Italian composer Simone Gatto releases his fourth full-length album Mindful Life on the musical imprint Pregnant Void – the sub-label of his novel Out Electronic Recordings (Out-ER), dedicated to exploring the subtleties of electronic music and its immediate relation to our emotional and physical bodies. The album is a collection of evocative sound journeys that can be played in story-telling DJ sets or listened to at home, inducing gentle waves of awareness and meditative states.
Inspired by his practice as a music therapist, Simone Gatto works with a variety of compositional techniques such as isochronic tones, 432 Hz tuning, the Indian scales, intervals, and the healing sound of the voice. Simone also uses a receptive music therapy model called Guided Imagery, which he talks about in more detail in the interview below. Reflective electronics, unpredictable rhythmic patterns and the organic sound of acoustic instruments are interwoven in this ethereal fabric of frequencies, inviting the listener to expand their mind. The LP Mindful Life is a collaborative work with other music therapists and composers like Massimo Amato, Cristina Rosati, Angelo Molino and Flora Päär, all adding to the abundance and diversity of moods, melodies and mesmerizing vocals, completing this transformational album. Each of the eleven tracks on the LP represent a state of consciousness that the producer has experienced in the past year, guided by his meticulous study of sound, reaching far beyond the auditory realms.
As the founder of Pregnant Void, Simone actively stirs the conversation on combining sound as a healing modality with electronic music towards fresh grounds, moving away from the limiting perceptions of the New Age hype. In this conversation he also shares why it is so vital for DJs and selectors to rediscover awareness of their place in history and society, as well as reflecting on some of the best moments of Out-ER, as the label turns 10.
When did you start producing Mindful Life and what is special about the process you went through while completing this album?
I started composing the album last March during the first lockdown. It was a period of deep study for me, in which I alternated meditation practice with long sessions in the studio. Each track is strongly representative of a state of consciousness that I have reached during this year of practice. It is an album that expresses my inner growth as a composer and as a man.
How did you get into working with sound as a music producer and then with music as a healing modality?
Since 2004 I have been passionate about dance music, I have started collecting vinyls and I have learned to mix. From private parties I expressed myself as a DJ first in the clubs of the province and then gradually over the years in Italy, Europe and America. In 2011 when I founded my Out-ER label together with other producer friends I approached music production. I learned to produce in a studio in Berlin that we had assembled together with my fellow adventurers of the time – Andrea Santoro, Andrea Fiorito, Buck. They taught me how to approach machines and software to produce House and Techno tracks. From 2014 onwards I approached other sounds, I studied music theory, I learned to play bass and guitar, and at the same time I started my research on sound healing. I bought several modular synths and unconventional instruments and began experimenting. In 2016 I started studying at the National Institute of Arts Therapies and at the same time my music has evolved in this direction.
You fuse your music production work with sound therapy for several years now and this is your fourth full-length album. Is this a continuation of your previous works related to healing and mind/body awareness through sound, like the LP Heaven In Your Frequencies for example?
Indeed. As you know, I come from the clubbing scene. After being hospitalised for an acute thrombosis, I became interested in the healing power of sound. So I started researching, attending seminars, I organised panels myself and from this research I composed my first album ‘Detachment’ on the American label Sheik’n’Beik. Detachment understood as a form of giving up attachment, being detached from the desire to possess and control everything was the first step that brought me closer to exploring the world of sound healing first and then meditation. My other albums are a natural path of personal growth towards constant evolution.
Recently more and more people in electronic music have become aware of the healing power of sound and are interested to experience or produce pieces that promote developing the connection between our emotional and physical bodies. How do you see this movement growing and are listeners becoming more receptive and open to such musical pieces than before?
Previously, when we talked about sound healing, we referred exclusively to the New Age musical current. In recent years, the awareness of the use of sound in its healing modality has certainly grown, thanks to the work of many electronic musicians who have approached this type of sound. I absolutely believe that in the electronic scene there is now the need to promote storytelling and conscious dance as a way to channel one’s emotions and energies through physical expression, sonic response and free movement.
Do you feel that your work as a music therapist has evolved in some specific direction (through use of a particular method/instrument) that inevitably influences the direction you take when producing music?
For about a year now, I have been studying a receptive music therapy model called Guided Imagery and Music conceived by the Australian violinist and music therapist Helen Bonny in the 70s. This model represents a profound approach to musical psychotherapy in which specifically programmed music is used to generate a dynamic development of inner experiences … it is a holistic, humanistic and transpersonal method that allows the emergence of all aspects of human experience: psychological, emotional, physical, social, spiritual and the collective unconscious. This type of work that I am doing as a Music Therapist has definitely influenced my latest album and the direction I am taking in my productions.
The album Mindful Life is out on Pregnant Void – a sub-label of Out Electronic Recordings Out-ER, focusing on contemporary electro-acoustic music involving creators, particularly skilled in field recording and production techniques. When did you envision this sub-label and why it is important to have its own designated space, in the context of techno and electronic music?
Pregnant Void means that all reality that we apparently cannot perceive through our senses is filled with meaning. I felt the need to conceive this label when, in 2016, I no longer felt satisfied releasing only club music with Out-ER. I wanted to produce and release music with a higher meaning, which could also be heard in other contexts and above all aimed at exploring this reality that we cannot perceive. You know, everything is vibration. In fact, every single thing in our universe is composed of tiny particles that vibrate with each other. This also applies to the cells in our body. When we are in a state of equilibrium, all our cells vibrate in a way that creates a harmonious dance. Some music has the great power to put us into a state of deep relaxation in a simple way. In this way it activates our parasympathetic nervous system which fights the negative effects caused by stress, triggering natural self-healing mechanisms and making us regain our physical and mental balance.
In the LP you collaborate with music therapists and composers like Massimo Amato, Cristina Rosati, Angelo Molino and Flora Paär. Have you worked with some of them before? Tell us about the collaboration process in such delicate compositions?
They are all composers and music therapists with whom I feel a deep affinity. We met on several occasions, played and jammed together. However, during the album creation process we worked remotely due to the lockdown. I composed the bases and they played, recorded in their studios the voice (in the case of Flora and Cristina) or the piano (Angelo) and the Harmonium (Massimo) and they sent it back to me so that I could arrange everything. I am very happy with the result and hope to be able to meet them soon so that we can play live together!
The music in Mindful Life flows effortlessly through ethereal ambient landscapes, beautiful keys, enchanting vocals and playful rhythmic arrangements. Could you tell us about the musical influences you’ve had when making this album? Are there specific harmonies and sounds you really loved exploring?
Also this album uses 432 Hz tuning. It is a type of tuning that I had already experimented with on the previous album and that I cannot stop using because it resonates much better to me as well as, according to various theories that I am not here to explain, resonate more effectively with the resonance of the Earth’s electromagnetic field. In addition to tuning, on this album I explored many other parameters of the composition such as the Indian scales, the chords, the intervals and different timbre of the instruments that generate the wave and the volume with which you listen. The interval, for example, is an element that i loved exploring in these compositions because it gives “objective” content to the music, in fact all the people who freely experience the interval live the same content and the same magical energy. Each melody has within itself the content of the intervals with which it is formed. Contents that often act unconsciously on the person. Once understood, the intervals reveal the music as a breathing rhythm of the being, that connects us with the Cosmos. When an interval resonates on a physical level, thinking evaluates its pitch and our deepest being feels its quality.
You are one of the founders of Berlin born Out-ER records, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! You have worked with outstanding artists like Aubrey, Juan Atkins, Efdemin, Terrence Dixon, Irakli to name but a few. When you reflect on this musical journey, what are some of your favourite events or releases that came through the label?
There have been so many events or releases that come to my mind and mean a lot to me. I remember summer 2013 in Ibiza with the whole crew. We had a residence at Privilege, it was very funny. Or 2015 our event and panel at ADE festival in Amsterdam with Ed Davenport, Christopher Rau and Patrice Scott, in 2016 the 5 years Anniversary party in Berlin with Cosmin TRG, Pangea, Fabrizio Lapiana and Analogue Cops at Greissmuele, in 2017 the tour in New York, Detroit and Miami with Terrence Dixon, Buck and Distant Echoes, in 2018 the long back to back sessions with Aubrey and many other friends at the Fico d’India club in Salento. Really many unforgettable memories that I carry in my heart. As well as over 35 releases of all these years.
Are there upcoming releases on Out-ER or some artists you intent to work with in the future? What are your plans for this imprint?
After more than a year we are ready to restart and to celebrate the 10th anniversary in the best possible way. We will be announcing two Various Artists and some exciting new releases in the coming months with some of the label’s most significant artists and other new names.
You have a radio show on Refuge Worldwide that begins with an invitation to the listeners to connect with their breath and allow the musical story to unfold in their full presence. I find this a beautiful way to experience music, as if it is a ritual or a meditation practice that will help them attune to their own frequencies. Apart from at-home-listening, do you think this should be introduced more at events and clubs as spaces for collective healing and “rituals”?
Absolutely yes. As I mentioned in a previous answer, I firmly believe that in the historical period we are all experiencing, it is necessary that DJs and selecta from all over the world rediscover awareness of their place in history and society. It would be interesting in clubs or festivals to dedicate a special space to promote meditative practices or ‘story telling’ dj sets, ‘conscious dance’. All practices that help people to attune with a harmonious and conscious way of understanding themselves and the community.
You can purchase Mindful Life digitally or as a CD on Bandcamp.
To dive deeper into the alchemy of sound and learn more about healing modalities used by artists in the electronic music scene, read my interview with Lucy, LDY OSC and Ground Tactics.