Last month Luciano‘s Cadenza label dropped Meteorology, an impressive third full-length record from Frivolous, the guise of Daniel Gardner. I’ve had this record on repeat for about a month now, it’s one of the grooviest tech-house albums I’ve heard to date. Originally from Vancouver, Gardner was among the many EDM artists and enthusiasts to relocate to Berlin, and while the influence of techno is prominent in his sound, Meteorology draws from a host of different genre including classical, swing and experimental music, all combined with Gardner’s mellow vocals.
Whether or not tech-house is your bag, I can’t recommend Meteorology highly enough; some phenomenal musicianship, unique ideas and great vibes, it’ll be among my records of the year in 8 months time. Following a busy run of shows on both sides of the Atlantic, we caught up with Frivolous to discuss his album, Cadenza and remote islands in the Pacific:
GDD™: First things thirst, what do you drink?
DG: I learned the importance of drinking Vodka recently after some “work-shops” in Russia. I like vodka and rhubarb juice on ice.
GDD™: As a vocalist and a producer, have you always been making dance music?
DG: Well in my career as Frivolous its always kind of been dance music because I like the energy of it, but the project has always been equally focused on pushing into the weirdest possible corners of the genre. I’m always doing weird cross-over songs and using tons of unorthodox influences.
GDD™: Yeh man, that’s certainly implied by your album; Meteorology gives the nod to so many genres, dropping stuff like Russian waltzes into House grooves. It’s different to the regular.
DG: Yeah, exactly.
GDD™: So how did this come about, and what influences those sounds?
DG: Most artists will say that inspiration stems from the most unlikely places, but rarely do I truly hear those influences actually manifest themselves. Frivolous is all about taking chances and letting my tools and influences be what they are, so I guess this just results in more extreme displays of what inspires me. Right now I’d like to start digging through old Soviet cartoons like ‘No Pagode’, cos I suspect there’s a reserve of beautiful haunted disney style choral samples in them.
GDD™: Sounds pretty intriguing. So beat-wise, how do you choose such experimental percussion?
DG: Hmmm, well that seems like a subjective question cos I feel like my rhythm sounds used to be way more experimental. Right now I’m going back through my old catalogue to re release some of the lesser known Frivolous works with some hot remix appearances and in listening to those old raw materials, I used to spend hours just processing crazy drums samples and everything before. I’d then use the resulting source material to cut up and compose with. Nowadays, I tend to resort to certain things that I’ve used for a while, but there’s a whole new world out there for experimenting now, with this Max for Live program. So I hope I can bring this approach back again, when I get some spare time to play around.
GDD™: How do you reproduce those sounds when playing a live show? and are you singing all your vocals live?
DG: Yeah I’m trying to do the vocals live, but often the club isn’t sounding so good for this. So I always have the original armed to playback in case something goes wrong. Sometimes I have to resort to just doubling the vocals if I can’t have my custom made telephone mic up loud enough to take the ‘lead’. Right now I’m working hard to implement my newly built robot xylophone ‘Delphine’ into the sets, but I’m still working out the last bugs and finding the right way to present this very ambitious DIY instrument into the show. I’m doing other weird shit on stage like playing with an ‘electromagnetic chef’s knife’ and doing lots of experimental stuff on synths and keys.
GDD™: We read that in 2009 you moved from Berlin to an island in the Pacific – how did this come about, and did it change the style music you were making and open you up to new things?
DG: Yes, this was an amazing experience! I met these people who were building their house from the trees on their property and they were living in a trailer at the time. They made everything from their own soap, to their own vodka, and I was just like “now here are people who are really doing it“. Everybody in Berlin just talks, talks, talks, whereas I need to get my hands dirty and build things. Even though they always wore gum boots and overalls, their lifestyle was more gourmet than any vip treatment I’d ever received, and this love of life was just what I needed to have at that time. So I moved there to help them on the farm and get some perspective and, wow, did it ever pay off.
GDD™: So would you say that this was inspiration for Meteorology?
DG: Yeh, mostly the experiences on this island. I was having problems with my girlfriend in Europe, and the distance just highlighted those problems. So a lot of the album was inspired by the sadness of this relationship’s demise. Its kind of funny that a dance record would be inspired by sadness, but when the music speaks to your soul, its okay to cry on the dancefloor!
GDD™: I’m yet to see someone well up on the dance floor, but there’s always gonna be a first time. Back to records, how did you become part of the Cadenza label?
DG: Well I think they were looking for some return to the credibility that comes with more experimental releases. I, on the other hand, was looking to make a more prime-time kind of album that still works as a comprehensive listen but was visible to a larger audience than I’d been recording for in the past. So Luciano and I finally found this common ground in the middle and he really appreciated what I was doing. It was just a matter of me demoing to him for years and finally striking the right chord, so to say.
GDD™: What does 2011 have in store for Frivolous and will you be joining Luciano for Cadenza’s legendary Vagabundos residency at Pacha in Ibiza this summer?
DG: Well as I said, I’m thinking of taking over my friends defunct little boutique label ‘Karloff Recordings’ for some classic Frivolous re-releases. If that works, maybe I’ll just bring the label back under my own steam and focus more on indie cross-over records with a kind of proper prime-time techno surrealism. It’s just a vision I have. Nobody does it right as far as I’d say. Also I have big plans for this ‘Delphine’ invention. Maybe some secret acoustic street performances in NYC, and of course I’ll be in Ibiza with the Vagabundos this summer. So lots of stuff. I hope to get back to the studio sometime in that hectic schedule too.
GDD™: Awesome man, look forward to hearing more material and of course catching one of your live shows soon. Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us.
DG: Thanks for having me guys, I’ll see you on the dance floor.
* LDN this Saturday, head down to Fabric to hear Frivolous Live in Room 1.