Aziz Haddad, known to the world as Skatman, enjoyed the warmth of the Tunisian sun in his early years – an environment, he confesses, that uplifts his spirits. Today, he calls the vibrant and culturally rich city of Berlin home, a fortuitous residence for an artist steeped in the underground electronic music scene.
His music is reminiscent of early techno, its pioneering synths and rhythmic drums morphing secret spaces into nocturnal tales of mystique and pulsing dance. Memories arise, from the magic of the weekends lingering under the fascination of techno. His newest album, ‘Rewarped’, out via Innervisions, rekindles that sense of nostalgia: “I take familiar elements and give them a new spin,” is his motto. “The word “Warp” is a hint at the process of audio warping that I used to stretch the vocals,” he explains. “The prefix “Re” signifies the reuse or repetition of something, while “Warp” suggests the act of reshaping or distorting it, it also gives a futuristic feeling to the title.”
In our conversation, producer, DJ and label head Aziz explores his influential years, his journey into the landscapes of electronic music and hip-hop, and why he would love to travel to the 80s.
Aziz, thank you for joining us. In one interview you said: „My first memory of music as a child was when my older brother, who is 12 years older than me, taught me how to play some Tunisian traditional songs with the guitar when I was six.“ Can you share how growing up in Tunisia influenced your musical style and direction?
Hi, thank you for having me. Growing up in Tunisia also means that my first ever touch points with music were there. The first record I listened to, the first concert I attended and the first instrument I played. Even though the music that I am doing now is not necessarily directly related to my time in Tunisia. The influence of those years is definitely in my music if you listen carefully.
Can you explain what inspired you to experiment with old-school vocals and give them a new, futuristic form on your new album?
Before last year I barely used samples in my music, I used to do everything from scratch using synthesisers, drum machines and field recordings, etc. Over the course of the past year, I started to experiment with sampling old music, something that gave me a fresh perspective on music production. It was like a whole new world of possibilities that suddenly opened up to me. In the beginning I was sceptical about it because I thought that I would not sound like myself anymore but surprisingly the music still sounded like me, even better it created something unique and fresh and I am really glad it did.
The idea of using hiphop vocals was part of that sampling experiment, I love the attitude and rawness of old hiphop vocals and I thought it could make a very good combo with my interpretation of electronic music so I went for it.
“Rewarped” is a wonderful fusion of the past and future. If you had a time machine, which era of music would you travel to and why?
I think I would travel to the 80s, that was an era that was very interesting musically, it was the time where technology just started to influence the music and synthesisers and drum machines became more popular. All together lead to the birth of interesting new music genres, techno being one of them. but also some other genres reached their peak during that time like hip hop and rock. I think we are living in a similar period now where AI is revolutionising music, but I will leave that for another discussion.
“I actually enjoy isolating myself in the studio, as it is a sort of meditation for me where I can completely lose sense of time.”
You’ve also infused hip-hop ln your album. Can you share a personal memory or experience that sparked your love for this genre?
My first memories of hip hop probably go back to when I was around 9 years old, listening to an Eminem album on my CD walkman and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. I was also a fan of Tupac and Biggie like many other 90s kids. as I mentioned in the previous question I love the rawness of old school hiphop vocals and that was something that I wanted to bring to my music, but to be honest I am not a complete expert in the genre I am more like a house/techno kind of guy.
You once stated: „I started my label in 2016 with the goal of bringing a breeze of fresh air to a saturated melodic scene.“ And now you changed your label from Scatcity to Cognitive Prophecy – how come?
Even though the name of the label has changed, the philosophy behind it never changed. With every release the goal is to present something that moves our genre and scene forward instead of saturating it even more with the same music. I typically release 2 to 3 vinyl records that, in my opinion, offer something fresh to the listeners.
The name change was just because I thought that “Scatcity” doesn’t fit well with the music being released so I decided to change it to something that is more reflective of what the music is about.
In hypnotic moments one can reach a higher cognitive state that enables seeing things that weren’t visible before, in other words those moments enable us to see a prophecy hence the new name “Cognitive prophecy”.
Music production can often be a solitary endeavor. How do you deal with the isolation that can sometimes come with it?
I am rather an introvert person, so I don’t really have a problem with isolating myself in the studio. I actually enjoy it, as it is a sort of meditation for me where I can completely lose sense of time. The issue is more for the people around me, whom I don’t get to spend as much time with as I’d sometimes like. But I am always trying to find the right balance for it.
“An advice to my younger self? Never stop making music, your time will come.”
With a busy career, how do you manage to strike a balance between your work and personal life, especially being a dad now?
It is a balancing act, finding the perfect balance is key. Giving each role its time but never overdo a role at the cost of the other. Having all these roles actually helped me staying creative and fed my hunger to do music over the years. It pushes me to use my studio time to the fullest whenever I have the chance to.
As someone who has traveled extensively, which city or country has left the most significant impact on you, and why?
Even though I have traveled a lot, the city that has the most impact on me is still my home-base Berlin. Its cultural diversity and openness is pretty unique, something that affected me deeply. If I have never moved here, I would have been a completely different person. I am very grateful for the experiences that I had the privilege to live in this city.
Lastly, looking back at your journey so far, what advice would you give to your younger self at the start of your career?
Never stop making music, your time will come.
Thank you so much for your time!