Simone de Kunovich answers us from his home studio in Milan, after having just come back from an Asian tour to promote his record and planning 2023, both in terms of gigs and releases. Having always been fascinated by everything that comes from Japan and after shooting the pictures we now present by a local photographer by the name of Junri who got in touch one of the last times he was in town, he has just released Addio Mondo Nuovo. His new EP, which he defines as “his attempt to connect electronic dance music with my studies in cinema,” is the closing chapter of an adventure started in 2017. We ask him about this final episode and much more.
This new album is an unconventional leftfield dance experience, somewhere in the middle of organic house, percussive driven techno tools, 80s proto-house nostalgia and explorative avant-garde electronics. A project in which some of the tracks' original drafts date back to 2018 and that now finally sees the light, taking inspiration from very interesting and enriching profiles and periods in the history of music. Do you want to know more about his latest release? Simone tells us!
Could you introduce yourself to our readers? Where do you answer us from?
I'm Simone de Kunovich, a collector of records, movies, books and everything that goes around them. For a living, I tour as a DJ, produce music and curate sound brands such as Moncler, Palm Angels and more. I'm currently answering you from my home studio in Milan.
You've just released Addio Mondo Nuovo, the closing chapter of an adventure started in 2017 that took you on a long path of self-exploration and discovery. How do you feel and what has this project meant for you?
Mondo Nuovo was my attempt to connect electronic dance music with my studies in cinema. I felt a need to escape from the usual geographical references (Detroit, Chicago, Berlin, London) and get lost in a new, remote, unexplored space which was, paradoxically, extremely Italian as I've sampled a lot of 70s library records by composers such as Piero Umiliani, Remigio Ducros, Marcello Giombini. We had some incredible talent in our homeland back in the days, unsung pioneers of early electronic experimentation, to whom I wanted to pay homage. For example, this song by M. Zalla (one of many pseudonyms of Piero Umiliani) was supposed to conjure the anxiety of living in a modern concrete jungle. Released in 1973, it's hard to date it back to that period, sounds more like a tribal-techno modular jam out of a time machine.
Releasing an EP has a lot to do with giving birth to a child, right? After all, it is a project that you have been working on for a long time, to which you have dedicated a lot of energy and finally see the light. And best of all, now we can all enjoy it.
I can say finally! Some of these tracks' original drafts date back to 2018, so it's a relief for me to finally see them out there. I needed to make some space in the back of my mind to move on to the next projects.
There's a lot of talk about celebrating releases, and about good news when listeners give good feedback. But do you feel fear when you are about to release a new track or album? How do you manage uncertainty regarding public response?
I'm mainly excited to see how other people are gonna make use of the music, whether is DJs playing them at gigs, curators using them for soundtracks or special projects, or people putting them in their everyday playlists on streaming services. I can't really say I'm anxious or I fear the record is not going to be well received, I'm extremely slow in my musical output so by the time I make my mind up and I decide it's time to release something it's usually because it embodies the best of my efforts at the time. Also, as you said before, it's kinda like giving birth, you have almost a biological need to get it out to start thinking about what's next.
And how was the first feedback you've received since you released it just 2 weeks ago?
So far I can't complain, even if I have to say that my music is extremely slow, in every possible sense. Takes lots of time to make it, takes lots of time to digest it, takes lots of time to spread around. Every single EP before this one was a slow burner and I don't expect this one to be different. I think in general it's the vibe of the label as well, Mule Musiq, which has established itself as a heritage name. It's probably the most respected Japanese electronic music label with tons of timeless releases by people like DJ Sprinkles, Joe Claussell, Tornado Wallace, Fantastic Man and more. I'm extremely honoured and proud to be part of the family, arigatou Toshiya!
I would like to know more about the trilogy that started on Superconscious Records. How did it start, where did you get your inspiration from and what else can you tell us about it?
As I kinda briefly explained before, the concept of Mondo Nuovo comes from my necessity to explore new boundaries of the electronic dance music language and at the same time remain coherent with the rich (and mostly submerged) heritage of Italian early electronics pioneers. I wanted to realize a soundtrack for an imaginary mid-70s movie set in an exotic and mysterious rainforest, somewhere in between the exploitation of Ruggero Deodato and the art house of the early Jodorowsky and Herzog. The trilogy is composed of 15 tracks that altogether create the corpus of this psychedelic soundscape, an illusionary trip into the midst of the brutal forces of nature. In this sense, the whole project is deeply rooted in Romantic philosophy and its fascination for ruins and a return to primaeval forms of feeling. I tried to explore the dichotomies Past-Modern and Nature-Technology by juxtaposing field recordings and samples of archaic instruments with the machine language of synthesizers such as DSI's Tempest, Korg's Ms-20 and Roland's Sh-101 and Tb-303.
Have you felt the need to break with the trilogy? I mean to change course concerning what you had originally planned and release music freely, without structuring it by chapters.
When I committed to the universe of Mondo Nuovo, I started diving deeply into the music that was the source of both inspiration and samples for what I was working on. Between 2017 and 2022, I mainly collected frantically music from the 70s and 80s, from Italian libraries and soundtracks to Japanese synth-pop, European avant-garde, industrial and ambient. At the time, I was also reading a lot of modern and post-modern philosophy, mainly Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault and Byung-Chul Han, which also inspired me in many of the concepts I developed musically. Then, after Covid broke through in 2020, I started feeling the urge to express myself in a different way, I was missing the energies of clubs so much that I started digging again for 90s House and Techno, which I overlook for years as I was too deep in my research for the weird and unusual. Needless to say, now that I've finally released the whole trilogy, I am working already on the next chapter, which you can expect to be extremely dance-oriented!
You've been greatly inspired by your passion for obscure Exploitation movies and Art-House classics, haven't you? What are your favourite ones?
Cinema is my first love and it will always be. If I start talking about my favourites, probably we would need another full interview, haha. But if I have to track down the titles that inspired Mondo Nuovo, without a doubt the top three would be Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972, Herzog), The Holy Mountain (1973, Jodorowsky) and Cannibal Holocaust (1980, Deodato). Fun fact, I've sampled the opening dialogue of Cannibal Holocaust in my latest track Inferno Verde, and I'm actually going to meet the legendary Ruggero Deodato himself this month to bring him a copy of the record. Excited is an understatement!
Would you say this is your most free and experimental work to date?
I would say this is my most experimental work to date for sure, don't know if I will ever be able to delve again into those depths, making this music got me on the border of mental insanity at times, (laughs). On the other side, I can tell you it's the least free thing I've ever done, I've been limiting myself since day one to achieve the specific sound palette I had in mind, basically a fistful of synths and lots of samples. I always thought that this contemporary obsession for freedom of expression and limitless tools has just taken us down a path of qualitative decadence, say just a few things but say them well.
If this EP was a colour and a smell, what would it be and why?
The colour has to be purple, like the cover. It's a beautiful flower, but probably poisonous and malicious, hidden in the depths of the forest, behind the branches of a creeper, waiting for an adventurer to discover it. I wish the smell was liquorice, just because I eat so much of it, haha. I'm obsessed!
Let's talk about the 6 tracks that make up Mondo Nuovo. What would you highlight about each of them? If you had to pick just one, what would it be and why?
One of the best feedbacks I got so far was from a lovely guy that reached out to me on Instagram and said “there is a feeling of truth in each song that captures purity, destruction and nature.. it captures the new world accurately without the need to give a preface to each song.” I would just use his words here as I don't really want to explain too much about the tracks, they are all part of the same movie but they are different scenes that everyone is free to interpret on their own. If I have to pick one, it would be Path To Eternity (On The River Of Nameless God). It's the most experimental and personal track of the whole project. The idea in my head was to evoke the last moments in the life of this explorer, slowly descending on a battered raft on this cloudy river. He is undernourished, had a bite of the wrong mushroom and he's out for the biggest, and last, trip of his existence. Echoes of nirvana, visions of god, the jungle will swallow him.
And how did you celebrate the launch of the project? Have you had time to rest since you you presented it?
We had a lovely release event at Serendeepity, which is Milan's best record store. The partner from my other project (Ultimo Tango) played some incredible music alongside my favourite artists from the current Italian scene, Jolly Mare and Lamusa II. It was an immense privilege for me to have them, lots of friends came over... it was really a great one. No rest for me at the moment, just came back from an Asian tour to promote the record and planning 2023 at the moment, both in terms of gigs and releases. I have an upcoming EP on Polifonic Records with Pascal Moscheni (featuring two remixes I can't yet unveil) and my debut on my favourite label Public Possession. Exciting times are ahead!
During your Asian tour, you also spent time in Japan. What were you up to?
The tour started and ended in Tokyo, it was my second time there this year already as I’m pretty obsessed with it. I’ve been amassing Japanese 80s records for many years, I think at this point I may be the biggest collector of them in Italy. In general, I’ve always been fascinated by everything that comes from this beautiful country, from manga and photo books to fashion and design (not to mention food). I also run a bimonthly cine club about Japanese cinema here in Milan, clearly, I’m borderline addicted! I think the real magic of it resides in the fact they kind of rejected globalisation and managed to stay culturally isolated. It's hard to have a conversation in English even in the capital and this already tells a lot. It’s really the most creatively recharging experience for me to spend time in there so I try to go as much as possible (probably heading again after New Year's Eve). These pictures were taken by a local photographer by the name of Junri, she got in touch one of the last times I was in town and we got along very well and decided to shoot more pics this time. The result is this very fun shooting about me getting my hair cut in the bathtub of my room by my friend Ako and then strolling around Shibuya crossing. Good times!
Any dream you want to fulfil?
Like everyone else, I always had those dream clubs/festivals I would love to perform in (from Dekmantel to Panorama Bar). But mainly, I hope to establish my music brand Ultimo Tango next year by further releasing more music (we had 4 reissues of rare Italian records so far in 2022 and the feedback has been stellar) and finally curate with them my own festival in Sicily next June 2023. That's honestly the best dream coming true!