Exclusive Interview: Durante

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In the last couple of years, EDM has seen an influx of DJs and producers who are under the age of 25. In particular, OWSLA has fed the electronic world a younger generation that has introduced a new sound, style and feel, which has exploded with popularity and diverseness in a very short time frame. In electronic music, we rarely find young and talented musicians that hold a promising future in the industry. OWSLA has seemed to change the game and give these youngsters a chance.

Kevin Durante, 20, first gained popularity when his debut EP, Challenger, was released on OWSLA’s exclusive subscription program, The Nest. As an intern for the label, and previously for Grooveshark, Durante has learned the ins and outs of the music business, setting himself up for success. Even though he has been making music for quiet some time, Durante has grabbed the attention of EDM audiences with Challenger, accomplishing a great deal more than the average college student.

We had a chance to sit down with Durante for his first in-person interview. This is what he had to say.

You moved here from Italy when you were 4-years-old. Where did you go from there?

We stopped in California and took a little bit of a vacation. Then, we moved to Fort Meyers, Fla.
Tell me a little bit more about how you got into electronic music.

I used to go back to Italy every two years, not any more though because I’m so busy. I think the first time I went back, I was 6 or 8. My cousins had Pioneer turntables, and they were playing tech-house, some really underground stuff when I was really young. I just kind of grew up with it. That was what I would listen to for the next two years — the songs they gave me. They would say, “Listen to this!” I wouldn’t have anything new and go back two years later, and they would have all of these new tracks that were really weird. Now, if I listen to them, that was my main entrance to electronic music.
Do you know any of the artists that they showed you?

Ya, one time I went, they had a Sven Väth Cocoon Compilation. They had that on vinyl and played it— a lot. They had all the MP3s and would blast them in their cars, drive around until 6 in the morning, getting wasted. I think I was 14 at the time.

So, you started playing the piano when you were 6-years-old. Were you forced into it or was it something you wanted to do as a child?

Ya, I was really into it. We got a keyboard for my fifth Christmas, and my brother and I would bang on it all of the time. I probably played more than him, but it was really bad and really annoying. So, my parents asked both of us if we wanted lessons. I said, “Hell ya, I’ll take lessons if I can,” and my brother said no. He wasn’t about it. It was weird. I don’t know why he didn’t want to do it. It’s been something I’ve always loved.
Do you play any other instruments?

I kind of have picked up a little guitar, bass, anything rhythmic. I don’t really play a lot of instruments. I just picked up a new acoustic guitar though. It’s fun.
You listened to tech-house in Italy, but did you listen to other types of music when you were younger that influenced you?

I listened to a lot of ’80s-style stuff, like New Order, but that was another part of Italy. They were listening to the deeper, tech stuff. Anything electronic, they picked it up and loved it in Europe. In high school, I listened to a lot of rock, and I was in a metal band.
You were in a metal band? What was the name of the band?
Show Me Reality [laughs].  We played with some bigger names, but I don’t know. It was more of a growing thing, my friends and I pretending to be rock stars.
Anything is possible. 

I mean, Sonny Moore was in a band when he was 16, toured the U.S. He was in From First to Last and toured the world when he was 16-years-old.
Wow, I didn’t know he was that young when that happened. How did you end up in Gainesville?

School. I go to school at the University of Florida. I’ve been here for two years.
How did you get involved with the Neon Liger scene, and how do you know Blaise James? (Editor’s Note: Neon Liger is a weekly dance party held in Gainesville that features local and national electronic DJs. Blaise James is the current label manager of OWSLA.) 

OK, so those are two different things. I’ve been making solo stuff since I was in 10th grade. When I came up here, someone asked me if I wanted to write for a blog. It was funny because I ended up writing only one or two posts, but I posted my tracks and wrote about myself. Then, a bunch of people found it (the music), and the Neon Liger people said, “Woah, who’s this guy?” Neon Liger resident DJ Shaan Saigol contacted me and got me in touch with Vijay Seixas, creator of Neon Liger. I think I played one time last summer or spring, and Vijay liked how I DJed. That was actually the first time I had ever DJed. I didn’t really know what I was doing.

That’s awesome. Did he know it was your first time?

I don’t think so. I just said to myself, “DJing is not that hard. I can do this shit!” I was so bad now that I realize how much better I’ve gotten. It’s good though. I’ve learned fast.

So, how do you know Blaise?

I applied for an internship at Grooveshark, and he was the head of the artist relations department. He interviewed me to be an artist relations intern, and I got the job. I’ve been working with him ever since. He left Grooveshark for OWSLA, and I was still one of his friends. I hit him up one day and asked if there were any internships anywhere in the industry that he knew of. He said he needed an intern, and pretty much, it was going to be me.

Speaking of OWSLA, it must be a great opportunity to work with them. What does it feel like to work with such a prominent label?

I feels great. I like it a lot. I do a lot of work, but it all feels like it’s really important. So, I like doing it, and I like feeling needed. Everybody likes to feel needed or wanted [laughs].

Your Challenger EP has about 20,000 plays per song on Soundcloud with over 500 likes, which is crazy for someone so young and new to the scene. Did you expect that? How does that feel?

Wow. I didn’t know that. When I started interning for OWSLA, I got an influx of new music to listen to. I was listening to all of the demos. I heard some new music, and I was really inspired to make “Challenger,” the first track I’ve made. I just kept making more songs. I kept telling myself, “I have to make an EP. I have this really good opportunity, and I don’t want to waste it.”

Then, tell me about the process of writing, producing and making this EP. 

I was just making music. I locked myself away, didn’t party or anything, barely went out. I only went out for Liger. During the week, I would go to my classes and do the bare minimum for those. And then, I would just make music.

Would you consider producing in a different style or method?

I think I might have to. I live in a different place now, so hopefully, I can keep going and making more music. We’ll see where life takes me. I feel that everything just kind of happens. I’m really moment-binding, so I don’t really plan anything. I made the EP in three months. Some parts were from older tracks that I had never released and stuff like that. Mainly, it was just those three months, grinding, telling myself, “I have to finish this.” I really wanted it because I felt like it was a really good start, especially with OWSLA at my back. That was really good.

Who did the artwork for the EP?

I did. I also do graphic design for OWSLA. I had that image in my head. I think I sketched it out in class and said, “This is it.” Then, I made it and said, “This is it!” It was exactly what I wanted it to look like. People were commenting, saying things like, “This reminds me of ‘The Great Gatsby’ cover.” After it was already made, I went and looked at the cover and noticed how similar it was.

What city is the skyline supposed to be?

It’s just a design. I was thinking about putting a certain city, but I don’t really go back to any one city except for Florence. No other city really speaks to me like that. That’s important. All I know is that I love any city, so I figured I would just put the representation of a city because I like them a lot. Every city has it’s own vibe. I like them all. I’m not trying to stick to just one. I could be either L.A. or San Francisco or New York — any of those places.

You said Challenger was a way to showcase a bunch of different sounds and genres, and it wasn’t meant to stick to sound one certain way. What would you say your favorite sound or style is?

I don’t know because I like them all. Disclosure just came out with a new album. I don’t know if you’ve listened to it, but it’s been stuck in my head, on repeat. So, I’m trying to track in that style. I’m trying to put my own flare on that style. “Challenger” was 100 BPM, an experimental track, and then, it came out pretty cool. I don’t really think about the style that I want it to be. I was just being influenced by songs, and they would get stuck in my head. I would make a song, and it would come out obviously inspired by the track that I was thinking of. I made it, and it’s a completely different song, but people don’t get where the original inspiration came from most times. That’s just how I write music.

What has been the best experience in your musical career so far?

My greatest was when Big Chocolate played my track at Movement [also known as Detroit Electronic Music Festival]. That was cool. I went to Detroit with Vijay for fun. I was talking to Big Chocolate, Cameron [Argon], for a while. When I released my Challenger  EP, he started following me on Twitter. We have been talking casually back and forth, nothing serious. Then, I found I was going to Movement and that he was playing Movement. We kept talking. We started making a track. I sent him my stuff, and he played it, which is awesome.

You’re making a track with him?

Yes.

When is that supposed to be released?

We don’t have a release date yet. We’ve been sending it back and forth. I’ll do my version, and then he’ll do his version, then I’ll do something to it. We just keep doing that, bouncing it between us.

What are some of your current influences? What are you listening to now?

The new Tesla Boy is good. I’ve been listening to a lot of deep house lately. I saw TEED and Azari & III back-to-back in Detroit, which is awesome. They were DJing in this small underground club called Leland City Club. It was decorated for Halloween, and they never took down the decorations. Everything was scary, a really sketchy club. They had a bigger room with Seth Troxler and Maceo Plex, but the sound wasn’t as good. That was the bigger audience, but Vijay and I were just like, “TEED and Azari & III? Better sound system, better tunes.” It was cool because it was $5 cover to see all of those people. And it was free if you had a [DEMF] VIP band, so it was true underground. That was probably my favorite part.

What does the future and the rest of 2013 hold for you as a musical artist?

I’m just trying to make a lot of music. I’m trying to put out at least one track per month. Right now, I sent off this garage track for a singer named Roxy P. She hit me up and was like,”Hey, I like your tunes. I want to sing over one of your tracks.” I said, “Ya. Let’s make a deep house tune, something cool and sexy.” So, I made it and sent it. I’m waiting to hear her vocals so that I can make the track with the vocals. I’d rather have the vocals first to get that inspiration.

Well, I think that’s it. Is there anything else I should know about you? There’s not that much information about you on the Internet.

I like pasta [laughs].

Do you like all Italian food?

Ya. I love real Italian food, like Italian food when I go back to Italy.

Do you feel a bigger connection with Italian electronic music?

Ya, I love their stuff. I like everything though. I can never think of one artist that I love exclusively.

So wait, you don’t have a favorite artist?

I can’t, I can’t pick one. I really can’t because they’re all incredible in their own aspects. I think it’s pretty crazy that Disclosure is like 19 or 22, and they made an incredible album front-to-back, every single song. But also, you have people that are absolute geniuses, like Sony, who are completely changing their sound. It’s the same sound, but he’s changing his style. On his most recent EP, Leaving, he does only one dubstep track, and the other two are weird and experimental that are really good.

Do you plan to release more music? Like an album?

Of course. That would be cool. I think right now, I just want to keep releasing singles for a little bit and try to get a few more fans. Then, I’ll have some backing to play live shows or enough time to write an EP. I don’t want to make people wait three months for another EP and not have any music in the meantime. I’m also really picky about my songs. So, if it’s not perfect, I won’t put it out.

That’s true. How did you get your EP released on OWSLA? Was it just because you were an intern?

No. Well, I guess that helped. What I learned interning is that if you have a full package to present, it’s a lot easier for someone to pick it up. I had album artwork, and I had four songs, completely packaged, ready to go. They didn’t have to do any work basically. So, I gave them a fully completed body of work. Most people will make one song and try to submit it. But, labels say, “What are we going to do with your one song if it’s not the greatest song in the world?” So, if you know what to do, it can come out. Anyone could come up with songs and album artworks. The less work the label has to do, the more of a chance they’ll release it because it’s easy.

What are you studying at UF?

I was doing engineering, but I switched to advertising. I just realized that music was way more important to me than the salary. If I’m living in a shack with my laptop, making music, I would be completely happy, even if I didn’t have a bed. If I could be alive and make music, that’s the dream. So, I’m living it right now.

I think a lot of new and mainstream music is missing the heart behind it.

That’s one of the things that I think is crazy about Disclosure’s CD. It’s so mainstream, but it’s so musical. You can show it to anyone — parents, kids — and they’ll think it’s cool. It’s a mainstream sound, but it’s so diverse. Then, there are sounds that aren’t mainstream that are taken into the mainstream, like Skrillex, techno.

What do you think is the future of electronic music?

I think it will stay the same, but each genre will get its 15 minutes of fame. By 2020, we’re going to be so A.D.D. that rap will be popular for six months, electronic ’90s will be big for the next six months, and so on, and kind of go in some sort of rotation. I’m trying to use past trends because the ’80s sound was huge in 2008. And now, it’s almost like the ’90s and disco sound is influencing electronic music where the combination merges perfectly I think it’s creates new ways to try new styles.

—–

Since this interview, Durante has remixed “All The Youths” by Vass, a Gainesville-based duo comprised of Vijay Seixas and Shaan Saigol. It is available as a free download on his Soundcloud page HERE. His bootleg remix of “Bird Machine” by DJ Snake has also been featured in the latest monthly podcast by Fool’s Gold Radio. With his Jacksonville-debut this weekend, there is no doubt that Durante is ready to take the electronic music world by storm.

 

via Bionic Beatlab

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