Not Waving Talks About Being a Punk in a Dance World Who Is Just Trying to Make Pop Music
Published Nov 13, 2017"I really hate dance music and the way it's made," Not Waving (a.k.a. Alessio Natalizia) tells Exclaim! "I wouldn't want to consider myself a dance producer at all."
It might seem like a strange statement from a man who regularly plays clubs and electronic festivals all over the world, but then again, Not Waving is not one for convention. Having started out playing bass, drums, and guitar for various punk bands back in his native Italy, Natalizia's relationship with the electronic scene is tenuous at best.
"I actually discovered electronic music quite late in my life," Natalizia says. "I think Can and Krautrock were really my introduction into that world. But stuff like techno, acid, new beat, and EBM weren't something I was familiar with. I actually only found out about those styles because people would tell me I sounded like them. I've done it all backwards, really [laughs].
"Listening to new beat now though, I think these people were coming from punk, maybe without even realizing it — they're trying to mix club culture with the more post-punk or industrial elements, which is pretty much what I try to do too. Even now, I feel like I'm still in a punk band; that's my approach."
These days, the sound of Not Waving is a grungy thump of techno and electro, but with a clear lean towards a more punk-ish sound: a by-product of those early days in Italy. Before Natalizia could arrive at this niche, however, he had to take a detour down a more orthodox route. This came in the form of ambient techno outfit Walls, which he formed with UK producer Sam Willis in 2010. Despite being a relatively successful project in its own right, Natalizia's experiences with the entire techno scene left him disillusioned, and after a few years of touring with "spoiled people who just show up, play some records, and get paid lots of money," he called it quits.
It was around this time that Oscar Powell, and his label Diagonal Records, came into Natalizia's life. With Powell sharing his views on the monotony of club culture and Diagonal's output of leftist, dismantled dance music, it was the perfect platform for Natalizia's collective experiences with punk and techno to merge into Not Waving. Unfortunately, whenever someone tries to go off-piste, there's a tendency to be misunderstood, and Diagonal are no different.
"I think the kind of music that I make — or that we make, with the whole Diagonal crew — is sometimes mistaken for dark, sort of macho music, or industrial techno, but I think we're just trying to make pop music."
A good argument for this is Not Waving's latest record, Good Luck. It follows the same punked-out body music of his earlier work, but there's a decidedly more lighthearted tone throughout: In short, it's extremely catchy EBM.
"I wanted it to sound happier [than the last record] — well, 'hopeful' is probably more accurate," Natalizia says. "We live in such a fucked up world, so it's important to make some optimistic music once in a while. I think it's our job as an artist to give options, to give possibilities, and a different way of doing things. And I think hope is one of those options."
Indeed, this latest record is a hopeful one, but it's also dovetailed with ominous undertones. Take something like "Where Are We," one of the album's highlights, which features Montrealer Marie Davidson: on one hand the track sounds like a harrowing message from the future; on the other, it's a fun display of acid squelches. That's really what makes this record so great; it's gloomy, weird, and two-fisted, while simultaneously colourful, poppy, and playful. It's a cheerful veneer surrounding a murky atmosphere, which seems to be the whole idea, according to Natalizia.
"I think that the entire record is somewhere in between me having an emotional breakdown and the world completely disintegrating. So, it comes from very dark places, but in the end, instead of making a sad, depressing record, I decided to make a hopeful one. That's why it's called Good Luck."
Not Waving's Good Luck is out now on Diagonal Records.