But there is something else about Pronsato. He's just hitting his artistic stride at thirty-five years old, and he's got a colourful history, and the tattoos, to prove it. To find out more, I follow him to a dark corner of his London hotel to sip Earl Grey tea and discuss the finer things in life: Speed metal, gospel and forgetting to go to bed in Berlin.
What kind of music did you grow up with?
When we were ten - I have a twin brother actually - both me and my brother were both pretty musical. And my mother is incredibly musical.
So when you can't make a booking, does your brother go along instead?
Exactly! I'm like "I'm sick! Go!" No, but we grew up listening to all kinds of music. My mother was a twenty-four hour a day music freak, so we were listening to everything. By the time we were ten or so, he was really into playing bass and I was into playing drums, and my mom was like "Yeah, yeah I'll get you some drums," because she is such a music freak, you know? So we sat up in the garage playing drums from when I was like ten. So that's a good twenty five years almost.
Do you still pick up the sticks?
Actually I haven't sat down at a drum set in probably nearly ten years. But there's a new Narcotic Syntax album coming out, and it's going to be lots of people playing live so I'm actually going to be playing a session with those guys. I told them it's been a while but, you know, I'll see what I can do.
You used to play drums in a metal band called Voice of Reason. Can you tell us about that?
At the time my brother and I were living in Germany and running around with some German punk rock kids, blah blah blah. And we started getting more and more political, like at around fifteen. We were just sort of going through teen angst or whatever.
Hence the name Voice of Reason?
Exactly. So we just thought, "Fuck man. Let's do a punk rock band". You know, like a hardcore band. The two fit well and particularly in the late eighties and early nineties when that stuff was kind of big. So we did that for several years and then my brother went on to do his own thing and I went on to do mine.
So will we be seeing Voice of No Reason resurface?
Hell no! Hell no!
In the nineties you moved to Seattle. Why and how?
Yeah, a friend of mine had a space out in Savannah, Georgia, like a custom home furnishing thing. So I moved up there to do some work and to learn how to weld and build this really nice furniture and stuff. But it really wasn't for me. A lot of it was like too fucking weird and too complicated, you know, like building these eighteenth century Italian beds from scratch. He was like, "Maybe this isn't for you, man." And then his shop went under and he was like, "I'm going to go work at this shop in Seattle". And I said, "Okay cool. Maybe I'll just travel with you and check out the city."
How old were you then?
Twenty four or twenty five. Seattle is actually a really amazing city. It's very beautiful and pretty left-oriented. And the people are overall really nice there. I mean genuinely nice, not like American, "How's it going?", but like genuinely nice people. So I met some people there and I actually started playing drums in another band, sort of like art rock/Sonic Youth style. Then another band for a good two or three years.
What were you called?
At one point we called ourselves Submarines, but yeah, we didn't really settle on one name. This is one of the bands I don't really talk about much. But the guy I was working with was just a fucking genius. You know the movie Scream, right? He's the retarded Sheriff guy in it. Anyway he had this band in the late nineties, and of course they were popular because he was this Hollywood superstar. So he played guitar in this band, which was a shame because this band was ridiculous.
Are you a permanent resident of Berlin now?
Yeah, I came back to Seattle from Europe and realized it didn't make sense for me to live there anymore - I'd quit my day job at the time - so I thought why don't I just go and check out Berlin? And then I wound up being there for six months and I was like, "Fuck man. I live here!"
Which piece of gear couldn't you live without?
BP: I'm actually a very limited guy. I've used Logic for the last seven or eight years to do all my sequencing. I use Max/MSP and Logic for sound mainly. I usually build the sounds in Max because you can build your own patches and your own synthesizers. Because there is an Ableton Live sound, there's a Reaktor sound, but not too many people have a Max sound, because it's been around for years and years since the seventies. It's sort of like its own little programming language. More recently I've got into rewiring and using Live because it's actually really quick to find a good beat. I've just gotten Logic 8 so it works pretty seamlessly with Live. Also I'm using Live for the live shows.
Have you finished setting up your studio in Berlin?
BP: I'm actually working on that right now. I've just moved to Prenzlauerberg so I'm doing a little bit of work there. I'm using the new MacBook, the black one, a Metro Halo soundcard and the Genelec 8040s. I do most of my pre-mixes there and then when I'm doing mixes-mixes I go to Sammy's. He's got the Bullfrogs there and he's got a really good space. My space is really reverberated because I don't have anything in there yet. I haven't bothered to put anything in there yet to make it really studio ready, so Sammy's is really the place for me right now, much to his chagrin.
So how's your German?
Well, I definitely don't speak German. I can order taxis and get by in restaurants, but I don't typically try to like foist my English on people. I can basically get by. I can talk to the taxi guy about the weather, but when it gets to a super serious German conversation, then I'm pretty lost.
Do you partake in the Berlin nightlife?
I think for the first six months there I was fucking lost. I was like "What does a bed look like?" But then after a while, you have to assess the situation and think "Why am I in Berlin? Why did I wind up here? What am I doing here?" And you're like, "Oh okay, you're here to make records. You're here to make music." Now I feel like Berlin is my home and when I go there I want to be working.
A place for business then.
Yeah, but I'll always go out if there's a Get Perlonized party because the music will be fantastic!
A lot of people think that you have a very unique sound - it's slightly maximal but micro at the same time. What do you think?
I don't think I ever go into a track and say to myself, "I think I'm going to keep it this way." But in my mind I guess I always say to myself, "I'm going to make a house track." That's pretty much like what I'm always thinking.
Do you get your girl on the microphone?
Well, yeah, I was married. I was married to this girl, but we're separated now. She was from Argentina so we she would be on the phone with her family in Argentina and I would be like doing some field recordings and then pick stuff that kind of sounds like she's singing.
Is that her voice on 'Wade In the Water, Children'?
Yeah, that's also her. It's a lyric from this old Southern gospel song from the turn of the century called 'Wade In The Water, Children'. It's super super soulful and amazing.
Who's it by?
Uh, I don't know. I guess it's like a slave song or an old gospel song.
You've released on a long list of labels, for example Philpot, Perlon, Hello? Repeat, Musique Risquee, Lessizmore, Orac. How did you touch base with these labels? Is it generally through meeting people?
Yeah, that's the way it is. First off, I never thought I would be making music and living off of it. But you put out one record and then some guy emails you about it. After I put out my first EP, Akufen actually emailed Orac and said, "I really love this Bruno record." And I was like, "Oh my god. Akufen emailed? What did he say?" So I wrote him back and I was like, "Hey man, thanks for the comments. If you want a record for Musiquee Risque, I'd be glad to make one of those." And they were like, "Sure. Send me tracks." And that's how the Musiquee Risque thing happened. And then the Philpot thing came about when I released 'Silver Cities'. Michel Baumann, who is Jackmate and Soulphiction, sent me an email about the record and I was like, "Hey. If you want a Philpot record...". So it's just sort of gone on and on like this, you know?
We like you!
Yeah, totally. Toby and Michel from Philpot are amazing. They flew me from Seattle to Berlin to play one show, a Philpot night at Panorama Bar. So I want to make another Philpot record as well.
Tell us about your new album Why Can't We Be Like Us? It's getting lots of good buzz...
To my mind, great albums are something that we don't really see so much in techno. And I don't mean great in terms of quality, I mean great in terms of the idea of the album. I grew up listening to Roxy Music and My Bloody Valentine and even Led Zeppelin. These bands orchestrated the idea in my mind of what an album is - the beginning, the story and sort of the electricity of it. I think a lot of time what happens in techno is that albums are just a double pack of dance tracks. So for me the concept was what do I like the most from Flesh and Blood or Loveless or The House of The Holy? I tried to pick out the elements that sort of unwind into a bigger picture. That's why it took me a year and a half to make. But I think when people hear the album they're going to be like "Wow, this is not at all what I expected to hear from Bruno."
The album has unusual instrumentation like flutes and pianos on it. Do you think in some way the album is a reaction against minimal?
I don't want to be another one of these haters on minimal. I don't want to say I hate minimal because there are lots of minimal things that I enjoy, but what I do want to say is that I just feel that there is a lot of musicality that's been lacking in the last couple of years. So for me I thought, wow, man, if someone brought in a fucking flute or piano, like some odd part of the track, it would suddenly be like music, you know? I felt like some of my tracks had recently gotten very digital sounding, you know, which I like in some contexts of making music. But I really wanted the album to sound loose and organic and like sort of fuck it if this thing's off on the 16th note or whatever. I'm not going to put these hand claps on the grid. I'm not going to quantize this riff. Because I wanted it to feel like more than just a machine.
To create something that will last.
I really wanted to create one tune, you know, one track which people would remember. There's nothing better than being somewhere and remembering some tune. It's great. You don't get that so much in techno. You don't get the sort of like, you know, where you can whistle it? To me, that's the real winner, when you can. Not that you can necessarily whistle all of my tracks!
At your next birthday party, if Sonic Youth were jamming with My Bloody Valentine and they said, "Hey, Steven, you want to jump on the drums?" would you be up for that?
Oh totally. Absolutely. I'm still like - yeah, I still talk about these guys in interviews.
So they're still a big inspiration for you?
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Definitely Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine for sure. Although I'm more and more into this band Blonde Redhead who people say sound like Sonic Youth.
What else are you listening to at the moment?
I've been listening to classical music for the last four or five years pretty strongly, but the last year I've been getting into the opera and listening to these crazy Anton Webern songs that are totally fucking freaked out! Also I have a lot of friends who make music and they send me tracks. I'm really really loving Franco Cinelli, this guy from Argentina. He's always blowing me away with his new tracks. I'm probably the biggest Franco Cinelli fan. And the new Thomas Melchior album is fucking phenomenal. It's just weird because when I went to the studio to give Thomas my album, he gave me his album. We had a meeting, like an album exchange. And so I went home immediately and put it on. His record is really, really moody, and deep and beautiful. It also tells a story, you know? It starts off very Melchior, very super housey, groovy, funky, and then it just gets so deep, and I dare say beautiful, you know? It's called No Future Disco. Thomas and I finished our albums around the same time, and I think we both sort of had the same sort of...
Well, we never discussed it. But when I heard his album, I felt like he'd probably thought to himself that he wanted to hear some more music in techno. And I guess that's maybe my point. I love a lot of the tracks I hear out, but I could stand to here a little more music, you know?
Some chords and some keys.
Right, but then sometimes maybe I'm not in that mood either. And that could be tonight. Someone could play a big booty house track and I could be like, "Oh gross. I want to hear beats."