Welcome to the Terrestrial Funk Blog, press play on the mix and enjoy our written conversation with the wonderful music maker behind it. For our inaugural interview we welcome George Btp, best known for his Dan Piu moniker under which he’s produced a vibrant catalog of electronic records for over two decades. In 1999 he released his first album ‘Self Education’ on his own Moto Music label that operates till this day. The label is co-curated alongside George’s partner Robert P and has spawned the sub-labels deepArtsSounds which still operates and No Acting Vibes which hasn’t seen a release since 1997. ‘Self Education’ was originally only released on cd but the majority of the songs were reissued on a double LP from Cartulis Music and a couple of the tracks made it to a 12” on Temporary State. George currently resides in Zurich, Switzerland where he’s been active in his home studio. In recent years, George put new music out on Childhood Electronix, Childhood Intelligence, Ovnie, Common Dreams, and a soon to be out EP on Hizou Deep Rooted Music. He’s also got a number of alias’ including Allstarr Motomusic and Zarenzeit as well as collaboration projects under the names Theory Of Movement, Camarade, The WineLambs, and The Nightstalker. Through a seemingly endless catalog of his own releases and those on his labels’ George has provided the world with a wonderful trove of music for you to dive into.
Brother Dan: Tell us as little bit about your mix and your connection to some of the records in it. What’s your home audio and dj set up like?
Dan Piu: Well, my setup is still the same as I used to have back in the '80s when I started to spin my first records as a kid. 2 x technics SL 1210 and a mixer, that‘s it. I still use the same turntables that I bought 32 years ago, and thats why I love them so much „made in Japan! Their shit never breaks! As for the mixer, I use the legendary Urei 1620. Some years ago, I had the chance to buy an old unused one which was even shrink-wrapped and for just 1500 bucks!! That made my day and in terms of sound, no other mixer can reach the warmth and brightness of the 1620. This mixer is pure joy and eargasm!
When you enter my Vinyl studio (that I still share with Robert P.), you won‘t find any CD nor Mp3 players. Honestly, I have never tried them in my whole life and I am pretty sure, we would not get in love to each other. :)
As for the mix I want to say that it is quite an old-schoolish way of mixing. I listen a lot to my favorite DJ‘s like Estimulo or Alex K. Einetter and they inspired me to bring me back to my old mixing techniques that I used to have back in the '90s.
Brother Dan: Tell us a little about your record labels and the history behind them.
Dan Piu: Well, I started to produce my first tracks by 1991 when I bought my Korg Workstation. After 4 years being in the studio, studying music theory, and producing hundreds of tracks, I felt like I was ready to put something out on vinyl. Back then without internet and social media it was quite tricky to find a proper label, so together with my Friend Robert P, we decided to set up a label called 'No Acting Vibes' where we could release our stuff. First, I wanted to be more in the background and produce music for my friends. The 2nd release as Robert P. was a small step on our way to achieving something bigger. After 5 original EPs on NAV we wanted to go further and try out new ideas and territories in a more darker field. That was the birthday of our Moto Music Label which became pretty iconic in the underground those days. It was the perfect label for me to spread my soul into vinyl and make it cosmopolitan. That was such a great and fruitful time where all started to get big. We got some DJ residencies in our town and we started to get attention outside of the country as well.
Years later we started deepArtSounds and released high quality stuff from artists like Anthony Nicholson, Ron Trent, GU, Melchior Sultana, Bjak, Trinidadian Deep and many more.
Brother Dan: I remember seeing a while back that you we’re involved in the club scene in Spain. Tell us about that and any other places you were deeply involved in during your career.
Dan Piu: Yes Spain is a hot spot that I always like to go. I also feel quite connected to this beautiful country as my mother is originally from Spain too. I regularly play there, mostly in Madrid where my label friends are like Dubbyman, Ernie, Jesus Gonsev and Pohl. All real nice dudes who have supported me as producer but also in terms of involving me in the Spanish club scene.
I also want to mention well known Unai Trotti who introduced me to Sonar Barcelona back in 2018 as well as David Lopez from the cool Oven Club in Valencia. Also I want to mention my documentary film, 'Exploring madrid' about the deep house scene in Madrid that I did a few years ago. Talking about other places where I am even more involved I would say London or Berlin, the spot which became kind of my second city. I often played there and I got huge support from all those dope labels I have released.
Brother Dan: Tell us a little about your studio set up and your approach to production workflow.
Dan Piu: My setup is quite oldschool. All my synthesizers and other instruments are connected with my old analog mixing console which is again connected to my DAW (Logic) that I only use as midi controller and for arranging my tracks.No offense to digital plugins, but that is really not my thing. Mostly I start making a beat from a drum machine, followed by a chord progression and a bassline. In terms of sounds I consider myself as a perfectionist. My ears are probably my greatest strength. I like weird melodies but they should be all in tune, otherwise I get mad. I really like to jam and record some long takes that I later cut on my DAW.
In terms of mixing my tracks, I do it during my sessions while I am writing the music. Again, my ears all well trained and it does not cost me a lot turn some knobs and put the faders on its right place while making music.
It’s not unusual that my brother Anthony Collins aka Grant helps me sometimes to arrange my songs when I am stuck or too lazy. He is truly a master at arranging songs.
Brother Dan: What relation did your music play at home between you and your family?
Dan Piu: Well, my fam had quite a good taste in music. I still own some of their records, very beautiful stuff. The real inspiration came from my older sister. She will always be the first person I mention where all my musical background came from. In her teenage years she was a pretty disco queen, highly requested from DJ’s haha..and she brought me dozens of dope mix tapes that she got from them. Those mixtapes have played a key role in the growth of my love for disco and electronic music. I also got some piano lessons and a keyboard. I really had fun playing my freestyle notes, that could be the trigger to become a producer one day.
Brother Dan: Tell us about your favorite film
Dan Piu: My favorite Film.. hmm, hard question, as I have lots of movies that I really feel.
If I need to pick just one, I would go with 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly', this is just an epic film and it really comes close to perfection. '2001, a space Odyssey' would probably be my second choice.
And I want also to mention 'La Strada' from Fellini. If you want to see acting on the highest grade, then you have to watch this. Heartbreaking.
Brother Dan: Tell us about your favorite book
Dan Piu: 'Politeia' from Plato. I am still struggling and it‘s way too complex but I really like to dive into the ideas and philosophies of one -if not- the greatest thinker of all time.
Brother Dan: What’s your favorite Larry heard song?
Dan Piu: Uff, another hard question. He did so many beautiful songs, that it‘s pretty hard to pick just one. Maybe I would choose 'And So I Dance', this song is pure magic! It‘s very simply arranged.The chords and the bassline are insanely sexy as hell! The sweet dreamy melodies and the weird N.W.A. sample put me into a state of trance. After listening I always feel like I need sex immediately.
Brother Dan: Please share an interesting or funny story from your childhood.
Dan Piu: It‘s about the 'Soft Pioneer' which is indeed my first moniker as a kid hacking old commodore 64 games and selling them to the world. I used lots of other hacked stuff from well known hacker dudes and sold them as well. I placed some ads on magazines and I have been flooded with hundreds of orders! I became like a mini entrepreneur and I even needed to ask my friends to help me to process all those orders. Some months later the Soft Pioneer was hunted by the hacker community with harsh threatening letters which let myself become intimated. I needed to stop. However, it was an exciting time to shake the hacker scene in the underground a little. I did great money which of course I really liked. No wonder I later became a Rothschild Banker.
Btw, I recently did an album as Soft Pioneer which is coming soon on Childhood Intelligence, dedicating to this time when I was a game hacker.
Brother Dan: When you first started making music, what artists and particular songs did you look to for inspiration?
Dan Piu: It was the time around 1991 when I started to make music and Don Carlos was a regular resident DJ in my town as well as other Italian DJ‘s. I never missed his sets and of course he played his own stuff. It was all about the Italian dream house like his track called 'Alone'. Our friend Flavio Cuva became a producer for the UMM label and he produced the legendary Anixus record which I consider to be my all time House tune. He is still my main inspiration. In the first years I always wanted to sound like him. He is also the most humble guy in the scene I have ever met and he sold me his 303 that I still use these days. I am so proud of this.
So sad he became a ghost producer in the scene, producing hundreds of great records.
Brother Dan: Do you have a particular favorite release or song from your own catalog?
Dan Piu: Honestly, my favorite own songs are still stored in old dusty tapes. :) maybe they will never see the light. Talking about those I have released, I would probably choose 'Boundless' which is a collab with Grant and that came out on his latest Album on Lobster Theremin. It‘s actually a very old track and Grant gave it a really nice polish. The song is all about the love for the real underground and its freedom of not following any rules. I personally like the pads and the melancholic strings from the Juno 106. Listening to them gives me goosebumps. I like also 'Global Spirit' that I produced together with Grant as Theory Of Movement.
Brother Dan: Tell us about one of your most memorable gigs.
Dan Piu: Most recently I had a gig in Belgrade at the Wats Club which unfortunately needed to close. That night was pure magic, people freaking out and they gave me so much love. Will never forget, same as the night in Valencia last year at the Oven Club. Was such a nice experience and I met wonderful and beautiful people.
But the most crazy gig goes back to my glorious 90s where I played almost every weekend. I remember a special live gig in Schaffhausen a city close to the German border. I was welcomed there like a superstar and the girls were crazy. These are the little big stories we all DJ’s like. Sex, drugs and Techno.
Brother Dan: Where’s the most beautiful place you’ve been in the world?
Dan Piu: La Dique at the Seychelles Islands. There was a little surf spot. Just me, the Island and the waves.
Brother Dan: Out of all your beautiful synthesizers, which do you feel embodies your internal voice the most?
Dan Piu: The Juno 106 and its wonderful portamento strings and its warm bass sounds which is pure joy to play. It‘s a love story between me and the Juno.
Brother Dan: Please share a strange or magical dream you’ve had.
Dan Piu: I was at the beautiful deserted Ngapali Beach in Myanmar a few years ago and I lived in a treehouse for a couple of weeks. One night a strange noise woke me up and a gnome was standing in front of me. I was like blown away, after some seconds he disappeared. I am pretty sure it was not a dream.
Brother Dan: Are there any technical tips that you can share with younger artists looking to deepen their capabilities in the music making world?
Dan Piu: Get an analog and a digital synth, get a sampler and a drum machine and maybe some fx pedals and of course a mixing console. this was my setup for the first two or three years. Try to understand every damn function. Try to play some chord progressions by your own hands. try to avoid any help from the sampler. remember, real beautiful and natural music is not sample based, it will just limit your mindset and lastly your music as well. Use the sampler for cool additional beats, fx, and voice sounds. Don‘t be a slave from your sampler.
... and don’t buy too much gear, keep it simple.
Brother Dan: What do you think of when you look at the night sky?
Dan Piu: Looking at the sky, I'm always reminded that love is infinite and bigger than I can imagine. I always try to help and to share my knowhow and skills, whatever it is, it comes back to you. Don‘t follow the cool dudes that will never spend a minute for you. Most important, love the people that love you!
We hope you've enjoyed the interview. Here are a couple of Dan Piu records we have stocked in the shop.
Dan Piu, Pohl - Floating With The Current EP
Dan Piu - Alphaville EP