A devotee of industrial music orienting towards the dark side of metal, techno and drum and bass, Italian-born Nino Pedone moved to Milan to study sound engineering in 2010, starting Repitch Recordings with techno producers Ascion and D. Carbone. Dulled by the city’s music culture, Pedone relocated to Berlin 12 months later to embark on a career in production, releasing a series of minimal techno EPs and forming the industrial techno duo, Violetshaped.
By 2013, Pedone’s sound had oriented towards extreme noise, debuting as Shapednoise with abrasive, ear-bending LPs such as The Day of Revenge and Different Selves. Touted as a controlled collision of noise, metal, rave and hardcore, the more expansive Aesthesis (2021) was notable for the participation of Godflesh founder Justin Broadrick and Drew McDowall of Coil/Psychic TV.
Enthused by his successful liquefaction of genres, Pedone’s latest Shapednoise album, Absurd Matter, encourages further experimentation. In collaboration with Brodinski, David Lynch collaborator Dean Hurley, Moor Mother and NYC rap duo Armand Hammer, Pedone’s combustible labyrinth of noise, underground rap and radio-friendly hooks blurs the lines between abstract and pop music culture, questioning noise music’s place within the mainstream.
Was there a particular trigger that sparked your interest in listening to dark, heavy and abstract electronic music?
I like the energy of extreme or powerful music and the physicality of sounds that lean towards heavy bass frequencies to create a sense of movement. I listened to industrial music, but also metal and UK hardcore continuum scenes, moving into techno, jungle and drum and bass. Then of course you have similar music that’s not necessarily electronic, like avant-garde and noise. At first, I was fascinated by drum rhythms and played drums for four or five years, then I became interested in learning how to DJ having sold my kit to purchase my first turntable and mixer. This was before Beatport and downloading. Pioneer had just released the very first CDJ-100 and I’d spend hours going to record shops; I even remember them playing new music to me over the phone [laughs].
When did you pivot towards wanting to make your own music – and noise music, in particular?
During my studies in Milan, I knew friends who were getting into production. We’d listen to the same music, but I wanted to be more explorative and it took a couple of years before I felt able to create my own identity or sound signature. If you only listen to techno, the music you make will more or less sound like techno, whereas if you listen to jazz, rock and other genres you have more influences that you can put on a techno record.
Your first LP, The Day of Revenge, is full of harsh and uncomfortable sounds and for most people the immediate reaction would be to turn away rather than embrace it. To what extent are you looking to challenge these perceptions?
I agree that this type of music can be very harsh when you first listen to it. With specific types of music, it takes time to understand the context of their compositional structure and rhythm, but the more you listen the more acclimated you start to feel. It’s the same with food, if you increasingly eat different things your palette becomes more sophisticated. I like to provoke a reaction, but also surprise the listener and I tried to make The Day of Revenge as dynamic as possible, playing with silence in specific moments to create a so-called ‘travel trip’. John Cage used silence and sounds a lot in his music and it was interesting to discover his obsession and combine those attributes in mine.
By the time we reach your third album, Aesthesis, you’d begun collaborating with other artists including Drew McDowall from Coil/Psychic TV. Did he add what you expected or were you looking for the unexpected?
Drew’s releases with Coil and Psychic TV had been a big inspiration for my DJ sets. I met him during the CTM festival in Berlin when he was making music with experimental grime producer Rabit, so I thought it would be nice for all three of us to work on a track together. I wanted to bring something different and spontaneous to my process and Drew definitely added something personal to my vision.
R&B vocalist MHYSA featured on the opening track Intriguing (In the End). An unusual conglomeration of styles, were you looking to explore the polarity of harsh metallic sounds and female vocals?
That’s exactly why I was looking to work with MYHSA. Her style is noisy and experimental R&B, but I thought that the contrast between her vocal and my harsh instrumental sound could work well, but there were other factors. When you make pop music, you usually start with the vocals sitting in the center, but with MYHSA we did the opposite and I found that process quite fascinating. I also really like how she processes her voice in a way that’s very technical yet anarchistic - she uses tons of reverb and crazy super-produced effects.
You lost your hearing for a certain period and it would be easy to speculate that that relates to the practice of listening to or creating particularly loud music…
I get very annoyed when people think that happened because I listen to loud music. The reason I’m still fighting this is because I have Ménière's disease, which usually happens due to an infection or other type of systemic disease leading to excessive amounts of liquid in your inner ear, which affects hearing and balance. I had sudden hearing loss in my left ear, which meant I could hardly hear bass frequencies. The best treatment is corticosteroids, or in my case injections into my inner drum, which is more effective but the procedure is quite dangerous. In November last year, I woke up and, again, could hear almost nothing in my left ear. I had the same therapy, but this time it didn’t work, although I‘ve slowly recovered and gained more confidence in my ability to make music.
How did you manage that situation psychologically and have you had to re-evaluate your music-making process?
Hearing is something that you take for granted and when you don’t have this type of issue you think that you have all the time in the world to make music and only tend to do it when you feel comfortable. This experience pushed me to be more focused and not only make music whenever I can, but get it finished. For the kind of music I make, it’s a little more complicated because I need to focus a lot on bass frequencies. As a result, I found that I was pushing the frequency range in that direction even more than usual.
On your latest LP, Absurd Matter, tracks such as Family, Know Yourself and Poetry appear experiment with merging rap and noise music. How are you looking to connect these disparate musical forms?
Rap music has always influenced me and been something I’ve wanted to incorporate into my music in recent years. Prior to Aesthesis, you could hear the influence in some of the beats, but it sounded chaotic and noisy. Now, the compositional arrangements are way more direct and structured, and I like how you can still hear my signature sound within all the advanced sound design and crazy soundscapes. However, the older I get, the more I feel a desire to move away from the idea of making chaotic noise. I want to produce, not pop music, but a more structured sound, and if you want to work with vocalists and rappers you really need to know what you’re doing in order to make that work. As a result, I feel that Absurd Matter is very different to my previous records.
Did you provide guidance for the vocalists you worked with in terms of how you wanted them to perform on the tracks?
Not really because I already knew how my music would work with the artists I’d chosen. For example, Armand Hammer and Moor Mother come from the experimental side of rap, taking in influences from noise and industrial music. I thought about which tracks would work best for each, but it was also important that they were given the freedom to express themselves. Working with Armand Hammer was amazing because they incorporated a lot of effects and distortion on their vocals and really got into the mood of the track. When I received their contribution, I thought it sounded insane. With Moor Mother, I had to do a little more editing because I had ideas about combining their vocals within the structure of the track from the first verse going into the hook.
Requires Ableton Live 11 Suite
Are you primarily using hardware instruments to create sounds?
I’ll use anything, but I put everything together in Ableton Live. A lot of my friends go to analogue studios to do one or two-take jam sessions and create a track, but I’m the opposite - I need a lot of time to think about how to create, arrange and evolve a track. This would be impossible to do with live takes because I need to use a lot of software for processing, resampling and post-processing.
Can you take us a little deeper into that process?
I have lots of different analog machines in my studio, including Eurorack modules and oscillator-based synthesizers, and I like to collect sounds from all of these disparate sources and put them into a system that I’ve developed in Ableton. That involves making my own instrument racks and inputs and processing sound sources through them to develop textures that can be recognized as my signature sound. I’ll also use software to create various soundscapes, but I resample everything in audio because I like to have the freedom to edit, chop and automate sounds wherever they come from.
Will you partition time to create sound libraries for future use?
I do that a lot because you might like a sound at a specific moment but not be sure what to do with it. When I open Ableton, all of the libraries have a huge archive of sound design resources that I can use to make a track, which means that I rarely need to record anything new or start completely from scratch. On the track Savage Mindedness, I actually used a very simple Ableton sample pack and resampled and processed that, so I like to use sources that are simple and available, whether that’s from free sample libraries, field recordings or synth sounds from my Eurorack modules and drum machines.
Despite the relatively approachable nature of Absurd Matter, there remains plenty of intense and chaotic sound design. Are you using specific plug-ins to mangle sounds?
The software gives me a lot of freedom to produce music in the way that I want to. If I want to transform a sound and make a kick drum out of it, I know what frequencies I need to achieve that and how to manipulate a sound in the opposite direction. I once read about an artist who claimed that you don’t really need to know what’s happening when you distort sound in order to make music, but I have the opposite philosophy - it’s only when you understand the basics of how to make anything out of a sound that you can start to navigate and experiment with your tools in an unconventional way. I think it’s really important to understand the process behind what you’re doing rather than just randomly navigating in a particular direction.
Text and interview: Danny Turner
Photos courtesy of Leonardo Scotti