Wonderland.

Wondermix: Durante

House wizard Durante talks about being dubbed part of the next generation of house producers and puts together an exclusive mix for Wonderland.

Self-proclaimed sonic architect/house producer Durante is a force to be reckoned with. The Italian-born, Florida-raised, now LA-based artist is shaking up a storm in the house and techno world, and he’s only 23. After starting to play the piano aged 6, and spending his teenage years studying and picking apart all the house music tracks he could find, Durante downloaded a demo of FL Studio, and got started. He hasn’t really stopped since.

After studying production and house music dynamics alongside his college studies, Durante worked as a product manager/creative engineer, teaching himself everything he needed to know about the industry before diving into it himself. He was quickly recognised by TheSoundYouNeed as one of house music’s most exciting young producers – and then became their most popular artist, for his ability to craft tracks that are beyond the usual realms of house, and his talent for capturing impromptu moments and making real-life sense of cinematic stories. Durante’s newest tracks “Cold” and “Goddess” are testimony to his talent; created through spontaneous social interactions with friends, including Tuff Ghosts and Paul Giese, these tracks are dynamic and tinged with velvety-production, perfect for both the beach and the club.

For his Wondermix, Durante has delved into the depths of house and techno and brought out 12 amazing tracks. Featuring ANNA, Rudy, Mr Raoul K ft Laolu and Yotto, Durante’s Wondermix looks at some of the best and brightest on the house scene.

You learnt to play the piano aged 6! Was a career in music what you’d always planned to do?

To be honest not really. I started playing piano rather young, and I was always pretty tech savvy growing up. I remember when I first downloaded a demo of FL Studio in 2004 (I was 12), I barely knew how to use it but I thought the idea of making music on computer was amazing. It wasn’t until 2006 that I actually started making music a lot more often. I always kept my schooling and music separate, which I feel really helped to harbour a natural love for the art. In 2011 I went to university for computer engineering (though secretly I wanted to keep going with my music), and after about a year and a half of classes I realized that I didn’t want to be sitting in front of a computer programming my life away. I was much happier when I made music, so I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and just go for it. I switched to a degree in Advertising because it was one of the easiest to take at my school at the time, and then I just spent all my free time working on music and networking with others also interested in music & working on getting internships. In 2013 I was asked to move to LA for a position at a record label and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I instantly dropped out of school and took the offer in pursuit of my dream of becoming a full time musician.

How did your sound evolve when you moved from Florida to LA?

When I first moved to LA I could barely write any music. I was so busy with getting the rest of my life in order that I didn’t have much time to focus on my art. Slowly I kept plugging away at it, learning more and more day after day. The great thing about LA is that you’re able to meet so many creative people everywhere you go. The work mentality in LA is unlike anything I’d seen before and it really motivated me to keep pushing to the best of my abilities. I’ve been able to really develop myself and grow here, and I feel that’s really what evolved my sound. Finding myself in a new city was key to becoming an artist.

You work with TheSoundYouNeed a lot – how did you get involved with them and what will you be doing with them in the future?

I’m very lucky to be working with TheSoundYouNeed. A little over a year ago I sent my friend & co worker at the time (who’s now my manager) my tracks Slow Burn & Full Moon as demos. Through the grapevine they reached Olivier’s (owner of TSYN) ears, and he loved them! He’s been a really amazing friend & advocate for my records over the past year and a half and I’m really grateful for that. His taste in music is impeccable and it transcends just what’s “popular” or “cool”. Quality is what TSYN does best and I’m thrilled to be their first signee. For the future, TSYN is throwing a festival in Malta, which is bound to be absolutely nuts. I’m really excited for the shows & parties that Olivier wants to put together, I can remember in Montenegro last year we were talking and he told me straight up, “I just want to throw parties with beautiful music in beautiful locations”. It’s awesome to see that coming to fruition.

What’s your starting point for writing a track? Do you write lyrics or compose melodies first?

I try not to worry too much about specifics, but I find myself starting with finding unique sounds. Whether it be recorded percussion (such as the djembe in Goddess), or an interesting melody, the fresh sounds are always what inspire me to finish my music. My favorite is when I’m able to create a moment in a sound, and attach a memory or feeling to it. I likely have a story behind every sound in my music, and I feel that integrity is what makes music timeless. When you think about old records that people still listen to, there’s so much character in the way it’s recorded or mixed. Whether it’s a first take, or the 100th take, there’s always something magical about the one that gets put on the final master. When working on music, I look to recreate this magic in all of my sounds and percussion.

Your EP is titled after the two tracks on it – what are the stories behind “Goddess” and “Cold”?

Goddess is an extremely visual record for me. I created a fictional story about a man being chased by a “dark entity” through a forest. He comes across some ruins and finds a statue of a goddess. When he walks up to it locusts swarm around and he starts being chased again (I tried to recreate some of these sound effects by recording a metal bowl filled with water and hitting it with a spoon). Basically in my head the man is running from his inner goddess, and he is afraid, because he doesn’t understand the real power of women & femininity. This is something that’s a big issue at the moment; there’s so many incredibly hard working and talented females in music & in many other industries that don’t get nearly the credit they deserve. It’s something that needs a spotlight and Goddess / Cold is about giving the spotlight to the all the women in the world who are underrated and under appreciated. So much respect goes out to the women who aren’t letting the obstacles of sexism get in their way.

Cold, though not as visual, still has a very special place in my heart. I started writing the record just after I had went to Hundred Waters’ Form Festival at Arcosanti in 2015, which was an incredibly inspiring experience. The fact that Hundred Waters is able to curate this completely grass roots festival in one of the most architecturally unique and beautiful places in the world is actually mind blowing. They have everything thought through from the food, to the accommodation, and most importantly the music. Every tiny part of the festival is extremely well crafted and taken care of from start to finish. This is definitely a mentality I pull from when creating music. The Wednesday after getting back from the fest, Lena (Tuff Ghost) hit me up and said that we should work on a record. I’m a big fan of her band Gentle Pony so I booked a studio session right away. She rode her bike to the studio, which was actually rather frigid from the A/C being on blast. So when I asked her to jump in the vocal booth and sing some scratch vocals, she just sang about he she literally felt in that moment: sweaty and cold. The first take had so much rawness to it that when we tried to record more vocals it just didn’t work. Lena really killed it on that take.

The cover art for your EP is beautiful – who designed it and where did the idea for the illustration come from?

Thank you! I think so too. After many skype meetings with Olivier going through 20+ potential artists for the artwork, we narrowed it down to the one artist that we both felt would best represent the true nature of the music. Her name is So-Hyun Bae, and her work is fantastic. The direction I gave her was to create something that’s unanimously beautiful, yet still carries the slight imperfections which creates true beauty. I wanted to showcase the beauty of the female in a way that felt anonymous, but also brimming with power. So-Hyun Bae absolutely nailed the interpretation and took it to a place I couldn’t even have imagined. When I saw it I was so surprised and ecstatic at how perfect it was for the music.

What do you want to make people feel with your music?

I believe dancing is a form of meditation. When people come together and dance, it allows for this subconscious meditation to take place and raise the consciousness of those around them. Dancing is such an innate human quality, and in fact, it’s the first memory I’ve ever had. I can remember being a kid in Italy and hearing a song and literally jumping off the walls dancing and feeling so alive. I find it really important in creating dance music that the point at the root is to dance. To move. To be at one with your inner spirit. With music being such a powerful canvas for creating or replicating emotion, I have a lot of fun retelling how I feel through a piece that allows for the meditation of dance.

You’ve cited your dad’s traditional Italian cooking as one of your biggest influences – what else inspires you?

I think you can find connections between anything if you look hard enough. In the same way that I’m inspired by my father’s cooking, I find nature to be an amazing source of inspiration. Growing up in Florida I was able to gain an appreciation for nature by going to places like the Everglades, Ding Darling or any of the many nature centers. The way the veins are perfectly placed in leaves, or how a feather is designed to make a bird fly. These are all things that I feel are just taken for granted, when in reality, these things are quite incredible. The amount of detail required in each and every piece of art created by nature is astounding. Nature’s design is the closest thing to perfection that we’ll ever be able to witness in our dimension, and to be able to appreciate and learn from it is really important for not only music, but in all walks of life.

You’ve been dubbed part of the next generation of house music producers – where do you think house music as a genre is headed?

House music is forever & it will always belong to the underground at its roots. I feel It’s important to keep making what you love and not bending to satisfy the wants of consumers. This sort of experimentation and risks is what’s made house & techno music so great over the years. The community of artists always pushed the envelope since its inception, and this is what really makes it such a timeless genre. The same standards for advancing the sound is still prevalent today and so much amazing music is coming out every day. It’s also inspiring to see generally longer & more thoughtful tracks like Rufus’ Innerbloom getting more traction. House & techno is headed in a really positive direction.

Words
Annabel Lunnon
Wondermix: Durante

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