Tale Of Us: The Beginning of the Endless
World-acclaimed DJ duo Tale of Us has been defining the dance scene for years.
Active since 2008, Italian-born, Berlin-based producers Karm and Matteo have released a number of EPs on respected labels like R&S, Detroit’s Visionquest and Richie Hawtin’s M-nus imprint, recently ranked the third most influential DJs of 2016 on Resident Advisor.
In an unexpected turn for an electronic act, Tale Of Us’ latest project, Endless, finds the duo fusing classical, ambient and film music together into a new world of sound and composition. Classical music has been with Karm and Matteo ever since their childhood, an influence that first sees the light of day now. It’s pretty sensational, though, that the album is released on the world-renowned classical label, Deutsche Grammophon.
We met Matteo in Berlin learn more about this new chapter for Tale Of Us.
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With Endless you have reinvented Tale Of Us’ artistic expression with the crossover of classical music, ambient and film music. Can you remember your first encounter with classical music?
My first encounter with classical music was through my father. He had a lot of Bach and Mozart records in the house. We had an old gramophone and listened to the records on vinyl. He owned around 10 records that we would play over and over again.
Did you enjoy that kind of music at the time?
I don’t really know. I’m not sure if I understood classical music back then. I remember it being a nice experience, because I shared it with my father.
Did you learn to play an instrument? How did your taste in music change over time?
I used to go to piano lessons, not because I wanted to but because it was a part of the musical upbringing in our house. Karm, my partner in Tale Of Us, plays the piano as well. He now plays it properly because he studied it for the Endless project. I got back to it later, when I was in university and matured a bit. By then I listened to all kinds of electronic music, like Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada.
The beginning of the 2000s was an incredible time for electronic music. Then I started to come back to minimalism and very introspective electronic compositions. In the end that type of music is very connected to classical music because of the string and piano sections. Slowly from there I went back in time. Back to Rachmaninov, which is now one of my main inspirations. So, I didn’t study music history it from the beginning. It was more of a process from the modern times back to the old.
How did you approach this journey of merging two worlds musically? Where do you see similarities and differences between classical and electronic music?
To me, classical music in the sense of a classic arrangement and played by classic instruments, is always going to be part of music history. I somehow feel that the classical world is very conservative and that it always has been very separate from the rest. A couple of years ago Nils Frahm and Erased Tapes brought it back to me. They brought the music back to our scene, through us, the young people. They were able to take away the tension from it. They are not conservative, they make experimental art.
Last year, we gave one track from the album to Nils Frahm, who is a dear friend of ours, for his Piano Day concept. That was the beginning of the connection for us. The scenes are now colliding more and more. Computer music has become interesting for classically trained musicians, in the same way as an electronic producer has to ask an orchestra if he wants a good string section. It is not like you can find it in the computer. I think there is cross contamination is very now and very contemporary and very cool.
There is a lot of movement, like soundtrack composers who used to be in their own world are now there are kind of stars. Look at Hans Zimmer, he plays Coachella! Also artist like Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson have a whole new momentum. That is very interesting to me.
When you started with Endless did you have a clear vision of the soundscape in your mind or did everything evolve organically in the process?
We did not start it and we did not finish the record. It was just there. We did not do it to release it, because it is obviously not a normal Tale Of Us record. It was just us having fun experimenting. It was really like that. We were for a long time thinking we need to do a dance album and I always found myself thinking “Oh this is really boring, this is just a dance album. No one wants to put that on at home, it is rather for the club.” So we made many EPs out of it. The album idea never really left our minds though and after two or three years, it was there. For meditation purposes we made ambient music. When we suddenly had 15 tracks and we were like: Let’s release it! Now it’s our debut album, even though it is not our debut album. It is just the first record we release in that format
Let’s talk a little bit about Deutsche Grammophon. It is said that it is a little sensation that club artists release a record on this classical label. How did that happen and how did you know that it would be a good fit?
We pitched to couple of labels, not as a Tale Of Us record, we were just testing the waters to see if people liked it or not. We got good feedback. Deutsche Grammophon wasn’t even in the picture yet. Friends and other people we know liked the concept and they thought is was cool. We were like: “Hey, if they like it, let’s try the best labels and see if they like it too!” When Deutsche Grammophon got it, the feedback we received was incredible. “Tale Of Us, we love them!”
I could not believe that they knew us, but they did for sure! Really unbelievable. They loved Tale Of Us even as a dance act, and were certainly not expecting this kind of record. For us that was cool and we decided to release it with them. This was the moment when we were certain that we could release it under the name Tale Of Us. If it is with Deutsche Grammophon it is a big statement. If it would have been on another ambient label, maybe it would not have been Tale Of Us. But like this, it felt good to release it like under that name.
Will there be live performances with Endless?
We have a live concept that we tried already at Funkhaus Berlin and it worked well. It has to be connected to art and to more like open spaces and big environments. It is a completely different world, really, which does not go hand in hand with our DJ sets. We cannot play this is in our club sets. I could imagine that we would play it as an evening show in a city where we are playing as DJs during the night. I mean, why not. Maybe a person who would see the Endless show even would come to the club afterwards. Maybe another person who is planning on coming to the club sees that we are performing Endless and decides to check it out as well.
The Director of New Repertoire in Deutsche Grammophon put you in line with pioneering artists like Brian Eno and Kraftwerk. How does that make you feel?
Great, of course! I honestly don’t think we can be compared to Kraftwerk, unfortunately. But I am glad that they think so though, that is a great compliment. I see myself as a DJ and as a good composer and producer, but not someone that will revolutionize music like Kraftwerk or Brian Eno. If you want to look at what is on top of ambient techno music at the moment, I am sure there will be a spot for us. Let’s hope it stays in history. But that only time can tell.
Let’s talk a little bit about Berlin and the local music scene. How long have you been in the city now?
7 years. When I first got here it was mind-blowing. I was 20 years old and it was just fantastic.
How has the city changed in the last 7 years?
The Berlin vibe I felt when I first got here, is not here for me anymore. I kind of left the city. I travel so much and I’m not part of my neighbourhood in the way I just to be. When I got here for the first time, I came from the University of Economics in Milan and oh my God, it was a different world! Berlin has this kind of laid back vibe.
Everybody is not really worried about their future. Even smart people, they don’t really seem to care. Rather than go and work for someone, they wash dishes in a cool bar next door. I like the spirit. I mean it is not necessarily right, but I like the spirit and it reflects positively in the city. It stays cheap it doesn’t really gentrify to the point where it is too touristic, even though it is full of tourists. All the tourists that come to Berlin are Berliners at the end of the day. They adapt and they become Berliners.
What do you think about the local music scene?
The music scene is amazing. I think it is a bit too good and a little bit spoiled. There is just too much going on. What is very interesting with the music scene in Berlin is that it is the only music scene, that takes some chances. I think of Atonal Festival, for example. It is not the usual thing, it is more open minded. At the end of the day, you can pretty much get away with everything here.
Last but not least: Why did you call you album Endless?
The music is meant to bring you on a journey that feels timeless. If you stop time, the moment becomes endless. It is also kind of cool to think that the Tale Of Us is endless. I like stories that don’t have an end, and not even a beginning. I think of these narratives that take part in somebody’s life, but they don’t have a beginning nor an end. Endless is just like that.
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