Interview: Daniel Savio

Daniel Savio has a baby boy, but his experience being a father extends beyond his family tree. Credited as being the progenitor of the Scandinavian electro-funk movement called Skweee, he’s made funky-wave-babies felt around the world. Steeped in bucket hat and track suit hip-hop, Kraftwerkesque synthscapes, and “Was Dog a Doughnut” electro vibes, Savio’s sound is hard to pinpoint. He’s an analog evangelist however, so you can be sure that whatever you’re listening to is fresh squeezed circuitry. Crunchy claps, swamp wet bass, and pads alternating from hauntingly airy to hard and grimy: Savio isn’t afraid to show off his versatility and skill at getting rare sounds out of his hardware. Actually one of the tenets of Skweee is a belief in pushing a synth to its sonic limits and maybe arriving at something profound and meaningful along the way. Or at least irresistibly danceable. There’s definitely something primal about the unencoded sound of electricity pulsing out at four beats a measure. It’s as if we and Daniel had an unspoken agreement–he would make us dance, but he had to make the machines dance first.

Stream: Daniel Savio – Life Has No Meaning

Your self-titled album came out last spring on Dodpop. What have you been up to recently? “Mostly playing live and DJ-ing and making some remixes and stuff, I have an digital release coming out on Flogsta Danshall pretty soon also. It’s a full length album and it features two songs that I did together with Portland’s own Lazer Crotch–excited about that.” How was working with Lazer Crotch? “We did it via internet, I sent him some beats and sketches and then we added stuff, sending back and forth, so to say. I’ve never met him in person but he runs one of the first US-based skweee labels, Poisonous Gases in Portland and I released some music on his label, so we are internet buddies.”

Who else are you excited about? What’s your next dream collaboration? “I have a couple of dream collaborations; some are “secret” and not confirmed yet, but I am working together with Pavan aka Limonious as a duo–Vakttornet–making some new stuff.”

You’ve gone from Flogsta to Losonofono to Dodpop and now back to Flogsta; what’s it like working with the three? Are they much different from each other? “I would say the biggest difference is the distance, the Flogsta office is just around the corner from where I live so I can easily go up there and smash something if I feel mistreated–kidding. But it’s sort of true. And also me and Frans (Pavan, Limonius) have been friends for a pretty long time so we can speak more frankly to each other regarding anything from mastering to album cover art. Other than that most indie labels are run pretty much the same.”

Are you planning any trips outside of Sweden, like, the US maybe? “I don’t have any real tour plans as for now but there have been some attempts at getting me to Portland, SF, and some festival in Mexico thats been planned like forever. I have only played New York and Boston and Hamilton (in Canada) so far, US-wise.”

Writing about the newest album you said you “didn’t use one single sample or computer trick, it’s all analogue and sentiments.” Can you explain that a little more? “What I meant was just that: I did all my sounds from drums to everything just by tweaking analog synths, and I didn’t do any editing or mega arena sidechain-stuff. Its more of a classic synth feel, not too modern apart from maybe the music and the feelings I try to express, they are hopefully something new or at least unique.”

It seems that your recent releases have a much darker and hard-edged mood than your earlier stuff, especially tracks like Revolt and Break Out. “Hard times require hard sounds. I don’t know, I just try to express my feelings but I think that there is much to be mad about in the world today; anything from war, famine, mind-control, nuclear meltdowns etc. Also on a personal level I have experienced some struggling.” Getting those feelings out through machines is kind of the more therapeutic and cathartic side of skweee. Can you explain maybe what playing analogue funk music means to you spiritually or emotionally? “It’s my meditation, therapy and a way for me to try to communicate those deep feelings inside that cant be put in words. I think one of the reasons artists make art is because thats the only way they can try to be understood in a world where you feel alienated and sometimes isolated. I make music because thats the only way for me to try to communicate with my surroundings.”

Robert Moog said: “All material is conscious to some extent or another, all material can respond … to the vibrations of energy. People and animals [are] able to affect the operations of machines, even of computers. I think that has great implications for what goes on between a musician and his instrument.” This seems very skweee. “Yes, this is true I believe.”

Stream: Daniel Savio – Pearly Gates

The first sounds from you I heard were off Skweeefridgerator, which pictured you in front of a pretty well-stocked fridge. Does food play an important role in your life/musical production? “Yes food is real important, you don’t eat you die. Simple as that. I really enjoy fine food and making it but I also can eat really bad stuff like canned goods or just ready-made noodles, hamburgers, and all this crapfood and really enjoy that too. Everyday I have food is a good day”. I completely agree. What else does a good day consist of? I mean, in the studio? “Coffee, cigarettes, snus and working equipment. Telephone turned off. I really like working office hours, but lately its been almost impossible to get out off “jetlag-mode” since I play records Thursday through Saturday and thats always pretty late night action. Being a father leaving my baby at kindergarden sometimes I have to get up at the same time as I went to bed the day before. I guess I haven’t adjusted to my new situation quite yet, still working on it.” Is that your baby at the end of Wind Up Toys? “Yes! Thats my boy, suffering from daddy’s experiments.”

I’ve read that you have a really immense record collection. What kind of stuff catches your eye when you’re digging? “I am interested in and look for many types of records/music spanning from reggae, hip hop, blues, punk, hard rock, Moog records, pop, flamenco etc etc. For me when I’m at a fleamarket I always get excited if I find something thats not American or British, like Arabian-stuff, Russian-stuff, Spanish, Italian, Greek etc…. More or less I go for anything I haven’t heard or heard of, like “mmm, this looks weird, I must try it.” I can buy fifty records for one euro each just for one song on one record that just I know of/no other DJ has rediscovered yet. Its kind of a fanatic attitude.” Do you play a lot of Other People’s music when you’re in the studio? For inspiration or even just reference? “Not while making my own music, no. Then I just want to listen to whats inside of myself, sort of. Silence is the best inspiration while in the studio. Then you can hear the songs within yourself. Of course you are affected and inspired by other people’s music but its never something I try to emulate, I make music to express myself not because I am a fan of music–even though I am a huge fan of music.”

Seems like an understatement! Have any final advice on how to keep it funky? “Just keep it the way you feel it yourself if you understand what I mean, don’t worry bout what others might think or what the latest trend is or whatever thats just gonna make it sound dated a couple of years from now.”

Savio, with three full releases to his name, is about to drop a fourth. It’s out soon on Flogsta Danshall and it’s called Ill Eagle. Judging from the Major Lazer “Get Free” remix just released, we’re in for something very different than his past work. Squelches and laser beams play under a translucent sky of rising synths and the bubble-ghost voice of Dirty Projector’s Amber:

Stream: Major Lazer – Get Free (Daniel Savio Remix)

Alex Neuscheler