Italian DJ and Producer Gaetano Parisio (aka Gaetak) revives his well-regarded, techno label Conform, more than 20 years after it was initially launched. The return of the independent, well-missed imprint, comes out as a solid collaboration between some of the most eminent names in techno, as the project CONFORM RE-TOUCHED SERIES.
Across four volumes released this year, artists Sterac, James Ruskin, Inigo Kennedy, Nihad Tule, Oscar Mulero, Ben Sims, The Advent, to name but a few, take tracks from the back-catalogue of Conform to make their own signature edits, using only sampling from the Digital Audio Tapes that were originally recorded. CONFORM RE-TOUCHED Volume II is out on 3rd July (pre-order here), featuring a swirling electro remake by The Advent and a touch of molten synths by Sterac.
Gaetano, who has been significantly contributing to the hard-groove scene in the 90s, talks to us about the compilation and Conform’s re-emergence in the spotlight.
The last Conform release was 15 years ago. Did you ever plan to return to this project throughout the years or did it happened rather spontaneously?
Before we begin, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for the interview and for giving me the chance to share my projects with you. Honestly, I have to say that I’ve thought about reactivating the Conform project repeatedly, however the timing has never been quite right and it probably means that it wasn’t the best time to start up something that was cast aside so long ago. Moving to Barcelona, meeting the right people who strongly believed in what I wanted to do and, most importantly, having made peace with myself, is what made something that was just a thought, turn into reality. It has not been easy.
Your initial concept of the Conform label was to create a style of techno that represented the Neapolitan scene – a style, divergent from the Detroit and Berlin techno sounds. Now, almost two decades later, what is your core vision for the imprint?
If my vision had changed since I founded Conform Records in 1997, today I would have certainly tried to create something that could represent my idea in the best way possible. But that’s not the case! The concept remains the same and the sound that Conform has to convey is the one by which it is remembered and recognized in the techno scene. As you have pointed out in the question, this label is born from the need to develop a sound which is different from the one from Berlin and Detroit. There certainly are strong influences, but the heart remains beating in Naples and my Mediterranean roots have definitely made way for a deviation of the sound from these two capitals of techno in the world. I have never tried to emulate any other sound but instead have tried to create one that could represent myself in the best way possible.
You’ve gathered some of the biggest names in techno – James Ruskin, Sterac, Steve Bicknell, The Advent, Inigo Kennedy, to name but a few. How did you approach them? Have you worked together before?
I’ve known many of these artists for more than 20 years. We have often shared DJ boots and different experiences around the world. I haven’t had the pleasure to meet others but I can assure you that when two artists “speak the same language” everything becomes simple. I was very surprised, in an obviously positive way, that even though I have been missing from the scene for such a long time, every artist demonstrates immediate interest and availability to collaborate and gives their precious contribution. I am proud to have these names on the catalog of my label because I’m sure that their way of expressing themselves and their music will be the same in twenty years’ time. They are artists which are a source of inspiration for me and the entire techno scene.
For the revival of the label you’ve selected tracks from the Conform back catalogue and asked the artists to make edits. Are there some particular tracks that give you an entirely fresh feeling about the originals?
Yes, absolutely. First of all, I asked the artists to have fun and to feel completely free to follow their instincts. They had to work in tricky conditions by sampling from Dat without having the stems. This is because 20 years ago it was normal to record directly on these digital tapes. That’s the meaning behind the name “Re-touched Series”. Many have been faithful to the original track, while others have given a completely new development. Sterac, Oscar Mulero and The Advent are a few of the ones that have decided to personalize their edits in a more defined manner.
The “Conform Re-Touched Series” is a Vinyl series of four volumes featuring selected, digital-only tracks. The first Volume was released on April 3rd, including edits by James Ruskin and Ben Sims. Who is part of the second volume which is coming out in July?
For the Second Volume I’ll have the honor to work with Deetron, Sterac, The Advent, Shlomi Aber and Matrixxman. I’m extremely happy with the music they have sent me and the final product certainly measures up to the importance of their names.
The compilation is an exciting blend of established names and relatively new renowned artists such as, Stojche, Honey Dijon, Matrixxman. Tell us more about your decision to work with them and how they interpret the Conform sound?
When I decided to get the newer generations of producers involved, I asked myself if their sound could be compatible with the Conform standards. The response I’ve had through the music was absolutely positive. I can see my younger self in some of them. They are producers who focus in the studio, where the latter is an essential part of themselves… working without trying to take shortcuts for the sole purpose of making quality music and nothing else. I’m very satisfied with my choices!
What are your future plans for the label? Would you like to see more collaborations or would you like to release your own music singularly?
I have the burning desire to finally publish my new music. It’s been so long since that happened. I have turned down publishing my music for other labels, even though they were of substance. I want my “debut” to be at home! I still have to be patient because the “Re-touched” project is ambitious and foresees 4 or 5 pieces coming out in the span of a pretty long time. Furthermore, to publish my own music I’ll also use ART (Advanced Techno Research) that has always been my one-man affair label which will be re-launched in autumn, as it has happened with Conform. I firmly believe that personal series are the best way to communicate your musical vision. I’ve been waiting for 15 years, I can wait another few months.
The “Conform Re-Touched Series” is coming out during a devastating period for electronic music worldwide. It is great to see so many remarkable talents from international scenes, uniting for this project. From your long experience, you’d probably agree that techno has always been about communities and diversification. Do you have some advice for producers and DJs on how to fight adversity and continue being agents for social change?
To state it in modern terms, we could say that the antidote of adversity is motivation. The same motivation that has led you to be a DJ or producer. If your motivations aren’t popularity or money but music, then you have the right antibodies that allow you to get through the darkest moments without being afraid of losing anything. Music will always be there as long as you want it to. Otherwise, if music has only been a means to get to an ulterior motive, then there is little to do but to look for another job, to respect those who do it because of love and devotion.