We have the pleasure of speaking with a true master of his craft, Italian DJ and tastemaker Knarly Knob! Known for his work with Digital Traffik, and his second to none techno releases on on his own Knarly Knob label, we find out more about his latest venture. Having been used to soundtrack the latest Emporio Armani show, his new ‘The Celling EP’ sees his debut on Emotive Sounds!
Introduce yourself for those that might not know about you.
My name is Andrea, I’m from Italy and I’ve been playing music my whole life.
How are you, how has summer been? What have been some highlights and lowlights?
It was a hard summer, an important period of transition for different reasons. I’m involved in many music projects; in particular as knarly knob, I’m trying to make the most out of this creative period. I’m working hard in the renovation of my new recording studio, that will certainly improve the sound quality of my productions. Anyway I had the time to chill out for 2 weeks!
What sounds, labels and parties first got you into dance music? Why did you love it?
It’s difficult to sum up my story in a few lines. I developed a passion for electronic music during my adolescence, following artists like Massive Attack, Portishead, Notwist, Lali Puna, Air, Squarepusher, Bijork, Aphex Twin, Prodigy and many more. At the beginning i was fascinated by their ability to excite people using new and awesome sounds. Step by step I started working with softwares, some synthesizers and drum machines, trying to emulate or create that kind of sounds, that inspired my first raw productions, of that time. Only after a few years I started mixing this music with the techno and electronic underground scene, just when I realized there was a clear link.
Tell us about your new tune on Emotive Sounds – what inspired or influenced it?
I met Toile many years ago and I have been always fascinated by her incredible voice, because she often put on a lot of great stuff.
She is a simple and determined girl, with an incredible passion for music and singing. When i started working as Knarly Knob I immediately thought about her and thus I started creating something totally different. I had this one track in which I wanted a sensual and touching voice as her as the main character. A “dark” base that slowly moves to softer sounds, in which her incredible voice and performance would convey a pop hue, suitable not only for the dance floor.
Do you make music with a certain sound in your mind that suits the label you release on? What is that sound?
I’ve made music freely so far. I created my own label in order to publish my music when I feel the need to. Meanwhile I always consider if my production is suitable for other labels and, as it happened with Digital Traffik, Audiohell Department and in this case, with Emotive Sounds, we work in a functional and stimulating cooperation. There are a lot of labels that reflect my idea of music and i hope to have soon the possibility to work with them.
Have you got any feedback from the label? Or do they let you do what you want?
I’m doing well with the labels I worked so far, because music does most of the work. What I had produced was in line with their idea of music and it was greatly appreciated.
How long has it taken you to find your own sound, and what is that sound?
Dealing with several music genres gave me the possibility to increase my background constructively. In the last few years I focused on a distinctive direction. Absurdly, it isn’t easy to do that when you have a wider musical background. Most of the time your own sounds come out of passion, synthesis and research, without feeling the need to make orchestra music. Usually “less is more”.
Where do you start on a track, is it trial and error or do you have an idea in your head?
It can happen in different ways. Usually I start with a kick and bass line, i look for the right bpm and groove which may already fit with this two sounds, and then I create the rhythmic and melodic part. It can also happen that a mistake is a source of inspiration, or that I listen to the radio and I perceive something that inspires me to create something different.
Are you formally trained in any way, can you play piano or keys or anything?
I’ve played the piano since I was 7. I attended the conservatory and I studied harmony and music history. I have to say that this classical basis was very useful for my artistic path. They are not essential, there are a lot of producers that did great things as autodidact, but for my idea of music I think I’m lucky that I started studying music thoroughly so early.
What gear do you have in the studio? Is that important? You a hardware or software man?
I have a very large equipment in my studio that helps me in the creative process. I have a variety of synthesizers, that communicate very well with the entire software system. This give me the chance to record, mix and play music in an analogue way with the conveniences of virtual systems. It’s very difficult to forget the analog sound once you understand how to exploit its potential. For this reason, once I could afford it, I invested in equipments such as Minimoog, Memorymoog, Moog Prodigy, Korg MS10, Korg Minilogue, Prophet 6, Fender Rhodes, Honer Clavinet- and many many more.
How much do DJing and producing relate to one another? Do you make sounds for your own sets?
I think they are strictly related to one another, but it depends also from the perspective of the producer that maybe expresses himself better through his productions. It’s very useful to test your own tracks during a club session and I often personalise my dj sets through sounds, inserts and pauses conceived for the occasion.
What is your DJ style? How do you mix, do you do quick and short mixes or long and slow, for example?
I like to keep a constant groove, so I prefer long and slow mixes. I like the mixes to have longer and unexpected oscillations and shifts. I like when the crowd keeps dancing by this kind of flow and almost does not notice the track changing. My first performance was a live set. I assembled a console using two drum machines, a synthesizer and a kaoss pad… Like, ten years ago playing in club with this kind of equipment was a bit of a crazy thing, but the emotion and adrenaline of creating music step by step, sound by sound, in front of the people was priceless. Live sets have always been the best form of expression for me and I hope to have time to create a new one for the upcoming dates.
What was the last record you bought and why?
One of the latest tracks that I really like and I bought to include it in a mix set is “Multitude” (D-Nox, Santiago Franch). Talking about albums, I’m listening to a lot of streamed music and in particular to the latest songs of the Arcade Fire, they’re extraordinary!
What else you got coming up/are you working on?
I’m producing music and trying to increase my quality and results. There’s a lot of big new projects that are coming up, which I hope I will talk about in another interview!
Tell us something no one will know about you?
When I started doing live sets, lots of years ago, with all my equipment, I took part in a huge festival in South Italy. I asked for a piano with which I performed a singular introduction holding audience’s attention… I finished with another piece at the piano and with Bjork’s Accappella. Jeff Mills that had to perform after me, shook my hands when I got off the stage, making me compliments. He had been listening to my performance!
The Ceiling is out now! Grab it here.