Schön warm wars in Aarhus am frühen Samstag Vormittag. Mit einem unglaublich leckeren Sandwich in der Hand sind Esben Valloe und ich vom Double Rainbow zu einem gemütlichen Fleckchen gelaufen und haben gegessen. Zwischendurch haben wir uns über sein neues Projekt Antonio Gram unterhalten.
Ihr könnt das Interview entweder lesen oder hören. Wie ihr wollt. Live könnt ihr Antonio Gram am 11.Juni im Magnet erleben. Und ich kann euch mit vollem ernst sagen, dass es sich lohnt. Ich bin nicht der größte Fan von elektronischer Tanszmusik, aber jede Band die einen Drummer am Start hat, der gut abgeht und am Ende sogar Spoken Word Einlagen bringt hat gewonnen. Also, hingehen.
Who are you and what do you do?
Short and concise, Antonio Gram is me Esben Valloe. And it is electronic music.
Where does that name come from, Antonio Gram, and when did you start putting that out on the map?
Actually I didn’t tell this in any interview before, but Antonio Gram’s first song was a techno remix of Speed Dance, the song I did with the band I left really recently. Antonio Gram is a guy who doesn’t limit himself by the constraints around him. That’s my role model for this project. Antonio Gram is my role model. I am Esben Valloe, but when I make music I try to be Antonio Gram.
No limits, no boundaries?
There is no limits in Antonio Gram.
Sounds a bit like Fight Club. You don’t talk about Fight Club. Antonio Gram has no limits. Is there rules to Antonio Gram, aside from no limits?
There is one rule and it’s this: Try to make the best of the situation you are in and try to be the version of yourself that you would rather like to be.
Why do you need a different name for that? Why don’t you make music as Esben?
Because Esben can be a really talented musician, but he can also be really hungover, depressed or having a fight with his girlfriend. And Antonio Gram is my role model for being the version of myself that I am most proud of.
Do you think the two are gonna get close and end up as the same thing? Does Antonio Gram still have faults?
Antonio Gram is very honest and of course he can have trouble on stage like any other musician. There is always a flip side isn’t there? And the name is back from this Italian author and philosopher who was jailed by the fascists in the thirties. Antonio Gramsci, is very inspiring to me. Because he sort of revolutionized the revolutionary thoughts of the left wing side of politics. And he did that from within a prison.
Is Antonio Gram you breaking out of a prison?
Yeah definitely, there are prisons everywhere, especially when you are on tour with a band. A prison can be the backseat of a tour bus and a prison can be an airport where the plane is delayed. I mean it sounds kind of banal, but in fact it is not because we are always limited by thinking that „I am not happy because I don’t have a girlfriend, I am not happy because I didn’t go do exercise the last two months and I didn’t have time to exercise because I am in this and that situation bla bla bla“ There are constraints and limitations everywhere and when we become victims to these limitations we become less powerful in a way. And Antonio Gramsci, when he was put in prison, started writing and became even more productive by the constraints around him. And that’s what I want to do to myself with this project. That’s kind of the development I am aiming for.
So Antonio Gram is playing electronic music? And that is as I have read a passion of yours?
It is very much where I come from musically. Since the nineties I have been listening to electronic music, since I was a kid actually.
What got you started?
Actually I have a guilty pleasure for early Euro Dance, so the first electronic music I had in my CD-Collection, as a eleven year old, was Sash’s “It’s my Life”, it is the album with Ecuador and all the others.
Why don’t you make Euro Dance Music now?
I do make Euro Dance, but it is spiced up with a lot of other things. I don’t think I make one specific genre actually. I do also make hip.hop and techno. What happened back then was that my parents always played Beatles records and Paul Simon and all the old classics. And I really liked that too, still. But sort of this shift in music, came from out of the blue to me. Because I was living in foreign countries with my parents and so I was sort of isolated from the civilisation you could say. When we came back I was ten and what was on the radio was this Robert Miles and Rednecks and Sash and it was really interesting to me that there was this whole new pop sound.
Do you still collect CD’s or have you moved on to other means?
I try to be not very physical with my hoarding. So my desktop on my computer looks like shit, but I like when the physicality’s are more clean.
Do you still have that old CD?
Actually it is located on the loft of my dad’s house, but it is like this old farm house. So it has probably mold or something like that on it. But it is still there. The sad thing with digital is that it doesn’t age with beauty. The scratches on an old vinyl are like the wrinkles of a face, they can sound really nice. Whereas digital is more like either it works or it is just broken.
There is a very artistic part to what you do, the video and the pictures, they always have this certain thing about them. Is that important to you?
I think there is an aesthetic to everything that we do.
But some take care of those aesthetics and others just leave them be.
I like to do collaborations with people who are like skilled in different fields than me. That’s also the core of this project, to be humble towards my own talents and competences and capabilities. For example I knew I wouldn’t be able to both play the concert for the first time and have an overview of my schedule with interviews and everything. So I asked my friend Christian to help me with planning everything. With the video it is kind of the same thing to a greater extent. I know a lot of people who do DIY style kind of things and it’s good how some people are good at doing everything at the same time. I am more like a group action person. So I like to involve people. The video was actually done by a good friend of mine who is also a really, really great upcoming 3D animation movie director.
You have ten collaborators on this album, when you started, did you already have people in mind? Was there a precise plan or was it more of a spontaneous thing?
There was a very precise plan that changed a million times over the course of the process. But I think it’s been very organic and dynamic the way it’s been evolving. This project started out with one collaboration and then I thought I would like to try this also and now it is everything from soul to pop to hip hop. It very much comes down to electronic music with flavors. The flavor on this album is very Middle Eastern in some cases and I think they posters say techno, which I can really relate to. I can really relate to the German techno scene in the way people are very ambitious about having tight productions. It is not only about the song writing. It is actually also about the sound as an aesthetic.
Looking at the posters, what is the color yellow to you?
It makes sense too. I mean look at the sun, or don’t because you’ll burn your eyes. But it is the color of energy. What I like is that it culturally also relates to betrayal, poison and danger and it’s the good and the bad side of high energy potential I think. It is difficult to control but you can manage.
So what is next, any concerts?
I can’t tell you so much about the tour plan yet, because we are still setting the team up. I mean until two weeks ago this project was on my computer, it was kind of a secret. It was not out in the world and two weeks ago I put out the single. Yesterday I played the live show to some local people and some of the industry people and tonight will be the full blown show. Everything is just getting started. We are talking to venues and festivals in Berlin and in Barcelona and in a lot of other places. But there is a lot to come and a lot to happen.
What is that like, to have it sleeping on the laptop, putting it out and then have a real band looking at it, trying to play it?
The way I make it not scary is by involving people like I involved the movie director and a graphic designers and stylists when we do photo shoots or whatever. It’s about having people close to you that you trust. So I do have some people I rely on when I have to develop a beat or even a melody. I do have people I collaborate with that I help out and they help me out. So even though it is a solo project and I am the captain of the ship, there is a lot of people helping me on that ship.
Großes Dankeschön an Esben für die Zeit, den Double Rainbow fürs leckere Sandwich und das SPOT Festival fürs ermöglichen.