Techno Tuesday: SHDW & Obscure Shape on techno intellectualism
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Marco Blaesi and Luigi Urbano met in Stuttgart over a decade ago, striking up a mutual bond over their shared vision of techno. They saw the subgenre of music not as a mere aggressive force, but rather a nuanced sound that can find complexion within its simplicity. This connection eventually grew into friendship, and soonafter, a business partnership with the launch of their From Another Mind party in 2014. Meanwhile, they broke into the DJing and production sphere under the name SHDW & Obscure shape.
Ever the entrepreneurs and artists at heart, event promotion ultimately didn’t satisfy this fledgling duo—they needed full and well-rounded creative independence. It was this desire that led to From Another Mind’s evolution into a record label in 2015, which quickly earned the support of their more established colleagues. Their inaugural EP, Nachtblende, was gritty, hypnotic, and melancholic all at once, with subtle accents poking out of each of its four tracks that demanded multiple listens to catch them all. This marked the birth of their collective studio sound, which they’ve rightfully dubbed as “intelligent techno.” By the time they got into the full swing of label management, they had the likes of Tale Of Us, Rødhåd, Konstantine Sibold, and more pledging remixes on their already unique tracks. Festivals followed, with the pair being booked at Time Warp, Sonus, Awakening, and many other marquee underground events.
The time has now come for them to hop across the pond and perform stateside. Come spring, they’ll be making their way across the US in cities like New York, Chicago (at the iconic Obscure warehouse), and Los Angeles, where they’ll be hosted by local techno dominators Synthetik Minds and WORK by 6AM. Ahead of their US debut, we decided to host them on Techno Tuesday to dive deeper into their techno intellectualism, what’s inspiring them at the moment, lessons as label owners, and more.
In earlier interviews you cited your first studio session together as the time that birthed SHDW & Obscure Shape, with one of your biggest hits being written that first night. Did you decide right then and there this night that you were better as two heads than one? When coming together, did you imagine a permanent partnership like the one you had now?
Luigi (Obscure Shape): Indeed, we’d written a track in our first studio session which got released on our debut EP later. We didn’t plan to become a duo, although we’d had a really good time in the studio together. Besides that, I was already touring around as a DJ and I was working with another booking agency than Marco. But with the incoming booking requests it turned out to be difficult playing solo-shows as the promoters preferred a back-to-back set of us. We’ve really enjoyed playing and travelling together, it’s more fun. We complement each other, not only in the studio. Since then we’ve been in a permanent partnership!
Tell us a bit about your first gig together as a new act, and how you’ve developed the way you play together over the years.
Marco (SHDW): Our first gig together was at Romy S. in Stuttgart in 2014. It was actually our own party and even before we’ve released our first record. It went down quite well as we’re sharing a similar taste of music and way of mixing. With time we got to know each other more intimate, acting & thinking like one artist.
Coming from your experience organizing parties, what factors make a party perfect for you?
Luigi (Obscure Shape): There are a lot of factors which make a party perfect. It’s not only about a cool club / location and a proper sound system but also the atmosphere, the vibe, the crowd, the staff, mood of the artists… but if you’re hosting a party at a great club with a proper sound system & lights, friendly staff, a promising line-up which your followers appreciate & looking forward to and an artist who can’t wait to play at your party – it sounds like a perfect party for everyone!
You seemed to have come out of nowhere; what is it about your music and your message that you feel connects with current underground consumers?
Marco (SHDW): Indeed. We think the tracks we’ve released sounded fresh, something new at this time. Honestly, we were also lucky that quite a lot of big players, like Rødhåd & Tale of Us, supported our music. Additionally, our booking agency did a great job and we got the opportunity to play at some great clubs & festivals – next to all the big names – quite early.
Do you feel you’ve already reached your prime as artists? What’s next in your evolution if so? If not, what will it take to get to this point?
Luigi (Obscure Shape): Well, hopefully not! As you’ve mentioned above, we’ve come out of nowhere but we’re still working hard, in cooperation with our management, to establish ourselves in the scene. We’re more productive than ever since we’ve moved to our first own studio last September, it’s a totally different workflow. Moreover, we’ll start working on our first album and live set soon, collaborations with other artists & remixes are scheduled as well. Additionally, our management has already confirmed great club shows and festivals for this year. It looks promising!
You’re finally making your way over to the states for the first time. What are you expecting out of your first gigs there, and what are you most curious about regarding the US scene?
Marco (SHDW): We’ve heard a lot of good stories about the US scene as some friends been touring already through the states! They told us the crowd is very enthusiastic – so we’re expecting a crazy crowd and great vibes. Honestly, we’re most curious about the legendary “warehouse raves” in North America. Allegedly, they’re incredible and the parties are pretty wild!
What made you decide to start a label so early into your time as SHDW & Obscure shape, and have you learned any important lessons about label management since launching From Another Mind?
Luigi (Obscure Shape): Marco and myself always wanted to found our own label, creating our own platform to release our music. We didn’t want to release our tracks on a label which we didn’t admire. But as a new artist it’s mostly impossible to release a full 12” on a big label. However, we got feedback from a cool label but we had to wait more than a year to release the record which we’ve declined. We wanted to release the tracks now as we felt it’s the right timing. At this point I should mention that the feedback from the crowd while road-testing them and from our close friends have been great which encouraged us to launch From Another Mind Recordings in 2015.
Marco (SHDW): Well, it’s really hard sometimes to stick to deadlines, e.g. getting the tracks ready for the scheduled mastering session. Another big problem is the numerous delays of the pressing plant. It’s always better to schedule some buffer to release the record in time. Additionally, never ever skip test pressings when you’re doing vinyl – it could throw a monkey wrench in your plans.
Which underrated artists in the techno/electronica sphere are inspiring you right now and why?
Marco (SHDW): Hadone from France is definitely an artist to watch. He just released an amazing record on Taapion and some more great music of him will be out soon. His signature sound is super inspiring – heavy kicks & drums, lovely melodies & rhythm. Another great artist to mention is Stef Mendesidis from Russia. Stef is an amazing DJ and a talented producer. He has released a record on Ben Klock’s label Klockworks some weeks ago and he’s still on fire in the studio. We totally love the “90’s vibe” in his tracks and dj sets.
You recently landed back on REKIDS with your ‘Der Sturm’ EP that feels like it draws upon a lot of classic influences. Can you expand a little more on the writing process behind the EP, what inspired it, and interesting tricks/manipulations in your gear/software you used to create the sounds in each track?
Luigi (Obscure Shape): The EP was recorded in Stuttgart and we were inspired by tracks of Radial, Oscar Mulero & Glenn Wilson. We were just playing around with some new plug-ins in Ableton, e.g. from Rob Papen, in our home studio and that’s how the tracks came about.
What constitutes an “intelligent” techno track to you, and how does on stand out amid the huge explosion of techno coming out in recent times? Where do you see the genre going in the future?
Marco (SHDW): An “intelligent” techno track isn’t predictable, it surprises while listening and arouses emotions. But it’s our subjective opinion though! Techno is getting way more attention recently, electronic music in general, which is both a blessing and a curse. We’ll see what the future brings, hopefully techno keeps its spirit and roots.
Finally, aside from your debut in the states, what else is coming up for SHDW & Obscure Shape?
Luigi (Obscure Shape): We’re super busy in the studio recently and we’ve finished a lot of tracks which will be released this year. Two full EPs, several remixes and collaborations with other artists are scheduled in 2019. Moreover, our agency is working hard and we’ve some really cool shows coming up, e.g. playing at the legendary Awakenings Gashouder, amazing festivals, touring through South America again, great clubs… good times ahead!