GROOVE - Highgrade Disharmonic Orchestra

Highgrade Disharmonic Orchestra - Interview in Fall 2011 GROOVE Magazin

German-language interview and feature with improvisational live electronic music act Highgrade Disharmonic Orchestra.

Click "Read more" for English-language version.

Together they're strong: Five Berliner DJs, all associated with Highgrade Records, let their techno beats flow collectively in a free-form pattern—and are surprised at the results themselves. Their album presents the material they've made cooperatively, which they now intend to present live. Perhaps even in future tours as a laptop band, pardon: THE HIGHGRADE DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.

“There's totally enough live acts,” opines Todd Bodine, 35, a father of two, and the polite yet frenetic co-label manager of Berlin's Highgrade Records. As Todd speaks, he is circled by his label mates Philip Bader, Dale, and label founder Tom Clark, who are currently silent, yielding to Todd's palpable enthusiasm for Highgrade's newest project, the Disharmonic Orchestra. 

The name “Disharmonic Orchestra” may seem somewhat misleading when compared with the rather rhythmic and even “harmonic” elements on their debut album Multilayer. Bodine explains the name is more reflective of each member's distinct musical background, “The music is rather not [disharmonic], right, but that's only the founding idea. The idea of the 'disharmonic' is how it brings together five different people, who each have five different tastes in music.”

The genesis of the Dishamonic Orchestra traces itself back to over a year ago when the group, which also includes Daniel Dreier, aimed to explore the possibilities of live electronic music. “Somewhere you find limits,” reflects Tom Clark, 40, on the restrictions of Djing. Having played records for over 18 years at clubs including Tresor and E-Werk, Clark had not once played live until his involvement in the Disharmonic Orchestra. It was a similar case for Philip Bader, 34, the energetic newcomer of the group. After Djing for many years himself, he comments, “You'll then get to the point, sometime, that you also really want to become engaged with making music.”

With a smug grin, Clark recalls his initial skepticism of the entire project, “I thought to myself, 'This will totally become complete nonsense'”. Yet their first experimentations exceeded their expectations and they found that working with one another brought out a willingness to widen their individual sound spectrums. Dale, 40, also known as Adel Hafsi whose background includes various hip-hop and electro projects, describes the dynamic of playing live within the group, “Tom does an effect here, Todd adds a few drums to it here, which actually weren't planned, but then you hear it all and look at each other, thinking, 'That's hot!'”

Whether recording in the studio or playing live, the heart of the Disharmonic Orchestra lies amongst their five interconnected laptops, each running a networked version of Ableton Live. “Now that's our secret,” says Clark about their software, explaining how it was specifically custom-coded for the needs of the Disharmonic Orchestra. Bodine joins in, emphasizing, “It really wouldn't work out without this networked program.” 

Indeed the focus for the Disharmonic Orchestra is to continually develop their three hour live act of improvised and free-flowing 4/4 beats. And they certainly are ambitious. They want to incorporate custom visuals into their act, they want to create a niche for live electronic music at festivals, and they would even like to tour Europe in a Highgrade tour bus. For Todd, the simple goal is create a band identity, “Yeah, that's definitely where the end goal is—when we actually function like a band and not like some DJ Live-act-something-or-other. That's real concert character in the long run.” What may come out of the Highgrade Disharmonic Orchestra may be anyone's guess, including the members themselves, but for them that's the exciting part.