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INTERVIEW: Kabuki Dream

Dive into the synesthetic world of Kabuki Dream, the electronic duo birthed from rock and sculpted by a multitude of influences. Jacopo and Francesco, once bound by strings and drumsticks, now venture into the electronic soundscape, fueled by their love for synthwave and seminal artists like Kavinsky. Transitioning from rock to electronic, they found a unique canvas to paint their sci-fi-inspired tales, fusing the rhythmic allure of funk with electronic beats in a style reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder. We sat down to find out more about all aspects of thier musical life.

For those that don't know you and your music, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Before founding Kabuki Dream we played in a rock band for many years (Jacopo on electric guitar and Francesco on drums), but we have always been passionate about electronic music. Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin and 90s electronic music in general were a great inspiration for us right from the start. Furthermore, alongside this trend, we are very influenced by the great soundtrack composers, such as Philip Glass and Zimmer. However, it was the common passion for synthwave and for artists like Kavinsky that pushed us to turn from rock to electronic.

Can you discuss a specific concept or idea that has deeply influenced your work, and how you've translated that into your compositions?

We approached electronic music by creating the soundtrack for a science fiction story (Pro.To.Con.), because initially our greatest aspiration was to compose music for images. Now we embrace electronic music more fully, but sci-fi graphics are still part of our imagination. Currently we are composing music starting from an idea, a concept, even before having melody and beat... if the incipit is good, the music comes by itself. For example, one of the new songs (whose music video has just been released) started from the desire to combine funk and electronics in a Giorgio Moroder style. The song that originated from that concept Last call to funk was created with the collaboration of friends Lorenzo Bartolini (on vocals) and Jack Ceccarelli (on electric guitar); subsequently we decided to make a video of it in which our two friends take on the guise of two extravagant characters, forming an unlikely couple: on the one hand, a singer passionate about James Brown, dressed in an eccentric way and wearing fake mustache that recall the golden age of disco music; on the other, a well-built guitarist, dressed in a leather jacket, with a cowboy hat, exuding the 80s from every pore. In the video we tried to emphasize as much as possible - also in an ironic and fun way - the vintage aesthetic of the two protagonists.

As an artist, you've likely experimented with various hardware and software throughout your career. Are there any particular pieces of gear or tools that have been instrumental in defining your sound, and why do they resonate with you?

We started with affordable groovebox-type instruments that we used for the first experiments. They are tools that we still use and from which we draw from among our collections whenever we like. They still give us pleasant emotions but over the years we have delved into sound synthesis and this has inexorably led us to the world of analogue and modular synthesizers which now permeate our compositions, both from a melodic point of view and in the effects and filling area and completion of the piece. We have never given in to the infinite potential of DAWs which allow you to concentrate all the tools in a computer, simulating their operation. In itself, sound synthesis is a simulation of acoustic instruments and we believe that reducing ourselves to mimicking a simulacrum dries out emotions and totally deprives us of the pleasure of composing. The composition is not only made up of notes but also of times and pauses and physically acting on the lever, the potentiometer, the key or the string makes the difference between a song with a soul and a distorted and aseptic one, albeit well constructed and melodically catalyzing . Lastly, we have completely made the post-production work our own, in this case equipping ourselves with sound cards, acquisition and editing software and plug-ins necessary to take the product from the recording phase to the final mastering phase. In this area we were able to further experiment with sound technique from an engineering and physical point of view.

Have any non-musical sources inspired your music? Certain visual artists, films, or books? Can you elaborate on these influences and how they've shaped your artistic vision?

In our opinion, non-musical sources are even more important than musical ones. The books by Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, but also novels like 1984, Dune and Hyperion, were certainly fundamental for us, both because they contributed to creating the graphic design of our works and because the dystopia inherent in some of those stories can also be found in our music - visions of the future that are fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Pictorial art is also of great importance: often in the titles of our works there are references to genres and artists and, more generally, our music aims to generate in those who listen to it the same type of sensations that can be felt by watching a modern work of art.

Music can serve as an outlet for personal expression and self-discovery. Has there been a particular moment or phase in your life that has profoundly affected your creative process or the direction of your music?

We believe that each of us sooner or later goes through a moment of crisis or a phase of strong discomfort: our latest album "Sense of natural confusion" speaks precisely of the sense of bewilderment inherent in every human being, which is further exacerbated by the continuous and deafening noise produced by the society that pervades our times; we don't know if defining all this "natural" can be of comfort, but it certainly humanizes it.

The process of creating an album or EP can be a transformative experience for an artist. Can you discuss the journey behind one of your most significant releases, and how it reflects your growth and evolution as a musician?

Composition can certainly be a means of knowing ourselves and what surrounds us. More concretely, the search for a sound can turn into an adventure where the final goal is to obtain what we hear inside our head. This sensation is very often the result of a multitude of memories of our past, present and we like to think, future. Searching for that emotion by transfiguring it into a sound or image and then bringing the abstract to something concrete is in all respects a transformative experience. Transposing an emotion involves an internal split for the artist who brings out a piece of himself, which will eventually dissolve in the cosmos, and that is an inevitable process for all living forms.

Many artists have a strong sense of social responsibility and use their platform to raise awareness about various issues. Are there any causes or movements that you feel particularly passionate about, and how do you integrate them into your work?

We do not use our music to address political issues, but to analyze the various facets of the human soul; let's say that we are more interested in exploring human emotions and empathy. This does not mean that we do not have political thoughts, but we simply direct our work towards the themes that we consider most suitable for our communication style.

Music often challenges conventional genre boundaries and expectations - walking the line between sounds. Do you think its important to sound a little different to the crowd?

We think it's fundamental and at the same time very difficult to have your own sound. Especially in an era in which technology has allowed many people to express and disseminate their creativity, it becomes even more difficult and valuable to know how to differentiate yourself. But you still need to at least try.

The role of improvisation in electronic music can vary greatly between artists. Can you discuss your perspective on the importance of spontaneity in your creative process, both in the studio and during live performances?

We dedicate a lot of space to improvisation. Improvisation is pure fun. During the creative process it can happen that ideas are conceived either when we play independently or when we play together, but it is certainly when we play together that ideas are refined, and they evolve and consolidate. When we play together, most of the time we do it by giving free rein to improvisation and the spontaneous search for sounds, beats and sequences that we sew onto the different pieces we are working on. We like to dedicate the same space to improvisation in our performances too: thanks to the use of loops and various effects, we try to bring out the best in our songs, modifying them and obtaining new sounds and new musical constructions; for this reason, during our performances we make use of instruments that allow us to completely distort the previously composed piece and expand it, even to the point of having it sound completely different from the original.

Throughout your career, you've likely encountered various mentors or collaborators who have influenced your growth as an artist. Can you share a particularly impactful experience or lesson you've learned from someone in the music industry?

We were struck by the sonic power of artists such as Carpenter Brut who was able to perfectly combine the energy of metal with synthwave, in particular dark synthwave. During his concerts you can only express yourself with a wow and that says it all. Negative experiences also had an impact, perhaps more than the positive ones, that you can only truly appreciate later in life. It is really important to understand well what you don't want in order to be able to navigate the chaos of situations and outline your artistic path. From a human point of view, even if we have never met him in person, Franco Battiato certainly left an indelible mark on us through his music and art, because he helped us understand how rewarding moving lightly on this earth can be. If you are pure, what you produce will be true and will have meaning first and foremost for you; then, if you are understood, for others too.

What's next for you?

Starting from November we will focus on our live performances, trying to play this album live as much as possible, but at the same time we intend to take advantage of this particularly prolific moment from a creative point of view, to continue working on our musical production.


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