Italian-Belgian producer Aeroplane will soon be boarding a flight destined for Australia and touching down in time for some New Year’s Eve festivities. Booked to play both Summadayze and Field Day, Aeroplane’s crystal-clear cinematic grooves are sure to sooth and sway local crowds.
Along with his own tunes, Aeroplane (real name Vito De Luca) has built a strong following reworking songs by artists such as Kimbra and Gypsy & The Cat, and mashing together the likes of Friendly Fires and Flight Facilities.
A fan of slower tempos and Daft Punk, De Luca gives his thoughts on DJs as songwriters, the challenges of mixing, dealing with major labels, and meeting potential collaborators at music festivals.
Music Feeds: When people think ‘DJ’ they don’t necessarily think ‘songwriter’. Is that an outdated perception?
Aeroplane: These people that perform [electronic dance music] live have no other way to perform than doing a gig as some kind of an electronic visual act… So it’s often put together in a really reductive way.
You write music, you write songs in the studio and then when you go to perform them live, well there’s no live music anymore; you don’t have a band. You go and play them as a DJ, you basically just go and play the record and give people some kind of fireworks and light show that goes with it.
So that’s where it’s at today, and I mean it’s easier to make money by going and playing records than by going the full live band. And you think more of a songwriter if you go see somebody that has an acoustic guitar and a drummer and a piano onstage. This image brings songs and music, composition and harmony into your head, more than just seeing a guy playing a record, it’s definitely a different thing.
MF: Is 105 BPM your preferred tempo because it gives you greater experimentation as a songwriter?
Aeroplane: No, I write at that kind of BPM for another reason, because I prefer dance music when it’s slower. And when I play as a DJ, I prefer to play more…like 105, 110, 115 BPM than at 128 or 130, which is the standard of music today.
I think because the songs I write, to put it this way, are going to be produced in an electronic way of some sort, I keep the slower BPM because that’s how I like the sound. But I wrote some stuff that was a faster BPM and then kind of brought it down to this type of speed.
So it’s not really that it suits the song better or anything. It’s just that if I’m going to produce dance music in an electronic way, that’s the type of BPM I like to be able to play and DJ. If I want to play my own songs, well I’d rather make them at that speed.
MF: In the past you’ve stated that you try to write music like Face to Face by Daft Punk. Why is that song such an inspiration for you?
Aeroplane: For years it’s been kind of like the one, you know, when you work in a studio and you mix and you always have a reference song that you compare yourself to. And for years mine was Face to Face.
The problem is that I realised with experience that it’s impossible to sound like another track unless you actually make the same track. You never get the vocals to sound the same way because you need to have the same guy singing in the same microphone.
So I realised that was some kind of a desperate goal that I would never reach. But that’s where it all started for me in electronic music – just trying to sound like Daft Punk. And then when I realised that they were sampling off an old disco record and a lot of old seventies and eighties songs, I realised that I might like those songs maybe a bit better. And that’s when I started making something that was more influenced by disco and early electronics.
MF: I was interested to hear you say in a previous interview that you struggle when it comes to mixing a track. What is it about the process that you find challenging?
Aeroplane: Well, it’s just that I had no experience; I’m not a sound engineer… When I was younger I studied music, I studied piano, I studied guitar, but I’ve never studied sound engineering: I’m not a sound engineer and I’m not a music producer. I’ve never been one.
So for me it was…more about writing songs and to me it didn’t matter how they sounded as long as they were written well. You know…Eleanor Rigby from The Beatles or any great song that’s been written well, it could have sounded like crap, the song would still have been amazing.
The thing is in dance music, it’s so connected to the sound and most of the time sound comes first and then you kind of try to find some kind of chord or melody to put in it. And that’s why I struggled for a couple of years, because I had zero experience and I had to learn the hard way that mixing music for commercial level is really challenging. This is especially the case when you have something really precise in your head and you don’t just settle for whatever, you know, ‘this is good enough’, ‘that will do’, and leave the rest to the mastering engineer.
MF: And now mixing is something that you’re more comfortable with?
Aeroplane: Mixing music is not something that you can afford to get comfortable… It’s really something borderline scientific, but then not really because if it’s too scientific then you lose the edge or you lose…the human warmth in the song before you record it if you make it too precise.
So it’s kind of like you have to be really precise, but you can’t be too precise and you never know when you’ve been precise enough. You never know when you’ve done enough work. And all the songs kind of sound different just because of the nature of the sounds that you record and the way you record them.
So it’s not something that has a beginning an end, you know what I mean? You could keep on mixing for months and you still won’t be done. But at some point you need to learn how to say, ‘OK this is finished. There’s nothing else I can do with this’.
You can keep on making artistic decisions, such as I want the drums to be more present than the bass or I think the keys are running the song or the vocals. You can keep on changing your mind about what you want to say and the goal you want to achieve and so keep on mixing differently.
But there’s always a point when your done and you have to know how to see that it’s over. You need to stop and move on.
MF: Australian and New Zealand fans might be interested to know how you came to remix Two Way Street by Kimbra. What attracted you to this song?
Aeroplane: I’d been approached by Kimbra’s people to ask me if I wanted to do a remix, because she really liked my stuff in the past. And they sent me the album and they were like, ‘Listen to the album and tell us what you feel like remixing”.
And I picked Two Way Street straight away because of the vocals, you know, when I’m remixing it’s a lot about the vocals… I like to have a lead vocal to work with: it’s easier for me to rebuild the song around it.
And so the lead vocal of Two Way Street was really inspiring straight away, and I wish they would put it out because I don’t know where to buy it. It’s still not out legally, so it’s a bit of a struggle for me at the moment.
MF: Can you put it out yourself?
Aeroplane: Well, to be honest with you, I’ve asked them. I’ve asked them to put it out on my own label Aeropop and they were kind of like, ‘We’ll let you know’, but a big major, they don’t let you know.
And it’s been really big for me when I play it in clubs. It’s been really big on my SoundCloud, I think we’re close, if not at, two hundred thousand plays since it was put up like a month ago.
So I’m just trying to tell them: ‘just imagine two hundred thousand people listen to this. If they did buy the record it would be double platinum. Even if half of them bought it, it would be platinum…’
It’s just a bit of a struggle with majors sometimes… I just wish that the Kimbra remix was out coz I think it would be a good radio track and I think people would buy it and people would like to have it.
Aeroplane: It’s always a chance to meet people. Sometimes it’s the people you expect the least that you end up becoming friends with. When I say, ‘you expect the least’, it’s not that I am judging anybody on their character or anything, but you usually become friends with people that are in the same field of music as you. Because you have things in common, there are things you can talk about.
But then sometimes you end up becoming friends with a great drum and bass guy. And you end up doing a kind of drum and bass and Aeroplane disco song together.
So that’s the kind of thing I look forward to, meeting people from different horizons that make music differently with different tools, with different rules, and getting to speak with these people and see what we can get out of meeting eachother.
MF: Are there any artists on the line-up for Summadayze 2013 that you’re eager to work with?
Aeroplane: Yeah, there’s some pretty interesting people. Mark Ronson is going to play. He’s been doing really amazingly in the past five years as a music producer. So that’s somebody I’m obviously looking forward to meeting and chatting with.
Kimbra is going to be touring with us too. The Chemical Brothers I think are going to be there. I mean ninety-nine percent of these people I’d like to do something with, you know, because the one percent left would be me.