Interview with Donna Haringwey

Published by Alessandro Violante on August 11, 2021

This interview has been written by Alessandro “FLUX” Violante and Davide Pappalardo

Donna Haringwey is an interesting musician who has recently released a tape with the Dutch label Strange Therapy, entitled Venal. Now he’s going to release his album Thank you for telling me who I really am on CD and tape with the new label Accept. His music can be described as a mixture of punk, electronic, industrial and noise with a ’90s touch. Today we talk with him about his music and his new release.

Davide: Thank you for being here with us. Your new album on Accept “Thank you for telling me who I really am” sounds as a culmination of elements we’ve found in your music so far. Syncopation, hardcore vocals, tense atmospheres, modern emanations of noise informed by mutant urban rhythmic patterns are your tools of trade. I would like to ask you about this sound, how it was born.

Hey Davide, whats up. I was very bored of hearing the same stuff over and over again and I wanted to give punk, metal, industrial and noise music my own spin. It really took me a long time to be happy with what I am doing but since I finished ‘Thanks for telling me who I really am (TFTMWIRA)’ and Venal, my previous release (on Strange Therapy) I feel like I found my own path in making music. These two works are the first I am acutally satisfied with, as they feel authentic, honest and original.

Davide: I was impressed by your use of physical drums and synthetic distortions in a style moving between different worlds in order to create a very “live” experience, and I think there are many common elements with the 90’s digital hardcore sound and its punk attitude. What do you think about it?

Honestly I do not listen to 90’s digital hardcore at all, neither can I relate to it.
For me music making is like accelerationism. I have to overcome what I am doing again and again in order to create something new and satisfying to myself. My art and music has to change constantly. At the same time the music has to come from a super honest and vulnerable space in order to give music its most important feature: it has to move me. Copying musics from previous centuries seems super lazy to me and a really toxic trend which has been going on for some time. I mean how can there be social change and progress if every few years a past century gets fetishised? I obviously believe every musician is influenced by the past and its impossible to reinvent the wheel. I just find it super important to do your own thing and follow your own path without being influenced from what the scene kid OG’s or trendy label bosses have to say. This goes from more nostalgic genres like industrial, punk to pretentious wannabe futuristic sound design musics, which already sound outdated 10 seconds after they are put out. I think people should strive to find the confidence within themselves and do shit which is honest and empowering.

Picture by Alison Lewis (Zanias)

Picture by Alison Lewis (Zanias)

Davide: We even find distorted orchestrations with a droning motive, very similar to the sound used in some modern soundtracks. Do you think that score music had some influence on you?

For sure. I love working on sound for moving image and have done so for about 4 years. Artists like Bobby Krlic (The Haxan Cloak), Atticus Ross or Trent Reznor absolutelty nail modern soundtracks and definitely were an influence in arranging and writing bits of the album. Often when I am not inspired I mute stuff on youtube and make some sounds to moving images and see what I can come up with. Mostly its useless, but its still a super cool productive excercise for me especially when it comes to practicing arranging stuff.

Davide: You are part of Raum-Zeit, a duo that has released a cassette EP on Amok Tapes. There the sound was quite different, a techno industrial assault. Is this project still active? How did you transit from one style to the other one?

Not at the moment, although everytime Boris comes and visits me, or I go and visit him, we always jam around and make tracks. We get along really well and have a great friendship even though we do not see each other that often due to living in different countries. He is probably one of the smartest people I ever met in my life and deffo a person who likes to push boundaries and challenge himself constantly, which fits well to my approach in making music. Henceforth I can actually imagine making some music again at some point. We actually have two full length unreleased albums, which are like 5 years old by now. Maybe one day we’ll stick ’em on bandcamp : ).

Davide: As said your music has a strong physical nature. So, do you play live? What can we expect from one of your performances

Yes, I do play live and I honestly haven’t enjoyed doing it at all when I play solo. I used to love playing live with my old black/death metal/hardcore band in my teens as we were able to conjour a specific cathartic energy together and turn all the negative energy we had inside ourselves into something progressive and positive. I attribute this to the fact of sharing a specific mindset with close friends/bandmates.

Playing solo shows feels quite alienating to me as I never quite managed to feel what I feel when I am making music on my own. When I am making music on my own, after laying down some points I want to follow, everything just flows naturally (usually) and the process feels super cathartic. Live I do not manage to get into that zone, as I feel like the whole situation is forced in some way: I really feel under pressure of having to deliver the feelings I feel while making music to the audience within a given timeframe.

The thing is I do really want to play live and enjoy it as much as I used to and I am actually craving this feeling I had in my teens. Donna Haringwey is definitely my perfect project to crap out all my negative energy and convert it into something empowering and positive and I want to do this while playing live in an honest way as well. Therefore, for my next live shows I will be touring with a live drummer, which I am super pumped about as I am 100% sure I will start loving playing live again and able to deliver these honest and empowering emotions I feel while making music by myself in a live situation too.  Especially because seeing someone bash the shit out of the drums gets me super pumped.

Picture by Alison Lewis (Zanias)

Picture by Alison Lewis (Zanias)

Alessandro: In your music, the percussive element is very important. Have you been influenced by some drummer in particular?

Awesome question and a really important one to me as well. Yes, I am in love with Zach Hill playing the drums. I love his minimal set up and how he manages to be super creative with it. He bashes the shit out of his drum set and is super technical at the same time – couldn’t be any better. I also am really influenced by a friend from back home in South Tyrol who now plays in a band called Hijss (I just produced two songs for them and they’ll be out soon!). He has a very similar minimal set up as Zach Hill and his attitude playing is as punk and as euphoric as it can get. You just see when someone is having fun and its coming from an honest place, and that gets me excited and inspired.

Alessandro: The nineties have been very representative of the fusion between electronic and punk music on a global scale. This process started earlier in the eighties, but became stronger during those years. Today we can tell how “new” punk music is electronic music or a mixture of both music styles, and how the electronic musician has become the new “punk” musician. Listening to your music, I feel you bring back those sounds and that will to break the music rules. Do you consider yourself a punk musician? Do you think ’90s music has influenced you in some way?

I do not consider myself a punk musician, for that I am way too posh. But I do consider myself a musician who breaks the rules and will do so over and over again as mentioned above. If that is the definition of punk for you, then I guess I fall into that category but I would never say I am a punk.

’90s music has definitely influenced me in my childhood, because all I did was skateboarding and trying to find the awesome tracks played in skate videos for download on Emule or SoulSeek. This got me into playing guitar and in pop/skate-punk bands. But honestly for making music nowadays I do not consider the ’90s an influence at all. ’90s skateboarding is still an influence though!

Alessandro: I’ve listened to your previous release, “Venal”, released by the Dutch label Strange Therapy. It seems to me that, with Thanks for telling me who I really am, you’ve improved your songwriting skills and you’ve grown up as a musician. Venal was rich of ideas, now you’re starting to develop them on a more structured level. I especially think about songs such as Forgiveness and Future.

Thanks for the kind words! I actually wrote Venal after TFTMWIRA. It took me 3 years to write TFTMWIRA, and it is definitely more serious and dark than Venal, due to the fact of me processing very weird shit about myself and my surroundings. During that time I was overthinking everything you could overthink, but at the same time learning a bunch about myself and music production as well. I am pretty good at overthinking and therefore blocking my musical output, thats what happened with TFTMWIRA at some points. In a way I love that feature of overthinking stuff about myself, because it means I give a shit about stuff and through this feature of myself I also became the producer,musician and human I am today, who I am proud to be. On the other hand it also showed me how insecure I was while making TFTMWIRA, as I kinda was striving for perfectionism within music, which obviously doesn’t exist. Even though TFTMWIRA lies in the past and I cannot relate to the approach I had while making it anymore, I honor it to the max as it comes from a very honest and empowering place within myself. So yeah, I can see why people would say it sounds more grown up and thought through than Venal.

What I really love about how I wrote Venal is how intuitive the writing process was. It was definitley way more fun than writing TFTMWIRA, but thats due to the fact that I was in a way better place conserning my mental health and the whole EP had a sarcastic undertone to it.

Alessandro: Falling is one of my favourite songs of the album. Here the percussive element reminds a bit early industrial music. What do you think about it? Are you influenced by it?

Thank you very much, this means a lot to me as it took me forever to finalise this track. After ableton version 2000 I started naming my ableton project for the track ‘failing’ instead of falling as I just couldn’t get it to work. After stripping the song down to where it is now, I definitley have to thank my buddy Gian from Dadub Studio for mixing and mastering it and getting it to sound how it sounds now – which is fucking huge! (This really goes  for the whole album!!) I wouldn’t have managed that on my own.

At this point I also want give other producers a lil hint which helped me: its ok to ask other people for help in mixing or sometimes even production. Its awesome to work with other people and learn from them and there shouldn’t be any shame in asking someone for help or  advice. I do not know why so many producers I know do not even credit their mixing engineers and pretend to do everything themselves – obviously because they have small lil fragile (usually male) egos – or why its even so condemned to ask for help. Honestly if it weren’t for Gian mixing my stuff, I wouldn’t be mixing other peoples music myself now. So yeah, asking other people for help really helped me and can help you as well as long as you treat your teachers with respect – which usually means fucking credit them the way they need to be credited!

Evian Christ and a beat by Clams Casino for Asap Rocky were the main influence for Falling (even though probably nobody can hear the influence). But I do get that the syncopated toms are reminiscent of ‘tribal’ industrial music and all the impacts in the second bit of the track might remind of some Neubauten metal bashing tracks.

Alessandro: From what I’ve seen, Thanks for telling me who I really am is the first release of a new label, Accept, which I didn’t know about. I actually don’t know anything about it. How did you get in contact with it?

You cannot know about it because its new and I made it up over the past months : )
It is basically gonna be my label, where I will be releasing my music and maybe other peoples music too. Its also a production house, where I will work with a team of producers to make music for other people. One album is out already and 2 singles are in the making and another album is also in the making. There are a bunch of other educational plans for inspiring fellow producers and music makers I have with accept as well. So keep an eye on it!

Thanks for your time. If you want, greet our readers and invite them to buy your music!

Hey hey, thanks for reading this and thanks Davide and Alessandro for the interesting questions. Hopefully there is something you people find inspiring in here and it will make you want to make music.

If you like the music you hear, as usual, the way to support me is through Bandcamp! Take care and see you on tour hopefully at some point!