Interview with Seismal D
By Markus Thiel – March 8, 2019
With a portfolio of many successful collaborations with several well-known international artists like Pig and Dan, Moonbeam, Frankyeffe or Sam Paganini and having served his musical menus to a lot of today’s top DJs like Richie Hawtin, you can count Seismal D aka Daniele Vantaggio currently as one of Italy’s most influential and skilled artists of electronic music.
The open-minded and musically broad educated producer and composer left well-trodden paths to create his own vision of a Progressive Techno and Deep House influenced sonic cosmos. Since 2011 he is also the host of the m2o national radio show WonderBeat, introducing remarkable artists to listeners far beyond Rome’s borders.
No wonder that he was recently signed on by Canadian Progressive and Deep House star-producer and label owner Deadmau5. We talked with Daniele about his philosophy of producing music and the importance of creative collaboration as well as his influences and musical roots.
What were your initial impulses for making music?
That’s a rather complicated question. As my father is a drummer, my brother and I were breathing music in and out since we were kids. While I got more and more interested in electronic sound, my brother chose the drum kit and became a pretty famous jazz drummer in Italy. As for me, since the young age of 11 I had the longing to create some new, unheard of sounds and therefore started studying music and producing, ending up with this amazing job!
So you went straight from playing drums to playing with synths, drum machines and the like?
Actually, yes! My first musical passion emerged into hardcore techno and hardstyle. So my father bought me my first production station to get started!
When did the final shift to producing music take place? Were any idols responsible for that?
Actually, this goal existed right from the beginning. Since my mother was computer technician, she had found the first usable programs to write sequences on and arrange some tracks. My idols were The Prodigy, Underworld, Justice, Daft Punk and many other techno artists of the time like Robert Armani, Speedy J and Joey Beltram. But one of my greatest inspirational sources derived from listening to Danish producer Trentemøller and French artist Emmanuel Top. That must have been around 2003. After all there have really been many artists I got deeply influenced by. While trying to get ideas from them as well as learning by playing with those conceptions, I soon realized that it wasn’t enough to fulfill my heart’s desire.
So you decided to become a professional? Through studies?
Yes! My father took me to the first electronic music academy in Rome around 2003 because I started using Cubase SX 2 around 2002 followed by SX 3, but it turned out that it was too difficult to figure it all out by myself. Subsequently I started my studies at the conservatory because first of all I wanted to become a musician. After all I really fell in love with Cubase because it allowed me to create what I wanted, even with the few VSTis that were available at the time.
Can you describe your usual approach in the studio when writing and producing music?
That really depends on the kind of work I have to do. In case of my own music, speaking Seismal D, I usually turn on all my synthesizers and start recording audio tracks in real time. Most of the time I don't really know exactly where I’m going, therefore I start creating some tonal environments to build a main theme or main bass upon followed by drums and some final ingredients. I love to let myself being carried away by the process or something really unique created by the computer and then handing it over to rather fortuitous events of the moment that will create the big picture in the end. Working on commission I am much more determined. When I start from inside Cubase from scratch, my usual way is purely hybrid, somewhere between chaos and determination. I also developed some tools of my own in Max/MSP that allow me to randomize everything even more.
So being carried away by your own mood and the moment is crucial for you as a matter of discovering new islands?
Absolutely, in my opinion getting help from unexpected events is a great way to look beyond your own vision — of course the final choices will be yours! Me and my creativity really like to get surprised by analog machines, especially the modular ones. The most important thing is to push the record button before playing around!
What does working with others like Frankyeffe mean to you and the development of your own musical lingo?
To me collaborations are a very good way for musical growth, I really love working with other producers and artists because I acquire completely new sensations while reaching new musical horizons. Working with Franky is simple for me because of our broad experience and a very good feel for each other. We both consider that sometimes two minds are better than one, but naturally that is not always the case.
How long do you know each other?
Coming from the same area in Rome, we know each other since we started to produce music; that would have been around 2006, I guess, but we never collaborated until 2016.
Judging from some tracks I listened to, you (also together with Frank) cultivated a very deep and versatile house-ish style to your music. How would you describe your style or the sonic ideal you’re after?
Oh thanks! At the moment my perfect place is halfway between Progressive Techno and Melodic Deep House. Actually, there is a vastness of internal nuances, but my ideal style or global matrix is techno but enriched with deep, progressive, melodic and also ethereal shades. In this context I should mention that one of my recent idols today is Stephan Bodzin.
My impression from listening to your tracks was that you’re really good at actively avoiding stereotypes by finding your very own and unique sound design. Do you experiment a lot with different variants of sound elements?
Wow, this makes me very happy and proud, Markus! Thanks! It’s all about the beauty of sound and the fact that you have endless varieties of it, but in the end everything should converge toward your own or its identity. I love to sample a lot of synthesized material, acoustic soundscapes or even acoustic instruments rendering them “electronically” in the next step. This approach always leads and encourages me to start from different materials, with some exceptions — for example, my various Moog synthesizers. But generally, I think of sound as an object that can and wants to be modeled. So you have to work with the right tools, like Cubase and its included instruments.
Do you have a favorite software tool for sculpting sounds?
My favorite sampler is still HALion 6 which, combined with other integrated plug-ins, sports a great environment to manipulate, edit and create incredible sounds and effects. In fact, there are many indispensable tools supporting my work like Padshop Pro, Quadrafuzz and the Multiband Envelope Shaper. On the other hand, my secret weapons are my self-scripted Max/MSP tools because they are absolutely unique.
Word spread you’re recently producing a lot for the label mau5trap? How did you and Deadmau5 get together?
My first contact with Deadmau5 was by pure luck as he was playing one of our tracks called “Fading Out feat. Njira” in his BBC residency. After that we got in touch with the label and were asked to send some music which they very much appreciated. Mau5trap is a really great venture, and I love and enjoy working with them. From the next release on, Franky and I will go separate ways, meaning, I'll do a solo artist EP release. Besides, I’m already engaged in some pretty awesome projects for 2019 that’ll hopefully turn out to be a very great year for me.
Sounds great! Can you give us a glimpse of what's coming up?
It's still a secret undertaking, but I can reveal as much as it’s going to be pretty orchestral.