Published: 23 Feb 2016

From the tropics to outer space aboard the Nu Guinea time machine.

Nu Guinea are a quirky pair of Italian electronic experimentalists who have quickly become known for cleverly morphing obscure worldly rhythms into their own brand of funky synth-laden house. Recently following up two sought after futuristic afro-house EPs for Early Sounds Recordings and Tartelet with their first full length project – a collection of trippy cosmic synth experiments utilising legendary Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen’s drums – the now Berlin based producers Massimo Di Lena and Lucio Aquilina are a collaboration destined for greatness. Also wonderfully astute selectors, the guys have turned in a stellar mix showcasing their shared love for early african electronics, tropical funk and spacey disco obscurities, and taken the time to share with us with the Nu Guinea story so far.

Listening to your music it sounds like you guys are pretty dedicated record collectors, taking influences from countless styles and morphing them into your own unique sound. What can you tell us about your record collecting journeys to date?

We don’t consider ourselves record collectors, but we definitely like to get our hands dirty by digging into fleamarkets, backyards and dusty shops. Despite the fact we currently live in Berlin, our favorite spot for digging is still our hometown.

Digging tip: We recently got introduced to a second hand spot in Naples. Mario and his father are sitting on a chair in a tiny street, hidden in the Historical Center. some of their 7″ and 12”s are standing on a table in front of them and others are in a dusty storage around the corner. Always make sure to offer them an espresso coffee before starting digging. That’s how it works in Naples.

Hidden treasures from the latest christmas digging in our home city:

Mario D’episcopo – Mario D’episcopo LP

We weren’t able to find any info on this record. We even asked to the musicians involved in the recordings (appearing on the credits), only one replied, but according to his words, he didn’t play on that record, so the mystery becomes even bigger now….

Trashy Italian jazz-funk at its best.

Club Band – Club Is My Passion

A rare 7” containing music which was meant as a promotion for a neapolitan radio back in 1980. Boogie alert!

Patrizia Pellegrino – Automaticamore

Patrizia Pellegrino is an Italian actress, television personality and singer from Torre Annunziata, a small town close to Naples. Beside her appearances in some 80s TV shows, she was also a guest on the Italian version of “The Celebrity Island”.

Despite her “debatable” career, she came up in 1981 with a single hit: “Beng!!!” but the real banger is “Automaticamore” on the b-side, a dark Italo-ish infused track.

How you become exposed to such a wide variety of worldly sounds?

The more we dig through the past, the more we discovered different approaches to music, different ways of playing synthesizers, different combinations of scales and chords, different rhythms and patterns. Every country has got its typical peculiarities. It’s really interesting to study the different rhythmic/musical accents belonging to each country.

Beside local music, every country has got its own interpretation of jazz-funk/ disco and soul music. E.g. A Brazilian interpretation can be completely different than the British one, or the Italian one; and its really fun for us to study and discover the main differences.

You’ve both emerged from more minimalist backgrounds as producers, how have you enjoyed this transition to working more with musicians and live instrumentation as part of the Nu Guinea collaboration? Is it something you had both always planned on doing?

We met each other back in 2006, when we were considered the two “young promises” of the Italian minimal scene. After touring for several years, we both started getting bored of the context we were involved in for many reasons. The thing that annoyed us the most in those “minimal” days, was the lack of colors and soul in music. Thanks to DJs such as Theo Parrish, we understood that people can dance and have a good time on a dancefloor without being restricted to a stereotypical “house” and “techno” groove.

In 2009 we met again in Barcelona where Massimo was living. We spontaneously decided to start making music again together and the results were not techno at all! We called our project “Real Pleasures”, as the music we made could have been a perfect soundtrack for erotic b-movies from the 80s. From that moment onwards our collaboration got more intense. Thanks to our “minimal” past, we were able to save some money and we had the chance to invest it into synthesizers and build up a little studio together. After several years of experiments, jams, digging through the past and experimenting with different names, it was time to start a new project that would have represented us properly. And that’s when Nu Guinea was born.

Cover-front
The Tony Allen Experiments LP cover art.

You’ve recently finished a new concept album The Tony Allen Experiments LP, which uses the drums of legendary Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen (Fela Kuti’s drummer!) as the basis for some weird and wonderful experiments. What can you tell us about the story behind this project, what inspired you to take it on, and what role Tony played in the process?

At some point in 2015, we got introduced to Tony Allen’s manager Eric Trosset from our friend Wayne Snow. We remember listening to some old gems together and we introduced him to Nu Guinea.
Just before leaving the house, he proposed us to work on some of Tony Allen’s drum patterns. This was so unexpected, yet a great turn out!

The initial idea from Eric was to re-work the drums making 1-2 minute long beats, without any particular development in the tracks. As it was a big honour for us to put our hands on Tony Allen’s original patterns we felt like we had to make the most out of it! So we spent around 4 months to complete the album.

While making the music, we realized that the project needed some real percussions, but as we were new to Berlin, we didn’t know anyone that could help us out straight away. At the same time Lucio was looking for some “shakers” and “cabasa” lessons (just as a personal desire), and found on the german’s Craigslist a great percussionist, Adam Paweł Dziewialtowski-Gintowt.

Things didn’t go as expected: Lucio didn’t take any lessons so Adam got involved instead and he recorded all the percussions: Congas, Bongos and shakers for the whole bunch of tracks. This is also the first project were we used a lot FM synthesis, also inspired by our friend Mystic Jungle who abused these elements in his records 🙂

extract studio setup for _the tony allen experiments_
Nu Guinea’s studio setup for The Tony Allen Experiments. Photo Credit: Bernardo Aviles-Busch

Regarding the artwork, was nice to collaborate with our flatmate Guglielmo, and do everything in-house. He took inspiration from the structure of our studio, and turned it into a freaked-out synth flora.

What can you tell us about this mix you’ve put together for us? Who are some of
the artists in featured in the mix?

The mix is a melting pot of different findings we made in the past years. It features artists such as Tony Esposito, Enzo Carella, Jan Hammer, Quando Quango, just to name a few. It also contains a track from The Normalmen, which will be soon released on Early Sounds Recordings.

With the new album just about to drop, what is coming up next for you guys?

We are now working on a daily basis in the studio focusing on new jams and drafts. We like the idea of having a different concept for each album (different synthesizers, drum machines and influences). We’re also working on a new EP so 2016 will see more of Nu Guinea’s material.