Coffee break with Ae:ther
From Rome to Berlin via London, he has been firmly cementing his melodic mark in the music world. And now, after a hectic schedule this year playing with Afterlife and Crosstown Rebels, Ae:ther is set to release his debut album on Damian Lazarus’ ever-evolving label. We caught up with the mysteriously intriguing DJ and producer ahead of the release.
Welcome, Ae:ther, thanks for stopping by! So it seems like you’ve had quite a busy Summer touring, haven’t you? Where has been your favourite place to play and why?
Hi, thanks for having me! It has been an amazing Summer and I am quite happy about it. I made so many great memories at Circoloco and Five Island Festival, and of course playing in Masada Desert for Day Zero was something unforgettable. I feel really lucky to have been a part of such legendary venues and crowds. Another epic moment was the amazing warehouse tent at Audio River Festival in Poland I played at, so dark!
You are just on the cusp of releasing your first album with Crosstown Rebels, entitled ‘Me’. How, in comparison to releases with Afterlife, have you felt this release differs? How have you tried to keep the ‘Ae:ther magic’ in the productions whilst keeping it in check with the Crosstown Rebels vibe?
I just try to be myself as much as possible, as there are differences to the releases I've made in the past, but in the end it's just myself and I. Some songs are more groovy and some more dark and I always try to keep the freshness while using the sound I currently have. The Crosstown vibe is more happy and crazy but sentimental at the same time. For this reason I also did some tracks which have this vibe but apparently they like them all anyway haha. For sure it's an unpredictable label which released very very big artists in the past….
‘Me’ features an array of vocals, melodies, basslines and progressive hooks over 11 tracks. Being your biggest release yet, did you find it hard to come up with larger material and what was your process?
It was quite hard to collect the songs and put them inside a whole album. There are some old songs I re-edited and some interludes that are definitely something new in terms of my ideas that I try to experiment with.
I tried to give it an appropriate context of what the listener will experience whilst listening to the album track-by-track to create the right flow an electronic album needs. Some songs are completely new; I'm happy that at times I am able to reach a harmony which lets me create something very special in a short period of time. If I am inspired by a specific moment I can be really productive. And as for the process, I can't really tell you anything about it, as it's all about the inspiration I was able to create around myself….
Being quite a fluid album from track-to-track, did this come quite naturally, or do you think you playing lots more live sets recently impacted this?
The idea to create this smoothness and make the tracks coherent with each other just naturally came out of me.
Working so closely with both Afterlife and Crosstown Rebels, what elements from each labels have you brought to the other?
Last year you released an Afterlife Voyage where you only used your tracks (many which are in ‘Me’). Being the first artist on the series to do so, what propelled you to do this? Did you find the process easier in comparison to mixes when you’ve selecting tracks from other artists?
I am so happy about the work I did in the Voyage series. I had the idea to kind of shock everyone and introduce myself with this special mix. It wasn't too hard to collect all the tracks, because I just needed to put them together in a great order like I always used to do in my DJ sets. I tried to have a various selection while keeping the Ae:ther vibe and give the mix a smart sense by avoiding any boring parts but giving it the right fluidity.
It's more easy for me to select tracks from my personal folder instead of mixing stuff from other artists which could possibly interrupt the flow if I don't find something similar to my music. Unfortunately I can’t only play my unreleased stuff in DJ sets, because I want to keep the exclusivity for my live performances.
You were born and raised in Rome, before moving to London and are now based in Berlin. How have these different cities and cultures influenced your sound and what artists did you discover living in these cities?
I started producing when I was around 16, and in that time I discovered myself as a boy full of ideas, big fresh melodies and harmonies with long breakdowns like nowadays (I still have some old projects which are really interesting) but with zero amounts of knowledge on the technical side at that time, so it didn’t sound right. After DJing in a few clubs in Rome I didn't feel comfortable with the scene and sometimes it felt a bit boring so I started to think that only deejaying was the way to make it.
I then moved to Milan to study sound design and in the meantime, I tried to find a way to get to know the right people who had the experience. It was there where after a while I met Alex & Freddie and Tale of Us and my desire for making music and the stimulations grew much bigger.
London life I found very hard and it was a life I didn't really enjoy - no parties, no time-wasting, playing in empty clubs etc. so it wasn’t really helpful. I started to be more 'nerdy' and started to build my signature sound, where after three years the breakthrough happened - I met Bicep on my way in the studio! It was fascinating and they may not remember me now, or maybe they do? Who knows….
Berlin was another step, the step of an established producer. I am still new here so I can't really say much about the city but for sure it's the best place for me at the moment. I met a couple of people who brought me to Damian Lazarus over here, the illumination…
Which moment do you feel was the real ‘breakthrough’ point for you as an artist and how did it come about?
For me would be the feeling I had when my work started to have a sense of completeness. Something that could work on the dance floor but also only for listening. I just felt an identity in my productions that I have always tried to reach, that no one has ever come close to or ever heard before. I felt the urge to keep going in that direction until the 'that' song into your life and changes it; something that's super fresh...
I had this feeling with an unreleased track called “Shelter” in Summer 2016 and “Eclipse” in Winter 2016. I think with these two songs we're where I found my personal breakthrough.
If you could go b2b with any artist, in any club, who and where would it be and why?
For sure it would be with Mind Against in a strong venue or warehouse, not like before at my house parties in Milan. We came close to playing a special b2b in Tulum in 2020 but it won't happen, but hopefully it will happen very soon! I don't have another request at the moment but who knows what the future brings…
What’s the biggest musical milestone for you so far and where do you see yourself going in the future with your DJing and career?
I see myself in a band like Underworld or the Apparat style playing on big stages, which are, in essence, concerts. This is the milestone I hope to achieve one day…