Cleveland-born producer and DJ Dan Curtin is one of the key figures shaping the Midwest Techno scene. He founded the label Metamorphic to mainly give new talents an outlet for their music. While continuing to support this scene and over 70 singles and 9 albums later, Curtin follows his passion for hip hop, funk and soul releases new music under one of his his many aliases such as Purveyors of Fine Funk. His refusal to lock himself into one style as well as his ability to collaborate with artists from a variety of genres has helped him to maintain his status as a legend.
Currently based in Berlin, his essentials are a genuine selection of items that portray his roots and source of inspiration to keep going – “When the music stops your mind and body return to the world of the sentient but you never forget your Origins.” said the press release of his “Origins” EP which was released under his alias Planetary 25 years ago. The re-mastered reissue was just released on Metamorphic.
1. SUNGLASSES (MYKITA, CHECK HERE): Sunglasses. Needed when there is light. Not sun, but light. Can’t leave home without them.
2. CRAFT BEER (STONE BREWING BERLIN , CHECK HERE):Really good, small run, independently run breweries producing excellent beer. Beer is one of my 4 vices and one of the two that I can mention socially.
3. LIFTING BELT (MY PROTEIN, CHECK HERE): Protects and supports the lower back. Heavy lifting and the gym in general is a daily must. It’s the one hour a day that I can truly escape and not think about anything at all.
4. SAMPLER AND SEQUENCER (OCTATRACK, CHECK HERE): It’s become my main sampler and the heart and brains of my live show. The possibilities for live sample mangling are endless and it works in a really intuitive way once you’ve finished banging your head against the desk for a year trying to understand it!
5. VINTAGE RECORDS (MY COLLECTION): It’s where I go to for pure listening, where I go to for sampling and all of my favorite music is to be found there. It’s travelled the world with me and it’s a life long project – the digging never stops.
UK-based artist Max Cooper merges electronic music, visual art and science through installations, live audio-visual and immersive sound experiences. Growing up, he pursued both of his passions – music and science, earning a PhD in computational biology. His background and education seems to now influence his creative process. Cooper shares that his projects start with an abstract idea / concept first which he explores further to make them tangible as well as relatable. His label “Mesh” is an embodiment of these passions and an outlet for music which is part of wider collaborations in the arts and sciences.
Following the successful multi-media “Emergence” album and tour, this year he released his third album “One Hundred Billion Sparks” with an all new and evolved 270 immersive audio-visual shows – a light field installation of countless shimmering points, hovering overhead the audience, creating 3-dimensional moving forms in sync with music. Experience the next one at Funkhaus in Berlin.
1. FLIGHT ESSENTIALS (A PERSONAL COLLECTION): This is my flight essentials pouch to cover the travel basics I need to maintain good vibes despite nasty turbulence, screaming babies, boredom, hang over, or any of the other common travel ailments.
Firstly there’s the noise cancelling headphones which allow me to work, particularly on low frequencies, despite the engine rumble, then there’s a few really handy headphone connectors – a splitter to share if I’m with a friend, a flight adaptor for those old style headphone sockets on flights which need two inputs, and most importantly, an attenuator: you know when you’re watching a movie and dosing off on a flight and suddenly there’s an announcement from the pilot waaay too loud in comparison to your film audio?….get the attenuator in there, turn up the film audio and turn down the level with the attenuator, so that any announcements are nice and quiet and you can maintain your zen.
Also in the pouch, backup movies and music on USB, spare earbuds cut in half for sleeping on, and painkillers plus diazepam for long-haul knock outs, waking up at the other end B.A. Baracus style.
2. SNACKS (RANDOM COLLECTION):Emergency stroopwafel and gummibärchen for the moments when I’m lost in the wilderness on tour and have no sustenance. These should give me a couple of days walking energy to escape most foreseeable disaster situations.
3. EARPLUGS (NO BRAND): Spare earplugs for noisy raves when I lose my proper moulded plugs. Earplugs are so easy to lose, drop them once in a dark club and they’re gone. So backups are very useful to save my already battered ear drums. Also I often end up giving them to my friends who come out unprepared for the audio barrage, when we’re lucky enough to get it in the places that aren’t so tight on their decibel monitoring.
4. BOOK (A BEAUTIFUL QUESTION, CHECK HERE): I have to admit I’ve been carrying this book around for some time, as you can see by the weathered cover. Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered that science audiobooks are perfect for travelling, allowing me to still learn something when I’m too tired to read on tour, and their narratives are forgiving to the odd doze off too. But this book is something special, and wasn’t available on audiobook format, so I’ve persevered. It’s about whether nature, fundamentally, embodies beauty.
Researchers often talk about using beauty and aesthetic judgements in guiding their paths towards discovering laws of nature. And that’s more or less the focus of my approach to music videos and live AV shows in the opposite direction, where I try to use nature and its embodiment in natural laws to provide something beautiful for us to look at.
So a great book to read, written by a Nobel prize winner no less. Other recent books of note would be Antonio Damasio’s “The Strange Order of Things”, and Peter Hoffman’s “Life’s Ratchet”.
5. ELECTRICAL TAPE (SCAPA, CHECK HERE): Boring yeah, but this can save me from all the music going off mid-set and everyone staring at me like I’m a massive moron who can’t figure out how to press play on a CDJ. Clubs generally have a lot of bass, and bass shakes things, and likes to shake cables out of their sockets. So I stick electrical tape on all the socket-cable connections. Generally only needed for USB connections, RCA/phono connections are fine.
6. MAGAZINE (NEW SCIENTIST, CHECK HERE): Great for the science news, properly explained and referenced. It doesn’t go into as much depth as I’d like, but many a good project idea has started with an article or book review in here which I’ve gone on to read about more deeply.
French musical multi-talent Akemi Fujimori started her career as a singer and pianist writing songs. After she gathered further experience as a live performer and studio musician, touring with bands all around the world, she is now busy producing and performing as the electronic duo dismaze along with musician friend Léa Moreau. Their latest release and video for “Human Sense” is a beautiful invitation to experience Fujimori’s musical world.
1. KEYBOARD (DAVE SMITH INSTRUMENTS, BUY HERE): I discovered that synth playing with La Féline a couple years ago, I now use it on stage and in the studio, for my music as well as with other artists, it’s become my faithful musical companion.
2. CAMERA (LOMOGRAPHY, BUY HERE):I love instant cameras because they’re all about the now. No retouching or picking the best picture, there’s just that moment you shot and it is what you get. These days I find this feeling very precious. At RBMA, I’ve made a portrait of every participant so that I’d always remember these great times.
3. CROSSWORDS (FIND AT YOUR SHOP): On tour, in the metro or in a plane, you can do crosswords anytime. It reminds me of my grandpa, he would do crosswords everyday. Also makes me remember the existence of some pretty cool French words I never use!
4. AVOCADOS (BUY AT YOUR LOCAL MARKET): I have to admit, I’m an avo addict. On toast, in a guacamole, in salads or simply as is, it is always amazing. It’s not always easy to find good ones, but at least that helps me keeping my consumption rate at reasonable levels.
5. T-SHIRT (THE VILLAGE COFFEE, CHECK HERE): This t-shirt is from a coffee shop in Utrecht called The Village Coffee. Because I love a good coffee. And the design is great. Somehow to me this phrase represents a good part of the vibe at the academy. A bunch of music nerds embracing together their special uniqueness!
Chilean musician, producer and DJ Iara Espinoza Dos Santos AKA IARAHEI is a bundle of energy and talent. Aside from the selection of essentials below, her studies in tarot and astrology are the other source of inspiration for her music. The musical influences by artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Daft Punk and M.I.A shape the sound of IARAHEI. Listen to her latest work as a member of the synth-pop band Sri Lanka 100.
1. COMPUTER (APPLE, CHECK HERE): My computer is EVERYTHING for what I do. It the tool that gets me making new music, listening and discovering music, and express my feelings and desires. It also knows when i’m sad and cheers me up. It’s a wonderful partner that comes in almost every musical activity that i do, but sometimes I try to make sure it gets some rest… I love you, sweetie!
2. LITTLE POCKET ESSENTIALS (A COLLECTION): For this journey in the academy, I tried to used this little bag somebody gave me to carry around some tiny essencials: My stones for energetic help/healing, my usb sticks for some little CDJ magic, a lip balm to take care of my lips and a misterious potion that you’ll have to figure out what it is for…
3. DRUM MACHINE (TEENAGE ENGINEERING, CHECK HERE): Last year was a turning point for getting to know some analog (portable) equipment. This PO-12 I bought from a friend is a very powerful tool that creates tons of charming and wonderful sounds with just a couple of clicks. The resolution of its sound is amazing and sometimes I plug it in with my Volca Keys for some fun glitchy-hoppy jams.
4. SOUNDCARD (FOCUSRITE, CHECK HERE): If my computer was the milk for my music, the soundcard is definetely the Oreo (cookies). I also take the soundcard literally everywhere with me, and it’s the one that can make me do a song in just five minutes, record some random vocals and get together musical ideas that can leave in just a glimpse.
5. HEADPHONES (AIAIAI, CHECK HERE): It may sound stupid, but when I say I cant live without music, it’s because literally I cant even FUNCTION without listening to it. I need at least an hour of music in the morning so I can properly start the day. I take my headphones everywhere too (if I dont, I feel incomplete) and these ones are very good to capture more sophisticated details after some proper personalized EQ of my own choice…
Taiwanese – American musician, producer and DJ Robert Yang AKA Bézier is one of the key figures in the San Francisco queer music scene. As one of the founding members and residents of the city’s Honey Soundsystem crew alongside Jason Kendig, Josh Cheon and Jacob Sperber (AKA, Jackie House), he is part of a new electronic music movement which is receiving recognition and a great following around the world today.
This year, Yang released his long-awaited debut album “Parler Musique” on Dark Entries, the label founded by Josh Cheon who believed in the “Bézier” sound from the beginning as a friend and as a collective member. With “Parler Musique” (French for “Talk About Music”) Yang also reveals his talent for creating romantic narratives around his prodcutions for it to be more relatable and tangible for his audience. The “Bézier” sound is complex and rich in musical influences – so is his background as a multi-instrumentalist inspired by a wide spectrum of music genres from punk, synth pop, industrial to new wave and house.
Yang enjoys finding clear order in creative chaos. The photo shoot took place at an apartment he had rented outside the city center on purpose to create a safe home base to create and rest. This genuine and focused character is also reflected in his essentials: gifts from close friends, self-care items and music gear – the true source of strength and inspiration on the road and a reminder of his roots.
1. MATCHA KIT KAT (NESTLE, CHECK HERE): It’s really a special thing to have a Kit Kat bar taste like matcha green tea (and strawberry as well). My friend Moritz gave this to me to snack before a show and today I’m a better person because of this.
2. WALLET (GIFT): A wallet that my friend Jordan gave to me while in Hanoi. It’s made of cotton with natural dyes from the region of Sapa. It has never left my side as I use it as a protective sleeve for all my important travel documents.
3. REMOTE SHUTTER (CAMKIX, CHECK HERE): A remote bluetooth shutter when I need to go handsfree and take a photo of myself with my phone.
4. INHALER (MENTHOLATUM): A little menthol inhaler when I get headaches on the road or nausea. It’s a panacea for what ails me.
5. SYNTHESIZER (VERMONA, CHECK HERE): I try to travel light for shows but toggling between live and DJ sets I can only carry what I can hold. This Vermona mono lancet is my replacement for a Moog Miniature that fell apart in my initial travels. It’s been road tested for three years now and will stay with me until she stops functioning.
6. STYLING WAX (GATSBY, CHECKHERE): The Gatsby styling wax is some kind of witchcraft for my hair. I’ve been using this paste since my Japanese cousin left it at my parent’s house when I was 19. It’s amazing and turn my fine hair into locks. I’d be lost without it.
7. FRAGRANCE (DIPTYQUE, CHECKHERE): I decided I needed a new fragrance for when I’m at shows. After touring through Asia and just having all my clothes smell like stale smoke I thought a lil scent would help me stomach the travels and perhaps more approachable. I didn’t want to get something that was too strong, like the cheap, strong (yet aggressively, luxury branded) alcohol smell a lot of Europeans and Brits fancy. I didn’t want people to smell me coming miles away so I needed something lighter, more vivacious. After consulting with my friend Aaron Choe at the duty free section at Incheon airport I stuck with Diptyque.
Stockholm-based Tom Lagerman and Niklas Janzon are the musical masterminds behind Mount Liberation Unlimited. Their project was born while they were attending school for classical music training and realized the urge for creative and experimental exploration of crossover sound and live set ups. Their artist name”Liberation Unlimited” reflects and reminds them of their core belief and excitement for new ideas and sounds. Their intuition seems to guide them onto the right path: after releases on Tim Sweeney’s Beats in Space label and house institution Studio Banhus, the duo just joined the Permanent Vacation family with their latest release “Body Language”.
Tom and Niklas confessed that despite their shared musical vision the real friendship started only after going to the movies together and bonding over the Pixar movie “Up”. The selection of essentials is proof that MLU is more than an outlet for their deep productions – it’s a commitment to have each other’s back on this musical journey.
1. HEADPHONES (BOSE, CHECKHERE): Noise cancelling technology – First it changed the headphone industry, now it’s changed us.
2. TOBACCO (NORDIC SNUS, CHECKHERE): Janzon: “I don’t want to spend one day without Snus.” Tom: “I don’t want to spend one day with Janzon without Snus.”
3. ROLLING PAPER (NO BRAND):Because you never know when you need to roll.
4. WATER BOTTLE (NO BRAND):The thought of buying water makes us sad. S/O to all airports with filtered tap water!
5. EARPLUGS (NO BRAND):Mouldable earplugs, it’s like having a reality volume knob.
6. SLEEPING MASK (NO BRAND):Together with the noise cancelling headphones and earplugs, the sleeping mask combines what we call the MLU Sensory Deprivation Kit™.
Johanna Knutsson is a Swedish-born crate digger, DJ, producer and label founder/owner. Although she already had a successful career as a hair stylist, she decided to quit her business and relocate to Berlin to focus on a career in music; her second passion. It is an impressive tactic to pursue a musical career by initially focusing on a different profession. Johanna is now a full-time artist touring around the world but still enjoys to cut hair on several days a month to stay connected to her other creative roots. Running two established labels “Zodiac 44” with Luca Lozano and “UFO Station Recordings” with Hans Berg, hosting the radio show “Low Power FM” with Kate Miller, and having recently released a track on the label “Midnight Shift Singapore”, her career seems to continue reaching exciting new levels.
Johanna’s essentials are a beautiful collection of gifts she has received from her strongest supporters and closest friends. She draws her daily dose of inspiration and energy from these thoughtful items and is a strong believer in a network of like-minded creatives that share, respect and learn from each other. Thank you for the reminder that being an artist doesn’t need to be an isolating lonely job but can be warm and loving if you create or find your family.
1. MASKING TAPE (MT, CHECKHERE): These colorful Sticky Tapes I use when I’m organizing my record bags before a show.Some times if it’s a intense gig (bad monitoring, strange vibes or just a lot of things going on in he dj-booth) I feel in control because the different colors tells me what could possibly fit well musically together.
2. MUNECA QUITAPENA (WORRY DOLLS, A GIFT): I got these from my music-and soul mate Kate Miller. I worry about the world a lot, but it helps having these with me. Also, the gesture of giving me these was so beautiful.
3. SAGE (A GIFT):My very good friend Pjotr gave me this sage to burn. I always burn it before i practice djing at home, don’t know why but it gets me in a good mood.
4. RAINBOW CRYSTAL (A GIFT):My partner bought me this as a birthday gift a few years ago, lifts my spirit ans basically just something pretty to look at when I make music.
5. NOTEBOOKS (OWN COLLECTION):I always have books and lists with me to write down every music idea I get, things to remember and to-do lists.
6. ENAMEL STEEL CUP (VINTAGE):My coffee cup. No ideas will come without coffee. This particular one I bought in a second hand shop in Australia as a souvenir of my first Australia/Asia tour ever!
Pyur aka Sophie Schnell is fast and fearless. Reaching out to Scuba to offer her vocals to landing a job at his label Hotflush Records and this year getting signed to the Hotflush artist roster. Her debut LP Epoch Sinus seems to be only the opening chapter to the world of Pyur. The album’s sound is so diverse and beautifully crafted that it deserves its own genre. Sophie’s sound design is deep and mystical, drawing inspiration from classical music, nature and anything she “sees” while making music. Her creative process and work is both visual and sonic and this experience is shared with her audience by releasing a video piece for each track on the album.
We met Sophie at her studio / apartment in Berlin. The moment we stepped into her space, it was like entering another cosmic dimension and we understood immediately where her music was coming from. Her studio was filled with “Pyur” material such as crystals, ocean inspired decorations, candles, beautiful textiles and mysterious art work. On the contrary, Sophie also told us that she produces a lot of music for commercials and films because she enjoys the challenge to be creative within a limited time frame. Her essentials are the items that channel Pyur’s creative energy to be fast and fearless at her studio and on the road.
1. HARD DRIVE (INTENSO, BUYHERE): My musical and visual projects tend to get so large that I have to outsource most of my data, to be able to keep on working without crashing my poor laptop. On this hard drive is EVERYTHING. So I take good care of it.
2. CRYSTALS (PERSONAL COLLECTION):These are a selection of stones I carry around, the Pyramid one I use a lot for artworks, the others I like because of how they feel. I think of stones as inverted rooms, that I can enter. I learn from their process of becoming what they are.
3. MIDI KEYBOARD (M-AUDIO, CHECKHERE):This is my little travelling midi-keyboard. It’s good enough! And there used to be more stones on it. They are real Swarovskis, my stepfather used to work there a while ago. The rest of the stones must still stick around somewhere in suitcases, flats and other countries..
4. ALPHA DISC (GIFT):I use this Alpha-Disk (developed by Lissy Götz) to change my mind every now and then. There are many sentences and affirmations for re-programming the „highways“ of the brain arranged in a circle and I close my eyes and point to one and read it and feel it inside and then I often feel quite different afterwards. It’s good when I feel stuck.
4. BOOK (THE ROYAL TOMBS OF EGYPT, BUYHERE):I have a habit of travelling with heavy books, most recently books about ancient Egypt. I can easily get lost in the mystical and beautiful artworks and beliefs from that time. It’s quite inspiring for me. It’s forms and signs seem more futuristic than from a long time ago. The sarcophagi remind me of star gates. The knowledge of ancient Egypt is somehow on an intuitive level a big part of my music.