’m there yet and I don’t know if I’ll ever be, but I’ve always been interested in that thin line between experimental and pop. I like stuff which has a weird aspect to it but that gives a familiar context to the listener, melodies to sing, emotional stuff happening…you know. I think Squarepusher is a good example of it. He said in an interview his music is “between a monkey and a cliché” and I feel very close to that definition. I think it’s more fun to take the listener in a familiar place and then make him feel lost than just take him to a brand new place and leave him there.
Do you think that being based away from the majority of producers that would be seen as your contemporaries has had any tangible effect on your music?
Yes I think so but it’s hard for me to say how. I never had many friends who were doing similar stuff to me and I wasn’t really ever exposed too much to dance music or hip hop. I ended up kind of disconnected I guess, following my own path driven by the music I loved and I keep discovering new stuff and that keeps pushing me. I don’t come from a specific scene. I don’t even know who’s into the beats stuff in Barcelona or Rome right now. Obviously the internet helps a lot and it’s easy to be updated about what’s happening in the rest of the world, but still, I feel like it does make a difference being, or not being, in daily contact with artists involved in the same context you are working in.
You have a track on the album called ‘LA No-Brainer’. Is this a reference to those contemporaries?
In some way it is! The true story in that I had to give a track list for the album and I was in LA at that moment, and a couple of tracks didn’t have a title yet. So I listened to the track and I imagined it would be perfect played in the car while driving on one of the many LA freeways at night. Plus I knew it was gonna be the opening track of the album so when the title occurred to me I found it a nice way to say “thank you” to the city that was making it happen. It was a no-brainer at that point. 😉
The LP is bursting with color and movement. Has studying Interactive Design altered the way that you view and make your music?
Nope, I wouldn’t say so for the music on the album. But the music for the visual show is a direct consequence of some visual ideas I had and it’s mostly more abstract than the stuff on the record.
Do you see the aural and the visual as being fundamentally linked? Does one inform the other for you?
Yes, I think the two elements are deeply connected and when art manages to successfully engage the two of them, it obtains really powerful results. I don’t know if I’m a “visual” person, I don’t “see” stuff when I make music, but I do work with audio and video at the same time because I feel like it’s possible to create such strong experiences using both medias. It’s really obvious to me though…think about listening to music in the car and watching the landscape or listening to your ipod on the bus. What you hear changes the way you perceive what you are seeing, and what you see gives new meanings to the music.
What is next for you? Have you got any interesting projects or releases in the pipeline?
I have no other releases planned but I’m on a bunch of different things: I’m working with Amir Yaghmai from Jogger on a couple of tracks, sketching lots of stuff for the new album and improving my visual show.
MY DRY WET MESS – YOUR TRULY
-MY DRY WET MESS – ‘IRRATIONAL ALPHABET’ IS OUT ON MAGICAL PROPERTIES ON 26th OCTOBER