S T A R T I N G   O V E R

Words by Andrea “ Bot” Fratangelo
Photography by Daniel Nadel
Creative Direction by Beatrice Hurst

When I rebooted my professional life in October of 2012, leaving behind a certain routine and an act that I had been part of for the past 6 years, I had little idea of what was awaiting me. 

At first the feeling was one of relief. I was enjoying the break from a hectic travel schedule, and putting time into finding out what life was like outside the international DJ bubble. Although I had already lived in London for a few years, it was only during those days of the aftermath that I began to understand the city and how to live in it. By that I mean the basics - how to spend a Wednesday, how to befriend my neighbor, and how to understand the basic grid of the city. As stupid and obvious as these discoveries might sound, it all felt very new and full of promise.

After getting to know my (almost) new surroundings, I began the hunt for a new studio space. My friend Maria - a painter who also has her studio in the building – told me about a space that had just become available. I decided I had to see it with my own eyes, and upon first inspection I fell in love. My studio is contained in an ex gas-works compound, composed of several buildings and each of them is reconverted to studios. This beautiful building houses musicians, painters and all sorts of designers and creative people. To be honest - I was amazed by the place. A 25-30 minute walk from home, it soon became my alternative to going to the gym or doing yoga. Not even close to be as effective as any of those activities, but at least I wouldn't bail on it after two weeks as has always happened with any kind of real sporting initiative.

So I had a new studio, new start and my future was looking bright. Then things began to get tough. I was soon going to realize how much hard work and determination it takes to start over again.

I was experienced enough to evaluate several possible music career scenarios; the most convenient of them being to join the EDM scene. EDM stands for electronic dance music, the American rebranding of what we had always called Techno - perceived by most Americans as something relegated to rave parties. The informed perspective understands that not all sub genres equate to techno. At first influenced by Europe, EDM has since become its own macro genre and is now influencing Europe in return.

During this time I found out that I'm not good at producing music I don't like, which made this mainstream EDM option that so many of my colleagues were embracing, not one I could pursue - at least not directly. I love it when a song is directed to an underground scene or some particular genre restricted following, and it ends up going mainstream for reasons no one could foresee. I have always been a big fan of this involuntary crossover. I am inspired when a song is appreciated not only by the people you wrote it for, but also the most unexpected of audiences. I always hope it happens to my songs and that's why I like to add little genre defying elements in a formally wrong way. It means I'm using sounds people relate to, and also keeping it interesting and new for myself.

After much deliberation on ideas of genre, I got to the point where I had to face a cross-road; I chose to allow myself to be a producer who likes to jump from genre to genre. It's a behavior that does not make it an easy job to maintain your audience.  At the end of the day we all have responsibilities. I had a lifestyle to maintain and by that I mean paying rent and insurance, not flying private with Tiesto, which is also a very random thought. I was an unemployed DJ, probably in one of the lowest of categories you want to find yourself in.

It sounds worse than it was, although despite my experience and contacts, it was still starting all over again. That situation came with a mixture of feelings; fear, excitement, confusion and hope. As a producer - that's a good thing for me. The best results come when I fluctuate between being comfortable with what I do, and being totally unsatisfied. I often think of a quote from electronic music producer Lorca (@Lorca_Music). I’ve been a fan of his for some time and I connect with what he is saying:

The Creative Process

1. This is awesome

2. This is tricky

3. This is shit

4. I am shit

5. This might be ok

6. This is awesome

A great way to avoid being stuck at points 3 and 4 is to collaborate with others. You give up the freedom of being a tyrannical dictator and do whatever pleases you, but you also move on from being completely unsure about the output of your work. Having a second opinion makes a world of difference. It will prevent you from sending excellent work to trash. You would assume every track gets a lot of feedback before it sees the light, but not always, and sometimes it really could have used confrontation with someone else's taste. It helps with fine-tuning and ultimately shapes your work into what it was really meant to be. I tend to send my music to a very diverse group of people for this reason. I see feedback as a way of finding new ideas, rather than a way of understanding what will please the masses.

It became clear only a few months after embarking on my new project, that I was going to explore all corners of music, and each would soon become an important part of my creative process. My goal at that time was to be consistent enough in the quality of the work, so that people would be interested in most of it, and eventually really like some of it. You might lose someone down the road due to this musical diversity, but when you pass the point where people are confused, it clicks and things get easier. I really hope I am right on this!  

It was a lucky coincidence that I had already joined my manager Jeremiah in creating a new label - Main Course. We worked together in Crookers and both made the decision to move forward together.

I said it was a lucky coincidence because the idea behind Main Course is to ignore the restrictions of genre and hype, and release only music that we like. We were also joined by Marlon, a talented producer based in Los Angeles and a friend whom I had met the year before at the Miami Winter Music Conference. Together we have worked nonstop on ways to make it more than just another music label.

Having the opportunity of co-running a label puts you on the hunt for new talent and new music - it is quite exciting. The access to making music has now been granted to basically everyone who owns a computer. Huge amounts of unworthy material are being released to the world because of that, but this also means that innovation is coming at us with increasing speed.

That freedom of access should be reflected somehow by the label. That's part of the reason why we decided to make ours a free label, and by that we did not mean that we were going to drop acid in office hours. These are exciting times where we have the opportunity to reinvent the way we distribute music. For our team at Main Course - we wanted to give it away for free. We want the music to be in the hands of the audience so that they can have the access that helps them to decide. Sales will not be the revenue stream that supports a label like ours. Instead we will look to other areas such as publishing, merchandise, and live touring. To give an example, I am intrigued by the change in the relationship between records and live touring. Live shows were once a way to boost record sales, whereas now, releasing a record is a way to sell tickets to shows. Labels might be terribly downsized but live shows are doing well.

I believe in the power of voluntary support and I want to drive a label that masters that connection. This means involving people, and leaving it up to them to decide how much (and if at all) to contribute. It creates a more honest relationship and can give unexpected results. We have already seen it working.

There is much that we still trying to figure out, but we are making it happen. Please wish us good luck!