Techno-Trip with David Castellani

Techno-Trip with David Castellani

Trip caught up with Italy born producer and modular synthesist David Castellani.

Who is an aficionado in all things modular with a focus on driving, contemporary techno.

Now based in LA by way of Chicago, Castellani launched his record label Noetic in 2021, cultivating smart & dynamic techno with a focus on synthesizers and analog hardware. The label has homed seven releases from Castellani so far, featuring remixes from Redshape, Matrixxman, Voiski & Etapp Kyle.

Castellani’s journey in music has been marked by two guiding principles – passion and learning. He was taught drums by respected Afro Cubin percussionist Juma Santos, who featured on the legendary Miles Davis album ‘Bitches Brew’. The experience of working with Santos has stayed with him till this day.

Castellani would go on to be an educator himself, thriving as a teacher at Chicago’s respected Columbia College, where he’d teach for almost a decade. His passion for educating is something that stays with him till this day, involved in running modular synth workshops in LA in collaboration with the RE/FORM crew, with whom he holds a residency. He also volunteers with the Jazz Angels, an outreach program that sees him go into schools and help children record and learn about music.

His passion and curiosity for all things learning, creativity and technological development has seen him create his own sequencer module, the Precision Disrupter. His background in graphic design also sees a collaboration with clothing brand After Infinite, responsible for designing all their rave wear garments.

A magnetic live performer, highlights in 2023 include playing RE/FORM’s Movement Afterparty alongside Etapp Kyle and Speedy J; a special 360-degree audio-visual performance in LA alongside Colin Benders and ONYVAA, and a coveted spot playing Chicago’s Arc Festival.

“It was one of the most vivid memories of my youth. We just spent hours playing drums together and then we’d indulge in some cannabis while Juma would share stories about hanging out with Miles Davis in the 70's. I was about 17 and remember travelling home, thinking how excited I was to start this new journey in music. And most of all, this helped me understand the value of education via a proper teacher within music.”
- David Castellani
David Castellani


Firstly, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We are big admirers of your productions at Trip and we are looking forward to hearing more about what you have in store for the techno community.

You are renowned for your modular live sets so can you tell us a bit about how your passion for modular synths started and your involvement with Anti-Kulture?​

My modular journey started about five years ago. That’s when I first purchased the Make Noise Shared System – an all-inclusive modular rig that comes with all the modules needed to get a couple of voices going. It took me about a month to start really laying into it, but it quickly became one of the most rewarding and exciting parts of making music. The depths and quality of the Eurorack space are unlike any other music hardware environment that we have.

Fast forward two years, and I had an idea for a generative sequencer, which combined functionality from other tools that I had experience with, but none of which fully brought controlled randomization, to this degree, into the modular world. This awareness brought me to start Anti-Kulture and work with our team to develop the first module, the Precision Disrupter.

Perhaps historically techno was not known as a form that leant itself to live performance however it seems increasingly artists are moving towards live shows rather than the traditional DJ route. Can you tell us a little about why performing techno live appealed to you, why you think this has shifted and a little about your live set up?

With DJing being at the fulcrum of the electronic music world, it has taken time for more live performers to emerge into the space. It has also taken time for technology and the available tools to provide us with new performance opportunities.

For me, performing live is exhilarating and brings me to a higher state when on stage. The element of improvisation, and not knowing exactly where things are going, by collectively partnering with the machines to find new musical plateaus, is something that I enjoy very much. I often use the analogy of riding a horse – we are two beings working together in unison to discover new (musical) landscapes.

My setup currently consists of four Submodular cases and a group of modules from my favorite manufacturers such as Make Noise, Erica Synths, Intellijel, Frap Tools, Instruo and many more. I run everything through two Expert Sleepers ES-9 sound cards which I aggregate together as one. This gives me 32 independent channels with a small footprint.

The best thing about a live setup these days is that you can find your own way to whatever works for you. The possibilities are endless.

We’ve heard that you had classical training under the mentorship of the legendary Juma Santos. Can you tell us a little about this experience, how it has helped you and what made you make the transition from jazz/classical to electronic music?

Juma Santos was my first true experience with higher musical education and he sparked a lifetime thirst for knowledge in my life. The experience of learning from such a renowned master, who regularly played with the likes of Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and countless others, instilled in me the precious notion of education and information being the key to musical growth.

And of course, his friendship being one of the driving forces of my inspirational ambition, taught me early on that the connection we have with each other, and the ability to gain from the evolution of the ones that came before us, is one of the most important things we have in music. Sharing music in this world is what it’s all about.

Your recent project Hysteria Dichotic combined modular synthesis, film, contemporary dance and techno and saw you work with dancer AnnMarie Arcuri. What was the biggest learning you took away from the project?

Hysteria Dichotic has to be the most rewarding project I’ve worked on.

And of course, it’s all due to the amazingly talented AnnMarie Arcuri. Working with her has been an effortless and an endlessly enriching creative collaboration. Her mastery and sheer dedication to dance is an undeniable force and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to make art alongside her. What it taught me most of all, is that collaborations such as these are so extremely valuable and should be nurtured as much as possible.

David Castellani


David Castellani · David Castellani - Hyperstop (Ken Ishii Remix)- Preview


We noticed you performed a 360 audio visual performance with fellow modular performer Colin Benders. Can you tell us a little about what this experience was like and if you have plans to do further such shows?

That was one of the most exciting and inspirational events I’ve been a part of. That collaboration in Los Angeles alongside WORK and SIX AM, led to an amazing night of music and community. All the performers that night were exceptional musicians in their own right and delivered nothing short of amazing performances.

And of course, Colin Benders, now a great friend, is one of the most groundbreaking artists in our scene. I urge anyone who has not had a chance to check him out to rush over to see what he’s up to. Inspiration incarnate.

That specific event will be a yearly series from now on and you can expect another one coming in 2024. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose much more just yet.

Your background is graphic design and obviously you till work in this field. Are there any parallels between your processes and workflows in music or are they very different spheres?

Graphic design is a skill that I learned early on after high school, and it has been a part of my artistic expression throughout my adulthood. It also ties in closely with music production, both from the editing side of using a computer and software, and from the higher understanding of artistic expression, and the value of taste.

This is something that I think about many days on end – the idea of where artist values derive from and when we should open ourselves to outside ideas for a richer artistic understanding. I am a huge believer that we should strive to better understand this process. How we grow into our value systems within our creative choices, I believe is often overlooked or not thought about enough.

You label Noetic seems to have already attracted some big hitters in the techno scene such as Etapp Kyle. What is the ethos behind the label and the plans for the future?

I’ve been very blessed to have some amazing artists collaborate on my Noetic imprint. The ethos for me is pretty simple – make sure you believe in the music. And make sure the label grows via the relationships kindled with other talented musical minds. I will keep pushing down on this road and am excited for what the future will bring.

David Castellani

The world of modular can seem overwhelming for those starting out, What tips and advice do you have for those taking their first steps in modular and or live performance?

The first thing I would recommend is to take some time on YouTube (or other educational outlets) to understand synthesis on a deeper level. Specifically, wrapping your head around subtractive, east-coast synthesis is a great place to start.

Understand that it may take some time to get into a proper groove, but remember that what’s waiting for you on the other end is a lifetime full of reward and joy. It’s ok to feel a bit overwhelmed at first, but don’t despair and never be afraid to reach out to local educators for a helping hand.

A good teacher is always the key to understanding things better and to streamline your abilities and results. You can also always hit me up via Instagram or other avenues if you have any questions. I’m always happy to chat and to share this wonderful thing we have, which we call music.


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