The Innervisions newcomer makes his mark.
Michael Gracioppo is a talented new producer who makes the kind of melodic house music that's been championed by artists like Dixon, Âme and Tale Of Us in recent years. He comes from Montréal, now lives in Berlin and is in his mid-20s—until he responded to our interview questions, that was all we knew. Gracioppo is most readily associated with his releases on Innervisions. In 2013 he put out the single-sided "Creep," which featured vocals by Wayne Tennant and felt like a very natural fit for the label. The track moved with a soaring sense of melancholy, and was eventually remixed in a similar vein by Tale Of Us and Vaal and Recondite. Gracioppo continued his anthemic touch for Innervisions when his remix of Clockwork's "Running, Searching" appeared on Secret Weapons (Part Seven) earlier this year. The dramatic dance floor impact of these tracks may have actually led people to overlook the bit of Gracioppo's music he seems most concerned with: the details. On Santo & Christine, for Motor City Drum Ensemble's MCDE label, it was easier to zero in on the snatches of audio and incidental noises that give Gracioppo his unique flair.
With gigs at DC10, Panorama Bar and Plastic People now under his belt, Gracioppo is gaining some nice momentum in the live sphere. His RA podcast is a blend of tracks you might hear at one of his upcoming gigs and music from the artists who inspired him to get there.
What have you been up to recently?
Having started as a producer and not as a DJ, the past 18 months have been pretty eye opening for me. I was never a club kid or much of an aspiring performer. My intent was to learn to construct records in all of their intricacies.
Fast-forward to today and my interests have shifted quite dramatically: I'm totally in love with DJing and playing live. Opportunities at venues such as Plastic People, DC10 and Panorama Bar have helped me understand this culture that was once completely off my radar.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was completed in Ableton Live over the course of a snowy afternoon in Montréal. Once the tracks and samples were compiled, I loaded everything into a blank session and hit record, using a controller for automation. After a couple of days off, I revisited the project and made some choice additions.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The idea behind my offering was to compose somewhat of a diary, citing where I've been and where I find myself today. I transition from several of my earliest discoveries, to records that I find myself playing out at the present time. Although my aim was to create something functional, I made sure to include segments by specific artists who influence my songwriting—groups like Autechre and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
How did you become involved with Innervisions and MCDE?
Both labels have helped shape my perspective of electronic music quite significantly. Innervisions and MCDE were among my first independent discoveries, along with Playhouse and Dial. MCDE1001 was the result of this "Alcachofa, Secret Weapons, Fatty Folders, Raw Cuts, Untrue" cocktail that I had been sipping on for a few years. I paired the music with a 1950s photograph of my grandparents and fired it over to a dodgy email. To my surprise, I received a quick answer and better yet, an offer to release my first record. Without hesitating I said yes, and when asked about a remix, elected the always-excellent Reshaper to supply a club-friendly version.
After hearing about Raw Cuts Remixes, I extended an offer to rework one of Danilo's gems for a chance to be included in the release. Upon failing miserably at a remix of "There's A Truth," I removed all of Danilo's parts from the project and continued it as an original piece of music. Searching for inspiration, I decided to sift through my record collection and stumbled upon an old favourite, Atjazz's remix of Fred Everything's "Mercyless." Although it was initially the groove that drew me in, I really enjoyed the singer's unique tone.
Upon finding out that he too was also based in Montréal, I decided to give it a shot and sent my future collaborator over a message. We chatted for a few weeks and bonded over the fact that we were both going through rough break-ups at the time. It quickly became apparent that we shared the same vision for our song. Wayne headed down to Miami to write, while I anxiously awaited his first draft. To my surprise, I woke up the next morning to Wayne's rough sketch. I immediately fell in love with his contribution and we cut the final version three days later.
After a deal with a certain Japanese label fell through, I figured it was time to shoot for the stars and try to land it on Innervisions. The label was coming off of "Howling," and it was the right time for another big vocal. I figured Steffen [Berkhahn, AKA Dixon] would be into it, but I was faced with the daunting task of trying to get ahold of him. Thankfully, I was introduced to Ramon Crespo earlier that year. I remember it like it was yesterday: headset on, salesman voice in full swing, selling life insurance for minimum wage in a depressing call-centre, when all of a sudden my phone rings. Like he's done so many times for so many different people, Ramon made the connection between artist and label. Finally my love-letter had a home.
Starry-eyed and full of joy, I headed to a friend's barbecue, eager to share the good news with anyone who would listen. After opening the door and greeting familiar faces, I noticed that we had a visitor, someone who seemed out of place. "Ciao Carmine," said the smiling stranger, as he continued to fiddle-away on a MacBook. The evening went on and after a few drinks I decided to share the news with my friends. As soon as I said "Innervisions," I noticed our silent stranger get up and look my way: "Let me listen," he said. Turns out it was Carm from Tale Of Us, and two hours later, I was drunk, with a record on Innervisions and a Tale Of Us remix in the bank.
How would you describe your production style? Are you drawn towards any particular moods or themes?
I would best describe my methodology as "calculated." Nothing is a jam, everything is carefully considered and anxiety fills the room. Although this leads to a less than optimal number of releases, it keeps the quality high. I never started writing music in order to play shows, so why would I start now?
Technically speaking, my goal is to produce computer music that sounds the least "computer" as possible. This means using as many acoustic instruments as I can, either recorded or sampled. Thanks to sampling, I've discovered artists and styles that I had never looked into before. Harold Budd, Rokia Traoré, Eberhard Weber and countless other musicians found their way into my universe while on my quest for a more human aesthetic. When you sample, you are not only taking that second or two of piano, but the particular room that this piano was recorded in. Textures are everything to me.
Something that I try to avoid is leaving empty spaces in the music, especially between drum sounds. Absolute silence would never happen between a bass drum and a hi-hat played on a drum set. Filling the recording with rooms, noise and opting for many smaller sounds instead of fewer chunkier elements helps keep the piece more interesting. No one exemplifies these principles better than Ricardo Villalobos. He writes 15-minute odysseys that are often based on a simple yet incredibly human groove. With every new listen, I discover new textures and tones in his recordings that previously went unnoticed.
What are you up to next?
Settling into my new home in Berlin. I have lived in Montréal for my whole life and it was a lovely 24 years. The more and more I began to travel, the less and less Canada felt like home. To quote James Holden, "it's all about finding people on your wavelength." I have found these gentle souls in Berlin.