David Nattkemper, known professionally as David August, has a repertoire of skills ranging from composer, producer, and mixing engineer to classically trained pianist and DJ. A truly dynamic artist, August returns with latest album, Vīs (out via 99chants, available here), his first full-length release in five years.
His development from a DJ dominant in the house and techno scene to a musician grounded in the ephemeral sounds of nature makes him a standout. August has had a career of many lives already but is evidently looking to grow even more as an artist, in a way that will invite both new faces to his work as well as deepen his connection to those who are already aware of his knack for indelible soundscapes. 
As someone who has consistently sought to hone his craft through varied musical projects, engaging with both live electronic work and orchestral compositions, paired with rigorous education and solitude, creative freedom is a scientific and measured practice for August. It’s clear that for the Italo-German composer, music is as much a life-giving force as one of escape, his sense of focus on the musical worlds’ many possibilities, and his attention to detail make Vīs an emotive and complex piece of work.
Congrats on your new album. You cite quite a few varied sources of inspiration for the work, what value do you find in working across disciplines?
Thank you! I think working across disciplines is challenging but can be rewarding as I believe in the power of collaboration. It’s been the first time so many people have been involved in one of my projects, but each one of them made sense and became naturally a part of it. In the case of Vīs, the idea was too complex to just run it through a solitary process. It required me to open up and involve more people, musically and visually.
This is your first full-length release in five years. How does it feel to be re-emerging with this album after such a break? Did it feel like a break, and how did Vīs come about during this period?
It does feel liberating having this out there now, I must admit. Although part of the break was also due to global circumstances out of our control. I think this music could not have emerged at an earlier point. It needed time and introspective work. But also technically, it took a while to understand what feels right and develop a musical language around it.
The idea of going through an alternative timeline through sound came up in late 2019. It was the time when I was curious about mysticism, quantum physics, Eastern philosophies and so on. As if I was longing to have a dialogue between the ancient and cosmic worlds. Both felt timelessly relevant and encouraging to explore musically.
It seemed to me that we were all too disconnected from our natural habitat, took too much for granted and would not realise and appreciate its beauty. By that I don’t mean just the visible natural environment, but also the cosmic. Thinking of our origins, I experienced hope and awe and that’s what the music aims to reflect. In a way, it is a musical offering to the unexplainable reality surrounding us.
Given the quick-moving nature of dance music, which seems to constantly seek out new talent these days, your name may be less familiar for younger listeners. Does it feel daunting to make this reintroduction or does that feel reductive; do you feel as if you never took a step back?
I don’t think this album will be categorised in any way within dance music, to be honest with you. So it is not a reintroduction to that field, but surely a one into a new environment. We will see what time brings, in the end, it is the music that will decide. It is also important to say that I am not trying to push anyone away who has been following me in the past. I hope it will invite old and new faces.
You mention the melding of temporalities as well as physical geography as being an inflexion point on the release. It has a timeless and mystical quality, is this one you associate with nature? In many ways, electronic music is far from organic, however, Vīs has that ambient energy that speaks to humanity and human function. Do you find electronic music to be a portal to the natural world?
Nature has been the biggest inspiration behind Vīs. In its observable, and less tangible form. Electronic music has the power to have limitless possibilities on shaping frequencies, creating impossible collages of sound bits and so on and so forth. But I believe that nature has been an inspiration to artists since ever, really. The technical possibilities to express it were just more limited, and understandings of society around certain concepts were very different than ours today. Nevertheless, I think humankind will always share many similarities with their ancestors, like our scope of emotions. This being said, electronic music did not pave the way to express these influences, it just explores more possibilities to present them.
In deciding to do the tour for Vīs as a AV production, was there ever a moment of worrying about the matchup between visuals and sound, and whether or not it would be encompassing enough or complementary enough?
I think the biggest challenge of the live show is the new choreographic element I collaborate with for the first time. For this part of the show, choreographer Franka Marlene Foth has developed with incredible sensitivity how the human body should reflect the musical narrative. The light is equally important, so all three disciplines — music, choreography and light — need to be very well balanced. It took us a while to get all this together, and it is a continuous progress that will hopefully come more and more together with every show that we experience.
If you were to contextualize Vīs amongst other works of yours, where would it fall? Anything listeners should know about the work that adds to one’s possible comprehension?
It is hard for me to compare it to previous works of mine as the approach has differed so much. It is the first work in which I tried to keep an impersonal approach towards the writing process. I listened to what the music wanted, rather than fulfilling my old expectations of someone I am not. Retrospectively, when listening to my previous music, I can hear a conflict. As if it was not an effortless process between the artist and the medium.
Vīs is a musical storytelling in its most figurative form, at least to me. All components of it, like the Imaginary Alphabet by Moroccan artist Hiba Baddou, which is mapped to the music with its 121 symbols, or the four chapters the music is written in as well as the live extension with its collaborators — are all elements through which I try to speak about the music without using known concepts or words. But at the same time, they might speak via the medium of perception and emotions, which seem to be the most important qualities we carry as humans.
It feels almost like a score in how moving and theatrical it is. Given that it is a tale of humanity, it makes total sense. However, if you were to set a more specific scene for say, one of the tracks, what would we see? Where would we be, and with whom?
Thank you so much for this beautiful description! The scene would probably be an unknown desert with rocks and caves, eventually leading to an oasis.
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