Prior to a busy Amsterdam Dance Event I got the opportunity to have a chat with a producer whose tracks have been in my collection for a long time already. Not defined easily, and like every artist this man doesn’t like to be put in boxes. An excerpt of my conversation with Mario Basanov, offering a minor insight in the life of this Lithuanian music veteran, whilst conversing on Needs, Wants and Castlevania. 

..And at the end of another successful show, his USB stick gets a small kiss, whilst God gets his praise

Personally, Mario showed up on my radar for the first time with his ‘We Are Child Of Love’ release on NeedWant about two years ago, after which I’ve kept a close eye on this talented creator. But in fact, the man behind masterpieces such as ‘Changed’ (together with musical soulmate Vidis) has been involved in music already for over 15 years. Classically schooled, Mario grew into electronic music over the years and has now – as you might know – become an adept in that area. Gigging however still keeps him on his toes: “I always need to find the key to the audience. Every crowd behaves differently, every room sounds different and I need to completely focus in order to give the best I can do.”

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It’s noticeable. When I saw Mario play for the first time at de Nachtdivisie earlier this month, I could clearly see him grow into his set. A slightly tense look in his eyes at the beginning soon turns into a calm and friendly expression. And at the end of another successful show, his USB stick gets a small kiss whilst God gets his praise. “I’m not fanatical or something, but as most Lithuanians I am religious. The morale behind Christianity for me holds a lot of truth and it helps me remember to be thankful for everything I have gotten from life so far. Nowadays you see a lot of artists that are thinking highly of themselves. That sort of egoïsm gets you nowhere I think.” His interest in other religions such as Hinduism – Mario has spent some time with the Hare-Krishna movement – is testament to his down to earth approach to anything he encounters. It’s likely that his interest in Asian culture has gotten him to use the Hangdrum, which actually is a Swiss instrument despite its eastern sound, in tracks such as ‘Slip Away’ and ‘Warung’.

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That approach can be seen in his club music as well. Mario doesn’t give much for genres but creates music that works. He does, however, care for one element in particular. “The bassline is the main and essential character in my music, and I put a lot of time in making sure it doesn’t sound cheap. A lot of music being produced nowadays – especially the new ‘deephouse’ and ‘nu-disco’ in my eyes could better be called ‘pop dance music’ because the focus lies on pop-like vocals and cheesy basslines. That’s not me – at all”.

This affection for lower frequencies might have something to do with the fact that Basanov is an experienced bassoon player. “I prefer the word bassoon because when I tell which instrument I play, often the synonym – fagot – is often misinterpreted, haha!”. Anyways, it explains why he created tracks such as ‘Bill‘ which never became a commercial success but was played by many famous DJ’s such as Carl Cox.

Thinking in straight lines isn’t something you’ll see often with Mario. ‘Slow’ and ‘Ryyk’ (together with Vidis) and his solo projects ‘Tor’, ‘Closer’ and his recent release on Innervisions ‘Red Line’ are testimony to the fact that, aside from his more mainstream tracks, there is a deeper need for Basanov to explore the various boundaries of electronic music. Sometimes it is more music for the ears than for the feet. Sometimes it’s even cinematic. Think about James Bond before playing this version of ‘Child of Love‘ and I think you’ll see what I mean.

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Not surprisingly, making music for movies (and games – Basanov is an avid gamer with a weakness for Castlevania) is something Mario aspires. “In comparison to house, jazz or whatever, soundtracks aren’t bound by rules. It is a genre that is totally about emotions and that is something I’d like to do more and more in the future.” And in fact, he already created the soundtrack of what seems to be a rather brutal Christmas story. Oh, the irony.

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As we get near the end of our short interview, which I now realize looks more like a conversation, it becomes apparent to me that I’ve been speaking to a very straightforward person who has explored various areas of music already. Someone that has found himself after years of experiments, though naturally he is still reinventing himself from time to time. Mario seems pretty down with the way various events in life are thrown at him. Perhaps that has to do with his respect for samsara – the circle of life. He neither needs nor wants a lot of things – ok, except for that 60m2 studio with super-expensive custom monitor speakers. Mario Basanov just wants to be himself. That’s a rather fresh take on life compared to the large amount of inflated artists you see nowadays. In all, a great personality packed with musical knowledge and talent.

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