INTERVIEW & EXCLUSIVE Keope ‘Ecco’ [Bigamo]

As summer turns into autumn, Torture the Artist catches up with Keope shortly before the release of their album ‘Triangulo’ on Frank Wiedemann’s, Bigamo. The duo, known for their rich, inspired and elemental productions, tend to draw inspiration from nature, and you probably won’t guess where we found them this time. The well-travelled Marcus and Toni reflects on the creative process behind their new album, and other projects dating back to when they first met nearly one and a half decade ago. Having spent the past few years head deep into their production and performing poignant sets throughout the globe, there is plenty for Keope to think about, and they don’t hold back talking about it here.

There is no perfect track. You can capture music, lock it on wax, on tape or in binary code but you will only really experience it when music is performed live.

Torture the Artist: Hi Marcus and Toni, tell us something about your day.

Keope: The sun is shining, providing some light warmth and the wind is blowing through the trees outside of the studio window. It’s one of those beautiful autumn days that calms one down and gives that extra laid back mood you ask for, after having a hectic and productive summertime. 

Torture the Artist: We heard through the grapevine that you are already working on new music in the Slovenian forests. This is a totally different set-up in terms of the location compared to the places you produced your album ‘Triangulo’ at, what type of music can we expect from your ‘lock-out’ in the Slovenian forests?

Keope: We are indeed here in southern Slovenija, working on our new live-show which will be premiered at this Sunday’s record release party in Venice. Since Keope has existed, we have actually constantly been working here, either in Toni’s studio or outside in plain nature. Also, part of the ‘Triangulo’ album was recorded and produced here.

Torture the Artist: Regarding the question before, to what extend does the surrounding influence your music?

Keope: We are very careful when it comes to choosing the place to create and record our music, as we think the environment heavily influences the creative process itself. Our first album was recorded and produced in the wilderness. We spent a whole week living in an abandoned quarry, sleeping in hammocks and cooking on bonfire at night. After that experience, we try to work out of the studio environment as much as we can.

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Torture the Artist: ‘Triangulo’ will be out on Frank Wiedemann’s label Bigamo shortly and according to the press it was inspired by your travels through Mexico at the end of 2018. What’s a certain moment that you instantly connect with Mexico and the production of one of the tracks for the album?

Keope: After playing a few gigs on the Riviera Maya, we headed to the south west, away from the tourist madness, to find some not very known pyramids deep in the jungle. Being there alone, in the shadow of giant trees, in the company of birds, monkeys and snakes, certainly influenced tracks like ‘Yenkl’ and ‘Bang Loose’.

Torture the Artist: How did working with Frank Wiedemann and Bigamo come about?

Keope: Bigamo is an imprint we naturally connect to as it provides a platform for musicians like us, who are experimenting, without being pressed into any kind of genre rules or fashion laws. Frank, Fanny and Felix from Bigamo but also the Innervisions crew have become friends over the past years, sharing the same love for any kind of music and good food and wine.

The only thing we have to be thankful to colonialism, if we would ever have to, is that it forced extremely different cultures to meet.

Torture the Artist: You seem to have a faible for the American continent, you both met in Santiago de Chile in 2005 and now your album ‘Triangulo’ was mainly inspired by your Mexico travels. What, aside from the hotness and humidity, is it that fascinates you about the Latin-/ South-American continent and what meaning does it have for your relationship, also meaning the musical side of it?

Keope: The only thing we have to be thankful to colonialism, if we would ever have to, is that it forced extremely different cultures to meet. Think about Afro-Peruvian music or Uruguayan Candombe or Samba in Brazil. There’s something very powerful about it, when you’re there and you listen to common people playing in the streets, you realize their culture is a living thing, it’s existing in the present. That’s something very hard to find in the Old Continent. There is no need for verbal communication when we listen to those kinds of music. We instantly connect, indulge and dance to those rhythms.

Torture the Artist: Name a track that best describes your first encounter and another which sets the vibe of that one day when you decided once for all.

Keope: Wow, first encounter was a long time ago. It was early 2006 when Marcus was touring LATAM with Matias Aguayo and met Toni in Santiago de Chile where he was living at that time. So it must have been either a Reggaeton song by Daddy Yankee or something like Jackie Mittoo or Violeta Parra!

Torture the Artist: What was the pick-up line for your musical relationship?

Marcus: I love that muted guitar loop hermano!

Toni: And I like that slow and deep riddim compadre!

Torture the Artist: For ‘Triangulo’ you also worked with Alessandro Martini again, how was he involved into the creative process of the album?

Keope: Alessandro is a long-time music partner of Toni Bruna. He also had already played in Toni’s band around the release of ‘Formigole’. When we recorded ‘Tropikalni’, our first record, Ale showed up in the quarry one night, that’s how it all started. In a very similar way, we began the ‘Triangulo’ album production in October 2018 with a jam session in Berlin where we wrote nearly all songs together, the three of us. Ale on Bass, Toni on guitar and pocket piano and Marcus on Oberheim SEM, Maschine and the 808. Toni and Marcus then finalized the album over the next months with Ale popping by here and there for additional recordings.

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Torture the Artist: You are masters at improvising. To what extent does improvising exclude perfection when you work on one of your tracks? And is there something like a perfect track for you guys?

Keope: There is no perfect track. You can capture music, lock it on wax, on tape or in binary code but you will only really experience it when music is performed live.

It’s all about being together in the same room when making music.

Torture the Artist: As a duo, do you generally spend plenty of time together? Do you often produce in the studio together or fall into the habit of cyber-dribbling tracks until both are in accordance and a ‘byproduct’ is made? Which track of ‘Triangulo’ took the shortest and longest to complete?

Keope: It’s all about being together in the same room when making music. As said, the environment is crucial but also, if you work sharing files through the web, the non-verbal communication is cut out, that doesn’t make any sense for us. Wherever we are, in the city center of Berlin or the deep forests of Slovenija, we try to make music together.

We try to connect just with the music when we work, not to judge much what we’re doing, keep the rational thinking out of the creative process.

Torture the Artist: Which track of ‘Triangulo’ took the shortest and longest to complete?

Keope: It’s hard to say. We try to connect just with the music when we work, not to judge much what we’re doing, keep the rational thinking out of the creative process. That means we can be really quick produce a song but things are different when it comes to mix, there are songs that are more complicated than others. Definitely ‘Bang Loose’ and ‘Bang Solo’ have been among the fastest.

Torture the Artist: Your music covers several cultural influnces, what’s a feature of a different culture that you’d like to implement in one of your tracks that you haven’t? And what’s an influence you were eager to put into a track when working on Triangulo’?

Keope: We don’t really think in terms of flavors or styles we want to use in our music, the process is absolutely free and spontaneous. What we want to achieve while playing, is a kind of a meditation state, where music is flowing freely through us. We later decide if we like it or not but there is no planning done in advance.

Torture the Artist: It is said that youcreate your own universe through your musical narration’, could you describe your imagination of that universe to us and what is that you experience there that you’d like other people to do so too?

Keope: Indigenous Australians are known for the songlines, they believe their ancestors sung the world into existence. The world exists, because the first Australian has sung it. This is a beautiful and poetic way to think about the origins of the place where you come from. A world that is being created through music is an idea that fascinates us.

We think Keope as an experiment where non linear thinking is applied to the creative process.

Torture the Artist: Your productions are not just artistically stratified but culturally rich and emotionally dense as well. Where does this rapture come from? Would you consider yourselves as wanderlusts, and your art a reflection of a desire to understand the world?

Keope: We think Keope as an experiment where non linear thinking is applied to the creative process, we intend music as an exploration of the unknown. We definitely want to know more, to explore more and maybe, one day, perhaps, we will understand more.

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Picture by Katja Ruge

Torture the Artist: You’ve been a part of the (electronic) music scene for quite a while, not as Keope but rather involved with other projects. If you could choose any period of your creative being, what would be the time or the moment in your lives you are most likely to return to and why?

Keope: We’re ok with the present.

Torture the Artist: Picking up on the previous question, what kind of track would you have produced back then with having the technical knowledge of today?

Keope: It’s hard to think like this and we don’t want to. Every age has its own pros and cons, we wouldn’t really like to go back then with our present knowledge.

Torture the Artist: Apart from each other and the people you’ve already worked with, what’s an artist you would like to work in the studio with and what kind of track would you like to produce?

Keope: A calypso track with Falco.

Stage diving at a Metallica concert in Munich.

Torture the Artist: Toni, what’s a thing that you remember about Marcus doing, but he has no recollection of?

Keope: Stage diving at a Metallica concert in Munich.

Torture the Artist: Marcus, what does Toni refuse to compromise on?

Keope: Putica recipe.

Torture the Artist: What’s the thing most people think they understand about being an artist but don’t?

Keope: This is a tough one…we don’t really know, but we will ask around and let you know!

Torture the Artist: What was the last thing that emotionally touched you?

Keope: There’s a documentary from Gianfranco Rosi called ‘Fuocoammare’ about immigrants crossing the Mediterranean sea on wrecked boats, arriving in Lampedusa (Italy) from the coasts of Northern Africa and the people that help them. If you don’t know about what is going on everyday in the Mediterranean sea, you should see this documentary.

Interview by Holger Breuer

Keope’s album ‘Triangulo‘ will be released on Bigamo on September 26th, 2019.