15 Nov Overcoming Writer’s Block – An Interview with Planète
Dion Tartaglione aka Planète has slowly emerged from the electronic scene in Melbourne over the past four years. Sitting somewhere between a live act and club DJ, he’s carved out his own dynamic, an intriguing and important niche in Australia. His lengthy periods between releases have served as a teaser for a lot people, considering he’s about as highly critically respected as they come in this country.
We recently sat down with him at The Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood, Melbourne, to find out why it takes so long for him to release music. We also dived into how he joined Good Manners, the direction shift between ‘Altair‘ and ‘Nightcrawler‘ and why he’s looking to make the move to Europe next year.
Marcus Rimondini: Where did you grow up?
Planète: As a child I grew up in Parkville, and then moved to Williamstown as an early teen, went to school in the Western suburbs, started learning guitar at 14, lessons and bands up until I was about 19 or 20 years old with a couple mates. Then I introduced myself to electronic music at that age. I was also playing in a band with Brooke Addamo, in Owl Eyes.
How did that come about?
Through mutual friends. She grew up where a lot of my mates went to school. We learnt that we were both in music, we went to a few gigs together, we hung out, and basically she was reforming a band and needed a bass player. So I stepped in and played bass for about two or three years. At the same time, I had sort’ve started Planète. Then she went off to do more gigs with Flight Facilities and I started with Good Manners. It was a seamless transition to where I am now.
Did you study music?
Just guitar lesson for a couple years, when I was about 16 I stopped. So I’ve got very basic theory, but I learnt more about music from producing and sort of mucking around, playing around. Also learning keyboard, I was never trained, I never did piano or anything. I feel lot more at ease on the keyboard than I do on the guitar now. Which is a bit funny.
Do you ever bring the bass guitar back in while recording Planète?
I did at one point, but I wasn’t into the tone. I felt like I was more into synthetic bass, sub bass, more analog tones. But definitely, learning to play bass has been a huge thing in my learning with like bass arrangement. Prior to ‘Altair‘, tracks like ‘Felix‘ and such are very bass driven – I think I was doing it subconsciously without evening noticing. The bass guitar is now just in my case at home still *laughs*.
How did the whole Good Manners thing happen?
I remember doing a gig at STEP with Rat & Co on that night at The Toff. From there I was introduced to Huw Nolan, and then he started following my stuff, I think about that time he booked me to play at LUCIANBLOMKAMP‘s Post Nature launch with Emerse as well. That’s how I met Emerse. That was just prior to Paradise Music Festival 2014, where Huw saw me play and after then he was like “hey mate, we really want to have you on board with Good Manners”. I was pretty stoked, because of the roster.
Had anyone else approached you at that point?
There were a few people that did, close to round that time as well, but for me I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it then, plus I really wanted to be with the Good Manners guys. I waited it out at that point, it’s always good to wait in some things, not all things, and it turned out I went on board with the Good Manners guys.
Was ‘Altair’ released to signal a slight change in sound?
Definitely. Coming out of the two track with ‘Helix‘ and ‘Två Fontäner‘, I really wanted to do something that was more club orientated, but really percussive driven. It really took me a while to fine tune ‘Altair’, because when I go back and look at it all, there’s so much tuning of like sampled Kalimba, Kalimba from my mate’s studio, and also like things in the kitchen on my iPhone as well *laughs*. And I just tuned it all, it took me ages to find something that kind of works. It was really complex at one stage, then I brought it down and it was too simple, then I sort of found a middle ground. I really wanted to explore that jangly thing going from there.
How were you playing the song live?
Because it was really percussive focused, I had a launch pad set up, and all 64 buttons were all one shot triggers of all the kitchen sounds, then 16 were tuned to Kalimba as well, and now I’ve completely taken that out. I’ve now got other bits of gear in there, there’s still a bit of jangly percussion feedback stuff happening, but it’s more focused on the bass, the arrangement and the dynamics.
You mentioned to Jason Moore on Triple R that you wanted to simplify your sound?
Coming into ‘Nightcrawler’ I wanted to simply the production so it sounds more placed than accidental. A lot of the stuff in ‘Altair’ was accidental. So I wanted to establish myself at being better, cleaner in some production, and not just rely on busyness and a huge bass *laughs*. I wanted you to hear like the synths and they carry. The drum beats are intricate, but they carry also. Just fine tuning the production techniques and skills I’ve gotten away with. Have more confidence in stuff that’s drier, and instead of having like four or five things going on, it’s just one.
Was ‘Nightcrawler’ intended to be part of an EP?
It’s just an individual track, it had the intention of an EP, and I have other tracks that I wanted to pair with it, but I feel like the model of putting out a one track is going to be better for me until I have an EP that I think will really pop. The EP won’t be all feature tracks, the whole EP should sound as one, but that’s really tricky and that’s what I want to nail with the production stuff – get it really tight and then be ready to do an EP.
I think in the meantime I want to get some things out of the system. in terms of types of tracks, like a heavy techno track or just a really kind of 12-minute background track, that’s just really repetitive. Then once I get those tracks out of my system or feel I can convey those tracks well, then focus on an EP that’s got a bit more depth, bit more instrumentation, actual piano, actual strings, and all of that. It’s going to take time to number one, arrange it, number two, record it and stuff. I want to put effort into a final EP.
Did the clubbing influence come from here or overseas?
It came from here. It came from going out and also starting to do DJ gigs as well. That got me more into club music, that’s not very like eccentric. It definitely gave me more of an appreciation for very simple tracks that someone’s made with just a drum machine, bass synth and that’s it. Very simple and everything you hear is what you get and there’s not much thought into it, it’s just a jam.
I like that simplicity. That’s what I want to do, more so. I think getting into the club music sort of realm, because I didn’t really get introduced to it. I sort of got introduced to it, but I didn’t like it, I had to really dive in and find the artists that I like, DJs that I like. Even then I won’t make a track [influenced] by a DJ that I aspire to. ‘Nightcrawler’ is on the edge [of that], if I went any closer to club then… I don’t want to be sort of pigeonholed to that’s all I do. I tend to teeter on the edge and then come back a bit.
Which artists did you find?
I definitely like a lot of Midland‘s production and mixes, I like Max Graef and all those guys, like Glenn Astro.
What else have you been doing this past year?
I moved to a new place in Footscray, and that’s changed my whole creative process. Who I’m sort of talking too, where I’m situated, and I guess just what I’m doing in a different home environment. I’m learning a lot more about gardening and water culture. That’s because that’s what my housemates do. They’re into that and I love it. It’s so interesting, I’ve learnt so much about different strands of Broccoli, like if you can’t learn anything, how are you supposed to output anything new. I’ve also just been doing normal work, just my day to day kind of thing, just to get by.
Also between the period of ‘Altair’ and ‘Nightcrawler’, that’s when all of this happened, that move. It took me a while to get my setup and environment to a point where it was nature, where I feel like I could sit down and do something. Then once I did that, I hit a writer’s block for about three months and was really stressed out. Really anxious, and I spoke to as many people and everyone about it. I spoke to producer friends, the Good Manners guys, mum and dad, close friends. From there, I think it was only a couple months ago, where I felt like I come out of that.
Do you know what was creating the writer’s block?
No, I’m not sure. I think it was less trying to do it like ‘Altair’ and more trying to do it like ‘Nightcrawler’. Going for that less is more approach, doing things that you’re not comfortable doing and sticking with it, learning new things to get out of old ways. Especially with just general learning and then with production as well. I’ve turned my whole setup upside down. Everything that I play with live, I use to record with. So in the past, I’d go to my laptop, I’d have some shitty recordings or some recordings on my phone, and I would just put them in and sample them, or sample from where ever. But now I use the little bits of gear that I have, and I’d have really simple sounds, simple processes, and just running with it. I think that is a key thing that I saw and read about with writer’s block, having limitations, because if you’re sitting at a computer, you could just go forever into the ether. You could be tuning something for ages and it doesn’t get you anywhere. But if you sort of go “hey, that’s the hi-hat sound done” bang, that’s it, don’t finesse for 15 minutes over it. That mindset going forward was how I got things done and got out of it.
As for what created the writer’s block? I don’t know, I guess it was just finishing tracks or making tracks that didn’t really hit the mark, that didn’t feel like a step up from ‘Altair’. Like I felt like I produced a really great track – if I listen to it now, I’m happy with it, with just how it flows and everything. But everything I was doing was just a bit slapdash, it didn’t really cut the mustard *laughs*. Then it just spiralled into a nothingness for ages.
Where else do you get your sounds from?
I’ve sampled sounds from like records, I guess, cassettes, like hip-hop stuff that I heard on the radio and crunched it in. Then play the synth parts, and then the piano and stuff I sampled from recordings as well. All at home, no external stuff, all sampling. Which is something I want to move away from a little bit or at least record stuff to re-sample. I want to be doing my own thing.
Did you think about bringing in guest musicians?
Prior to it, no, but moving forward, yes that’s what I’m going to do 100%. It’s almost like the best thing and the worst thing, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think with getting tracks out, it’s always good to get peer review, show people who are musicians, people who aren’t musicians, and with ‘Nightcrawler’ I did do that. I want to collaborate moving forward and have the credit split, just because moving creatively, I want to build on what I’m doing. And I think because I was in a bit of writer’s block, I didn’t want to go to a session with someone and be like “hey, I’ve done nothing for six months, lets write a track” *laughs*. It’s not really convincing. Now I feel like I’m on the brink of making something different all the time, let’s do a collaboration.
I used to show a lot more of my friends what I’ve been working on and I’ve cut that down. I only show, sometimes my housemates because they’re listening to it. I always show my mum, she’s a really good indication. Sometimes I really like her feedback, sometimes I think it’s crap, but it’s good.
It’s good, because you want their view that’s a little further back.
Exactly. She’s not in the scene (I hope *laughs*), she listens to whatever and she’s got a really good taste in music. That’s probably where I get my attention for different things, from her. If she likes something, I’ll be 50/50 on it, because maybe it’s really lame or maybe it’s really good. But if she hates something, well then I think, well I think it’s good. But I always take that into consideration.
She makes me refine things better. Then when I show her the next step, then it’s like “hey, I like this better, I think what we’ve spoke about works, good on yah”. *laughs* I don’t know if she likes it, but I like to show her.
When you play live, is it all tracks that are released? How do you construct your set?
I’ve got a couple tracks that are not released. They’re just tracks that I like to play, they sort of work in the set. One is a new track, that I’ve only just written and finished. Then there’s ‘Altair’ which I’ve changed a lot. I’ve simplified it a lot. ‘Helix’ as well, I’ve taken and snapped loops in there, and ‘Visions’ as well, I’ve sort of like snapped in to small loops, I’m not playing the whole song, just playing parts. So there’s a bit of a mix. It’s about half and half. About four songs that are out, and four songs that aren’t. In that, ‘Altair’ doesn’t even sound the same, well it sounds the same, but it’s de-tuned, so it’s really clunky sounding *laughs*. ‘Nightcrawler’ sounds the most like the actual recording. Usually making the set an hour long.
Do you just test run this all at home?
Yeah I do. I didn’t do it for this show, which I always do for every other show. For this one I was practicing just doing the show, because I [am using] bits of different gear. I’m almost liking that I haven’t practiced all the transitions, so there will be parts between songs where it might go for a bit longer. So it will be a bit more genuine, and it makes me stay on my toes.
The last gig that I did, I compiled the live set all on the day, I was like, I’ll just drag everything in and quickly chop it all up, make like a few simple drum tracks or whatever, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. Having a live set that could completely fall to the ground, that could be crappy or chaos, has given me the most thrill. Because if I have tracks that I know are going to be sweet for eight minutes, then I’m just standing here, feels really boring, so it’s now a bit more on the edge. If people don’t like it, great. If people like it, great *laughs*. Because I’m just going to have fun.
Do you have travel plans for next year?
Yes, personally and yes for music. I really want to get my Italian citizenship, so I can move there and live there and be based in Europe, that would be amazing if it happens soon.
And make some Italo Disco?
*Laughs* Yeah probably that might happen, who knows, I might get there and be completely immersed in it. But I think the plan is to put out a whole bunch of tracks at the start of next year, that’ll give me a little bit of weight, for a European thing. who knows, it’s in the plan, I definitely want to do it, whether I just go overseas or do music at the same time, who knows. It’ll be based upon when I do go, and what I have ready by the start of next year. So I’m writing as much as I can by December 31st *laughs*, then the first day of January, here’s the plan, boom boom boom boom.
Anywhere in particular you want to travel to?
I’m sort of happy to go everywhere. I have mates living in the UK, which it would be great to play some shows there, hang out with them as well. Germany would be great also, but then I really want to get immersed in the scenes of like Italy or Denmark, or in Switzerland, or France or wherever, or Spain as well. I just want to have an open mind to everywhere, and not sort of be like “hey, I already know this is a cultural hotspot for electronic music”, you know maybe it’s in Belgium now for me, who knows, I don’t know. I obviously want to go to the big ones, definitely want to go to like Berlin and the UK.
If I go to Italy, I’ll go with the intention of writing music at the same time, if I can tee-up little things whilst I’m there, just to like keep it afloat, great. But it’s a bit too hard to say without being there, I just want to throw myself in the deep end. If that doesn’t happen, then I really want to make sure that what I’m doing in Australia and Melbourne is ticking all the right boxes, playing everything I want to play. I guess we will just see at the start of next year.
|Nov 18th – The Wildlands, Strawberry Fields Festival||Nov 19th – State Library of Victoria, MMW Closing Party x Good Manners|
|Nov 25-27th – Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, Paradise Music Festival|