Antoni Maiovvi “Maybe if retro stuff is a thing now, maybe it’s time to explore something else.”

Photo by Irene Rubio

Since 2008, Anton Maiof has slammed the dance world with a crop of italo and giallo disco records as Antoni Maiovvi. In late 2014, he released his latest, Avrokosm, via Not Not Fun, and it is his best, most far-out work yet. Ditching the retro sounds of prior releases for more atmospheric and cerebral aims, and anchored by a concept established via a series of dreams, Avrokosm imbues a techno sound previously unheard on Maiof’s work. It’s a slow-burning masterwork and has been a crucial listen since its December release.

Speaking via Skype, the Bristol-born producer, now living in a small village on the northwest coast of Spain, had a lot to say, and our freewheeling conversation touched on his relationship with techno, the experience of scoring films, and the proper pronunciation of Avrokosm.

So Britt [Brown, of Not Not Fun] told me you moved to a rural area in Spain, is that right?

Yes, maybe six weeks ago, I moved to a village Espasante, in Galicia.

That’s pretty different from where you were before. You moved from Berlin?

No, I kind of haven’t been living anywhere, if that makes sense? In 2009 I moved to Berlin, and then I met my girlfriend, and she didn’t like Berlin so I moved to Madrid. And then last year, a friend of mine, who I played noise rock with for many years, passed away from cancer. And I thought it was a good time to go back and reconnect with all those guys and be back in Bristol, with the intention of moving back to Spain at the beginning of this year. I haven’t really had a home for like a year or so. I was traveling a lot and staying at my parents’ house. And I was scoring this movie so I lived back in Berlin for a month. It’s kind of weird having a house again.

I’ve talked to some people who are on the road all the time, doing short-term things. It seems strange to be on the move all the time, and not have a place that’s your own.

Even when I was in Berlin, I must have moved seven or eight times. It’s very chaotic. People move out, you’ve gotta find a new place to live, or you don’t agree with your flat mate so you’ve got find something new. Do you know this feeling, when you’ve moved around so much you’re not really given the space to think about your life? You’re on the track, and you’re heading forward, and you’re not stopping… In Berlin, I finally got an apartment to myself. As soon as I got in there, a one-bedroom apartment in the cool part of town, I felt, “I don’t wanna be here. And I’m not sure I even like it.”

So, now, do you have a nice space for making music. Or are you still setting everything up?

No, no! That was one of the first things I did. I haven’t had everything plugged in, ever. All of my stuff that I’ve collected, some of it was in Bristol. All my guitar pedals and my guitar were in Bristol, even when I was living in Berlin. So this is the first time that I’ve got everything set up. So I’m still trying to find the workflow, you know, the less time-consuming way of getting things done. I’m patching things up every day. It’s pretty nice to have everything…

Yeah, just kind of in one place?

Where are you, Jason?

I live in Seattle.

Ah, Seattle! I’ve never been there.

Yeah, it’s pretty nice. I did a lot of moving around as well, and then moved out here for school, and met someone and got engaged and, you know, stayed out here.

You’ve got that famous burger place, right?

Are you talking about Dick’s?

It’s like Big Red, or something?

Oh, you’re talking about Red Robin?

That’s the one! I saw something on Man Vs. Food about it, and I played in this folk band in Berlin, where the double bass player was from Seattle. And I’ve got a vague memory, that’s all I know about Seattle. Apart from, like, you know, the obvious musical history.

I’ve been there once, and it’s as disgusting as it seems.


So, I’m curious about the album. Just to be sure, it’s pronounced Avrokosm [pronouncing phonetically]?

Yes, I pronounce it that way. But, because I started writing it in Berlin, and then left Berlin, it was decidedly more techno than anything I had done before. At least it had those elements. When I was in Berlin I didn’t have a good relationship with techno, because it’s everywhere. And most techno I find very, very boring and functional and devoid of ideas because it doesn’t need them to function. I am a big fan of what you call “roots techno,” like the history leading up to techno, and the Detroit techno. I really like that music, because for me that music is entirely experimental, and for me I don’t find Berlin techno to be very experimental. It’s more functional. But, Germans say v’s as f’s, so given that this was kind of a third world planet, the music I’m bringing back to Earth, I thought it would be very funny if only Germans could pronounce it properly. So it’s really pronounced “Afrokosm,” which is like the old Daniele Baldelli cosmic mixes that were labelled “afro-cosmic.” [Laughs] It’s this really complex mix of things, I’m really sorry about that. So I thought it would be really funny if only Germans could say it correctly.

I didn’t think to put that together. The album sounds different from your past material.

There was also something very deliberate, in terms of that, because if I was to do a techno album, and the tracks that Not Not Fun were more into when I was sending them demos, were more of the hypnotic-leaning techno stuff. I wanted to approach it as experimental music, but I know that that sounds really pretentious to say that, but more me exploring what the software can do. For example, there’s loads of poly-metric rhythm stuff happening, which was all based on me learning this little trick called “follow on actions” in Ableton. This can allow to self-generate rhythm patterns. When I started this, it was very much me trying to pastiche Patrick Cowley and old horror soundtracks and italo disco, but for me it was never really a thing. As time has gone on it was never really a thing, and now we’ve got this thing called “synthwave,” you know this genre?

I have no idea what it’s like for underground electronic music in the States. All of my friends who make electronic music in the states complain that they almost never play, whereas in Europe it’s a lot more part of the culture.


Synthwave, to me, is stuff like The Normal, you know, like New Wave with synths, but synthwave is apparently something completely different. I was very aware that maybe if retro stuff is a thing now, maybe it’s time to explore something else.

When I first heard the album, it felt like it would fit in on NNF’s sister label, 100% Silk. Do you listen to them?

I went to a party in Berlin years ago, but I ended up just getting really drunk and hanging out by the river. So [laughs], I know them now because Britt sent me a bunch of records. But I think the record’s too dark for 100% Silk.

Before I moved to Madrid, I came here on holiday, and Matt [Hill] from Umberto was playing here. So I emailed the promoter and asked to play, and then their press agent got in touch with Matt, and asked if there was anyone who could do a remix for extra promo for his tour. So I ended up doing a remix for Umberto. It still hasn’t come out. It’s there digitally, but not on vinyl.

I saw that you had a song included in a new horror movie, Hangman.

Yeah, Hangman. I met Adam Mason, the director, in Los Angeles. He really like this short movie that I did the music for. He contacted me after one single 12-inch I was promoting, and he said, “Hey, can I use this song in my movie?” And I asked him what the movie was about, and I told him that I have something better, and completely unused that I thought would work here. It’s called “My Moon,” which I wrote ages ago. And now lots of people write me about this song, but no label would touch it. I don’t know how many labels I sent it to, they were all just like, “Ehhhhh.”

And now that it’s in a movie more people are curious about it?

Yeah, but now I’m going to release it on Giallo Disco.

And the short movie you scored, was that Yellow?


What’s it like making music for a film as opposed to when you do your own material?

Yellow is a weird one because they sent me a script and the three minutes they’d shot. And then I just started making tracks as demos. And the next thing I know they just edited the demos into the movie [laughs]! So they edited the movie to those demos. Overall, I kind of had nothing to do with it, besides just doing my normal thing. In terms of scoring, that hasn’t really happened yet. For example, I did another score for a movie called Abdullah, about a Turkish cab driver, and I had these almost Turkish techno tracks that were made from samples I took from Berlin radio. So I ended up just editing those tracks to the picture.

When did that come out?

I think it was at London’s Fright Fest last year.

It seems like a lot of old horror soundtracks are getting reissued on vinyl. It’s interesting that there’s people like you and the band Zomby and Steve Moore…

Yeah, I love Steve. I try and keep in regular email contact with him. He’s like, super talented, and really friendly.

If I remember correctly he played with Goblin on their recent reunion tour?

Yeah, I remember because I think I was more excited than him! I was sending this really long e-mail about it. It was like if I joined The Cure or something. Fantasies come true!

There was an interview with you in The Quietus wherein you talked about being a big Goblin fan?

Yeah I used to be in a Goblin cover band with some friends in Bristol. I remember, years ago, people were laughing at me because I liked them. This was at the point where liking prog was uncool. It’s changed a lot, like even talking about King Crimson, that would have raised eyebrows in certain circles when I was growing up. I really like the music. It was nice that I could listen to the music without the film.

I’m curious of what you think about the swarm of old horror soundtracks that may or may not deserve to be reissued.

Well, there are some that I instantly buy, and I have a little text document with my wish list. I really want to get a copy of The Candyman soundtrack that One Way Static put out. I really like Phillip Glass. It’s really uncool, I guess. I got my records here, finally! [starts shuffling through records] There was one on Death Waltz that I was really excited about. Here it is, The Bronx Warriors. I was really happy when Death Waltz put that out, because I like the soundtrack to that movie. And I like all the Death Waltz records. It’s fine, I mean, if people want to release it and people want to buy it. As someone who runs a label I’m totally in favor of people buying physical media.

Yellow is a weird one because they sent me a script and the three minutes they’d shot. And then I just started making tracks as demos. And the next thing I know they just edited the demos into the movie [laughs]!

I’m thinking back to Not Not Fun, and the one thing I really like about your album is the cover. Is there any background to it?

I’m not really a visual guy. I’m not particularly good at knowing if something is tasteful or not. I know what I like, and if I think something is cool, but I appreciate that a lot of other people don’t. There’s this super-talented artist called Plastica, who also lives in the north of Spain. She did a bunch of stuff for other European electro-disco things. My girlfriend said I should get in touch with her. I told her the concept, and on the back of the sleeve there’s this dream that I had about the planet. I said, “This is my favorite album cover of all time,” and I sent her the Stratosfear cover by Tangerine Dream. I said to just go crazy with that. It was those two things.

It was so strange, because generally I don’t work within a concept, and I normally find the concept afterward. While I was making this I was having these dreams about this planet, and I though that was pretty cool. I woke up and wrote down the dream as best as I could remember it, and that became the notes.

Do you play live very often?

It goes up and down, because last year I bought loads of gear, and then I had almost no gigs. I only DJ’ed. And this year it’s mostly live shows.

Are you able to play the music from Avrokosm live?

Some of it I can play live. I don’t play with a laptop anymore. I just play with a sampler and this new Roland TR-808 drum machine. I use the MPC like Ableton, just with loops, switch them on, fade them up and down, and then improvise the arrangements live. So something like “The Lovers,” the first track, that’s easy to play because it’s easy to break down into sections. But something like “Temple” is very complex. I haven’t worked out exactly how to do it. But “Lovers,” “Afternoon Youth,” and “Ignite” I’ve been playing out.

What is the crowd reaction to the tracks from that album?

I’m not so sure, because I guess, within the community that I’m in, it kind of starts with what Andrew Weatherall, like never going intentionally above 120BPM. It’s kind of fine to play these slow tracks. And I’ve never done a solo live show in the states, so I don’t know if audiences want to “rage,” if that’s the right word. Is that the right word? I’m thinking like “party hard,” sort of like Andrew WK.

So are you thinking about touring the U.S.?

I guess I would need an agent on that side of the pond to do that. I have no idea what it’s like for underground electronic music in the States. All of my friends who make electronic music in the states complain that they almost never play, whereas in Europe it’s a lot more part of the culture.

Yeah, most of the shows I go to, it’s either not very crowded, or everyone just stands and stares at someone DJ’ing or doing dance tracks.

So maybe it’s still crossing over, like in the old noise world? It’s not like a party, but just there as kind of a concert? I’ve played some pretty weird places in Europe, where if it’s got a beat people come to dance.

Actually, I have played live in the U.S. before, in Los Angeles. At a club called Lil’ Death. I don’t want to be insulting, because I haven’t seen anything like it before, but they were like hip-hop but also goth. I never saw that before. Maybe I’m sheltered? I guess it’s that kind of witch house or something. Anyway, it was really cool. Everyone danced and it wasn’t like a concert. But I wonder what Detroit is like, now, for this kind of stuff, and Chicago, too.

I went to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival a few years ago, and it was fun, but Detroit’s kind of deserted, and clubs are few and far between. At least the point of the festival is to keep the tradition alive, because they only book local or like-minded acts.

Ah, OK. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I think that anyone who operates in the techno world owes a huge debt to Detroit. And to think of how much amazing music came out of that period. Did you hear the new Model 500 record that came out?

When I was in Berlin I didn’t have a good relationship with techno, because it’s everywhere. And most techno I find very, very boring and functional and devoid of ideas because it doesn’t need them to function. I am a big fan of what you call “roots techno,” like the history leading up to techno, and the Detroit techno.

I don’t think so.

It’s awesome. Juan Atkins is a really impressive guy.

When you lived in Berlin, is there much discussion of Kraftwerk over there?

Generally, my German friends didn’t really like Kraftwerk, because they saw it as a joke. But then they also think that Tangerine Dream is super cheesy, so I’m not sure what to think. So I think the biggest thing that shocked me was not stuff like Kraftwerk, it was the fact that people didn’t know about Neu! Without Neu!, for example, we wouldn’t have a lot of the Brian Eno, David Bowie stuff. In terms of important bands, I couldn’t believe that it went over people’s heads. It’s just not in the general conscious the way Kraftwerk is. It’s like why my Italian friends looks at me funny when I talk about Goblin.

Are they just more into the contemporary stuff?

No, just for them, I think Italians have the same relationship with Italo Disco. It’s like, “I can’t believe that you like this music, it’s awful.” No, it’s brilliant.

And do your Italian and German friends ask you about…


Yeah, Oasis or The Beatles?

Yeah, and Pink Floyd! I’m not a big fan of Oasis or The Beatles. I like some Pink Floyd. I mean, Whitehouse, the power electronics group, they’re great. William Bennett from Whitehouse does this Cut Hands project, which is quite famous right now.

So house and techno, or EDM, are pretty popular at the moment. What’s interesting to me is that your stuff doesn’t fit in with that, and even with things on 100% Silk, because a lot of that is more…

House. I would say that they’re more inclined to house music. I’m not sure I like the term house music, because I don’t understand house music at all. A friend of mine was telling me that I should try and make some, and he sent me some tracks to try and get a feel of it, but I sent them back and said that it didn’t sound like house music at all [laughs]. I don’t really have much of a relationship to that kind of music. And, also, I don’t really make for the functionality of people dancing, which I think is an important part of house music.

For me, my listening of the album is that it’s more abstract. I guess “techno” is less of a descriptor, and more of a feel. It’s not just to do drugs and dance to at a rave.

But, I reckon it would sound pretty good if some people did do that. I think it’s more about the mood. One of the reasons why I got into Tangerine Dream was because it was these vast tracks taking up a side of an LP, that would take me to these places that I never went before. And I guess, in some ways, that’s the feeling that I’m trying to capture. I don’t want people to be thinking of a nightclub, necessarily, but maybe I do? But I would rather the brain go somewhere else than just the dancefloor. But I have no idea whether I’m doing that correctly, or whether that’s the intent.

Have you gotten a sense of how the album’s been received in Europe?

Yeah, I see people buying it and posting pictures on the internet that they’ve got it. I think people really like it. I saw one forum post where they said they didn’t like it as much as my other stuff, but that’s fine. I think, generally, fans and supporters I do have are happy to go with me on the journey, rather than expect to do what I do. Because I’ve had such a slow career path, like I’ve never had a hit, I’ve got complete freedom to do whatever I’d like to do with this project.

When I spoke to Brown about getting in touch, and in learning about your past releases, he said that other artists would change the name of the project when it gets more “abstract,” as he said those initial demos were. I was just curious why you decided to keep it as an Antoni Maiovvi release?

Yeah, well I think it still fits into that world. I think it’s still cinematic, in one sense. Otherwise it would have had a different name to it. I was cleaning out my hard drive, and I found about 20 techno tracks that I made in Berlin in 2011. And that’s definitely not Antoni Maiovvi, because it has a kind of darkness to it, but it doesn’t have the cinematic quality, or the mood, you know?

Most Read