Interview: Dino Sabatini

Dino Sabatini

Let’s start out talking about your label, Outis. In ancient Greek, this translates to “nobody.” And it’s mentioned in some ancient Greek stories. To my knowledge, the entirety of your label is themed around Greek mythology; where did your interest in this come from?

I first heard the stories in school when I was very young, and they are still some of the best I’ve ever heard. There is something that is very similar there to my style of music. The stories are dark, but also full of love. I feel something there is very similar to my kind of techno music. This is why I decided to call my label Outis, it’s full of love and adventure. And it’s also a way for me to tell a story.

So when you are actually producing the music, are you thinking of these stories when working on tracks?

Yes. For example, Scylla and Charybdis.There is a sound, like a voice in my mind… it’s not easy to explain. But yes, I think about these stories when working on music. Some stories can also be similar to what’s happening in my life.

The last few releases on Outis have been collaborations between you and other artists, like Donato Dozzy. Are you going to continue with this collaboration format on the label?

Yes, of course I like to collaborate with Italians and with other people. With Donato and Giorgio Gigli it’s been very easy. I’ll come back to Rome to be with my family, and it’s easy to meet with them and make music together. But with Tony, we’re passing files by Skype or sending links. So it’s different. I like to have contact with the artist when I’m playing music. With Tony it’s been easy, but just because it’s Tony. This wouldn’t have worked with Donato; he’s very precise when he’s making music. So every single sound is a decision. I like to make collaborations, but usually prefer to be in the same space physically.

With artists like Donato and Tony, that’s a fairly new collaboration. But then there is your very long-term collaboration with Gianluca as Modern Heads. How is it different to collaborate with someone who you’ve worked with for many years, as opposed to only once or twice?

It’s very different. It’s unbelievable, we can make tracks very quickly. I’ve known him for a long time, it’s like we grew up together, musically. We don’t have to talk much. I know what he’s great at: for instance, harmony. He’s great at making pads, maybe one of the best in the world. Working with other artists is different. Donato has more of a DJ’ing background. He will have a great idea where he’ll focus on a single sound, he’s like a machine. But it’s completely different working with Gianluca who is more of a traditional musician.

I’m very happy that we’ve started again with Modern Heads. I have more time to come back home now; two months ago I got married with a girl in Rome, so now I come back to Rome one time per month so I have a change to meet everyone, including Gianluca and Donato. So I’m doing some reunions. I’m waiting for remixes from Donato and Giorgio. Just because I would like to make a reunion for some artists from Electronica Romana. This is very important for me, it’s like family.

And Gianluca, he did a solo release on Outis last year…

Yes, so Gianluca can do anything. He could do thirty tracks that could all be completely different styles. It’s been a big work to decide which tracks to decide on. But he did an amazing job, and we decided on a name together to bring it closer to the Outis concept. Gianluca is full of ideas but needs to move in the right way, his music is not meant for the dancefloor but for other situations. I have a big project for him in my mind. I love his music.

Another artist I find very interesting on Outis is Luigi Tozzi. He’s very young.

Yes, he’s like a son. He lives very close to my house. He told me something like “Dino, you are my life, so here’s my music” or something like this. So I listened to his tracks, and I realized he’s young but he’s amazing. I want to follow him and help him. He has many ideas. Weeks ago, I was in Rome and he called me telling me he had even more tracks. Before, he gave me like 10 or 12 tracks, so now I have like 20 tracks from Luigi. So it’s a problem, I have to decide between such beautiful music. He’s very young and he doesn’t know about some stuff. Now everyone is trying to book him, so he needs some advice. With Luigi, it’s very funny because it’s like having a son. He’s very young and full of energy – he wants to make music, he wants to play. We are fighting with the pressing plant right now over some issues. If I resolve this problem there will be more tracks coming from him in January or February. We also have Claudio PRC and Ness coming up on a release after the next Modern Heads release.

It almost seems like there’s a second wave of hypnotic techno artists. Not only in Italy but also internationally. You have artists like Luigi, Claudio PRC, Deepbass, and Ness. Does it feel to you like this niche of techno is growing, in terms of both listeners and artists?

Sure. I’m playing around the world. I think it’s amazing for an artist to see that everywhere people are playing your kind of style. I remember around 10 years ago our music was considered boring here. But everyone – me, Giorgio, Donato, we believed in our project and knew we had to go with it. We are getting back something right now. But for the last two years, if I go to Japan, everyone is playing this music. In Portugal, in Russia, in Australia. It’s nice. Talking to these young people making this music they make you feel like a saint. I’m almost 45 years old now, and I still like to play every week, but it’s nice to see young people making this dream a reality.

So we talked about Outis and the Greek mythology theme, but there’s another theme that applies to some of your music, which is shamanism. The clearest example of this is of course your album on Prologue, Shaman’s Path. I was reading through some reviews of the album, and people seems to be interpreting it as specifically about African shamanism, rather than shamanism from other places like South America. Was it your intentional to refer specifically to African shamanism?

It was not my idea to think about Africa. I called it that because sometimes I feel like a shaman when I DJ. With some music you can connect people with life and outer life. So that was my concept to be a bridge between reality and not-reality, but just with music. So it’s really a path. I organized my album in this way, like a trip. But some parts of techno music are coming from tribal ritual. If you listen to some African music you realize some of our grooves are coming from there, but that’s because everything comes from there. If you listen to funk, you’ll hear it too. I’m not religious, I don’t follow anything other than my spirit and my body. A long time ago, when I was young, I read a book from [Carlos] Castaneda. I was very young, maybe 18 years old and it left a big impression on me. It was something I still remembered as an adult. And I have friends now that have followed in his path of shamanism.

When the album came out you did a tour focused around it. Do you think that the audience that you played for was aware of this theme and were receptive to it?

Yes. On the dancefloor, people make a connection with you. So there’s some kind of groove, of sound that is pretty tribal. Some kinds of sounds are purely human. I think that people are thinking like me when I play tracks from Shaman’s Path on the dancefloor.

Around the same time you were doing the tour, there was an article that came out in Rolling Stone magazine that mentioned you playing at Berghain. Did you ever expect to see your name in Rolling Stone?

[Laughs] It’s funny. I was playing at Berghain at around 11 o’clock in the morning, a very deep hypnotic style. But then they made a big review for Berghain, which I think is one of the best clubs in the world. I was very happy when I saw my name in Rolling Stone, it’s not usual. It was a big surprise for me. But it was not a review for my music, just for Berghain.

Do you think that you have any new fans after that article came out? Maybe people who don’t even listen to techno but read Rolling Stone.

I got a booking request from Las Vegas, which was really strange. But we’re talking about techno music, and Rolling Stone is more about commercial music, so it’s different. I got more fans after Shaman’s Path. Still I’m working every week, changing things in my style, changing things everywhere. I’m doing a a new album – it’s almost finished. It’s another kind of style, it’s very slow. For this album, I step back. I’ve been listening to some trip hop music now. It’s a style I’ve loved for a long time. I remember a long time ago I listened to Protection by Massive Attack, and it was like a knife in my heart. Still it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to. It’s been a year that I’ve been thinking about changing the style of my music. To take my style of techno, but also to think about something very slow just to listen to. Not for dancing. With techno music, you can make the mistake of copying yourself in every track. I fight with this problem every time I’m doing something. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that I’ve made a similar sound before. And I need time to decide my next EP, I need time to create a new sound. I’m also doing machines by myself now, controllers and synthesizers. I’m trying to make a different kind of sound. I’m working every day to do that. Once I have a new sound, I’ll make an album. Sometimes I have trouble with people when they ask for a remix or for some tracks, and I work very slowly. But I don’t like to make the same tracks as before.

Besides trip hop, what other stuff are you listening to?

In the morning sometimes I’ll listen to some reggae or dub. Or sometimes classical music. Sometimes jazz, as I was a guitarist for a long time. I love everything. Two weeks ago I was in Australia, in Melbourne, and in the morning I needed to listen to some Bob Marley. The week after I was in China, so of course in the morning I was listening to classical music because it was very noisy. In Berlin, I like to listen to electronic music. But to be honest, there is nothing in music I can say I don’t like. Just stupid music, you know. There is something I want to call “stupid music,” but this is pop, something I don’t follow.

Sometimes I take my guitar and play blues. I have big roots in blues. It’s a root for other kinds of music, like jazz. And everything is connected to tribal music of course. There is blues, there is jazz, but everything is really coming from tribal music. If you study music, you can be able to understand. I think that young need to study something about types of music and rhythm. For a long time I went to a music school in Italy. So now if I’m playing with a sequencer I know what I’m doing. I would like to say to young people, please study and learn. I know sometimes it’s boring, but it’s a big help to understand even simple things like the difference between intervals. Too many people don’t know.

When you were at music school did they teach you about tribal music?

Yes, sure. At the beginning I was just reading sheet music. After five or six years, I began to play and read at the same time. So it was a long job of ten or twelve years to learn every day. But it’s not just to learn the music and the notes, but to learn the story of music. So then I received my diploma, but it’s just paper. But it gave me the chance to play in television and make some money. But it was also boring. Playing at ten o’clock in the morning for television was really boring. Now I’m very happy because I can do what I want with music. I can play everywhere.