Roof.fm has always been about the memories. Those moments on the dancefloor when sparks fly about and everything becomes one. The DJ, the crowd, the music and the place. They’re rare, these moments, but this man here, Kalabrese, is one of the most reliable conjurers of such boom-boom magic. Zurich impressario Sacha Winkler has been in our heart (and record racks) since his first release “Airolo” thirteen years ago. It’s fair to say that Kalabrese is the most original house producer in our small country called Switzerland. Here, Kalabrese talks about his new album “Independent Dancer” and the many unreleased gems he included on his podcast. We’re proud to have you on board, Kala. Boom.
ROOF.FM: Kalabrese, here’s a compliment: you’re one of my favourite DJs. How do you do it?
KALABRESE: Thank you very much! I’m not sure. Timing and a sense for the crowd is essential. But also: that you’re confident enough to wander between different worlds and that you’re willing to surprise. It’s a delicate balance: between pulling the throttle and standing on the break. There’s that sentence from my album booklet that comes to my mind: “Let’s play a song together, let’s dance to it. A song we don’t know.”
Back in 2007 you told me you will probably stop DJing professionally in five years. But you’re still at it.
I love the night, its highs and lows. As I grow older, I like them shorter, though. I try to give everything and then go to bed before sunrise.
One can detect a Kalabrese production from miles away. That signature sound, the warmth, the longing: Does it just fall in place when you make music?
It’s something I can’t control, I guess. Since I produce everything on my own, my signature is just there. I’m a romantic, a dreamer, someone prone to melancholia. But I believe I’m still funky enough to produce in a manner that is both airy and witty.
You’re debut album “Rumpelzirkus” was released six years ago. If you wrote your autobiography: What would the chapter of this recent past be about?
It was an up and down period. People entered my life and left again. My home town Zürich changed. Technology is taking over, superficiality prevails. In the middle of it, I try to stay true to myself and advance at the same time. I keep putting obstacles in my way, though. At times I feel insecure, trust nobody, not even myself. As you can see: Less than ideal conditions to be successful!
That’s why it took you so long to finish the second album?
The main reason was that the clarity I needed to finish them only came in the past two years. While some songs materialized within days, others needed years to be finished. I’m anything but a slick producer. I’m a moody guy, and if I’m not up for it, I can’t write a good song, can I? But I’m happy with the result. What do you think?
What’s most important is that I’m steadfast on my way. I’d rather be an underappreciated artist.
Your style has solidified, has grown more Kalabrese, if I may say so. How did the audience react?
I can only judge for the people close to me. Especially in Zurich I got some lovely feedbacks. From people I care about. And it’s nice to enter a random café in the morning and you realize they play your whole album. So, I’m happy with the response! For another thing, it’s great that the influential radio station KCRW in Los Angeles took it in their day schedule. That’s a very nice gesture. Sure, my album is not exactly the hippest thing out there: last time around, the media’s response was more enthusiastic. Who knows what would happen if I lived in Brooklyn and had a great manager? But maybe it’s just the way it’s got to be. What’s most important is that I’m steadfast on my way. I’d rather be an underappreciated artist. Sometimes it’s better to go through lean periods. It kindles the blues.
Feeling the blues has always been a source of inspiration to you.
Yes. It’s always about emotions. Making music is a way of escaping the world. Letting yourself go. To soar. I love that state of freedom, of timelessness.
How were the gigs you played with your band Rumpelorchestra?
Playing in Calvi was great. The release party at the Kaufleuten in Zürich was fantastic. It’s great to be able rely on such great musicians like Dominik Löhrer, Sarah Palin or a singer like Khan, who also participated in the album. But our band is still looking for a sound of its own. The performance feels too song-driven. I’d like it to be more hypnotic and driving, more psychedelic. It feels too close to the album. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
So you’re setting out to improve the live version of you’re trademark Rumpelsound, which translates into Rumblesound. Also, your own new label is called Rumpelmusig. How goes the rumble?
Running my my own label Rumpelmusig means take certain risks, but it comes with the musical freedom that allows me to include people that are important to me. It’s a platform for people who share a similar groove, who dare to convey their emotions with a certain stoutheartedness. A good song is a good song, be it a slow blues, a whipping afro-groove or a hypnotic techno track.
Your mix for Roof.fm includes many exclusive and new pieces. Any tracks you would like to point out for us?
A friend of mine advised me to include more of my own and unreleased tracks. That’s what I did. Actually, I’m not the guy who usually blows his own trumpet. But I’m happy with the swinging groove of “Düdingen42”. It’s not complete yet, but the depth is already in there. I also like the ambient intro “Jupiter”. There’s a song by a talented young neighbour of mine In included: “Hello Asshole” by Jimi Jules. I want to release a split EP by him. I’m also fond of the first remix of “Desperate Man”, in the version Canson did.
What are you up to next?
I’m working on a short movie with a friend of mine, an actor. I’m going to play a couple of Rumpleorchestra gigs, I’m very much looking forward to the Kater Holzig Closing and 3000grad festival. Currently, I work on a lot of new stuff and would like this to be coming out soon with new music. They’re more like a journey, less clubby tracks.
More like a journey? Please explain.
Let’s call it stoner-groove. More psychedelic. A sound in mid-air, which starts where my album track “Find a place” left off.
Tell us about a dream you had.
I’m sitting on the toilet. With terrible bowel pain. Outside there’s a commotion. I realize the toilet is on a ranch stuck in the middle of the desert. The people out there have completely lost control, are out of their minds, utterly drunk. I can’t believe it, but those were friends of mine! I wait until everyone falls asleep and then I make my escape into the desert. After a couple of miles, I meet this old man. He owns a donkey. The old man hands me over a bottle with water. We become friends. Henceforth, I am his companion. We go on a long trip together.