Alessandro Barchitta is a Rome-based artist and has been active for a while. Better known as Feral, he released a ton of phenomenal music on Hypnus Records, where he has established himself in recent years as an outstanding producer in the deep and hypnotic field of techno. He also has quite a reputation as a DJ and fascinates his audience with mind-blowing sets and performances. With a podcast for us and a live recording from our festival, Monument knows his unique and mesmerizing qualities.
But now we are more than happy to speak with him about his new label Aube Rouge and his interest in old amusement parks from the 80’s/90’s as a source of inspiration.
Hello Alessandro, thank you for your time! Let’s start with a basic question: When and how did you get in touch with electronic music?
Good evening Vy, it’s a pleasure to be here, thanks for having me. I think I got in touch with electronic music during my high school years but In regards to techno, the actual reason that pushed me to start making my own music didn’t occur that long ago. I think I was about 23/24 years old (2013/2014) and I was playing rock/indie records at a friend’s bar here in Rome.
Another DJ that was working there at the time showed me how he was mixing loops with Traktor. I found it fascinating and stimulating, as it was something completely new to me. I can’t really recall what genre the guy was playing that night, but for some reason, from that moment I found myself listening to a lot of early dub techno/ambient records which slowly led me into more elaborate stuff.
How long have you been active as a DJ and producer?
With my current alias since 2015.
Can you explain your alias? What is the story and concept behind “Feral”?
So, I started the project the moment I realized techno would have been a good creative output for me. I studied and worked as an audio engineer in London between 2010 and 2012, I thought recording other musicians would have been a good starting point for my working life, but in the end I found myself wanting to be more and more on the other side of the desk. Don’t get me wrong, I love recording bands and it’s something I would gladly do at this stage of my life, but when you’re that young and completely missing a creative output it’s hard to be the medium for someone else’s creativity. When I later discovered techno in 2013, I finally found the motivation to push my knowledge in audio and music theory a step further and started to fully dedicate myself to creating my own music – it was also the moment I started this alias. I’ve always been a pretty private and discreet person, so I decided not to use my given name and I came up with “Feral” which actually comes from a Radiohead’s track I really liked from the album “The King of Limbs”.
The concept behind the project has changed alongside the evolution of my persona and my interests in music and arts over the past few years. I went from being more interested in Eastern religions and philosophies to more concrete things like science and contemporary arts, as well as books and movies etc… I never really identified myself in a single concept to be fair. I consider myself a curious person and I’m always looking for new viewpoints that will offer me a different perspective of the world and what surrounds me. I don’t like to be stuck on things for too long so I’m sure the project will keep changing faces alongside my experiences.
We are more than happy to have already worked a few times! You played at the first edition of our festival last year. How did you prepare your gig and what impressions and emotions did you take with you from the festival?
Likewise! I’m happy to collaborate with the Monument team once again. The festival has been nothing but an extremely positive experience from my side. I had the chance to play the very first day alongside Birds ov Paradise and Ntogn for a little Hypnus Records showcase, the location was great and the sound system too. There were a lot of people I knew there and the fact that the festival had limited capacity made the whole environment relaxed. I didn’t get to experience the full festival because I had to leave in the early morning after my set, but I heard the following days were great.
Regarding the set, my goal was to deliver a good first night to the people at the festival – an introduction to what the days after would have been for them – so I tried to keep the set as homogenous and deep as possible.
You have been a part of Hypnus since 2014 and released a ton of music on the label. How did you get in contact with the label?
I have to give full credits to Luigi for that. I found out about Hypnus in 2014 when I was digging for new music on a portal called “Traxsource”. I came across Jana Sleep’s “Echoes” and Luigi’s “Geonosis” and I immediately identified myself in the sound of the label. At the time Luigi was releasing under a different alias so it took me a couple of months to realize he was actually from the same city as I am, so I wrote him on Facebook and we met at a club called Brancaleone, here in Rome. Not so long after that night, I sent him some music I was working on and with big surprise, he forwarded it to Michel (Hypnus Label Head), who welcomed me into the roster.
I read an interview with Luigi Tozzi and it seems that you all share a deeply connected friendship. What does the work within the label look like?
We all have a great connection. I think one of the strengths of the label is the fact that we’ve always been very communicative and honest with each other. In doing so, we created a stimulating, challenging and comfortable environment for ourselves to be in which brought us to influence each other and grow our individual sound research. Not to mention the great effort Michel puts into the bureaucratic side of the label and anything that’s behind the Hypnus facade – he has exceptional organizational skills. I don’t think I would ever be able to achieve what he did with Hypnus to be fair, it takes an enormous amount of time and passion to run all alone a growing label like this one.
Now you started your label Aube Rouge. That is very exciting! When and how did you come up with the idea to start your label?
The idea of starting my own label has been in the back of my mind for the past few years and it materialized at the beginning of this year. I felt the need to find a different output from the one I already had on Hypnus and I didn’t have a strong desire to work with other labels at that point, so I decided to start my own.
Can you tell us what is the meaning behind the name of your label?
Aube Rouge means “Red Dawn” in french, which was the name of a big hit American war movie directed by John Milius in 1984. The film is full of cliches and I find it to be the perfect emblem of the United States of those years, a country that has subsequently influenced entire generations.
In a previous conversation, you told me that the label idea comes from your interest in old amusement parks from the 80’s/90’s and the sounds that surround them. Can you tell us more about this source of inspiration?
Yes, the whole idea behind the label is rooted in my memories of a place I used to often hang out at as a kid, which I later discovered to be the oldest amusement park in Italy, built in 1953. The entrance of this Lunapark lies right in front of a country club which my family has been members of for decades, so my parents used to take me there from time to time after tennis practice and I kept going back when I was old enough to go out by myself.
The thing that always fascinated me about this place is the fact that it was last renewed at the end of the 70’s/early 80’s so once you stepped in the park, the atmosphere, the sounds coming from the attractions, the ride workers trying to engage people with their microphones, and the charming attention to details made you leap back in time. Growing up I had the chance to visit several amusement parks around the world, these places always give me conflicting emotions, which is something I’m absolutely addicted to. The fear and excitement that comes with you before entering a scary ride, that’s what I’m currently looking for in music and what I’m hoping to deliver with Aube Rouge.
How did you approach producing this EP? Did you already have a concept or idea before getting into the work process?
Yes. The idea was to make a more stripped-down, raw and tool-ish record compared to the ones I’ve put out on Hypnus during the last 5 years.
How long was the work process for the first EP on your label?
The whole work process took about 4 or 5 weeks.
What pieces of gear did you use for the EP?
Pretty much all the sounds in the EP besides the kick drums (which are classic 808/909) come from patches I’ve made in VCV rack, a modular-based DAW. Although I mainly work with digital instruments, I do a lot of tracking and routings with external fxs to give a little bit more character and artifacts to the sounds. The shakers have been recorded in my studio with a pretty bad Peavey microphone I found in the house I used to live in, and they’re all made out of used bottles of various shapes filled with either salt or toothpicks.
One track that stands out for me is “Rêve”, an ambient piece with an eerie and mysterious atmosphere. What is the story behind this track?
Rêve is intended to be the representation of that conflict of emotions I was telling you about early on. My biggest concern with the whole EP was to create a juxtaposition of emotions that would give the listeners different feelings contextually to the place or state of mind they find themselves in.
I listened to your EP and it sounds great! Any specific track of your EP, you’d like to give a shoutout or that is special for you?
Being the very first EP of my own label I feel like the whole record grew into something special for me and I’m hoping it will be for the listeners too.
You also said that your new label is a platform only for your music and some collaborations with friends. Can you name some of your friends and with whom would you also like to work together for a production?
Yes, I have a couple more records ready for next year but I can’t say anything about collaborations with other artists yet, time will tell.
Like any other artists, your career is affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How were your last months and how does your daily life look at the moment?
I found myself spending most of my time in the studio, although it hasn’t been easy to find any strong creative inputs in this situation. I often go out for long bike rides and runs, I go skating and from time to time I see some friends, nothing too crazy. The whole world has obviously been hit pretty hard by the pandemic, small businesses, which also include many of the clubs in our scene, are dying – needless to say that as everyone else I’m hoping things can go back to normal soon.
Last but not least: Do you have any upcoming plans and projects, you would like to share with us?
I have a coming up record on Mental Modern and I’m working on some new music for Hypnus as well as a new live set. It’s hard to make life plans at the moment in the situation we find ourselves in but I’ll definitely keep my focus on the music for now, as long as the resources I have will allow me to do so.