Italian producer-DJ Congorock of “Ivory” and “Babylon” fame put out another hard-hitting single called “Nok Nok” in collaboration with Mindshake via Ultra Records (which you can purchase here). Since our last interview with him in May (which also included an exclusive 1-hour mix), Congorock had a lot to share on his recent and future work, as well as his opinions on the wider musical landscape. Check out our interview to get his thoughts on his new track, the balance of embracing sound trends while staying creative, the evolution of his own tribal electro sound, and some exciting news on his upcoming projects.
You just released “Nok Nok,” a collaboration with fellow Italian producer Mindshake. What was your collaboration process and idea behind the track?
Mindshake and I met in Naples at Daddy’s Groove studio. Like it always happens when a bunch of producers meet up in a studio, we just started showing each other the projects we were working on, and we clicked together. So I can say the project was started in Naples but finished in Los Angeles where I currently live. The process was pretty smooth. There was only one point when we were considering having a vocal line on top of the beat, but I’m really happy with the final result. We both wanted something that was “in your face”.
You describe your music as hard tribal electro. What were some musical or travel experiences that influenced you to incorporate these tribal/percussive sounds into your own music?
Growing up in South Italy, which is like a cultural/musical hub in the middle of the Mediterranean, definitely had an influence on me. So I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the fusion of multiple musical genres. My first DJ hero was Daniele Baldelli, who edited early minimalist electronic/kraut rock with reggae beats, creating what would be later called “Cosmic” disco. In my first EP on Fool’s Gold Records you can hear some hardcore rave synths layered over Baltimore/Jersey club beats. Since then, my trademark has always been to incorporate elements from diverse styles and cultures into a heavy electro sound.
With the explosion of the electronic music scene throughout the recent years, lots of producers are emulating each others’ sounds. You’ve stated before that this is “like a sign that you came out with a cool idea that is influencing a lot of producers.” How do you think producers can find a balance of following the most popular sound trend while still expressing their own creativity?
That balance is every dance producer’s goal every day, every single moment of their life. It’s a balance that sets the line in between artistry and mere business. Knowledge of music production is so accessible out there for everyone, along with a whole set of established marketing/promotion formulas that really it all comes down to who you want to be and the mark you want to make on music. Are you going to be an innovator or a follower? I feel like I have an idealistic approach to it when I say that anything that comes from love and passion will always eventually get a good response, at least in terms of credibility.
For you personally, how have you evolved your sound over time, while still keeping your signature tribal elements? What factors make you change up your sound? For instance, is it to stay relevant with a current trend, or to stray from it in order to stand out?
I see electronic music as a genre that has to experiment. At the same time I get bored of everything, and that includes music styles, really easily. I feel like yea, I’ve been evolving and changing since I’ve started, but that doesn’t necessarily mean to follow the next trend. In the last years I haven’t produced dubstep when it was big, or Moombahton or trap, even if I do like these genres. I’ve just seen the Congorock sound as a platform to jump from and experiment with other things, mostly through sampling. I can say sampling is still my main source of inspiration. I’m not trying to sound like the old school dude who looks for $1 soul funk vinyl at the record store, but most of my samples are taken from digital sources, YouTube and sometimes vinyl too. The voice in Ivory was initially taken from a YouTube video of a Bulgarian choir. The drum rolls in Monolith were taken from a library-music record from the Middle-East.
Right now I’m listening to a lot of industrial/noise music and I live in downtown LA which is a pretty noisy place to live, so I’m interested in taking sounds from the real world around me and put them in my projects. A couple years ago I’ve met techno pioneer Tom Middleton who showed me how every single sound around us has potentially all frequencies to become a huge kick drum or uplifting noise for a build up. If I’ve changed my sound through the years I think it was for the better anyway, when I hear my first releases I’m kinda embarrassed about my engineering knowledge back then. If I’ve changed, I’ve always done it to challenge myself and my audience. I feel like I’ve never taken any shortcut so far.
You recently shared a playlist on Beatport of tracks that aren’t heard from the top charts, and they range from house to ambient to techno. Do you usually listen to music that’s vastly different from your own sounds? Or will these tracks be serving as an inspiration in some way for your upcoming work?
Yea, I do listen to a lot of music, buy a lot of records, go to all kinds of shows, arenas with 20,000 people and grimy basements with 20 people. I still consider myself a music fan first of all, and I honestly find it really hard to listen to one genre only. I’d rather wake up and listen to what’s happening in the whole music scene. I feel like there’s so many cool things happening in electronic music right know that it would be a shame to sleep on them. Everyday I find a new label I like and order a bunch of LPs, and maybe I won’t play them in my Congorock DJ sets but they are still relevant to me. With that Beatport chart I wanted to give my followers an idea of tracks that I consider worth to check outside of our “zone”. And yea, all those things are definitely inspiring me right now, and I have written some music that sounds very different from my past catalogue, but I’ll probably release it under a new name.
What details can you share about your new projects for the year? Any big singles, collabs or album in progress?
I have a single called “Black Sun” with Daddy’s Groove coming out on Ultra Records in April and then another single before summer, and maybe you’ll also hear something from my new project I mentioned before, which is gonna be live-performance oriented! I’m really excited for 2015!