In Conversation with Gaudi On His Dub/Reggae Roots & The Power of Collaborations
UK-based artist of Italian origin, Gaudi is the epitome of world electronic music — Indian ragas, tradition Italian sounds and African chanting have laced themselves through his dub-influenced music with equal ease, underpinned with fat basslines. His Interchill Records album ‘Bass, Sweat and Tears’ back in 2004 made waves with its global sounds and brought together a range of talented artists around the world, and 10 years later, it was re-released by Six Degrees Records, alongwith the mindbending ‘Dub, Sweat and Tears’. More than anything else, it’s his appreciation for a mind-boggling range of music (and as we find out, the silence in between the notes) that makes him such a milestone in dub/reggae and bass music.
We’re stoked to have him headlining Bass Camp 2015 in Delhi and Mumbai, and caught up with him to find out more:
I.) Tell us a little bit about how you first discovered reggae, the ethos behind Gaudi and your unique dub/world electronica sound. What are the other genres you’ve dabbled in?
I discovered reggae music in 1977, I was 14 years old at that time — and strangely enough, it wasn’t through Bob Marley. I still remember it as though it was yesterday, I was inside a local records store in my hometown Bologna (Italy) and a song started playing: ‘Chase The Devil‘ by Max Romeo; I literally fell in love with it straightaway, my devotion to reggae and dub music started from there… I was hooked for life!
With relation of other genres of music I dabbled in, the reason why I was inside that record store is because 5 minutes earlier, I had bought an album that influenced my life forever: The Man Machine, by German electronica pioneers Kraftverk. That was a very good day!
II.) Who are some of your primary musical influences? What is it about them that inspires you the most?
I started making music professionally in 1981, and my inspirations were founded in experimental electronic music. I’ve always worked with electronica, and I’ve always had a subtle ‘offbeat’ groove when it came to reggae music. In all my music compositions, those two elements always went hand-in-hand with each other. My major source of influences were: The Residents, Can, Devo,Tuxedomoon, Bauhaus, Talking Heads, Kraftwerk, NEU, King Crimson, Throbbling Gristle, Third World, King Tubby, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru, Lee Scratch Perry, Jimmy Cliff, Scientist, Burning Spear and, of course, Bob Marley.
What’s about them that inspires me the most? Every of those artists created their own unique sounds, not copying something that already existed but pursuing what they believed was right, this — for me — represented the highest form of ‘artistic freedom’, freedom of expressing yourself without boundaries. This is the reason why I make music.
III.) What is your favourite part of having such a busy touring schedule? Any observations when it comes to audiences from different parts of the world you’d like to share?
I like the diversity of every single gig I do, relating with a difference audience, different ambientation, different sound system, different energy… everything changes every concert I play, every city I play, every country I play and every continent I play, but there’s only one thing that stays the same: my music, which is the main reason why those people are there, the catalyst that keeps us all together under the same roof. I find it extremely fascinating!
IV.) What are some of your favourite venues/festivals to have played at, and what are the elements that come together to make for these?
In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to play in some stellar venues around the globe, I have to admit. But there are two particularly that are absolutely unbeatable: in 2012, I played at The Pyramids of Egypt, and in 2004, I played at The Colosseum in Rome (Italy) with an audience of 350,000 people! Both places are considered ‘Wonders of the World’, I really need to visit all seven! (laughs)
Bringing my music to those locations made feel extremely happy but also extremely natural, as if it was normal for my music to be there at that moment in time! Another favourite spot where I played my concerts was The Burning Man, a 70,000 people gathering that happens every year in the Black Rocks Desert in Nevada (USA), an amazing experience!
V.) Tell us a little bit about your creative process. [How was ‘Bass, Sweat and Tears’ back in 2004 conceptualised? Please also tell us a little bit about your collaboration with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.]
I am happy to see that there is still so much interest around that milestone album composed in between 1999-2003 and released in 2004 by Interchill Records. Yes, making that album was an amazing and complicated process that took me 4 years, recording incredibly talented artists and musicians from all over the world. I’ve been to Africa for that, recording djembe players, singers, drummers and everything I could with my portable DAT machine, voices from markets, ambient sounds, kids playing etc. Then I went back to my studio in London, and assembled everything, composing new music around those recordings, adapting my ‘sonic vision’ to the material I recorded, which is exactly the formula that I adopt in all my production.
I don’t particularly like when artists adapt their own sound to my music, I rather prefer adapting my music to artists that I chose to work with. If I liked their ‘essence’ I want to keep it intact, if that was what initially captured me — it has to stay pure, as it was. The reflection of all I just said is strongly imprinted in my album ‘Dub Qawwali’ in collaboration with the greatest qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
VI.) As a producer who has worked with so many artists from across the globe — in your opinion, what is the power of collaboration? What is the process like for you, and how do you generally find collaborators?
I personally don’t have any rules or formulas when I collaborate with other artists. Sometimes it has happened spontaneously, like in the backstage of a music festival for example. You socialise with another artist and you realise that you have many things in common, so a music collaboration can start — it has happened! Or maybe just getting in touch with someone you would like to share a music adventure with, or vice versa… It’s all extremely spontaneous.
VII.) A lot of your music reflects roots in dub, where does that originate from?
Yes it does, I think it is for the hypnotic factor that dub music has in it, those repetitive basslines, those rhythm sections, those cyclical patterns of suspended echo flavours. But especially the emptiness in between notes. Yes, it is the importance that this type of music gives to the silence in between the notes, that is as important as the sound itself! I love sound and I love the silence in between. In my 12 years of classical piano training, my favourite and most intriguing part in the music score was exactly the silence, written in the music score of course, with the name of ‘Tacet’. I loved it, maybe one day I will call an album ‘Tacet’…. hmm, thanks for the inspiration, Krunk!
VIII.) Your music’s social conscience is something that really stands out, please tell us about some of the causes you feel strongly about. How can music be a tool for social change?
Music doesn’t have more value than other mediums of communication in increasing awareness or expanding minds, it does have an enormous power, though. It can filter through your skin without you even noticing it, differently from any forms of communication, where you need to pay attention to what you see or read. Music has a more subtle way to impact you: frequencies, vibrations, movements, our planet resonates constantly with other planets, stars and galaxies. All the universe is in constant vibrational mode!
The message within music doesn’t need to be necessarily ‘verbal’ (for example, a voice that tells you what to do etc.) but it is based on emotions. Most of the music pieces that influenced me, and humanity in general, are instrumental: one of my favourite composers is Erik Satie, who has never used vocals in his music compositions, Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart… they never had vocals in their pieces but the message came through! Music can hit you, can shake you, can transmit you an input, but the way you emotionally feel is unique, the way you ‘decode’ those sonic particles is absolutely individual. “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain,” — Robert Nesta Marley
IX.) Have you visited India before/are you familiar with the electronic music scene here? What can fans expect from Gaudi at Bass Camp?
This is my fourth tour in India in the last 5 years, and yes, I have played many times and in many cities of this beautiful country. I am familiar with the electronic music scene, I was so impressed the first time I discovered the fast-expanding electronic scene, very vibrant and very fresh!
I have worked with several artists in the scene, very inspiring. What can fans expect from me at Bass Camp? Well, I’d say… the unexpected!
X.) What’s in the cards for you next?
A good player never reveals his cards (laughs) Just stay tuned. ONE LOVE.