While there are many precursors to the sound, the most coherent and prolific imprint to have embraced headfuck is Munich's Prologue. There are exactly 13 tracks that have been released on Prologue at the time of this writing—the imprint began in December 2008—but over the course of its five releases it has garnered a profile among connoisseurs of the bourgeoning genre as the place for the stuff. Prologue's MySpace page has had the phrase emblazoned next to its picture for months, and label boss Tom Bonaty doesn't shy away from the term in the slightest.
Bonaty soon had more important things taking up his time, however. Namely, a family. "When I do things, I want to support them 100%, so I took some time away." Nonetheless, Bonaty was still often DJing and throwing parties locally, enchanted by the minimal wave that was so powerful in the beginning of the '00s. "We would play records from Minus, Plus8, Mental Groove," says Bonaty, but things changed "about three years ago, at a Mental Groove night. The DJ played a Donato Dozzy record. I was so surprised by his releases and his sound. It became the reason that I started a new label. I wanted to create my own vision of electronic music, one that goes in more or less the same direction as where Donato is heading."
The record that Bonaty heard was Dozzy's "Destination: Eskimo," a track released on Elettronica Romana. It was yet another short-lived but important imprint, a label that brought together a number of artists that frequented Rome's Remix shop and traded in the sort of trance-y, intelligent techno that Prologue now specializes in. RA scribe Nate Deyoung once described "Eskimo" as "claustro-disco" with an "arpeggiated line [that] wobbles in disorienting extremes." Hearing it today, you can understand how Bonaty would be won over: Coming after a sea of shiny-surface, hyper-composed minimal techno, it's a deep and loose sound that relies on analogue synthesizers for its power.
But Bonaty doesn't necessarily see headfuck as a reaction against minimal—despite some distaste for where the genre has gone in the past few years. ("When I look at labels which I thought were formerly very excellent, it seems like more or less it's crap [nowadays]….So much music seems to be made by people who are thinking about what they should do.") D'or agrees: "A lot of what I hear around me these days is what I would call 'Lambada tech house.' There are a lot of vocals. For me, I wonder about it because before these people were in the underground and now they can play in a normal club because of the music they are playing. I feel there is another wave, coming from another direction that is going to hold the real techno up, in a new form."
Like all new forms, there is a large backstory to how headfuck came to be. Elettronica Romana is a key part of it: Giorgio Gigli and Dino Sabatini (as part of Modern Heads), who released on the Italian imprint, have also released on Prologue as well. But it hasn't quite coalesced, in large part, because of the distribution struggles facing so many labels these days. (It seems somehow fitting that Prologue's most prominent friend on MySpace at the moment is their distribution company.) Many of the imprints circling around the sound—Elettronica Romana, Orange Groove and many more—had only short runs, leaving artists like Gigli and Sabatini without a consistent release mechanism for their music. With Prologue, Bonaty seems interested in growing the label to become a reliable home—a phrase that comes up a few times in our discussion—to the artists that he works with.
"[Giorgio Gigli] wasn't really recognized as a great producer of electronic music. I want to create a platform where he can release a lot of music, so that he can develop his musical styles." Bonaty's label template, like so many other imprints, is Warp—a place was once regarded as the home to IDM, but eventually left that tag behind with a roster of artists that now spans a variety of genres. It's clear that, for now though, the focus will be on techno, and the connections that Bonaty has forged in his years in that scene. Like D'or, who Bonaty met more than a decade ago. After a huge amount of interest from a variety of labels, D'or chose to go with Prologue for her debut album later this year based on her friendship and the label's clear direction. It will mark D'or's first release for the label, as well as Dozzy's debut appearance as well (on remixing duties of one of the first singles from the album).
But despite reaching outside of the closed network, Prologue looks as though it's heading to become a network of its own. Dozzy and D'or are rumored to be planning on crafting an ambient album together later on in the year, while Dozzy will team up with Sabatini for a release in November. (And festivals like Japan's exceptionally-curated Labyrinth event offer up an important place for many of the genre's main players to get together and compare notes in person.) Dozzy, of course, has had plenty of collaborations in the past, and when I ask him about the appeal of the arrangement, his answer is simple, "I really love hanging out in the studio with my friends. You can push each other, motivate each other and you listen to the critiques of the other person. You learn a lot. But, after many years, it just comes down to me loving to hang out with friends in the studio."
That sense of collaboration even extends to Bonaty, who offered up some advice for Dozzy's forthcoming remix for the label. After listening to the first draft, Bonaty recommended bringing an element further to the fore. "I usually don't like when people tell me what is right or wrong," says Dozzy. "But [Tom] said just one thing that was so correct that I looked into the mirror and said, 'Doz, your ears are fucked...or what?'" [laughs] Bonaty's suggestion was taken on board and, in turn, won even more of Dozzy's respect. "When that sound was much louder, the effect was absolutely devastating to my ears...in a good way."
The devastation looks to continue throughout the year, with a healthy release schedule promising five more EPs and D'or's album. RA writer Paul Corey called Gigli's debut EP for the imprint "music that evokes the dawn of time as well as the end of the world." While there is an apocalyptic feel to much of Prologue's output thus far, I'd tend toward the former view: Headfuck is clearly still being formed in the ears of its producers. What's past is prologue. What's present? Well, that looks to be Prologue too.