We had a chat with Davide Cuoghi (aka Imaginary Part), who just released his LP ‘Machine Learning’ on Museek, about the latest release, the differences in music scenes around Europe and much more. Check out what he had to say below.
Hi Davide, thanks for having a chat with us. What can you tell us about your upcoming release ‘Machine Learning’?
Thanks for having me! Machine Learning is my debut album as Imaginary Part, and it’s been almost four years in the making, following my first three track EP released on Museek in 2016. It’s been a long journey since I started working on it and I think the LP reflects the developments in my life during this period. I was also moving around a lot, since I began recording the album I’ve dismantled and set up my studio six times, and the learning process of the new hardware I’ve added to my set up during this time is reflected in the name of the album. It’s a collection of live-oriented performances, which embrace the imperfections given by the physical limitations of the hardware, and I believe this brings something more human to the final product, rather than a flawless multitrack recording. Again, this was an inspiration for the title, Machine Learning.
For those who are unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your sound?
I don’t want to keep Imaginary Part stuck within a specific genre, but instead, I like the idea that I’ll be able to evolve and change within the broad spectrum of electronic music. These changes usually depend on the hardware and approach I’m using in the studio at the time, as Imaginary Part is very much an improvisation-oriented project. Although genres can help classify music, I do find them limiting when I set out to make my own. Personally, my roots come from UK techno/bass/dub, mainly because my first approach to electronic music started as a DJ, buying dancefloor-oriented records, and this brought me into the UK scene. Through the years I’ve explored and discovered different stuff, getting closer to IDM, ambient and electronica, particularly when it came to shaping my own sound in the studio. I think these influences can be seen throughout Machine Learning, although I did try to take my own sonic path.
Who would you say is your biggest musical influence?
My tastes have changed a lot over the years, but if I had to pick one I’d say Warp has always been a consistent influence for me, in particular, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and Autechre.
Going back to when I started getting into electronic music as a kid, I would say Alberto Bello (Johnny Paguro, Delhikate) was my main influence, with his DJ sets around the Modena/Bologna area, his residency on a local radio station and later founding Museek. Listening to him made me passionate about electronic music, and looking back now I’d say he’s probably the main reason I starting viewing music as more than just a hobby, starting buying records and DJing, and later making music and pursuing sound in my studies.
How did the album come to be released on Museek?
Through the years I and Alberto have formed a strong brotherhood, which was mainly through asking opinions on each other’s tracks and sharing similar tastes in music. Once I’d moved to England for my uni degree, I started recording a lot of demo stuff, which at first was mostly rubbish but it really helped me start shaping my own sound. After sending a few demos over, Alberto and the other guys at Museek decided to release a few of them as a three-track EP in December 2016 and asked me to work on an album the following year.
The idea I had for Imaginary Part, a project placed within the broad range of electronic music, perfectly suited what Museek were doing, so it all felt quite natural.
You’re originally from Modena, Italy, but now based in Manchester, England. What made you make the move to Manchester?
I moved to the UK to study in York almost four years ago. I wanted to improve my English and York were also offering one of the few courses that combined electronic engineering with music technology, plus I wanted to get out of the own little bubble I had back home. After three years, of which I spent two DJing and co-running a student night, York felt a bit too small and limited in terms of the music scene and opportunities, so I wanted to move on somewhere else.
Manchester seemed like the right place. It has a great electronic music scene, and it’s a multicultural, open-minded, and fast-developing city.
How do the music scenes in the two cities compare?
Well, one of the reasons I left Modena was the fact the music scene I was into at the time was kind of limited. I don’t like to generalise, but most of the clubs were run and owned by the same people who wanted you to be a promoter before letting you DJ. After a few years trying to do my own thing within the local scene, I couldn’t see many opportunities to grow, mainly because of this promoters’ monopoly. I left Modena almost six years ago now, I moved to Milan for two years before coming to England, but I know through friends that unfortunately certain things haven’t changed much.
Another big thing is the different mentalities towards clubbing between the two cities, in regards to non-mainstream events. I think one of the biggest problems Modena had was its crowd and its lack of clubbing culture, particularly amongst younger people. The mainstream clubs were always really packed and the venues often seemed to not care about music quality, whilst independent nights who tried to bring fresh ideas struggled to fill up the dancefloor. Saying all this, I can’t really comment much about recent times, as I haven’t lived there regularly for a while.
It’s not all bad though, there are some incredible artists based in Modena, such as Niccolò Bruni (Billy Bogus) and Alberto Bello (Johnny Paguro), and nights like Laika and Dust, that put a lot of effort into bringing the focus back onto quality music within the local scene, although I haven’t had the chance to check out many of the new ones yet. Also, if you look at festivals like Outer or Moninga, they’re definitely some of the best in the region in terms of line-ups, locations and innovative ideas, whilst Node is possibly one of the best on an international level.
On the other side, I’ve found Manchester pretty good overall for supporting local talent and encouraging people based on the quality of their artistic work, although there’s also a lot of controversy about the monopoly of big promoters and nights like The Warehouse Project.
When I moved here, I sent a few mixes around and after a few months and a few “no thanks”, I’ve managed to play twice at Eastern Bloc Records, and I have a monthly residency on Reform Radio. This simply would have not happened in Modena when I was there.
I think Manchester is also great for the variety of good nights you can get. There’s a lot of healthy competition between the different clubs, nights and promoters, which helps shape a massive clubbing culture, whilst at the same time, independent promoters and artists manage to actually run their own nights and put on events that they feel passionate about.
What are some of your interests outside of music?
Moving out my comfort zone and leaving home definitely helped me to discover a passion for things that I’d never really considered before, particularly cooking. I find it very therapeutic for making traditional Modenese food, following mum and grandma’s recipes. Italian stereotypes aside, I’m a bit of a geek with electronics in general and particularly creative coding, which I recently got into, mainly due to the engineering side of my uni degree. I’m also really into film photography, although I’m nothing more than an amateur, and snowboarding, which is a passion I share with my sister.
What has been your favourite release of 2018?
A few months ago I discovered this record label curated by Pry & Royal Sun called Union and I’ve been a massive fan of their latest release Un-002. I’ve also been enjoying the constant quality output of Nic Tasker’s Whities (particularly the recent Overmono’s three-track EP), the incredible work from Skee Mask with his album on Ilian Tape, Aphex Twin’s Collapse and Donato Dozzy’s masterpiece on Eerie, although if I have to pick one I’d say Autechre with their NTS Sessions, for their forward-thinking approach towards making music.
Finally, what can we expect from you in 2019?
My resolution for 2019 is to finally put together the Imaginary Part live set, which is the main reason I started working on Machine Learning. I’d like to bring the hardware out and start doing gigs which replicate my studio approach. In the longer term, it would be nice to work on a fully A/V set too, but one thing I learnt during the making of this album is things often take far longer than what you initially planned!
Imaginary Part – Machine Learning is out now on Museek.
Buy it here
Follow Imaginary Part.