Part of the Time Traveler’s appeal is his obliqueness and mystery – his biography on Resident Advisor simply reads, ‘I’m the Time Traveler’ and his face is obscured in most of his photos. However the man behind the moniker, Michele Pinna, has been bracingly open and forthcoming in our interview. Not shying away from some of our more intruding questions, Pinna reveals how cuttingly personal his musical production has been at various stages in life, and how a personal tragedy transformed his mother into his biggest fan.
Originally from Sardinia, the Italian DJ and producer’s introduction to techno began practically at infancy. Pinna first began releasing under his own name, producing playful percussion tracks such as ‘No Gravity’ under his own label The Triangle Records. 2016 saw the birth of a new identity, with Pinna emerging for the first time under the guise of Time Traveler. This realignment of identity saw Pinna delve deeper into the hauntingly bleak and eerie jaws of techno, while retaining the uncompromising quality that has brought him success throughout his career. His inaugural LP as Time Traveler , ‘I’m Made of Starts’, was released on the Italian label Chronicles, with Brian Sanhaji, Bas Mooy, Black Asteroid and DJ Hyperactive adding their own subversions to some of the tracks. Listening to the tracks, both on this release and his latest production ‘Chapter V: Chronicles from 1957’, one can easily imagine a figure forever lost between the dimensions of time, thudding and dragging clanking chains in his wake.
Your latest release, ‘Chapter V: Chronicles from 1957’ is dedicated to your mother Anna Maria, where you go back to the year that she was born. Why was this important to you and what did your mother think of the final product?
Sometimes in life it is important to turn your attention to what has a real value. I’m not interested in to producing loopy, senseless music. With each production I’m trying to tell the story of parts of my life. My mother and I had a really bumpy relationship. I decided to compose the EP 1957 after she spent more than 2 months looking after me in a private hospital, taking a break from her job, and devoting all her time to me. This difficult time in my life sewed up our relationship. My mother infused me with the courage and backbone to persevere in life, to never give up even in the hard times. As an adult I discovered that I’m more like her than I thought. So in Chronicles from 1957 I stretched back the time to an old Cagliari city where a young baby was making her first moves to become the woman that gave me my best quality: resilience. She never listened to my music before that time, but now she’s my biggest fan.
You vision of techno has been described as dystopian. Have you always implicitly linked techno with dystopia or has this vision been shaped by world events?
I think is a kind of personal attitude to look at the world with gloom. I’m not the kind of person to smile that often. I don’t want to be dystopic I just want give my personal point of view in what I compose, and of course todays world events lead me in this way.
Tell us about your introduction to techno – when did you begin listening and how long did it take you to venture to the production side of things?
I was lucky. My cousin was a DJ, fifteen years older than me, and when I was a really young I looked up to him. From the age of five I started asking him for tapes with his mixes. So I can say that I bought my first record when I was six. From that year I started to buy music and it was at complete random. I remember I went every week with my father to the records store where my cousin also was involved, and picked up random cassettes, CD’s and vinyl from the techno, electronic, house racks. So from seven I started studying music, at fourteen I started clubbing tirelessly and by just twenty three approached production.
Your creative process for you album ‘I’m made of stars’ began while you were ill in a hospital for 90 days, which afforded you the opportunity of intense focus. Tell us about your creative process as a producer, and do you feel that the distractions of the outside world can interfere with this?
I was on the side of the Swiss Alps with no Internet, a bad phone connection and lots and lots of time to think about my whole life. I have to be honest I was a bit down in the dumps, really tired of how I was expressing myself through music that didn’t really represent me at all. So I decided just to sit down with my laptop and small gears and let the flow of moods melt with the beats and sounds. I decided it was important that I started to tell with my music what I really want to communicate, no compromising with the industry’s rules or the vogue. For the very first time I was producing just for myself. ‘I’m Made Of Stars’ sat in my Hard drive for two years. That was the year 2014. During that time I experimented with what I always thought was my favorite way to find inspiration. I started to write kinds of soundtracks for images or art pieces I like, or just for my “mood pictures” – the theme songs of my memories frames. Whatever was and is in my mind and I want to tell it by the using of sounds language.
Tell us about how you settled on your moniker ‘Time Traveler’ and how you incorporate the meaning into your sets.
You know when you have a hunch, but the mind process is so warped that using just few words isn’t possible? That is the case with TT. Time Traveler is not just music; it is the love for the Art, the Architecture, the Fashion, tbe Poetry, the Research and the Experimentation. So I hope to incorporate in my sets just being my self, and doing what I love to do. It is the simplest way.
In recent years techno as a genre has expanded vastly while remaining within the limits of its own form. Do you think this has caused some techno DJs have prohibitively narrowed their field of vision?
I think everyone has the right to express, but to express something you must know what language to use. If you have a field of vision in techno you are “music illiterate”. But can art have a field of vision? When I hear the “Techno Prudes” lock the techno music in only 4/4 beat loops or locked grooves I prefer to say I’m not classed in the same genre of music as them.
Tell us about your record label ‘The Triangle Records”.
The Triangle Records was my first entry into the industry. It gave me lots of satisfaction and taught me all I know today, but now is the time of a new chapter, Chronicles Diary.
You’ve worked with some DJ legends over the years, including Bas Mooy and Dave Clarke. Has any collaboration in particular stuck with you, and if so, why?
I was a long time fan of Bas Mooy and his records labels through the years. My first record bags were full of ARMS records, Audio Assault and now Mord’s vinyl. Dave is….Dave, so of course for me is an honor that he collaborated with me remixing my music. Brian Sanhaji is one of my favorite producers. All these guys revealed to me how special they are and how music connects people. I have to confess, as you are asking about the one collaboration that stuck with me from the remixes, it was the collaboration with Black Asteroid. It started from a friendship born by the help of our music. Bryan is not only such a great artist, but he is one of the people that believes the most in me and my music.
What are you thinking about when you’re behind the DJ booth?
To not perform any bullshit while mixing and not to be boring. Usually I think to play as if I was in the crowd and wanted to dance.
What machines do you use to produce the submerged static and muffled acid that features in some of your tracks?
Sometime I use lots of gears, from synthesizers such as the likes of Roland vintage machines (Juno 106, TR drums etc ), Korg polysix and Moog’s, including racks of filters and effects. Sometimes just a VST processed in the right way so that it sounds like analog. I’m not a prude as told you before – I look at the result more than the way to achieve it. Anyway I’m sure you are talking about some of synth lines you listened in ‘I’m Made Of Stars’ and ‘1957’. They come from my old Juno 106 but how I processed them is a secret tip, I can just tell honestly, is not reproducible because my one is broken so all the filters and oscillators works in their own way.