Art Basel Miami Beach

DJ Tennis Talks Dark Pop and Basel Life and Death Label Showcase

Life and death. Mortality. Pretty heavy subject matter for dance music, right? But then, it's not really conventional dance music that's being put out by the Life and Death label.

This is heady, brooding, emotional stuff. It might be carried by that uhntz-uhntz beat, but it will bend your mind and pull your heartstrings, not just jack your body on the floor. It's the reason exemplary artists on the label such as Tale of Us, Thugfucker, and Clockwork garnered practically instant mass appeal and breakthrough success last year.

As A&R mastermind and chief tastemaker for the label, DJ Tennis (AKA Manfredi Romano) is intent on serving up the substance lacking from so much dance-floor fodder these days. Find out when he joins Tale of Us and Thugfucker for Life and Death's exclusive Art Basel Miami Beach label showcase with PL0T at thee Electric Pickle on Friday.

Crossfade: How did Life and Death first come about? What was the concept you had in mind when you first launched the label?

DJ Tennis: Life and Death was born out of the attempt of giving light to innumerable amounts of archived music at the end of 2010. The music, in most cases, hovers around a dark pop and house approach with a definite psychedelic sensibility. Elegant styles stemming from obscurity and indirectness are the result of a desire for non-immediate dance floor bombs.

Rather melodic and tasteful tunes built around the concept of incorporating influences of its Italian cosmic disco and UK/US New Wave and indie heritage, and without the intention of "reviving" old sounds instead creating new ones.

It's an approach that may seem less peculiar after exploring the eclectic musical backgrounds of its founders: [myself] a longtime soundtrack producer, and Greg Oreck, one half of New York house duo Thugfucker. The Family is completed by Karm and Matteo Milleri, aka Tale of Us. After just a few releases, Life and Death's sound is one that's found its way into the bacchanalian fray of some of the best parties worldwide.

So what is your criteria for selecting music to release? Is there a certain vibe or aesthetic you're looking for to define the label?

The criteria is simply good quality and emotional music. Of course we are mainly talking about dance music, but in our future, more and more, we will be releasing non-dance floor tracks. The aesthetic behind the whole concept, anyway, is pop -- dark and deep emotional pop music.

2012 was a huge year for the label. What were some of the most rewarding moments for you?

Well, mainly our label parties, where we realized we had a very solid following and fanbase. WMC, Detroit, Sonar are milestones for us. Also, Resident Advisor gave us the Label of the Month award in August, and that was a great honor.

What do you have in store for the label and artists in 2013?

\We will have Clockwork album coming out and the debut EP from The/Das, the first band being launched by Life and Death. But many more artists will join us. In 2013 every event will be upgraded to a audiovisual experience, just like the one on Art Basel on December 7.

So what can Miami expect at the Electric Pickle?

There's been a lot of hard work from all of the people involved: PL0T, the Pickle, Mathemagik, our designers, friends, etc. As mentioned, the Art Basel event at Pickle will be the first of a series of events where we decided to transform the environment to give the audience the feeling to explore something new -- raking every person into our world and adding contents to the party. It's gonna be a surprise, also for us, I must say!

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