"You are the music that you make" - Meet Deepfunk

Words by: Peter Adkins
Posted: 5/8/14 9:51

You are the music that you make - Malcolm Abdilla, aka DeepfunkMalta is not the first destination that tends to comes up when thinking about parts of the Mediterranean synonymous with dance-music culture. In fact, thanks to its small population and reputation as a holiday destination for families rather than clubbers, Malta’s house and techno credentials are amongst the most modest of any European country. Can you name a famous Maltese producer or DJ? No, me neither.

Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Malcolm Abdilla, aka Deepfunk, from carving a career in cooking up the kind of beats that deserve to put Malta on the dance-music map.

Raised in the Maltese capital of Valletta, Abdilla began producing in the early 2000s, influenced by the likes of Richie Hawtin, John Digweed and James Holden. A man with an ear for the cinematic, his work channels proggy and tech-house influences and gives them a unique and often epic twist. The result is music that, as he describes in his own words, “reflects who I am and the things I am into.

It’s an approach that has resulted in career in which, from the early prog-house tracks for the likes of Stripped Records to his recent leftfield productions on Beachcoma and microCastle, has seen Abdilla inject his personality into whatever he has turns his hand to. Add to this the fact that alongside his studio work, Abdilla is at the forefront of Malta’s small underground dance-music scene – both in a capacity as a performer and promoter - and it becomes clear that here is musician whose career defies the odds.

Summer 2014 represents something of a natural culmination of Abdilla’s career thus far, with the release of his debut album, Imagination Creates Reality, on his own recently launched label SIXTYSEVENSUNS.

An outing in expansive and melodic electronic music, it is an ambitious and capacious record that draws on elements of progressive house, cinematic scores, electronica and even early trance sounds, taking all these influences and reshaping them into something that is fiercely Abdilla’s own.  On the eve of the album’s release, I Voice caught up with Deepfunk.

Living in Malta is nice, everything is close, there’s no long traveling and I have a nice studio that I feel really comfortable in...I was wondering if I could begin by asking about your roots as a musician. When and how did you start making music?
I started becoming interested in making music in the early 2000’s. I was, and still am, a fan of Richie Hawtin’s work as Plastikman, and began using Propellerhead's ReBirth to try to make the sort of stuff I was listening to. I took things slowly and tried not to force things, and it was a bit difficult at first, because Malta is not the best place for music-related opportunities. The only goal I had was to keep on making the best music I could and seeing where it would take me.

Was there much of a dance-music culture in Malta to draw on? What was it like growing up on the island?
The first techno event I went to was an outdoor festival in 1999, I was too young to enter legally and so I jumped over the fence! That was a good time for techno music, and the scene was much better than it is now. We have a lot more events and DJs coming over [to Malta] now, but clubbing has become more of a social thing, whereas there used to be much more passion for the music. I feel lucky not having to grow up in today's music scene.

Do you feel a sense of rootedness to the island? Have you thought about leaving for a busier dance-music metropolis?
Living in Malta is nice, everything is close, there’s no long traveling and I have a nice studio that I feel really comfortable in. The only thing I would change is the weather, I like cold places, winter and rain!

Whilst your music doesn’t sit easily within any single genre it is unified by the fact that melody is nearly always central to what you’re doing. Does your composition process begin with melody?
I don't really have a set way of working. I just follow my instincts and let everything flow naturally, so as it hopefully won’t sound like computer music. As soon as everything in the studio is switched on, I'll press the record button on my DAW and see where it goes.

I usually end up with a couple of hours of recorded music and sounds and variations, then, I sit down and start processing the bits I like. Melody is always present... I just love synthesizers.

Are you thinking about a track’s functionality on the dance-floor when you’re working on it?
No, never. I just let my mood take control while working on a track. The dance-floor is the last thing I think about.

Imagination Creates Reality almost has a narrative to it, taking the listener on an epic journey through various soundscapes and moods. Were you thinking in conceptual terms when you were writing the album?
I think the album really catches the different emotions and states of mind that I went through during the eight-months that I worked on it. It just came together naturally. I wanted to make something real and honest.

I didn't write one track and start another after I’d finished it, I just worked on anything I felt like working on. One day I'd be working on a track, the next on something else, then, back to another piece I had made a month before. So the tracks were finished simultaneously.

For me, music should always reflect who you are & the things you are into; you are the music that you make. Surrealist art, space & time, the evolution of life, sci-fi, wizardry & fantasy movies, all played an important part in the formation of the album’s sound...The record also has a sci-fi feel to both its sound and presentation - in fact some of the track titles could be the titles for dystopic novels. What cultural influences have you consciously drawn on for this album?
For me, music should always reflect who you are and the things you are into; you are the music that you make. Surrealist art, space and time, the evolution of life, sci-fi, wizardry and fantasy movies, all played an important part in the formation of the album’s sound.

It's great when other listeners experience that same feeling of space.

At 76 minutes long, you couldn’t have fit any more music onto a CD. Was there lots of material left on the cutting room floor, so to speak?
There are a few tracks that I've finished and left out, and there's a few more which remain unfinished. Some of these tracks will probably get a rework and some will just get deleted.

There is a track on the album called ‘Seeing Everything Through Glasses’ in which you hook up with the band Milk Mi. Is this a direction we can expect you to explore further?
Without a doubt, I love playing live and it is something I want to explore more in the near future.

At the moment I'm in the process of setting up a live set that will consist of more outboard gear, so I'm pretty excited to get this going.

Are you going to tour the album?
Yes, we have just started closing some tour dates for later this year.

Music should always reflect who you are & - Malcolm Abdilla, aka DeepfunkOn the press release you describe 90% of dance-music as being formulaic and boring. Why do you think that, and how are you trying to do something different?
A lot of times you see a Soundcloud page of an artist, and just by looking at the waveforms of the tracks on the page you can see that there is nothing interesting. There’s an intro followed by small break, body, longer break, conclusion.

I have said already, I usually record in real time, so there will be mistakes and things I never planned on doing, and it is there that you'll find the magical bits. My way of keeping things exciting is by letting my mood take over and not taking the same approach for each track.

Which artists working today would you put in the 10% who are doing interesting things?
I definitely consider artists like Fairmont, Luke Abbott, Jon Hopkins, Margot [in the 10%], as well as all the stuff on Beachcoma, Border Community, Kompakt, Notown Records and Moi Moi.

You put your music out on your own label, SixtySevenSuns. What made you want to release your music yourself?
I've released stuff on some nice labels like Bedrock, Sudbeat, microCastle and most recently Beachcoma, but I wanted to have full control on what gets released and the artwork.

It's definitely more work [to run a label yourself], and always more difficult to build up your own followers, but if you do things from the heart and take things slowly, it can be very satisfying.

What else have you got coming up, beyond the album?
We have got a couple more releases on the label, including a Mesafe remix EP and a record from Low Manuel. There will also be a remix version of my album, which I'm very excited about.

A light question to finish on. Your music has a cinematic quality to it, and I want to know what your favourite soundtrack of all time is.
Giorgio Moroder’s Midnight Express. The movie was filmed in Valletta, Malta and that's where I grew up. There was a time that my friends and I were so hooked on the movie that we used to go to the location and act out some parts from the movie, haha! The soundtrack was one of the earliest electronic pieces that grabbed my interest, and to this day I still think it's the best work from Moroder.

Imagination Creates Reality is out on CD Now! Artist: Deepfunk
Title: Imagination Creates Reality LP

01. Escape    
02. A Happy Tale    
03. Magic    
04. Long Distance Telephone Call ft. Kntrl    
05. Strangers ft. YEWS 05:21    
06. Ocean Traveller    
07. Prophets Are Dead    
08. Obscure Intelligence    
09. Murky Lake District    
10. Drifting Away    
11. Sixty Seventh Sun    
12. Seeing Everything Through Glasses ft. Milk Mi    
13. Celestial Manifestations    
14. What Have You Become?    
15. Nostalgia ft. Amelia Hope

Imagination Creates Reality is out on CD Now!
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