Interview with Tony Deus

We had a small but interesting interview with Moscow-based electronic artist Tony Deus and talked about DJing, science fiction, show business, and more.

So, hello, Anton! Tell us about your pseudonym, when and how was it created, and why did you choose Deus?

The pseudonym was actually coined back in school when I was just beginning to explore the world and the intricacies of DJing. At that time, I was deeply immersed in reading the works of Stanislaw Lem, who loved using a plethora of Latin words and terms. Consequently, I decided to use one of the words that caught my eye. The word "Deus" particularly appealed to me, and I decided to take it as my pseudonym without even bothering to find out its meaning. Since then, the only change has been adding my name in an anglicized manner. This was inspired by my discovery of an American turntablist using the pseudonym Dj Deus, who wasn't well-known in our country, but I still wanted my pseudonym to be unique.

Continuing with the theme of science fiction and everything related to it, much of your work is inspired by space themes (judging by the track names, for example). Is that true, and do you draw inspiration solely from the imaginative works of science fiction writers, or do you also follow the latest findings in space exploration?

Oh, that's a question that hits the nail on the head. I have read a great number of various science fiction works, but at some point, I wanted to know how realistic the ideas described by science fiction writers were. That's when my immersion into the scientific side of things began. I started delving into the topic. It all began with popular science giants like Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, and many others. However, even that became not enough, as "even housewives would understand what was written." So I moved on to studying more serious scientific works, packed with physics and mathematics, which I wasn't particularly friendly with in school and college. I've reread the introduction to string theory by the aforementioned Michio Kaku eight times. But I still haven't fully grasped some aspects.

Indeed, a considerable portion of my tracks are written under the influence of the knowledge and emotions gained from the process of understanding how everything is really structured.

Also, I recently became the owner of an amateur, but quite decent telescope. In the warmer seasons, I will go on trips to nature and gather material in my mind for future tracks.

Very interesting! Besides the telescope, what other tools do you use in music production? And what are your thoughts on the long-standing debate of "software vs. hardware"?

When it comes to the hardware debate, I'm quite pragmatic. It's definitely cool to use hardware and even live instruments in music production! However, I'm fully aware that it's not affordable for me personally. If music were more than just a hobby for me and a way to make a living, I would set up a small studio. But it turned out that my profession is not related to music at all, so I have a small MIDI keyboard Axiom-25, which is sufficient for my needs.

What software do you prefer to use?

Almost all the time I write music using Reason. I started using it from the second version, and I've stuck with it ever since. Other software seems incredibly inconvenient to me due to my habit with Reason. Although lately, I've started to learn Ableton. However, I haven't fully switched to it and use it in conjunction with Reason through the Re-Wire protocol.

By the way, how long have you been involved in music? And in your case, what came first – the DJing or the production?

At the very beginning, DJing came first, of course. I was deeply fascinated by the jungle movement in Moscow in the late '90s. I managed to sneak into some rare parties illegally, as I was underage, and watched DJs at work with interest. I remember persuading my parents to buy me a mixer. It was a three-channel Phonic. I connected two CD players to it and learned to at least get into the rhythm. Later, I bought my first used turntables and a small collection of vinyl records, and that's how it all started. Besides just DJing, I got into turntablism and learned to scratch more or less decently, which led to my quite frequent touring across Russia and neighboring countries.

Then the world of drum and bass changed a lot; DJs started to take a back seat, and preference was given to producers with a portfolio of releases.

Naturally, I took action, learned software... But my attempts to produce drum and bass turned out to be quite unsuccessful; I constantly ended up with pure breakcore and other wild stuff. I even released a couple of tracks under a different pseudonym, but it was all just fooling around, of course. In the end, at some point, I realized that I wouldn't succeed in building a career as a DJ and drum and bass musician, and music took a backseat for a while.

Then, from 2009, a new phase began in my career, but now as an IDM producer.

By the way, I've always been drawn to IDM music, and I've listened to a lot of material that I downloaded from Soulseek and other P2P networks.

In 2009, I wrote my first polished and decent-sounding track, which received quite a lot of positive feedback, and that's what laid the foundation for my activities in this sphere.

You mentioned that your main job is not related to music, but like the majority of musicians, you would probably like to earn a living from it. In your specific case, what shifts need to happen for your music endeavors to bring in a sufficient amount of income for a more comfortable life? And let's exclude the sale of music, whether it's physical album copies or distribution through online stores, for obvious reasons relevant to our local realities.

Perhaps this will sound sacrilegious, but for musicians to be able to make a living in the Russian context without connections in show business or without being in bed with a producer, the entire Russian show business must disappear completely. Otherwise, nothing will change. We need to banish the spirit of Soviet pop music and rebuild the business model from scratch, drawing from the experience of our American colleagues in the music industry.

And, by the way, I wouldn't be able to make a living solely from music. If there's no inspiration, I'll never write anything. I can't force ideas out of myself. That's one of the main reasons why I collaborate with independent labels that offer free or conditionally free distribution of material. Any contract with a major label would stifle creativity, as it usually comes with certain constraints imposed by the label. And these constraints weigh heavily on me personally.

What about earning through concerts?

Earning through concerts directly depends on the demand for the musician. But when it comes to demand for IDM artists, it's hard to imagine, given the prevalence of mainstream pop everywhere.

In reality, it's quite difficult for me to speculate about the financial side of things since I never pursued the goal of making money with music.

Alright! Tell us about the musicians or labels you look up to. Are there any artists (or a group) that you consider your idols and would love to collaborate with, perhaps on a joint track or even an album?

Well, it would be incredibly amazing to be part of the big family called WARP. All the artists I've admired have been released by that label. If I could release even one track there, it would be the pinnacle of my music career—a platinum achievement.

Boards Of Canada have had a significant influence on my musical worldview. The way they blend deep atmospheric landscapes with intricate percussion and punchy beats never fails to move me. Whenever I'm working on atmospheres in my tracks, I always try to take inspiration from them.

Of course, I can't forget Richard James (Aphex Twin), from whom I learned a clever technique in building percussions. I call it "controlled chaos" for myself; maybe there's some smart producer term for it, but I'm not aware of it.

Listing all the artists who have influenced me is a very difficult and extensive task. When I listen to music, I try to gain not only aesthetic pleasure but also learn from the artist's experience. That's why I can listen to certain tracks on repeat several times.

As for the most desired collaboration, I must admit I wouldn't say no to working with Boards Of Canada, as they are my idols after all.

I know you're preparing to release your album, which you've been working on for a long time. Can you give us a sneak peek? What can we expect?

Work on the album is progressing very slowly because I'm quite meticulous in selecting the material that will be included. I can say that the album's sound will be less experimental and more chill-out oriented. That's all I can say about it for now, as about 30% of the material is ready. But knowing myself, there's a chance that even these 30% will be reworked, maybe even several times.

Finally, tell us about your plans for the future. Are you planning a concert with a symphony orchestra or a live performance on the International Space Station (ISS)?

To be honest, I don't have grandiose plans. But I would really like to compose a soundtrack for a space-themed documentary for a channel like Discovery. I'm working in that direction, sending demos and proposals, but I haven't received any responses yet. I won't despair and will continue reaching out to TV channels with similar styles. Who knows, maybe someone responsible for such projects will read this interview and offer me a collaboration.