It was 1999 when in a small town of former DDR Germany Olaf Bender, Frank Bretschneider and Carsten Nicolai decided to join forces and create Raster-Noton, a record and network focused on investigating the grey areas between pop, art and science. The three went on to become the shining stars of Germany’s minimal electronic scene under the stage names Bytone, Komet and Alva Noto. Ring a bell?
Almost two decades have passed and although the label has split in two sister companies – Raster Media and Noton – its founders have toured the world and truly set the tone for a generation of producers and musicians worldwide. Olaf Bender, aka Byetone, will be making his Florence debut this evening, performing Universal Music, his captivating audiovisual set, on the stage of the supercentral Cinema La Compagnia, just a few steps away from the Duomo.
We caught up with him for a brief chat on the heels of tonight’s event.
Michelle Davis: Raster-Media turns 22 this year – would you have imagined to make it this far when you first came up with the idea of founding a label that, in time, has also become a manifesto, a movement, the reference point for a generation?
Olaf Bender: Yes. Thanks, first of all. When we started with the label we never thought we would keep it going for over twenty years. Already in the beginning there was the idea of doing it for a while just to experiment, but to this day I’m really surprised by how successful it has been. We have really cool followers and we are excited about new projects and it’s really nice to continue moving forward.
MD: What changes have you seen throughout the international electronic music scene over the past two decades?
OB: I think it’s all about evolving on different aspects. I have to say first of all that today there are a lot more commercial aspects than in the past. Twenty years ago there was a minority interested in “strange” electronic music. But now it’s a business. We are trying to continue what we started. For sure we have to deal with all the aspects but I think we want something in between: every musician wants to work as a professional. It means a lot of concentration on music, but on the other hand you can see that as soon as commercial aspects come into the picture, the less space we have to experiment.
MD: You were among the first to understand the potential of sound and visuals combined. Now that this has become the norm, in which directions would you like to move to make your live sets even more engaging?
OB: It’s pretty hard to answer to this kind of question! I mean, if you think too much strategic, it doesn’t works. Since the beginning I had deep interest into combining visuals and music and the present for me is to stay behind the laptop. I am thinking, maybe for my next life, to work with some lasers. It’s not too much about high technology, it’s more for me to going back to the roots, to use visuals much more as a light. I don’t want to tell any story with visualization. This is the way I can imagine my future live sets.
MD: Do you know any Italian electronic musicians or producers? Have you ever heard of Florence-based independent electro-eclectic labels FreshYo!, Oltrarno Recordings or Bosconi Records?
OB: This is my first show in Florence and I hope it will be a strong, energetic, “not-too-intellectual” live set! Unfortunately I’ve not heard about them, but I have to admit that I’m really bad with names. I know the guys from Stroboscopic Artifacts and I also like the work of Lorenzo Senni. I think he’s doing really well for himself and I also like his sound. I am right know in touch with him and I am really interested in releasing one of his records. Who knows?
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