In Conversation: Space Dimension Controller and Marco Passarani (Tiger & Woods)

Up next in our ‘In Conversation’ series, Space Dimension Controller chats to Marco Passarani, one half of Tiger & Woods.

Since first appearing in our galaxy seven years ago, Jack Hamill aka Space Dimension Controller has composed a series of records on R&S Records and Royal Oak widely considered among the most important releases of the 21st century. From the interplanetary romance of ‘Love Quadrant’ to the brash Drexciyan electro of last year’s ‘Galactic Insurgent’, Hamill makes 4/4 music imbued with wit and personality, as well as musicality and groove. One of the most unique talents to emerge in electronic music over the past decade, he is also an adroit live performer, equally capable of playing classic 4/4 sounds, his own material, and devilish pop curveballs.

As one half of mysterious Italian duo, Tiger & Woods, Passarani has remixed and re-freaked everyone from Evelyn King to Shara Nelson since his stunning debut album for Running Back in 2011. Riding the crest of the nu-disco wave, re-edit maestros Tiger & Woods have since played their blend of rich disco, 90s house and Golden Age funk everywhere from Robert Johnson to Womb, fabric to Panorama Bar.

Hamill and Passarani exchanged a few words ahead of their appearance together at Oval Space this Friday 11th November.

Jack: When did you first get into music and who influenced you to start making it?

Marco: I've been obsessed with records since I was a kid. Things started getting serious when I was working in a record & video game store after school and I totally got addicted to combining DJing and computer music. My influences were two friends Andrea & Sandro who first brought turntables and a mixer round to my apartment when we were 12 years old and Davide Marano & Massimo from the record store where I was working. They literally opened up my brain to any kind of alternative music… and a movie called Beat Street.

Marco: You're younger than me. Tell me, how did you get into music and what was the state of the local scene when you first got excited by electronic music?

Jack: It would have happened around 2005 when I was 14 or 15. I was just coming out of my metal phase and started getting into stuff like Brian Eno and other ambient sort of electronic music which in turn led to getting into Aphex Twin and other Warp Records stuff. Everything just kind of took off from there. As I was so young, I wasn’t really getting any outside influence from the local scene as such, but I had a friend that gave me some recommendations.

Jack: Having had such a long career, what changes have you seen in dance music and more specifically, how has the internet changed the industry?

Marco: Well this is a very difficult question to answer as it would practically take an entire book to explain what has happened. What I can say in three points is: 1) We’ve lost a lot of unconsciousness when making electronic dance music. We were exploring unknown territories and tools back then. Now everything is under the spotlight and less mysterious. 2) Electronic music has become way more accessible, so we are not “those freaks” any more. People now understand the language and the message. 3) The internet helped us spread our sounds to every corner of the planet, making it very small. It almost destroyed the vinyl format, but changed what we do from being a local experience to a global experience. I don’t know if this is clear, but it’s really difficult to keep it contained.

Electronic music has become way more accessible, so we are not “those freaks” any more. People now understand the language and the message - Marco Passarani

Marco: I met you in London at RBMA. How has your live performance changed since then? When I met you, you weren’t DJing at all whereas now you have been doing this for a while.

Jack: Yeah, it’s changed a lot. At RBMA I only DJed with Ableton, but when I started getting gigs I soon ran into problems because of that. Within around a year after RBMA I kind of just forced myself to learn how to DJ with vinyl and made the switch very quickly. I think it was Easter weekend 2011, I had four gigs and just decided to not bring my laptop with me and only records. A baptism of fire in a way. It went OK-ish, it was very sloppy though. My live set up has changed a good bit too, but it's still very Ableton orientated and more complicated than it used to be. Before the R&S album came out I did a live tour with some hardware and brought that over to Asia and Australia and also all over Europe. I’m just one guy and came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Sometimes one of the cases didn’t show up and I had to DJ instead. Sometimes something didn’t work right. I still need to work on a hardware setup that is 100% reliable and much more portable, that will be coming soon no doubt.

Marco: What is your live setup like? Do you use a computer on stage?

Jack: At the moment it’s Ableton with a few iPads and a controller. I have the tracks all cut up and lots of loops with some drum tracks. I’m also working with the new Native Instruments Maschine JAM and figuring out how to incorporate it.

Jack: What will your hybrid live / DJ set entail at Oval Space?

Marco: A few months ago I found out a way to sync any midi machine with a CDJ, starting from an audio file. So you will definitely see one of us beat matching a black box that samples what the other is doing…

Jack: How did you meet Valerio and start Tiger & Woods?

Marco: I met him through common friends in Rome. He was bringing demos to me that I always turned down. We eventually found a common language and I managed to release a record from him on my label. When we were in Barcelona at RBMA in October 2008, we started this crazy project that we are still doing.

Jack: What’s the collaboration process like?

Marco: Each one of us has a specific role, but we love to challenge ourselves and change our positions, so I can’t really talk about a specific structure. We definitely work hard to find a repetitive groove that makes us feel good. The concept is still the same extend the beat as much as possible. And that’s what we do.

Marco: This is a stupid question but I need to ask it. Please explain your obsession for Braveheart / Mel Gibson.

Jack: Ha. It’s kind of just an in-joke with a lot of people I know in Belfast that all got a bit out of hand. I have quite an obsessive personality and it definitely carries over to my social media. I also like keeping a joke going way too long and just confusing people who look at my online persona. I do really like the film though! Just not as much as you may assume if you are going by my Instagram.

"I like keeping a joke going way too long and confusing people who look at my online persona" - Space Dimension Controller

Marco: OK, another stupid question. What was the deal with that weird dead animal that I could see in your Facebook pics? Actually haven’t seen it for a while

Jack: That was from a few years ago when I discovered a crazy looking taxidermy fox on eBay and put up a Facebook post saying I would play for someone if they bought it for me. Someone actually did and I played two gigs! Before I got the fox back it had become a huge internet sensation in Russia and the guy who bought it toured around Russia DJing with the fox on display behind him in the booth. I finally got the fox about a year or two after all that happened. Quite a strange story I suppose.

Marco: Back to ‘serious’ questions… what is your composition process? Is there any routine “start” when you make a track or is it always different?

Jack: It differs from track to track. Sometimes I’ll come up with a melody while walking down the street and whistle it into my phone. Then I’ll get into the studio and play it back on a synth as accurately as I can. Sometimes I just start with the drums and see what happens next and other times I’ll just be playing around on a synth and something will come out of that. A lot of the time I would come up with the name and story for a track and then make the music from there, but really it could be any one of those processes.

Marco: Favourite monophonic synthesizer, favourite polyphonic synthesizer and please mention one plug-in (if there’s one) that almost made you think you could live without those two synths.

Jack: Out of the ones that I own; Monophonic - I would have to say the Yamaha CS-30, it just sounds so pure and the filters are amazing. Polyphonic - Although it died a few years ago, my favourite was my Crumar BitOne. I got it for like £200 when I was 18 and I haven’t owned another polysynth that has made me feel the same way as I do when I hear that one. As for plug-ins, I’m really not sure I could live without hardware. While there are some plugins that sound absolutely amazing, I just don’t get the same feeling when I can’t actually hold the synth with my hands and fiddle about with it.

Marco: We are just releasing the second album of our Tiger & Woods project. How was your second album experience?

Jack: It was a lot different from the first album as this one was made when I was 18, so it wasn’t exactly new in my mind and the decision to release it came around very fast. I’ve been really happy with how it has been received though, and because it’s so different from previous releases it has got my music out to a wider audience which has got me booked for different kind of shows.

Jack: What’s your favourite city to play in?

Marco: Ah, an impossible question to answer! I’m not going mention the favourite but one of the more emotionally connected would be Minneapolis, due to my infinite love for Prince’s music.

Jack: What’s your favourite movie OST?

Marco: Vangelis - Blade Runner, Ennio Morricone - Un Sacco Bello, Various Artists - Beat Street (both volumes). So that I cover three aspects of my music love.

Marco: First club experience you remember as a “dancer”?

Jack: I used to go to these hard techno nights in a really grubby bar in Belfast with some friends when I was about 17. I wasn’t really into the music that much, but it was my first clubbing experience so that was just fun in itself. What was yours?

Marco: I went to some countryside club with my sister and my cousins when I was 13. They managed to sneak me in somehow, and I knew this was my ideal place. I started going regularly to clubs a couple of years after. We had this insane afternoon session for youngsters at Samoa Club, a horrible club in my neighbourhood. The music was all early house and acid as it was 1988. The year after, I got addicted to Piper Club which was the best club of the city.

Jack: What’s your favourite album from this era?

Marco: Prince “Sign O The Times”

Jack: Who’s your favourite artist at the moment?

Marco: I’ve been obsessed for a while with this upcoming Numbers artist called Kool Klap. I love everything he does.

Marco: Best bassline ever?

Jack: I honestly have no idea how to answer that!

"I’ve been obsessed for a while with this upcoming Numbers artist called Kool Klap. I love everything he does." - Marco Passarani

MP: And finally… What dish from your hometown do I need to try when I’m visiting you?

Jack: I’m not really sure what a signature Northern Irish dish would be, but our seafood is great. A few places that you can get some really good fresh oysters. What’s your favourite Italian meal?

Marco: Carbonara, no doubt.