After a stunning release on Samuel Kerridge’s Contort label last year and a brilliant live performance at Atonal, Emanuele Porcinai is back on duty with yet another special act at the Krake festival to be held next week in Berlin. The man behind the WSR moniker took the time to tell us more about his art. We speak about his solo work, the UNKNOT duo project alongside fellow producer Sciahri, his sound engineering and design training and of course his electro-acoustic approach.
- Hi Emanuele and welcome on Paradox!
Hi, thank you 🙂
- Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Sure, I’m behind the solo project WSR and I run the duo project/record label Unknot together with Sciahri.
- You graduated in Sound Engineering and Sound Design in Manchester. Were your studies part of a creative and artistic process from the beginning ?
In terms of what I was doing for the course I was attending I would say not so much. It was quite technically-oriented and the music production and sound design side was very focused on industry standards and practice (with a few exceptions). The fact that I was able to use a lot of equipment and recording studios however gave me a lot of freedom to develop my own experiments and sound, for sure. The interesting thing about this, perhaps, is the fact that by the end of it, the practices I was adopting for my music writing were completely divergent to what I had been taught. Maybe because it took me a long time to learn all these unwritten industry rules to get stuff to sound good, and then again quite a lot of time to understand how to unlearn them and use them in a non-boring way.
- For a long time, there has been a huge separation between experimental/industrial and more conventional electronic genres, especially in terms of crowds and events. Do you feel that this is evolving lately?
I’m not sure, maybe?
- Your debut EP as WSR, “Stainless”, was released on Samuel Kerridge’s label Contort. I guess you guys have met in Manchester, right? Can you tell us in which context this collaboration has occurred?
That’s a pretty obvious connection, and I understand why almost everyone thinks that, but actually that’s not where it happened. I hadn’t met Samuel until I moved to Berlin last year. I got in touch with him the first time right after finishing university after I had come back to Florence for a few months. I sent him a quick mail after gathering all the things I had been doing until then, because I saw that he had started a label. A friend of mine suggested that my approach to production was somehow close to his, even though the output is quite different. Turns out he was right, because Sam got back to me the same day and within a week everything was ready.
- In this solo project, you explore the contrast between acoustic and synthetic music using selfbuilt string instruments. How far are string instruments a good option to build this bridge between acoustic and electronics?
I don’t know what is the particular advantage of using string instruments in order to do that, I just know that they are the objects that speak the most to me when writing. Probably because of the physical aspect and their potential in terms of acoustic output, resonances, harmonic nuances. Every acoustic instrument has this to some extent, but vibrating string instruments are what I can relate to the most. I started working with string instruments because I had become too comfortable with computer production, and I needed to start working with something that I deeply liked, but that I wasn’t comfortable with, in order to obtain interesting results.
As for the ones that I build myself, I started making these things because I had been using strings performers for a while, and I wanted to try to take control over the performative side of the music writing as well as developing something that had a unique physical sound, without necessarily having to use effects or processing on it.
- You’ve performed an electro-acoustic set as WSR on last year’s Atonal edition in Berlin. You were joined on stage by Koenraad Ecker of Lumisokea. What was the concept behind this collaboration? How was your feeling about this performance in a venue like Kraftwerk?
That was the first time I played as WSR and the idea was, since all the material of the release had been produced with live instrumentation, to try and reproduce this on a stage. I got in touch with Koenraad, who I was already a big fan of as an artist, and we rearranged all the string parts of the tracks for a live set-up. Koenraad was an incredibly inspiring person to work with, I would give him a minimal musical input which he would then develop in something in between improvisation and written music, in a way that would always enhance my original idea. Performing at Kraftwerk was absolutely terrifying but somehow we managed to get through it!
- Let’s speak about your other project, UNKNOT. It is a duo with Italian artist Sciahri and it’s also a label. Can you tell us what inspired this collaboration?
Me and Sciahri have been friends for a long time since we were attending the same high school. The collaboration started very randomly because we do very different things individually, and at some point we wanted to try to see what could happen if we were to make something together. What came out of it turned out of course to be somewhere in the middle, but also to have a quite distinct identity, so we decided to give it a face and put it out by ourselves because it felt like the best thing to do.
The 27th of July you’ll perform as WSR in Krake, another Berlin cutting-edge program festival. What can we expect to see on stage?
A half-improvised performance with a new string instrument that I’ve built recently. Not sure exactly what will happen because it can take different directions.
- Any future plans for WSR? For UNKNOT?
Yes, quite a few but unfortunately I can’t say much yet 🙂
- What kind of non-electronic music do you like to listen to?
That’s a tough one, electronic music is definitely not the biggest part of my music library actually. I’m really into diy folk things at the moment; a couple of things that I’m really into lately are recent releases by Ezra Buchla and by Claire Cronin.
Thanks a lot Emanuele and see you soon for the Krake…