The Italian-born producer Dino Sabatini needs no further introduction for the followers of hypnotic techno. With his modern and ageless productions, Sabatini has made his way as one of the most respected artists of the scene. Monument had the honour to interview the founder of Outis Music after the label released a double-vinyl of his respected first album Shaman’s Paths.
Hi Dino! So you recently released a remastered version of Shaman’s Paths on your own label Outis Music as a part of Outis Opera series. The original album, released on Prologue, came out in 2012. Was there a specific reason you to make the double-vinyl now?
From my point of view, Shaman’s Paths has been an important part of my artistic career and also my first album. The first integral version was printed only on CD’s as well as an EP on vinyl which included only four original tracks. Many people have been asking if there would be a chance to have the album on vinyl, and I love vinyl, so I decided to do it now.
The release is a part of your label’s Outis Opera series, concentrating on timeless music. How would you define timeless music?
Like any form of art, music changes quickly. Styles, techniques and instruments change, and all of this following step by step the trends of the moment. Although I consider this to be a fair trial, this takes us away from the past and makes us lose the knowledge of the origins of the music we are playing or producing at the moment. My point of view is that music is always timeless.
Having a connection between people who are playing jazz, like Antonello Salis, has been something that helps me to grow. Suddenly my musical thinking has moved from the creation of grooves to the melody and how to put it my stuff. Also, it has been a big pleasure to share my ideas and to talk about electronic music with artists who were not aware of electronic culture. In short, it has been a great experience, something you can get back and make it gold.
Another thing that Outis Opera varies from the classic Outis Music series is the graphics with the original artworks designed by Suloni Robertson that make sense to the name “opera”. She is able to give a perfect shape to my musical ideas, and she was also a key part in choosing the name Outis. I met her after doing the artwork of Daughter Of Phorcys and I immediately thought she would be the perfect fit for my label project.
Seems that you are really into a variety of different music styles from blues to folk music. Could you tell more about that?
My musical journey began by studying guitar. It all depends by the moment, sometimes I like to listen to blues, rock, metal , jazz, there is so much important music. When I am in Rome I like to listen to dub, maybe because the sun. It’s a sensation I never had in Berlin – and sometimes it’s impossible for me to listen to techno in Rome.
Also I like to listen some Italian folk music that is really cool, sometimes I am still listening to it, for example an old album by Franco Battiato – La voce del Padrone. It is one of the most famous albums of Italy, and I have listened it probably more than 5 million times – haha! I still think it is very cool, it is one of the first albums where an Italian pop singer uses new sounds contaminated with electronic parts. I was very young, maybe 12 years old, and it was my first time listening a TR-808 sounds. It was completely different from anything else.
I might also listen to classical music, I really love Mozart. My favourite symphony from him is the Symphony no. 40. Mozart was full of ideas, maybe a bit too much ideas even. Then I love Rossini, with him you can feel a particular dynamic, like a wave, moments of tranquility and moments of tension as for example in the opera La Gazza Ladra – Overture. It was also used by Stanley Kubrick in Clockwork Orange.
Back to Shaman’s Paths. The full album includes 11 tracks, the Prologue version only 4. Why?
It was Prologue’s decision. I don’t know exactly why, maybe for economic reasons or maybe because they did not believe that this album would have had a good result. I have no idea but I remember a period of great confusion with this label – a lot of different artists, different ideas and opinions on Prologue.
Anyway, I don’t know how many albums I can release like this. That’s why I decided to print a special edition in double vinyl for this one, to me it is like having something concrete, something to touch, real, physics.
When making Shaman’s Paths, you used recordings you made during your travels, right?
The concept of the album was born when I was travelling and living around the world. I was alone and I was doing a long tour between Australia and Japan. The cultures were so different, so I started getting new ideas for the music. I was also recording many samples during the flights or when I was talking with my friends. I also did some recordings in temples which I then used as convolution to add ambience to some tracks. It was a period of more techno in my style, and I was looking for a sound alternative. During the same period I started listening to tribal music, I was listening a track by The Sacred Drums Of Burundi and I felt a close connection to techno music. That’s why I started making a mix of techno music and tribal parts.
Honestly, I don’t like too much adding vocals parts into my music but in Shaman’s Path I used some voices giving them a sense of rarefaction, creating a feeling of distance and surreality.
My personal favourite track from the album is White Witch, a track that is also included on the Prologue release. For me it pretty much is the definition of hypnotic techno. Can you recall the story behind the track?
While I played back for the millionth time this track, I was with a friend of mine who started to dance in a strange way. It seemed almost she was dancing around the fire, and then I came up with the name White Witch. Anyway, your definition of hypnotic techno is also right.
In your previous interviews you told Shaman’s Paths brought you a lot of new attention. What kind of feedback did you get?
The beginning was actually very hard, we had some strange problems with the promotion. But after some months, I started getting good feedback of the release and of my gigs. One year after the release people started telling me that Shaman’s Paths was one of the best album of 2012 and suddenly everyone were talking about this album.
I can say I have been lucky that people got in to the album even if one year after the release date, it is also the same thing when I release with Gianluca Meloni as Modern Heads. We got feedback of the releases after some years. For me this is very interesting, because sometimes I think to be a step forward even if it is often more important to be in the right place at the right time. It is is almost always due to the fact that I sometimes like to change and play something different from the classic techno.
That’s certainly interesting. What kind of other styles do you mean?
I love techno, but by my point of view there is a limit if we consider music only as techno. Music is not just techno, is music, we can do what we want, trip-hop techno, ambient techno, hypnotic techno and sometimes something different. Certainly, this is just a small part of what means music.
Of course I’d like to play different kinds of music, but it is not easy for people to understand that I am changing, Maybe it comes also with the age, but I think we have to change to keep it interesting.
I actually think it has to be like this now. When there is for example a DJ playing before you, who is playing your own tracks. Then you have to play different tracks, that is why I like to change things sometimes.
What sounds are interesting to you at the moment?
There are new sounds coming every day, each day is different. Right now I am following a research of tribal music and working every day on a new concept of sound related to acoustic roots. I’m trying my best to improve my style.
You already said you enjoy making collaborations. For Outis Music, for example, you have collaborated with Gianluca Meloni, Giorgio Gigli, Donato Dozzy, Edit Select and Luigi Tozzi. Would you recommend collaborations for others, too?
Of course, it is important for people to collaborate when making music. When collaborating, I have managed to get different experiences and also compare myself with other artists. I understand their technique and their style. I have collaborated with already experienced artists as well as young artists, it has always been useful. Of course I would recommend other people to collaborate, to share the knowledge to other people.
It could be also important share musical culture with other people, especially young people that should try harder to dig into the past to understand the roots of the music they are producing. When I’m listening to new tracks at the moment, feels that many people are doing the stuff we were doing some years ago with Elettronica Romana or Prologue.
I of course understand it, and I’m proud that they have our music as the reference, but for me this kind of style is something thas has been already done. Of course I don’t want to say old – but it also is nothing new.
Is there a collaboration that you remember especially well?
One of the biggest emotions I have ever had in my life was when I got a remix from Howie B. Musically speaking, you can expect anything from him, and in my opinion he is an artist coming from another world. The remix was very important for me, it was another kind of a feeling getting one of my tracks remixed by him. The track was part of Concentrica compilation on Outis Opera, together with collaborations by ASC and Antonello Salis.
Sales-wise the release was a catastrophe, but I understand that it is not an easy EP. It’s not techno, but a bit experimental and a bit trip-hop. On the other hand, this release brought me the most beautiful feedback I have ever received. Sometimes music is very strange.
You can sell a lot of vinyl, but you don’t get gigs because the stuff is more ambient, or more electronic. It’s okay. I am satisfied with the fact that even if at the moment is very hard to get income from vinyl, I can say till now I have been lucky.
It must be really difficult to plan what to release on vinyl or in digital format.
Yes and no, but one thing is certain. With digital releases, there is no risks, and there can only be gain as it is not expensive. Vinyl is very expensive, but it is also real. It is similar to when you having analog pictures in your hand, I don’t not know why, but you are attracted to look at them. With digital is different – right? How often do you go to your hard drive to look at pictures?
When you play a DJ-set, what format do you use?
I like to use all formats. Right now I am enjoying playing with CDJ’s, sometimes I like to play a hybrid set with turntables or CDJ’s and Elektron Octatrack, but also with my laptop. To make a set totally hybrid, that is the best thing. That is how you get different solutions, and you can create a lot.
The truth is, that I get tired of doing the same thing for a long time. At the beginning everything is cool, I still remember when Traktor came, it felt like a PlayStation. But then you are also forced to always have laptop, sound card and controllers with you, and after a while it becomes a stress.
You are based both in Berlin and in Rome. How do you split the time between these two cities? Do you have studios in both?
I have a studio in Berlin since 2008, and job-wise it is my headquarters. Some years ago I got married and I decided to spend my life between Rome and Berlin, that’s why I have a studio in both cities. My wife has a part-time job in Rome and she has to go back every 3 months.
Rome is a stressful city, maybe too much. It is very busy, full of cars and people and pollution. In Berlin I feel different, it was one of the most important decisions of my life to come to Berlin, to get out from the Italy stress even though here in Berlin things are changing.
There is a lot of Italians living in Berlin. How is the Italian community?
In Germany we are the second in terms of population numbers after Turkey. A few years ago it was very difficult for a musician to live in Italy and many people emigrated to Berlin because it was easier to live and prices were low. At the moment I have no idea how it is.
I still remember when I told Claudio PRC that he has to come to Berlin, he was then living in Sardinia. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, but there is a lot of problems and working there is pretty much impossible.
At the beginning we had a huge community of Italians in Berlin, me, Donato Dozzy, Nuel, Touane, Jacopo Carreras and many many more. Still there is a big community especially in the techno scene, there is for example Freddy K, there is Daniela Cia who is a manager for Jeff Mills and Dasha Rush… the Italians are everywhere.
Is your studio work different in Berlin and in Rome?
In Berlin it is easier to make techno, but my studio in Berlin is small and it’s a bit problematic when thinking about the sound. But I don’t really have preferences regarding the studios, when you are in the studio, it’s quiet and the stress stays outside.
How do you work with your productions in general ?
It’s not easy for me to work on different productions by day. I see many people making ten tracks per day, cool tracks, but for me it’s impossible. I would like to change something in each track, and I don’t want to copy myself. There are many instruments that are creating the same sound, and I like to think about what I am about to create and how to do it with different instruments. It’s an ongoing research.
This part is one of the most difficult parts in production, it’s a conflict, because I cannot create many tracks with the same feeling. It’s OK to have same sound in one production, then you have to change – also for the people.
In the summer I met you briefly at club Griessmuehle in Berlin. Then you told me you have had some problems in your back that forced you to have a break. How is the situation now?
I have had this problem on my back since 1,5 years. My doctor gave me two chances, a surgery or a long period of physiotherapy. I had to stop my work, I spent three months with a collar and doing physiotherapy every day. That’s why I decided to stop my productions for a while.
Of course all of this happened in a period that was full of gigs, and one day my body just decided to say I have to stop this kind of life. I got my first block after playing in Japan and I was flying back to Europe. My arms started going numb, then the pain started coming. I could walk and do things, but in pain. I started taking normal painkillers, but then the pain changed place and I needed to start taking morphine. I was hesitating half a year whether I should go to the surgery or do it the other way with sports and physiotherapy. Finally I decided to do it with sports and physiotherapy, and now I feel good also because my body is more athletic.
Anyway, I have to do sports and physiotherapy for the rest of my life, but it has been going very well as I am again able to work and to play. In 2019 I will again start touring and I’m very happy about it, because it was not possible a while ago.