Interview: Sonitus Eco (Justin Meli)

Sonitus Eco Interview

So, you’re a techno producer from Malta, which is a Mediterranean archipelago with a total population of under half a million. But judging from your social media activity, it seems that there exists a techno scene there in some form or another. What can you tell us about techno in Malta? Are there other Maltese techno producers we should know about?

Well, yes there is a “techno Scene” here , a fucked up one with more “promoters” and “djs” coming out of nowhere every month … being a small island the scene is relatively small (around 300-400 people max), with only 1 decent techno club, Liquid Club. We have a saturation of events, but many of them are of poor quality, with the local line up consisting of the promoter himself or of the guy who sells the most tickets ( not all promoters, there are some hard working, honest guys too! ). Sadly, local producers / live performers are rarely in the lineup of local events. On a positive note, this year was one of the best years for techno in Malta , where we had some amazing artists brought over like Shifted, Donato Dozzy, Perc, Abdulla Rashim, Xhin and more..

There are a couple of Maltese producers who are doing excellent stuff like N.D and Acidulant!

Going off of that last question, how does a Maltese producer like yourself come to be associated with a Canadian label like Silent Season? Did you just send them a demo one day and they liked it, or did the label come to know about you through some other means?

Its funny, some months ago when Abdulla Rashim was here in Malta and his remix for Edanticonf had just came out on Silent Season, he asked me the exact same question, haha.

Well I have been following the label from its start and one day I started chatting with Jamie and just asked him if he would like to listen to some demos and I guess he liked what he listened too..

It seems like you’ve worked almost exclusively with netlabels for your releases. Was this a decision you made from day one? Do you intend to continue working exclusively with netlabels in the future?

When I started releasing my stuff, I was already involved with a netlabel project (www.pinkpube.com) releasing local stuff so I released my first EP under Sonitus Eco there, for free, and I had very good feedback on the EP, so I released a couple of others almost instantly on other netlabels. 2013 will see my first vinyl releases tough with some remixes already in the mastering process :)

It says in your artist biography that you were influenced by early electronic music, such as Musique concrete. Do you think this style manifests itself in the music you produce now?

Without a doubt, experimentation was always a key figure in my productions. I use a lot of field recordings I record everyewhere… my hardware live performances are almost all done on the fly with a “go with what i feel like doing in that moment” attitude. In the studio, for me the sound design is the most important part of the process.. sometimes I dont really give a fuck about the dancefloor :)

So let’s talk a bit about dub techno. Some prominent producers associated with the genre seem to have a distaste for the phrase “dub techno.”

Stephen Hitchell (of Echospace) once told me he views it as “deep techno,” while others like Brendon Moeller think that labeling anything more specifically than just “techno” is a mistake. What is your take on this?

Haha, yes I noticed that too, even Bvdub in an interview hated the word dub techno…

Well “dub techno” for me was convenient, and I always loved the Basic Channel sound. The genre for me has an amalgamation of influences in it that I can relate to. I can produce an ambient track with pulsating basses, subterrenenan kicks and industrial noise if i am in the mood, or if i am in the mood of a more dancefloor-friendly track I can do it too. But on top of all I try to produce what i feel at the moment, I dont really limit myself with the genre…

So your most recent album came out on Silent Season in 2012, and was titled “It is Loneliness That Makes The Loudest Noise.” The dedication on the album reads “to all the lonely people in mental institutions.” If it’s not too personal to discuss online, what was your inspiration for this?

I have been working with people with mental disabilities for the past 10 years, and yes they are my utmost inspiration as I can see their sadness and feel it, the loneliness and feeling of abandonment. Sadly in a highly religious place like Malta, we are 30 years backwards when it comes to mental disability.

So that album came out in February of 2012. And then in September, Resident Advisor announced Silent Season as their label of the month (and included one of your tracks in the RA label mix). I’m always curious to see what sort of effect major blog mentioning have on lesser known artists and labels. Did you see a noticeable increase in interest after RA’s announcement, whether by more album sales or Facebook followers?

Hmm… I didnt really notice a high increase in followers, the album was sold out in a couple of weeks (I still have some copies left for sale though) so I really dont know .. wait, but I got to do this interview, no ? :)

So what should we expect from Sonitus Eco (or any other Justin Meli alias) in 2013?

It’s looking busy, production-wise I have loads of stuff to do. I started recording some field recordings for my second album, and I have some remixes and EPs coming out under my new alias, Silence of Space. The is also a plan for a collab full-length with my Italian friend Emanuele Pertoldi. Also, hopefully in 2013 I will launch my small label :)

Live performance-wise it’s looking a bit slow at the moment, as its quite difficult to get bookings in a place like Malta. And as I said before, even Maltese promoters don’t really give us locals much space.

Let’s end with the same question we always do. Which up-and-coming artists and labels are you excited about right now?

Artists-wise, N.D for sure is pushing Maltese techno to an other level. I am also always excited to hear new stuff from my mate Emanuele Pertoldi .. there are a lot to mention, like Ness, Deepbass, Martin Nonstatic, Fabio Scalabroni .. 2012 was an exceptionally good year for techno!

Label-wise Eclipse music is one of my Fav at the moment. Frames of Thought, Trivmvirate, Evasion Room Records, Reaktivate and Biorecordings are doing a fantastic job!