Q&A: Audiofly

As they head to Detroit's Movement, Anthony Middleton and Luca Saporito talk to XLR8R about career arcs, inspirations and DJing in Romania.
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“We’re slow burners,” says Anthony Middleton, the British half of musical duo, Audiofly. Together with Luca Saporito, the Italian member of the pair, Middleton has been DJing and producing a exquisite style of deeply melodic techno for well over a decade. But while many of their modern-day contemporaries have found immediate acclaim with just a small number of releases, Audiofly’s progress has been far more gradual, founded upon a deep-rooted common wish to carve out their own unique identity in an already saturated market, by remaining true their sound and retaining their creative integrity as artists. Through a continual process of fine-tuning their individual skills, carefully calibrating their objectives, and searching far and wide for inspirations and ideas to incorporate into their growing catalog of beautiful musical works, Audiofly have steadily risen to become both a highly-demanded and wonderfully unique unit.

Outside of their DJ and production work, Middleton and Saporito also head up Supernature, the respected musical imprint they founded in 2007 that's served as a launch pad for artists such as Ali Nasser, Alex Niggeman, Bearweasel, Amelie and Boris Horel. Their work with Supernature meshes with that of their other label, Maison DEtre, an imprint which satisfies the pair’s diverse creative cravings and exists as a vehicle for releasing the undiscovered music for which the pair share a common love. The final piece of the Audiofly jigsaw is Flying Circus, the global party-brand that's established in more than 30 different countries. It’s fair to say the boys have got their hands full. In the anticipation of their almost-here date at Detroit's Movement, XLR8R caught up with Middleton and Saporito to discuss their everlasting motivations to continually create, the key factors behind their success and their plans to follow up their wonderful debut album from 2011, Follow My Liebe.

It’s fair to say that Audiofly has been a big success since its inception in 2002. Did you ever ensvision this?
Middleton: We’ve always been very focused on the musical aspect of what we do, but we have never really envisaged where we were going to be. However, as your career goes on, I think it becomes more important to be grounded and aware of what you’re trying to achieve—you can’t just keep on floating along in this game anymore, and you definitely do have to play the system a little bit, otherwise you will disappear into this mass of people trying to come through. In essence, though, we have always been doing it for the journey.
Saporito: When we actually started, we certainly didn’t have a long term plan. Anthony was coming from Spain and we happened to meet out of chance. I was just a kid at the time and I was lucky enough to meet Anthony who was already producing and working with other musicians. I was very excitable at the time, and for the first year or so there were absolutely no expectations; we just decided to get together in the studio and have fun. I still had a day job and used all my free time to work with Anthony. But slowly it just started to work.
Middleton: There was certainly a point where we sat down together and asked ourselves whether we were going to take this seriously. Was it a career? In order to make it into a career, Luca has to stop his day job and I had to dedicate all of my energy to Luca and the Audiofly project.

"Almost like magnets, we’ve subconsciously tried to repel from whatever music is current at the time."

Looking back now, besides the obvious hard work and dedication, what do you put your success down to?
Middleton:
I definitely think we came through at a time when it was easier to be noticed because, although there were a lot of DJs, there weren’t too many producers—and there certainly weren’t many duos. I think that people today go into the game with a lot more planning and strategy.
Saporito: Ever since the very beginning, we’ve had a very signature sound. Even though people perhaps didn’t know who Audiofly were, our sound was always very different to what was being produced at the time. We started at a time of West Coast house and super-underground techno, so we already had a niche for ourselves without even being aware of it. And we certainly didn’t intend for that; we just went in the studio and that’s the sound we made.
Middleton: The only strategy we ever had was that, musically, we didn’t want to feel that we were either copying other artists or being copied. It’s very important we have integrity in our sound and, almost like magnets, we’ve subconsciously tried to repel from whatever music is current at the time.

Do you ever feel that this niche sound held you back because people perhaps couldn’t identify with Audiofly?
Saporito:
Certainly. Although the niche worked in our favor, it is a double-edged sword. It gives you an identity but it can hinder your growth because people can't put a finger on your sound. People were always wondering what Audiofly was, and what kind of music we wrote because we were difficult to place as DJs and producers.
Middleton: We definitely chose the long road, but it fortunately worked. I feel that people are really starting to get it and we are being recognized for what it is.

Where was it that you guys met, and how did Audiofly come about?
Saporito: 
We met in a bar in East London through a common Italian friend of ours. I was 22-years-old and excitable, wearing silly clothes and red glasses, while Anthony was a super quiet studio boy. It was very ying and yang. I do think this diversity has had an influence in our success by helping us to create something unique

And where did the name originate from?
Middleton:
It’s just one of those classic things where we had written a track and there was suddenly a pressure for us to have a name for the first release. We spent weeks thinking about it and then I said I liked the catchiness of the word "Superfly." We spent five minutes sitting there staring into space and then both thought of Audiofly. It sounds like you know it, even though you haven’t heard of it, and it just rang all the right bells.

Luca, tell me about your background before Audiofly.
Saporito:
I was working as a sale assistant at Selfridges and then the manager asked me if I wanted to play some music for the store. At the time, I wasn’t a DJ so I absolutely blagged it! I remember that night I went to a friend’s house to start mixing music on his decks, and the day after I had to perform in the Selfridges store. I didn’t have a fucking idea what I was doing. The only time when two tracks mixed in well together was when the manager walked by and he gave me the job.
Although that seems like a long time ago, these experiences were very important in my formative years, because I had to play eight hours in the store and had to go through so many different styles of music. It gave me a great musical education, more so than just playing in clubs, because I had to start off really chilled and then move to more jazzy and funky stuff. Finally I could play some dance music in the afternoon, which gave me a very wide musical education that I wouldn’t have had if I had learned playing only in clubs.

And Anthony, what’s your story?
Middleton:
I've been a DJ since 1992, but I went off to Marbella most summers. At some point my Dad told me that I should begin studyngi, and they had just opened a new higher-education system in Manchester that didn't require applicants to have physics or mathematics to get into the Music Technology course. I enrolled but went away to Spain in the summers before coming back to the UK to take music seriously. I was fortunate enough to be mentored along the way by a producer/engineer called Merv De Peyer. He was an excellent producer, one of the best, although never one of those star producers of the old-school. I spent a good couple of years learning from him. Funnily enough, at some point we wanted to showcase an experimental live meets surround sound system project and visuals that Merv had invented, and I had been lucky enough to be working with him on, and though the nuts and bolts of the show were covered, there was no budget left for interim music and entertainment. That’s actually part of how Luca and I met; he popped up and offered to DJ for us for free between the acts.

At what point did you both begin working full-time on the Audiofly project?
Middleton:
I wasn’t working because I had been put out with a genetic back disorder about two years before meeting Luca. I was almost unable to move, I was on the dole and was completely unsure of where I was going to go. Luca was working extremely hard in his job and that’s why the output was so low at the beginning.
Saporito: Due to budget cuts at Selfridges, they didn’t want to pay me the salary that I thought i deserved, so I decided to quit it and just take Audiofly seriously. It was around the time of "Release Yourself" [2005] when we started working Shaun Parkes. That record was being produced at the time a left my job and I think you can hear the difference. Before this time, we would start a track together but Anthony would finish it because I didn’t have the time to spend in the studio. "Release Yourself" was the first track we actually produced together in its entirety.

And you feel this really helped with the growth of the project?
Saporito:
Yes. Within six months we saw the benefits because we were in the studio every day putting our stamp on the scene. Although there very long periods where we ate a lot of the same food -mostly pasta and tomato sauce, the cheap kind as it’s all we could afford then. The past experiences that Anthony had prior to meeting me have certainly been pivotal in our success. His experiences in the studio gave him an understanding of how to work not just with dance music but also with numerous different styles. That was something that gave us a different kind of edge - something that makes us a little bit unique.
Middleton: Before the point when Luca quit his work, Audiofly just didn’t feel concrete. It was like when you start collaborating with people: we had the Audiofly name,but until you start spending serious time in the studio together it doesn’t become coherent.

Going back to "Release Yourself," do you identify that as a key turning point in your careery?
Middleton:
As Luca mentioned, it was the first moment we really started working closely together, but working with Shaun [Parkes] was also amazing because he such an good lyricist. We got a lot of kudos from the release because it was the one that popped for us.
Saporito: It was certainly the track that was being played out the most, but if I had to pinpoint a turning point in our careers, it was "1999." That was the track that really put us on the map, I feel.
Middleton: We don’t really feel attached obsessively to our musical output because it’s just a continual process of putting out music that feels right.

Do you feel that your varying backgrounds in music have influenced Audiofly’s success today?
Saporito:
Without doubt. The past experiences that Anthony had have been pivotal in our success. His experiences in the studio gave him an understanding of how to work not just with dance music but also with numerous different styles. That was something that gave us a different kind of edge - something that makes us a little bit unique.
Middleton: Absolutely. Merv [De Peyer] was very jazz-orientated, and had lots of knowledge of rock too, which influenced me. Also, when I first came back to the U.K .from Spain, I had a good friend who was studying up in Manchester. We did some cool ambient drum & bass projects together, and although we never released anything, I learned so many important production values from the experience.

Was there a specific point that you can recall where you realised that the Audiofly project was going to be a success?
Middleton:
Due to his work commitments, there were times when Luca wasn’t turning up at the studio and, at one point, I just pulled him aside and asked him what he wanted to do with his life—and how far he wanted the Audiofly project to go. That was the first time we started to take it seriously, but we probably didn’t realize it was going to be a success until far later.
Saporito: When I quit my job, I remember we started playing loads of gigs around London. Even though the music was being spread internationally, we were still only local DJs. At the time it was a nightmare to get paid for a job and, at some point, we knew we had to decide whether we were content with being an undervalued local DJ or whether we should stop the local gigs and try to create a different perception of ourselves. So that’s what we did: We tightened the belt and went back to the tomato and pasta sauce.
The first point we felt like our careers were going somewhere was when Sasha approached us. For the first time we were traveling around outside of England, being able to support ourselves inside the studio while playing gigs all over the place. We were not even marketing ourselves; our reputation was growing from only the music we were playing and the music we produced. We quickly began to take the project a lot more seriously and realized we needed a plan.
Middleton: I feel like we played for other people for a while, and these were important times for us because we saw bigger artists than us doing it properly. We had come from doing after-parties, but then when Flying Circus began to take off and we had our own successful event, we realized that we had to take another step up and be as good as the artists we wanted to play with, who were our friends but were bigger than us. This was a big period of growth for Audiofly. Musically speaking, however, I think we have come into our own ever since the first album. Before that, we had written a lot of stuff.

You must feel extremely proud of what you’ve achieved, more so because it’s taken you so long to get the acclaim you have today. Do you feel the struggles you’ve been through make the experience now more rewarding?
Middleton:
Very much so. We have a resistance to following trends so we would never have risen to the top of the game with just one massive release. Our desire to be unique and craft our own niche has held us back and slowed our progress down, but I feel it is worth it now.
Saporito: Also, we’ve never been attached to a crew. Lots of new artists come up because they play with Cocoon or Hot Natured, for example, but we never had the desire to be attached to a crew that we didn’t make ourselves. Because of this, and because we have never been touring with an already established brand, it has certainly taken more time for us.

Do you envisage yourselves primarily as producers or DJs?
Middleton:
It’s both, to be honest. At some point along the way when we began touring, we realized we weren’t spending enough time in the studio, and there were times when we have spent too much time in the studio that we have lost a valuable connection with the DJ side of our work. Today, we know that’s it’s just about trying to fit all that we can into the schedule. I think that I will always be a studio boy and that Luca will always be a DJ—but they’re both equally important to us and we cannot actually function without producing music that makes us happy in our souls, and then making these sounds fit into the DJ sets that we’re playing.
Saporito: One feeds off the other. We wouldn’t be the producers we are today without our experiences of DJing around the world. There has been a few gigs in our career which have influenced us in various ways, and we bring back these influences to the studio, which changes our sound slightly.

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There has been a feeling of late than your sound has mutated a little bit as a result of playing in Romania. It's a bit more more techy and minimal, yet still deep and lush. Is this something you’d agree with and are aware of?
Middleton
: The Romanians give you the opportunity to play for a long time. They pay attention to you; they are not expecting you to deliver to them an enormous track immediately, and they will sit with you for hours, patiently waiting for you to reveal the picture you are trying to paint. We became very attached to that, and obviously the Romanian sound is very loopy and organic. It’s very percussive and allows you to mix very deeply, allowing you to go places with mixing. It’s the perfect place for us to be as a starting point for our DJing. We are constantly trying to reinsert the Audiofly essence into the sets without having to drop the big tracks straight away, and that’s had a big influence on us.
Saporito: Playing in Romania has certainly taught us patience. We have learned to build the story as opposed to laying it all out in just a few hours.
Middleton: It was very much a natural evolution, based only on those guys in Romania giving us the space to create for the first time.

And does this evolution feed very naturally into your production too?
Middleton:
We’ve always being very journey-esque in our sound; we have always been trying to tell a story from one side of the track to the other, and we found it difficult to reinterpret that into our DJ sets until rather recently.
Saporito: Playing places where you are allowed more time to tell your story as a DJ has definitely influenced our studio work. That’s why our tracks have gradually become longer and longer in recent times. We are influenced by the longer DJ sets.

Traveling as much as you guys do now, can it become frustrating when you can’t produce when you have these inspirations you find on the road?
Middleton:
We only stumbled across the formula rather recently, actually. We’ve never been good at working with something like Ableton. Instead, we have always worked with Logic which is a very studio-based way of working because it requires patience and complete isolation. Ableton is a lot faster and, although we were against it when it first came about, we have started working with it when we are on the road. It allows us to have fun with music away from the studio, knocking out basic sketches for our tracks. Just recently, we have also started to schedule production blocks, during which we will take time away from DJing to focus solely on production. We can work on the sketches we have made on the road, plugging them into Logic to develop them further.
Saporito: Before, we were always constrained to our studio, and our productions suffered because it took us some time to find our groove when we returned. It’s different now because we are constantly doing loops when we are on the road, and we can either complete this back home in the studio or in a studio on the road. This way, we don’t lose have to start from zero every time we head back into the studio.

After 10 years in the game, producing and DJing together, is it ever hard to find the motivation and inspiration?
Saporito:
You live and learn all the time. It’s a continuous learning curve and I think this makes exciting. We’re continually motivated because we’re always searching for something, or trying to find a way to improve our work. We’re always learning from each other and this drives us to carry on.
Middleton: None of us are getting any younger and it’s extremely hard work that takes a lot out of us as people, but the music around us is so good that we absolutely thrive. As long the music remains inspiring, and our collaborative relationship remains strong, then we’ll keep on going—although I want to have a desert island by the time I am 50!

"The main thing in a duo is to put your ego away. It’s always important that we have consideration for the other person’s thoughts and beliefs, and that’s what has kept us together for this long."

You say as long as the relationship remains strong. How do you ensure that it does, after so many years working and traveling together?
Saporito:
The main thing in a duo is to put your ego away. It’s always important that we have consideration for the other person’s thoughts and beliefs, and that’s what has kept us together for this long, and what will keep us together for as long as we have the ego under control.
Middleton: It is a constant process. In this job, it’s very easy to get lost in yourself and there are obviously times where we don’t agree and have had some healthy fights, but we are both work hard to maintain it. It’s totally the same as having any relationship with a girlfriend.
Saporito: I also think that we never got too big too quickly. If you look at other duos, the ones that got too big broke up at the some point. Perhaps there are too many people throwing things are your ego, and maybe we have been blessed that we haven’t been subjected to that kind of intense pressure.

Returning to Follow My Leibe, what were the motivations behind it, and why did it come about nine years after the inception of Audiofly?
Middleton: We just didn’t feel the need to produce an album before that. We both think that an album is only for when you have something to say, and when you really feel it is the time. I always worry about artists who release an album early in their careers, because it takes a lot of experience to complete one. I don’t know about how it sounded to the outside world, but a lot of our experiences are subtly expressed throughout the album.
Saporito: We didn’t want to release an album that was only dance music, so we had to have a lot of moments in there that could only be achieved after having had many years together in the studio. We couldn’t have done that before.
Middleton: We both feel that there are two kinds of albums: greatest-hits albums and conceptual ones. We only wanted to write a conceptual piece that documents emotions and a journey, and we didn’t feel ready before that point in our career. Now that we have done the one, and we understand how to conceptually write an album, we are very much looking forward to writing another one.

Now that you have achieved the acclaim you deserve, do you feel any more pressure in your work?
Saporito: I wouldn’t really call it pressure. If anything, it has given us a greater desire to innovate. When we get to the studio, we forget about any outside pressure and expectation, and go back to doing what we know best. The best way to perform, in anything, is to base yourself on what you know best and that is exactly what we do. We will start a track or DJ set in the same way and tweak it a little each time, searching for new techniques and methods to find inspirations.
strong>Middleton: The pressure to innovate is an internal thing. It’s a personal need to innovate, and the pressure from the outside is something we have always fought against. We have always been trying to ignore this outside pressure, and it may have slowed down our long-term development, but it is something that gives us a unique identity. We pay attention to what’s going on but always do our own thing, staying true to our sound.

Tell us about the inspirations for Supernature. What was the idea behind the label?
Saporito: The initial thought was to release the music artists we like. It was quite simple, and we wanted to have a very strong visual aspect too. And then it grew into a platform for undiscovered artists to express themselves before going on to be their own artists in their own right. We are doing the same thing with Maison D’Etre, our other label, which is ultra-chilled and takes care of more artistic stuff. It does music for music’s sake, not because it’s going to sell lots of units. We do music that we like and not because it’s going to pay the bills. It’s been extremely fulfilling.

So, looking forward, what has 2015 got in store for you guys?
Saporito: We have a release through Supernature in just over a month. We have a two-tracker out. While remaining true to the Audiofly sound, one is certainly more heads-down techno-based and incorporates a wider ranger of influences. The other is a collaboration with Big Bully. After this, which have a mix we just finished for Rebellion, which is another step towards the sound we are playing out these days. It’s definitely something for bigger rooms and dance floors. We tested it out last week and it got a great reaction. On the deeper side, we also have a remix scheduled for August which is less intense and more melodic. It sounds more like the old Audiofly.
Middleton: We’ve also got some great ideas for the second album. There are two or three musicians we’d like to work with and are currently in talks with. We’d like to make the second album a bit more cinematic, not so much in the tracks themselves but in the whole approach to it. Out of that, we’re going to develop the live act because we feel this will complement the style of the album nicely. We’re also doing a number of exciting Flying Circus projects, including a cool collaboration with Heart Ibiza.

You talk about testing a track out on the dancefloor. Is this something you do with all your productions before you release them?
Saporito: This is a more of a recent thing. I feel there is always a reluctance to play your own music sometimes, because we spend so much time making it. But now, we feel that the music we are producing is perfectly in sync with the music that we are playing out so it only feels right to test it. We’ve always played our own music but now it is a more conscious decision to do it more often.
Middleton: I think recently there was little gap where we weren’t playing as much of our own stuff, because of this new style we seem to be associated with would work in podcasts but not so much on the dance floor—and our old sound definitively didn’t fit into our DJ sets.

How do you switch off from it all? Or do you?
Middleton: For myself, I try to meditate about four days of the week. I also do yoga because this helps my head. A bunch of us all try and go away at the end of the year to get away from the music completely.
Saporito: I really find cooking helps me to relax because it has this off-zone where I am completely in the moment.
Middleton: Cooking and music are almost exactly the same thing—so perhaps we are not switching off at all.