We Talked To… Pathetic Waste of Talent
Oftentimes, a catchy name is already enough to peak one’s interest, but it was their tunes that first brought Pathetic Waste of Talent to our attention and made us curious about the people behind the moniker.
It turned out the music was coming from twin cities Mannheim and Heidelberg and the people in question were good friends Alexander and Tobi who, in addition to producing and DJing, together with SLW/DWN throw a club night and run netlabel and blog Blank.
We bugged Alexander with endless emails to find out more about Pathetic Waste of Talent and what they stand for. As a result, we found out why we immediately liked the duo so much before even knowing anything about them – it turned out that they are music nerds, who know their shit but also don’t take themselves too seriously (case in point: Alex sent us the images for the article claiming they were the band’s submission for the DJs Looking Depressed tumblr).
Alex and Tobi met in 2009 on the recommendation of a local DJ. “He told me there was this amazing guy who could talk endlessly about music and for some reason thought we should get to know each other,” says Alex. “So we met at my home, drank some whiskey, smoked some weed and talked the whole night about country music, American popular culture and women.”
When they first met, Alex wasn’t even DJing yet and Tobi had just started to play “something that he called proto-techno at obscure parties in Heidelberg”. But the timing was right because Alex had just spent the last year living in Rome where his passion for house and techno developed.
“At that time I didn’t listen to house and techno at all because the only sound that was played in Germany back then was Minimal. I could appreciate some tracks in a technical way but in the club I thought it was just endlessly boring. Through my clubbing experience in Italy I regained my faith in what club music should be like – that is bringing fun and euphoria to the dance floor. That’s how I decided to start playing some fresh music instead of complaining about the lack of it.”
Euphoria and letting yourself go nuts on the dance floor became a priority for Alex with the first dance music genres he really fell in love with as a teenager – jungle and drum n bass. Mannheim at the time was a centre for the two genres and would host massive raves with all of the big UK names in the game every weekend.
“I loved those typical heavy and sometimes over-the-top bass lines that have been part of British dance music from jungle to garage to grime,” says Alex, adding that he could always count on them to make him go crazy on the dance floor.
“I always liked that attitude more than the often clinical and mechanical approach of German club music,” he says. And it’s those old school bass lines, which can be found in the current UK house revival, that Alex and Toby are trying to promote in Germany with their Blank club night.
But it’s the variety of genres they listen to and appreciate that gives Pathetic Waste of Talent’s production its distinctive flair. For Alex, the raw sound of delta blues from the 30s has been a big influence. “It shaped my dislike of perfect, clean sounds and the love for imperfect and rough-sounding music,” he says.
These influences are evident in the samples the guys use for their tracks – from soul and jazz singer Alice Russell’s vocal in “Triburbia” to a live recording of blues singer Willis Earl Beal singing acapella under a train bridge in otherwise cheerful summer house track “Like a Fool”.
“With ‘Triburbia’ we wanted some vocals that would, in a way, tell a simple, repetitive story, like the old blues songs do,” says Alex. “The club track that in some way inspired me the most was Ben Pearce’s ‘What I might do’ even if musically it has nothing in common. The idea was basically to insert the subtle feel of a real narrative into a house track and the same applied to ‘Like a Fool’”.
When Alex and Tobi start the search for samples they usually have the musical idea of the track laid down already but the general quest is for that “bluesy, storytelling feel instead of going for the obvious soul diva house vocals about love and passion”.
It’s an answer that immediately reminds me of DJ Sprinkles and her “Midtown 120 Blues” and it turns out that Alex is a fellow fan. “I definitely like it when club music takes on a club culture discourse, where reflections about cultural habits and symbols should be included in your artistic approach,” he says. “I’d love to be able to make records like this. And when I choose samples, the way I described above, it’s definitely a small step or a try in that direction.”
“It is very tricky to use vocals in club music in my opinion,” says Alex. “A vocal that perfectly blends with the musical and rhythmical elements of a track can be the delicious icing on the cake but one that’s badly used can either ruin everything, or just makes it really, really cheesy.”
However, he is both analytical and level-headed on the topic of house vocals. “Sometimes when you have a half-finished track you put some soulful vocals on it and immediately start thinking it’s an amazing and completed song but most of the time that’s not true,” he says.
“Human ears simply tend to empathize more easily with a piece of music when they hear a voice singing over a melody,” says Alex, adding, “It’s an easy psychological trick, if you want to put it like that. We both also stepped into that trap with some tracks we did.”
In typical music nerd fashion that is always welcome at Music Nerd Heaven Mofidelity.co, Alex shared some more thoughts on the current 90’s vocal house revival and why Pathetic Waste of Talent’s latest tracks, yet to be released, are straying away from it. “I think it can get annoying over time,” he says candidly. “A well-balanced DJ set needs some moments of pure rhythmical intensity without having the same diva singers constantly preaching to you that ‘You gotta feel it now!’”
And while I could probably ask Alex about anything, be it Pathetic Waste of Talent or house music in general, and I’d be sure to get a thought out, well-worded answer, I succumb to my curiosity and go for the obvious question – how did you end up with that name?
I’m glad I asked, because I would’ve never learned that initially Alex and Tobi played under “another carefully chosen name” – Kongo Bus Tours, whose music was a mix between early bass, baile funk and “other sweaty stuff”.
“I do think we always had an ear for tracks that combined the right amount of creativity and style together with the banger factor,” says Alex. “When we started Blank in 2012 our tastes had changed and things had gotten a little more ambitious so we decide to restart the whole project with a new name.”
So how did they end up being Pathetic Waste of Talent?
“Well, we didn’t think very much about it to be honest,” says Alex. “But, more or less intentionally, it expresses our very relaxed and self-mocking attitude about what we do. We often feel a little irritated about how serious this whole house and techno DJ thing can be in the eyes of its protagonists sometimes.”
It’s a truth that we’ve all most definitely noticed and, admittedly, ranted about a lot. But then again all of us gathered here wouldn’t be calling ourselves music nerds if we weren’t making a distinction between the dance music hype machine and the deeper implications behind it. “We do take club culture as a whole very seriously,” concludes Alex, “but when we play gigs we never tend to think that we are doing something more memorable than just throwing a good party.”
We’re happy to say, we agree with that philosophy.
If you happen to be in the Heidelberg area on 19 September, Mo’ Fidelity recommends you go to blank’s party with Jasper James, The Analog Roland Orchestra (Live) and the blank DJs.
Fatal error: Uncaught Exception: 12: REST API is deprecated for versions v2.1 and higher (12) thrown in /home/cecolevs/public_html/wp-content/plugins/seo-facebook-comments/facebook/base_facebook.php on line 1273