It's been quite a while since the last Rodion album, so the release of 'Generator' last week was big news for nu-disco lovers
Italian producer Rodion will need no introduction to lovers of nu-disco, his output having graced some of the scene's most respected labels including Nang, Gomma, Eskimo Recordings, Nein and Bear Funk. But it's been a while since he released his last album - nine years, in fact.
All that changed on Friday, though, when Generator landed in stores. Only the second Rodion full-length (following 2007's Gomma debut Romantic Jet Dance), the album finds him once more blending disco, synth-pop, soundtrack and electro influences into an irresistibly danceable concoction, and its arrival has already been greeted with great enthusiasm by disco beard-strokers the world over.
We were still intrigued as to why it took so long, though. So there was only one way to find out... ask!
It's been nine years since your last artist album... why such a long gap?
"In the last nine years I focused on releasing club-oriented singles and remixes, on my Alien Alien and Roccodisco projects, and on producing other people's album, like I'm doing with Chinese electronic band Nova Heart. But I was definitely missing some live and album action, so in 2012 I started working on Generator with my trusted bass player Tso and the awesome drummer Gilberto. It took us three years to compose, record and produce the final record."
Do you approach 'making an album' differently than just making tracks to be released as singles? If so, how?
"Generator is a bit different from other Rodion productions. This time, the music comes from real musicians: a drummer, a bass player and a synth freak. It's not composed or performed using laptops and such. We spent a couple years in the rehearsal room, jamming and finding the right themes to work on, then we went to a 1970s studio in Rome to record our themes so as to have warm, solid and tight recordings to work with. Editing and mixing, with the addition of some extra vocals and synths, has been done here in my Berlin studio."
There are a lot of analogue sounds on Generator, could you talk us through what's in your studio in terms of hardware and software?
"Yes, most of my sounds come from analogue hardware. I like the analogue sound but what I like more is the feeling of playing a real instrument rather than operating a remote videogame controller. Your ears take over from your eyes, and that's what I need to focus on music. I'm a bit stressed by hardware and software updates, so I tend to use what I like more and what I know better.
"I have lots of machines, but my favourite pieces of gear are probably the Elka Synthex, the Arp Odyssey and the Roland Re-201 tape echo. I edit my stuff using an outdated version of Cubase on a Mac."
Apart from Tso and Gilberto, are there any other collaborators on the album?
"No, I wrote and performed the whole Generator album together with Tso and Gilberto."
What other producers would you most like to work with if you had the chance?
"Probably Gerald Donald, of Dopplereffekt and Drexciya."
There seems to be quite a strong 80s synth-pop influence on many of the tracks… was that an important/influential era of music for you?
"I'd actually say that on this album we referenced more the 70s electronic, club and psychedelic pioneers like Klaus Schulze, ESG and Black Devil Disco Club. I reckon much of my music has drawn inspiration from 80s synth-pop and such, but I was (and am) actually a bit sick of the limited, clichéd soundscapes of the 80s. So with this album I tried to avoid most of the 80s stereotyped disco sounds, most of the common nu-disco related flatness, in favour of a rawer, more vivid and more naive approach to synth sounds.
Italy's always been a key territory in the world of disco, from the cosmic era to today's crop of nu disco artists. So what is it about Italy and disco?
"Italian electronic music is known worldwide for its contribution to the cosmic and disco scenes, so much known that there is a specific genre called Italo. But the truth is that cosmic and disco have always been a niche thing here in Italy. The perception of an Italian synth disco alliance is more something that comes from other countries' way of thinking about Italy. There are not so many people into disco, nu-disco and cosmic in Rome and surrounding areas: people listen to techno and house, drum & bass or Goa trance, but rarely to disco and such."
There are some interesting and unusual track titles on the album… care to tell us the meaning behind (eg) Bosphorus Hippies, Colazione! and Alta Marea?
"Bosphorus Hippies is a song that talks about a suggestion that Istanbul gave me: we have AutoTuned muezzin-style lead vocals on top of a flower power triole beat. Colazione means 'breakfast' in Italian, because the interlude it refers to sounds to me a bit like Sunday morning in the countryside. And Alta Marea means 'high tide' in Italian, because the song has a strong acid hook and listening to it is a bit like being on a boat when the high tide hits."
You also co-own the Roccodisco label and are half of Alien Alien… what's going on with those projects right now?
"Alien Alien is the dark side of Rodion, a project that I run together with Hugo Sanchez. Also with Hugo we run the Roccodisco label on which we release music from Rodion, Alien Alien and Front de Cadeaux, a stunning project by Hugo Sanchez and DJ Athome from Brussels.
"With Alien Alien we have some new releases lined up on Slow Motion, Malka Tuti, Toy Tonics and Meant records. And Next on Roccodisco will be a Rodion EP and some new Front de Cadeaux material."
Words: Russell Deeks Pic: Katja Ruge