That determination to reach beyond the orthodoxies of experimental noise has, perhaps unusually, led Pedone into collaborations with artists like Justin K Broadrick of Godflesh and Ike Yard's Stuart Argabright, AKA Black Rain. Most recently, with Mumdance and Logos, Pedone has formed The Sprawl, an attempt to bring a solid form to the previously loose and psychic connections between ambient techno, dubstep and weightless grime. The Sprawl's EP1 dropped in November on The Death Of Rave, but it's Pedone's second Shapednoise album, Different Selves, that is about to propel him to a new level of visibility. A highly tactile, texturally varied record of a rare emotional sophistication, it sees Pedone shaping wild globs of noise and rhythm into an unusually exhilarating and colourful experience.
Ahead of The Sprawl's recent show in Manchester, Pedone talked to me about Sicily, extreme music, avant-garde Berlin, the narrowness of club culture and collaboration.
You grew up in Sicily, which is not particularly well-known for club and experimental music. What were your formative musical experiences?
I went to high school in the small town where my grandparents lived, but I spent the weekends in Palermo and, basically, I was never really attracted to club culture. The club stuff that was big in Sicily at the time was house music like Masters At Work, Tony Humphries and Danny Tenaglia. It's stuff you hear because your friends are into it or there's only one big club in town where you might go to have fun, but I grew up with my cousin who's in his 40s now and, at the time, he was really into punk, industrial and metal. He introduced me to loads of interesting music from Napalm Death to John Cage. My father's also a big fan of Franco Battiato, a Sicilian composer whose first two records, Fetus and Pollution, are great experimental ambient albums. That was my introduction to music. As a teenager, when I took more control of what I was listening to, I was really into IDM stuff like Autechre and Aphex Twin, jungle, breakcore and old school rave like Spiral Tribe, Crystal Distortion and 69db.
We used to stay on the illegal rave scene and I never really experienced techno clubbing until I moved to Milan, in 2009, to study sound engineering. University is where I met my friends Ascion and D.Carbone, who created the Repitch label, which I became involved in. Just by hanging out at university I was influenced by techno, but the places I'd go to in Milan were jungle nights, breakcore and UK bass things. I saw Venetian Snares several times and, after moving to Berlin in 2011, my first time at Berghain was to see him. That was super intense for me.
You were always aware, then, that your own music was going in this noisier direction?
I've been a DJ since my early teens but even when I started to study electronic music production, I didn't know what direction my music would take. You are too influenced by other people. But around 2006, I was listening to pretty noisy music. I loved Editions Mego and the fact that they were putting out music by a guy from Catania, Massimo [Sapienza]. It was really surprising to see a guy from Sicily, which is completely isolated from the world, getting loads of attention in Europe doing this crazy music. Mego gave me the base to explore proper noise music: Russell Haswell, Mika Vainio, Kevin Drumm, Merzbow, Prurient.
I don't really consider what happened before The Day Of Revenge as part of my discography because I wasn't fully conscious of what I wanted to do then. Moving to Berlin helped me find my own direction. At some point I said, "I have the tools now, I know how to make music, I really want to do what I want to do," which was make music in a completely spontaneous way. The Day of Revenge is when my personal style began. I was working on that for 18 months, sent Dominick (Fernow, AKA Vatican Shadow) a few tracks and he said, "I want all of them, let's do a full length," which was big.
What's behind the name Shapednoise?
I was thinking about manipulating sound in an almost sculptural way—thinking not about the music itself, but about the artistic intent. For me, Shapednoise is about thinking as an artist, rather than it being genre-targeted techno, jungle or whatever. It is something which will constantly develop. My music will not be the same in three years. It will maintain a certain personality in the way I produce, sure, but I'm constantly thinking about what is going to happen next.
I want to experiment in as many ways as possible: creating tracks that change in exciting ways in their composition, combining analogue machines and digital software, using tricks in post-production to do new things, and using elements in unorthodox ways, like using a noise or a synthesiser to create a kick drum or making something acidic like "Heart-Energy-Shape," but arriving at those sounds in [an unconventional] way. I want to make music in my own style without defining it in a simple way. The concept is to be free. Do not follow structures. I want to surprise people. That is my motivation. I do not want to do some boring, predictable music that 10,000 people have already done.
How open is Berlin to experimental music? Have you found a scene of likeminded people there?
I don't know what the scene was like ten years ago, but in a way it is a city full of techno and tech house. Most people want to go dancing to techno for 24 or 48 hours, and it is OK to do this the first year you are in Berlin, but I am not interested in it. Luckily, there are other things apart from just club music and interesting promoters who bring new stuff into the city. I collaborate with the CTM festival and we've done some great things together. Two years ago I opened a Godflesh concert and last year I played with The Bug in Berghain. In regards to places I really like, and where I would feel comfortable playing, there's nights like Polymorphism, Not Equal, Contort, Leisure System, Grand Jetè.
There is a line in the press release for Different Selves that claims this is "not a deconstruction of club music, but an amplification" of it. That's cute, but in reality that amplification destroys any connection that this music might once have had to nightclubs, doesn't it? Your tracks are not functional dance floor pieces in any way, are they?
[Laughs] Yeah. But I totally think this could be played in a club. People are too prejudiced about what can and can't be played in clubs. They make distinctions between experimental, club music, music with beats or no beats, but it is all music. There is music that is more appropriate in different contexts, but that doesn't mean that you can't play experimental noise music in a club. Last year, I played my live show in Milan in a peak-time club situation and it worked well. Maybe in some places it wouldn't, but I always think, "What is club music for people?" For me, it should be more exciting than standard dance music.
Is noise the correct word to describe what you do? It's a pretty loaded term. It implies confrontation and aggression, a grotty sound quality, even, where your music is more about light and shade, power and restraint. It is sonically and emotionally rich.
That's the precise point. I like doing really sophisticated sound design. For me, that is really important. I am not interested in doing really extreme music for the sake of doing really extreme music. I think of it in a different way. I like creating and working with sounds in a sculptural way and bringing a high-definition to them. That is more interesting than doing extreme harsh noise.
To me, and it's a major project, Different Selves is really colourful and really emotional. That's what I like to do. I like to do music that has a certain tension but I also like to do really colourful stuff. I'm not interested in black-and-white noise. With Different Selves this combination works really well. It's not about doing noise and that's it, just because you want to do something extreme. If I was just doing noisy stuff that was closed in its range, that would be a shame.
There seems to be something cosmic and elemental to tracks like "Travels In The Universe Of The Soul" and what is arguably the album's centrepiece, "The Man From Another Place." To me, they are the sound of the Big Bang, of new worlds forming in deep space. Are such epic moments in nature and science inspirations for you?
To tell the truth, the name of "The Man From Another Place" track comes from Twin Peaks. I'm a big David Lynch fan and really proud that Angelo Badalamenti has a Sicilian background—his father's from Palermo. But, of course, in a cosmic way, so to speak, I have been very influenced by Sun Ra and aIso writers like Philip K. Dick, in the way they predicted society's development. There is an emotional influence [from such things] but, when I make music, I like to concentrate deep in the production. I don't like to think about other artists and other music, because I don't want to be influenced too much.
How do you expect that the listener might perceive or be moved by what you do? Does your music have a specific purpose in that regard?
For me, it is about expressing myself emotionally. And that is really important. If you're a creative person, it is normal to feel that you have to do this. Sometimes I can't sleep for thinking about how to finish a track. But I never force myself to do music on command. I can do it when I'm doing collaborations with people—you have to organise your schedule and say, "Tomorrow, we'll meet and do a session." But when I am working on my own, it is always that when I feel the need to make music, I do it. If I don't feel the need, I don't say, "I should do a new release or album." That's not the way I work. But talking about how it might be received is really difficult. Everyone has a different perception of it and you never know who is going to listen to your music. And that's really exciting.
You collaborate a lot. Why?
Because I'm open to every possible experimentation and, for me, collaboration is an important way to explore that. Working with artists from different fields is how new things emerge and, in the last year, I've found loads of artists with whom I have a really nice understanding in how we see music. You can admire an artist a lot technically, think they have really great production skills, but if the feeling isn't there or the music differs from your vision for it, it is difficult to find a communal way to work. You have to find the right people.
Taking two examples of people you have collaborated with, AnD and Violet Poison, how did those working relationships come about? Is it always friendship-first for you or do you pursue people you admire?
With AnD it started because we're friends and now we did a track me, AnD, Davide and Pasquale [as D.A.S.D.A]. With the Violetshaped work, it happened casually because I was in touch with Violet Poison on the internet, discussing music and stuff, but we closed that project over a year ago now because, unfortunately, in the end, we didn't have the same vision musically.
And with Justin K Broadrick and Ike Yard's Stuart Argabright?
I first met Stuart in 2012 in Poland at a show in a frozen train station—the coldest show of my life and a bizarre context for a first meeting. Next morning, we travelled to Berlin together where Stuart was continuing his European tour as Black Rain. Since then, we've remained in touch and it created a great friendship. When I started the Cosmo Rhythmatic label [Repitch's experimental arm], the idea was to involve people whom I respect artistically and that, at the same time, I have a special relationship outside music. I asked Stuart for some material and he suggested we make a record together, which is even better. In summer 2014, Ike Yard played Berlin Atonal and in just two days in the studio we were able to collect loads of interesting sounds. Stuart came back to Berlin during the autumn of 2014 and, in another two days, we finished the record.
My first contact with Justin was when I asked him to do a remix as JK Flesh for Violetshaped and, at that time, I couldn't believe that I was able to involve him. I later met him in person at Berghain, in 2013, when—and this is one of the most important moments in my career—I opened a Godflesh concert. I was thinking about doing something special for the Type album, Different Selves, and I just asked him if he wanted to collaborate. We were both really excited about it and, after that night, I started to compose something to send to him. He then added his unmistakable touch on it, playing bass guitar, strings and drum machines.
Your advice would be to talk to your heroes, then?
Yeah. If you don't take a risk like that, nothing will ever happen. Some people might find approaching their heroes intimidating, but I just think that when there is a good relationship there, something that feels more than just a work relationship, then go for it. Plus, the best things happen when you don't worry too much and you do things as spontaneously as possible. If you think about every move too much, you can block yourself creatively.
With your collaborative projects, do you tend to work face-to-face in person?
There is a connection between us, for sure. The live show uses digital software and hardware machines, each of us has a different machine and a different role, and although we prepare material to play, it's basically improvising because we don't structure the direction of the show. We know who's going to [take the lead by playing] first and who's going to go next, and, of course, there are moments where all of us are playing at the same time, but it's kind of a circle where we react to one another. In the studio [for the EP], we did a few jam sessions and, afterwards, split the material and each of us made something, building the tracks, then, at some point, we would share it all. The new show includes versions of tracks from EP1, too.
Is that correct that Michail Stangl, one of the organisers of CTM, initially suggested The Sprawl as a project to the three of you?
I was already talking with Mumdance and Logos about music and stuff, because Mumdance was playing my track "As Others See Us" and I was doing a remix of "Glass" for Logos, when they opened their label, Different Circles. CTM were interested in the three of us and so Michail said, "What do you think?" Me and Jack had a discussion about it and I was really excited by the idea.
In hindsight, it does seem that there is an obvious kinship between a lot of experimental ambient techno and Mumdance and Logos's idea of weightless grime. In both cases it is about removing all the fixed structure from those musics (linear beats and basslines, dance floor propulsion), then exploring those sounds in a more discursive way.
Yeah, yeah. That's exactly why I wanted to do this collaboration because there were exciting things happening in the grime scene with the weightless sound. It's a completely new way to see that music, which is really interesting. It was an exciting idea to bring the two different scenes together, but, I think the thing that unites us, fundamentally, is a futuristic, avant-garde vision in the way we make music.
Finally, what is happening about your work with Demdike Stare's Miles Whittaker as Boccone Duro?
It is all in development. We don't know what direction it will take yet. We are good friends and, when Miles is in Berlin, we have a ritual lunch meeting once a week because we share a passion for food. That's how the name came about, it means "hard bite." The Club To Club festival asked if I'd like to prepare something with Miles and, because there is that relationship there, I thought it would be great.
Where do you recommend to eat in Berlin then?
Most of the time we go to this Japanese place, Cocolo Ramen, which, weirdly, loads of electronic artists like. Another really good one is the Italian Salumeria Lamuri on Köpenicker Straße, and I like to take Sicilian food over and make dinner together at Miles's flat, too. To me, it's important that when I work with people, we share something, some nice times, apart from just the music.