Durante is on fire. “Forget About Me,” his collaboration with Diplo and Aluna (of AlunaGeorge), recently eclipsed 10 million streams on Spotify and he is constantly busy DJing big festivals and major events worldwide. Durante finds a home at Anjunadeep, one of dance music’s most respected, independent imprints, where he thrives as a producer and DJ while continuing to reach massive audiences around the globe. In this interview, Durante talks about his background, what got him into producing and DJing, his tools and music production techniques, and how he collaborates with vocalists and other artists.
How long have you been producing?
Durante: I’ve been producing music for the last 15 years. So, I’ve been into music my entire life.
Do you remember when you first got interested in music?
Durante: I actually just recently went home and started watching some home videos and I saw some videos of me at five, six years old running around the house and just listening to music and then always going back to the stereo and just getting really close to it. I was looking at the stereo because I was like, “How is this making this sound? Are there people in there?” I had no idea, I was so fascinated by it.
How did you start making music?
Durante: I started making music when—I think the first iteration was—I was taking piano lessons. Instead of practicing the songs that I was meant to practice, I would go home and I would jam on new ideas and songs. And I would go back to the lessons and my teacher would get really mad and be like, “You haven’t practiced at all.” And then my parents were like, “What? He’s been playing all week. How has he not been practicing?”
I’ve just been kinda jamming my own stuff and then as soon as I got my hands on a computer that could run a DAW, I’ve just been working on that ever since. That happened when I was 14. I’m 29 now. I’ve just been self-taught this whole time and luckily I’ve had people show me the ropes along the way. It’s been quite the journey.
Where did you get your first inspiration?
Durante: My inspiration for music really stems from being from Italy. I moved to America when I was five, but my whole family is still based in Italy. We’d go back every couple of years, and I think when I was 14 or 15, my cousins gave me some music. They gave me a Cocoon Compilation, which is, Sven Vath, his label, and then some Aphex Twin and things like that. And at the time I didn’t really understand it, but I would listen to it a lot and I think it really shaped the music that I make. A lot of my inspiration is really drawn from these early, minimal House and Techno records from back in the day.
How did you start DJing?
Durante: I had been making music for some time and when I went to college I started going to nightclubs and bars. I think that’s when I was really captivated by the DJ element of music. And there was this one bar I went to called Spank and they did a party called Neon Liger every Saturday. I went and introduced myself to the DJ and I was, like, “Hey, I really like music, I make music, you know. Maybe we could do something.” And they were kinda like, “Oh, you know, maybe.”
And then I started putting on music on SoundCloud and I’m like, “Oh, that’s the guy that… you know,” and they’re like, “Oh, like you should come play at our party,” and I was like, “Okay,” and I tried it out and then slowly but surely I learned the ropes from DJing, from the guy who owned the club VJ and he really taught me how to DJ. I was opening rooms every time, you know, and I really cut my teeth just opening, and I feel like that really helped me become a good DJ. Because any good DJ can play a room, but to be a great DJ, you have to be able to play any time. And I think having that consistency and doing it over and over really helped me to become the DJ I am today.
What was your first show and most recent show?
Durante: My first show, I didn’t even play on CDJs, I used a controller, like some 16-pad controller to cue things and I had Traktor on a computer, and I really had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to play music for people. Fast forward 10 odd years to last week, I was opening for Diplo at ATV and Space Park in Miami for Miami Music Week, and that was amazing; really good times. I think I’m still the same person that I was back in the day, but now I’m just a little more softer on the edges.
What’s your DAW of choice?
Durante: I got onto using Ableton when I was really young. I had a friend show me how to use it and it was really good. I mean, the built-in plug-ins were really good and I really liked the workflow and it was really smooth, so I’ve just been using it ever since and I’ve just been getting more quick and faster using it.
How do songs start?
Durante: I usually start a song by just having a pad going and then I’ll have some sort of rhythmic, melodic element and then I’ll build some drums around it and kinda get a groove going. And then, from there, just wherever I feel the song needs to go. I kinda view it as I have this marble block in front of me and I’m just chiseling away slowly but surely, and eventually, I’ll get something fine-tuned.
Sarah Longfield is a multi-instrumentalist based in Madison, WI.
Favorite synths or other gear?
Durante: My hardware setup right now is this Super 6. I use the Grandmother and the Peak. I have my mini log, I use the Big Sky reverb, then just random outboard effects like some distortions, anything I can get my hands on to create something original and fresh. I think that’s the basis and I use that for all of the sounds. And then everything else, the drums are usually all samples. I have an HPD HandSonic, which I use to play some drums sometimes. Yeah, that’s it.
Do you write on the road?
Durante: Just recently, I got a laptop and I got everything on it now, so that’s really exciting. Because now I’m on the airplane and a flight from LA to New York is five hours. That’s like a whole studio day, basically. I get to spend the whole time making music and it’s been so fun being able to work on the road again.
How do you work with vocalists? Is there a standard way you collaborate?
Durante: When I work with vocalists, it’s always different. When I worked with HANA on REPs with Anjunadeep, we got to work in the same room for the first one, which was amazing, and then for the second EP it was in lockdown so we worked over the air or online. That was really special in its own way and I think the vocals came out a certain way because of that. I think there’s magic to be said for both of them. And then also, I’ll just be sent vocals sometimes, and I don’t have to do much to it, which is really nice. I love that, and so it really just depends. Either way, I think there’s always great parts about working in the room with a vocalist or just having been sent the vocals.
For example, when I worked on “Forget About Me”, Diplo sent me an idea a few years back, and I kinda just worked on it and sent it back to him. And then, maybe eight or nine months ago, I get the same idea back with an Aluna vocal and I’ve just always been a fan of her voice, I mean, she’s amazing. Having seen that, I was like, “Yeah, you know, send me the stems, uh, you know, I’d love to work on it.” And he sent me the vocals, and he was like, “You have the stems,” and at this point I had forgotten that I had worked on the original! So I went back and checked it out and he hadn’t changed a thing from when I had worked on it and I was like, “Oh, it’s great.” And then I just took it from there to the finish line.
And what was actually really nice was, I went in the studio with Aluna a few more times and she had a lot of really great input as well. I think as a producer, you hear things a lot differently than a vocalist would hear their own voice, so the input they have is always special. I think it’s really important to listen and take their feedback into consideration.
How do you create vocal chops?
Durante: When I make vocal chops, I’m usually working on a timeline and I’ll do things like cutting and pasting and then also just putting a bunch of delays and reverbs and maybe some format effects with (Auto-Tune) Throat. Or try to get something that’s like a really solid loop or something like that, just to get a really special moment for the music.
How do you work with Auto-Tune plug-ins?
Durante: I’ve been using Auto-Tune forever and I really like how subtle it can be. We’ll get the pitch just right. I’ve also been digging into using (Auto-Tune) Throat and (Auto-Tune) Harmony Engine and even just throwing Harmony Engine on random vocals sounds amazing and I’m really excited to see what it can do when you just put in some midi info. Auto-Tune Unlimited is a really beautiful suite of plug-ins.
I’ve also been really getting into Loopcloud as well. I like that it sits in the DAW, so you can just put your own effects on it without having to worry about how it will sound. You automatically know you can affect all of the plug-ins and everything within the DAW, so that’s really nice.
What’s next for Durante?
Durante: Right now, I’m working on finishing my first debut album. I have a festival I’m playing in June with Anjunadeep Explorations in Albania, which I’m really excited for. Should be a really good summer. Shows are back!