Originally hailing from Bristol, Berlin-based Anton Maiovvi has gone through some intriguing changes since starting out as a noise musician. With a number of dramatically charged albums in the vein of Goblin & Giorgio Moroder in the last 3 years topped by a double album out on Seed Records last month, he’s proving to be a prolific producer with a keen sense of cinematic melody that is always looking for new musical venues to explore. Toby Frith chatted to him over the course of a fortnight on email.
I’ve been a fan for a couple of years now and the most striking aspect of your music that comes through time and time again is an almost instinctive sense of drama. Is this a central motif or theme?
Perhaps because I like extreme things, especially in cinema and music. Drama is one of those. The film Possession by Andrzej Zulawski (who I named an EP after) is a great example of how far you can push drama, and though most people I know laugh at the performances, to me they are very beautiful. If I can be a little pretentious, I’m as influenced by say, the weight of sadness and humor in Buttgereit’s Nekromantic as I am it’s music. What might be a better (or perhaps more fitting in Maiovvi world) example is Midnight Express. Or I’m just overly sensitive, perhaps a little sad sometimes, but with a wicked sense of humor.
You mention Nekromantic - is there something in the transgressive that appeals to you on a more emotional or intellectual level, or is it just about shlock as it were?
Don’t get me wrong as I love trash, but even in that medium there are great ideas, weirdness and things to share and discuss. When it comes to films or music then these are the things I look for; the things I am inspired by. The longer I am involved in music the more people I meet who had similar childhood experiences like not being popular or being pushed into solitary activities. It’s great that we all know each other now and we have all this knowledge about ‘weird’ things, things that you only learn about from feeling disconnected and that there must be something more interesting out there.
That show was one of my favourites. Well, the wiimote thing, partly because I always wanted to be a pop singer (albeit a fairly demented one), partly because I didn’t want to be a guy behind a computer anymore (not that there is anything wrong with that at all) and partly because I personally like those kind of concerts where things could kick off. I was using the Wiimote for noise stuff for years and years and I’m not sure why I didn’t think of applying it to disco before. The live set is a constantly evolving thing and it’s not so much that I want to concentrate on performance, I do it because it’s really fun to write music and then be able to play it to people and I prefer playing live to DJ sets, which I’m led to believe is quite a strange position to have within the dance world. I told some friends who make bass music this and they literally told me I was insane.
My brother, who’s much older than me, used to go and see the Birthday Party play live and he said that much of the appeal was that it did kick off - Nick Cave used to come on and kick people in the face at the front of the audience and goad people in general.
The Birthday Party is a great example. I would have loved to have seen them in the day. For me, going to rock concerts as a teenager I learned pretty quickly where to be in the room to avoid all the violence. I’m not a violent person at all, but I’m curious about it and this is one of the things that drew me towards noise music. Being in Bristol meant there wasn’t that much of it, but once I got involved and actually started making it I got to see some wonderful things, like the legendary Filthy Turd playing to 10 people half naked smashing an amplified cymbal with a crowbar that was on fire.
For example, I sometimes go to the speedcore nights here in Berlin. To me speedcore is totally noise, or even noise rock, but because it is presented under the umbrella of techno, people dance. However the only real issue I have with the industrial sub-genre is sometimes it can attract right wing idiots. This never happens at disco parties, I think the gay overtones of the music keeps them away, or something.
The kind of stuff I like is overwhelming and emotional, so Power Electronics, Harsh Noise early Industrial. I actually got the same feeling when I heard Patrick Cowley’s track Mind Warp, hypnotic but not trancey, raw and psychedelic. It’s about going to other worlds and sometimes being taken somewhere quite frightening but when you come out the other side, well, I always feel better.
Something I’ve always been curious about it most of the noise people I know have little interest in Italo Disco, but when italo guys meet me they are always curious to hear the noise stuff I’ve done. I thought the experimental musicians were supposed to be the open minded ones!
I guess you share an affinity with William Bennett then? There is something wonderfully cathartic about noise and I guess italo too - is the extreme polarity between the two something you enjoy?
Whitehouse always been a big influence for me, not that I want to sound like them but in the execution. With the italo / noise connection I don’t like to think they are polar opposites as it’s all psychedelic music to me. I guess one you can sing along to, but both use filtered white noise.
However Italo appealed to me mostly because I felt I could hear the influence of Goblin, Fabio Frizzi or Tangerine Dream in it. It was like someone had tried to make pop music with all these avant garde influences and it had turned out really raw, emotional and charming, unlike any other kind of ‘dance’ music I’d ever heard before.
In fairness I hadn’t really explored EDM outside of Aphex Twin, and then you hear ‘Spacer Woman’ by Charlie or ‘Eyes Of Glass’ by East Wall and I’m completely blown away, both are insanely beautiful songs.
It wasn’t instant. The first thing I heard was that I-Robots compilation, which had a lot of the really killer tracks on it, but exploring the genre properly I must have gone through hours and hours of stuff, the I love Disco Diamonds CDs which were quite cheap on Ebay at the time, looking for the stuff which could fit into what now is called “Horror Disco”.
Yet it became an obsession and something a lot of my friends just couldn’t understand, perhaps rightly. I think it’s not so hard to defend Klein & MBO, but maybe a little harder to defend Joe Yellow’s “Love At First” despite it being brilliant pop. In my head I knew the aesthetic I was looking for and that was the genesis of Antoni Maiovvi.
Where did the interest in Horror stem from? A Teenage outsider sort of thing?
People always forget that SAW did Dead Or Alive as well, or ignore it as part of a calculated conspiracy to convince us that trash is just ‘bad’.
When I was a kid I always liked ghost stories and the strange thing was that I could read almost anything I liked as reading was encouraged, but film was tricky. I could read William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, but I couldn’t see Freidkin’s movie. I don’t blame my parents, I think they were just believing that “if it’s banned, there is a reason for that” and trying to keep me away from that stuff.
It’s honourable, but I was quite a rebellious child and as such it made me just want to see it more. So I would befriend people who worked in comic shops and video game shops and do tape trades, hide VHS under my bed, like most teenagers would hide pornography. That said, there was a fair amount of that in there as well because it was something that could always be traded. Most of my pirate collection was stolen at house parties and the like so I only have about four tapes left now and I got rid of a lot before the move to Berlin.
You see I’ve never seen Horror as an outsider thing, it’s very pop really and so many people are into it. There might be an “geeky outsider chic” to it, but how many glossy magazines are there dedicated to it? That’s not so underground, and the internet only helps spread these things, take The Human Centipede, aside from being a brilliant idea something horror had needed for a while (regardless of the execution), had it been made in the 80s or 90s would have been one of those obscure films only known by the real geeks, but no, the whole internet was talking about it, South Park parodied it, so Horror isn’t underground anymore.
Deep down one day I would like to make films. I’ve always wanted to make them and I tried to make a short in my mid twenties but it took two years to make a ten minute film and I kind of lost faith in my ability after that as I really wasn’t happy with it in the end.
I also wanted to do film music and all these experiences combined led to the ‘Shadow Of The Bloodstained Kiss’ album. I thought I could always just write the plot and the music and make up a lie about the films’ existence. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen really. I would have liked some of the new horror / splat pack guys to have heard it and understood it and then hired me for there film scores, but this didn’t happen. Dreaming away I finished ‘Trial By Bullet’ which originally was going to be a 12”, but then I had all these tracks for ‘Battlestar Transreplica’ which were originally going to be put out on another label that sadly told me they could no longer do it. I had the plots already written so it made sense to myself and Seed to do a double CD.
What kind of film deep down do you want to make?
I would have loved to have remade Nightmare On Elm Street as well, but I’m fairly certain they’d never allow the version I’d want to make.
The first year was pretty rough, I’d say I only started have a really good time around summer last year. I suppose that the weirdest aspect for me was that people started to take me a whole lot more seriously as an artist / producer / composer both here and in the UK. But I travel a lot so I’m barely here, Berlin is my 2nd base. European HQ if you will.
Do you find attitudes toward music, especially experimental and disco, different in continental Europe to Britain? And has it fuelled your creative processes at all?
Is there a possibility of a change in terms of what sort of music you will be making in the future, given your changes from noise to italo and the like so far?
I start projects all the time. Some have legs and some don’t. At the moment I’m working with a singer in a band called The Cold Hand doing very slow quiet music. It’s something I’ve never tried before and it’s immensely interesting to me exploring another world.
I’m also exploring some more acid like things using an improvised technique, and of course working on more Antoni Maiovvi stuff which is definitely getting more house-y, but I suppose that was inevitable. But who knows, I tend to just follow my interests.
Is House music a relatively new thing to you? And are your surroundings (e.g Berlin nightlife) an influence in this regard?
Oh I like the vocals in house but then I like songs. On new years eve I was playing with D. Blunt from Hype Williams, he was playing directly after me and he opened with ‘Inner City - Good Life’ I think that’s when I got it. Erik XVI from Sweden played ‘Joe Smooth - Promised Land’ at one of the Polanski Disco nights here in Berlin, I think that cemented it, I heard ‘Adonis - No Way Back’ soon after, that is a hell of a track. In terms of modern stuff I really like the EP Meschi did on Lunar Disko, I REALLY liked The One when I played with them at the Magic Waves Winter Festival. The thing was I was asking friends for reccomendations and I didn’t get much I liked, but then I found my way to New Beat, which I feel fitted better with the stuff I was into, the more acid side, darker things.
Is there is any new material for 2012? I can see that you’re putting on club nights? How are they going?
The long awaited 12” for Cyber Dance will hopefully be out either late this year or early 2010. Also in association with The Sameheads we will start a quarterly night where we get the Cyber Dance Records crew coming over to Berlin starting on November 26th with DJ Casionova, anyone who’s witnessed his incredible command of the dancefloor will know why we’ve booked him for the first one, people who haven’t would be doing themselves a disservice by not attending. The rare nights I do put on have been really well received, but I’m sporadic with them, mainly it’s when a friend is in town I will organise something.