IN CONVERSATION WITH CONCEPTUAL
Hypnotic techno’s gem, Simone Scardino, aka CONCEPTUAL, is a one-of-a-kind visionary, genuine, and humble like a few in the business. He comes from Lecce, Italy, and is now resident in Berlin for six years. Simone has paved the way in his music career by creating his signature music style, which is being celebrated and recognized worldwide. He released his music on well-known techno labels and has now founded his own, Duna. Simone also co-founded Friendship Collective, where he gathers like-minded visual and sound artists to collaborate on events and performances. His passion for techno and music is incomparable and unmeasurable, as the artist also conducts workshops on modular synthesis and music production. On a cloudy summer day in July, I had the pleasure of sitting with him in his flat and asking about his current status on his music path, label, and future projects.
Coat: Dries Van Noten, Shirt: International Citizen, Jewerly: Ole Lynggaard
Joiah: Hello Simone! How are you feeling today?
Simone: Good, and you?
Joiah: All good, thanks. What’s going on right now in your life?
Simone: A lot of stuff. It’s the first time in my career that I’m working a lot with gigs, my first time going overseas, and many other gigs coming. It’s exciting but also stressful. But yeah, it’s fantastic.
Joiah: When was the last one? You went to South Africa, right?
Simone: Yeah, the last one was South Africa. So I had two gigs. One was in Johannesburg, and one in Cape Town was ten days, and the stay was terrific!
Joiah: Okay, excellent. Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you get into music in general? How was your upbringing in Lecce, Salento?
Simone: My experience with music didn’t start in Lecce. It began in Germany when I was 13 years old at my uncle and aunt’s wedding in Stuttgart. There was this DJ playing tapes, crazy tapes, not even CDs. I was behind him all the time, watching and observing. The guy tried to explain it, although it was difficult since he was German and I was an Italian kid still waiting to speak English. So, I was looking at what he was doing to understand myself. I was really into it right away. He explained to me what buttons to press when the tracks finished. That was the first time I pressed the play button in my life. From that day on, everything started. At 15, I began DJing properly. I bought my first console. The first time I mixed for real was on turntables through an old friend from Italy. I was a teenager, and he was already in his 40s. I attended DJ lessons but learned more with this guy than anyone else. He had an abstract way of teaching me to beat-match with records. He explained it to me so that I could understand it fastly. We trained for one week, and I could already beat-match. So, from then on, I decided to go by myself. Then, the first pioneer CDJs 100 came out. They were not the first ones, but one of the first ones where you could put CDs, and you had effects on top and loop them, and you didn’t have the tempo of the BPM. After that, I experienced all the pioneer CDJs. I tried them all, like those from Stanton or other brands.
Coat: Diesel , Shoes: Talent’s own
Joiah: So, you said you started in Germany, and then progressively, you taught yourself? And when did you move? Why did you decide to move to Berlin to start your musical project?
Simone: The first part of my career started in Italy for six years, and then I moved to Berlin 6 years ago. Then, in 2020, I launched my CONCEPTUAL solo project.
Individualism is good because you can discover a lot about yourself. But after discovering this individualist part of your creativity, you must melt with other kinds of art or other artists and ideas.
Joiah: Tell me a little bit about Friendship Collective. It’s a collective that you run with other creatives.
Simone: Friendship Collective is a multidisciplinary platform, but it’s more like a crew of friends creating different kinds of art and multimedia. The artist’s central vision is this kind of futuristic vision of art, like this abstract side of art that each of us is experiencing and developing differently. Still, I can see an excellent connection between us, so we aim to showcase our work and the events we create to connect with techno music. You start the night with art and performances, then it continues with live concerts or live experimental sessions, and then you finish the night with techno. All these are always coupled with some visuals or some installation during some performances. So it’s in the synthesis, like, creative element, founded by people who love art and want to support each other. It’s a collective, so it has to be like this: you must work in the same direction. Individualism is good because you can discover a lot about yourself. But after you discover this individualist part of your creativity, you must melt with other kinds of art or other artists and ideas.
Joiah: Why do you think having a collective mindset when creating art with others is essential?
Simone: Well, because you cannot invent anything, everything has been created already. So to make it spicier and more valuable, you have blend different ingredients; it’s like when an Italian woman makes a baby with an African guy. What comes out is beautiful.
(Left) Blazer: International Citizen, Shirt: Talent’s own, Pants: Magliano (Right) Shirt: Diesel
Joiah: Let’s jump into your label. What is the vision? What are the core values?
Simone: So Duna, my label, was founded one year ago, intending to promote already established and upcoming artists. Still, with the vision of artists that have their style, every artist that I want to promote has to have their sound. I don’t want to label Duna as a techno label. I want to keep it open. It’s imperative that artists can express themselves with creativity and originality, and you can see that there is a lot of experimentation and a way to find your sound and vision. So I want to work with this kind of artist.
The Middle East and the desert inspire the graphic concept of the label. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful places that I have ever imagined. I always imagined myself there. This year, while traveling to South Africa, I could see all the desert parts of the continent by plane. It was unbelievable. All of them were amazing, with different colors and shades. Duna is electronic music with techno orientation, breaks, and experimental stuff.
Joiah: Who is your primary support system?
Simone: My girlfriend, my friends and my family.
Joiah: Since you moved to Berlin, have you noticed any positive or negative changes in the techno scene? How do you perceive its evolution from then to now?
Simone: So this is an excellent question. It’s also tricky because I want to avoid misunderstandings by openly expressing my thoughts and feelings. You know how it works nowadays! So, COVID-19 gave a big slap to the entire clubbing scene. Promoters and clubs had to go out after and find new and fast ways of making income to recover, and of course, the more mainstream, commercial, and excited you go, the easier to feel places become! This has changed a lot the scene in Berlin but not only, I have seen it a bit everywhere! This has created a lot of confusion, the word techno has been raped in the past 3/4 years, and most of the time used to promote not real techno but just to catch the attention of the new generation! There needs to be more clarity about these words, and we should educate the new generation and explain that techno is another concept, sound, origin, and so on! We call it tick-tock techno, this new wave! Ahah.
Joiah: Yeah, I’ve heard this from a friend already ahah.
Simone: It’s literally what it is. We can all see this. It’s for the masses. It’s sad to say, but the new generation is not returning to discover it’s roots. It is just taking what the market offers regarding music and parties! If we provide TikTok techno, they think this is the real techno. I have nothing against making business and promoting different types of music, but we need to clarify and not speculate… During this time, Berlin’s changed a lot. The music changed a lot. It’s tough. Clubs are closed, and you must put much money and energy into promoting a party. And on top of that, there are many parties on the same night, making the game a real competition. As a promoter, I always thought about when I started promoting events just for the beauty of gathering friends around good music and sound system. It’s a struggle, but on the other hand, the city allows you to be yourself all the time where you are. You can create unique connections and find good people from all over the world, creative people who are exceptional. It is the perfect place to stay as an artist!
Jacket: Prototype: AM, Shirt: International Citizen, Tank top: Stylist own, Pants: Haderlump, Shoes: Talent’s own, Jewerly: Ole Lynggaard
Joiah: What are your hopes for the scene, your new label, and your projects? What are your hopes for the near future?
Simone: To always have fun; it’s the most important thing for me. I hope we can all work together in the same direction as we are now to push and show that we can create. Giving support to the real movement that is the one that brought us into techno, so try to follow that line altogether. And yeah, of course, gigs worldwide because it’s also an essential part of the artist’s career; with this, you can meet different people from different nationalities and cultures and create bridges worldwide. It’s already happening because I have a lot of real friends in most of the countries I’ve played. I was able to connect realistically with someone or with a collective. I also need to find a way to spread and create a big team, not only in Berlin. This is a lovely part of the work, connecting the people and creating more opportunities, not only for me.
Kimono: International Citizen, Shirt: Talent’s own, Pants: Haderlump, Jewerly: Ole Lynggaard
Music Editor: Joiah Luminosa
Photography: Alma Celeste
Styling: Lena Lauer
Styling Assistance: Dirkje Lemmink