Since establishing in 2014, Italian imprint HomeMadeZucchero has kept things on a drip-tease flex, releasing an average of less than one release a year. Near to two years after their latest outing, ‘HMZ003’, courtesy of label co-founder Meze, they’re finally back with the fourth number in the catalogue, introducing Ravenna’s Nicolò.
Right in line with HMZ’s aim to dissect the techno paradigm and drive its remnants into uncharted aesthetic poles, Nicolò’s approach is one of a true experimentalist. Blurring the lines between post-industrial murk, ragged abstract dubs and an off-kilter type of programming that’s more to do with free jazz jams than Berghain-style pounders, it’s a one-way trip into rough atmospheric terrains that awaits you.
Eager to find out more about the record’s raison d’être and his many sources of inspiration for it, we sat back with Nicolò and discussed a wide array of matters, from his beginnings in DJing to the deeply evocative facet of his music, through the influence of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock on his craft. Stream the EP’s shape-shifting opening track ‘Chuva de Rio (ˈʃu.vɐ dʒə riːəʊ)‘ down below.
Interview by Baptiste Girou Photography by Nias Zavatta
"I believe it was the passion I had for music that drove me to produce tracks. I still have a lot to learn and this make me happy because you always learn in music, nothing is defined"
Hey Nicolò, first things first, could you please introduce yourself and tell us about the roots and shoots of your musical project?
Hi, I am Nicolò, I am Italian, I live on the North East coast, in Ravenna. I think it all begun when I started DJing a few years ago on the beach… Like many other DJs I was constantly going to the record store to buy records, being a collector and feeling a lot the music I was buying.
I wouldn’t call it a “project” because it’s my own personal musical life that developed into what I am doing now, so it’s definitely made to last. Whether I’m DJing or making music I try to illustrate my path in the world of music up until now, and all the stages I’ve been through.
This involves influences from Jazz, Bossa nova, House, Techno, Bass, Acid Jazz, Ambient, Reggae, Dub and Experimental music. I believe Nicolò is just myself playing records and making music!
What prompted you to start producing music in the first place?
I’ve always been very curious about how that sound was made and how different chords where made. Learning a bit of music while studying piano, drums and trumpet greatly helped me re-create the vibe I wanted to represent with electronic music.
I moved to London after graduating and lived and worked there for four years. I started producing by then and obviously it took me a while to get to like the music I was making.
I believe it was the passion I had for music that drove me to produce tracks. I still have a lot to learn and this make me happy because you always learn in music, nothing is defined.
Were you raised in a music-loving family, or has it been more of a solitary process for you?
Yeah, I grew up in a music-loving family, my dad was really into jazz and Brazilian stuff like Bossa nova, Tropicalia, he was also a journalist for a few newspapers reviewing artists and concerts all around Italy.
I got to hear many artists like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Watson, Max Roach, Marcus Miller, Michel Petrucciani, Roy Hargrove, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny… to name but a few.
My mum was more into ambient, ethno-world music. I discovered electronic music by myself when I was a teenager. I was a clubber.
Do you recall hearing a particular record, attending a gig or any other life-changing experience that triggered that will in you to create a sound grammar of your own?
Yes, definitely. I was really obsessed with Miles Davis. I would say his amazing records ‘Aura‘, ‘Amandla‘, ‘Big Fun‘, ‘On the Corner‘ definitely changed my musical view…
When I met Herbie Hancock it was super inspiring to chat with him for a while. I consider him an heir of Miles, the way he evolved his musical style and taste is something that only few artists can reach.
In terms of electronic music, I think living in Berlin for a few months also gave me a different perspective on electronic music and parties. Going clubbing in Berlin is a nice experience.
Your debut record, ‘HMZ004’, is about to land on Italian imprint HomeMadeZucchero. Can you tell us more about your aspirations with this record and what it means to you?
I am very happy I am releasing this record on HomeMadeZucchero and it is getting a lot of positive feedback from friends, DJs and artists I like.
Simone and Stefano decided to put out this record as they liked the vibe of it, somewhere between dance-floor-oriented and experimental. The connection between us was crucial. Meze and Giesse are very talented DJs, producers and musicians. Check their DJ set on Rinse Radio and their amazing releases!
As it is my first EP I hope it will help me get opportunities and meet like-minded producers and DJs. To me ‘HMZ004‘ has a very personal feeling, which means that even when you are down and think it’s over there’s always a chance, being positive is sometimes hard but thoroughly fundamental for you and other people around you, so if you read this – don’t give up, never!
Your sound has both a strongly dynamic and deeply immersive feel to it, never quite making a definitive choice between plain dance-floor functionality, lush ambience-scaping and a somewhat leftfield-leaning approach. What feeling is it you are trying to convey through your compositions?
It’s interesting that you are speaking of such vibes… what I like about this record is the landscape you might figure yourself: a chaotic scenario in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or a massive view on top of Iguazu falls.
But you might also be teleported in a Japanese street with both a zen garden and a seven-floor shopping mall. It evokes that to me. You can play the A side in the club, it worked on the dancefloor. You can also play the B side in many ways. It’s all up to you!
Where did you draw your inspiration for this record?
I drew inspiration from a trip to Brazil I did back in 2008 and I fused it with others from many trips to Berlin and London.
What’s your studio currently comprised of?
I am not a studio geek, I have a simple but strong setup: Ableton, Razor, Mininova, Tascam dr-05 and two Genelec monitors. I also use a super-old Casio keyboard, an old guitar FX, and a lot of handmade percussions from Senegal, handmade instruments from Brazil and other countries I visited, and sometimes my trumpet with effects.
What is the one piece of equipment you’d never get rid of and why?
Probably my Tascam recorder. I use recordings as samples, and also the field recordings I do with it. I like to use samples whether they are from live recordings or from the internet.
Do you already have other releases lined up this year? Anything you can tell us about yet?
I have a release coming out next month on Japanese imprint Ukiuki Atama, i.e. the experimental/ambient digital label of Woopheadclrms. Expect a crazy experimental EP. Probably another EP on HMZ. I also have a lot of finished stuff that I want to release.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you buy?
In London, Honest Jon’s, I bought the latest DJ Sotofett. Also in Berlin, at Audio-In, I copped some records by Pearson Sound, Terrence Dixon, DJ Sprinkles, Mike Delgado, DJ Marcelle and other goodies.
What’s your definition of happiness?
Well, sometimes tranquility and routine can be happiness in my opinion. I like the feeling when I am inspired and I have a plan of things to do, so yeah probably being organised and inspired means happiness to me!
I am also happy when I hear something new, discover a new style, going to a different country, exploring new cultures, going out to hear music.
The one thing that never fails at pissing you off?
I really don’t like rudeness and close-minded people. It also pisses me off when people keep staring at you. A lot!
What can we wish you for 2019?
Wish me a trip to Japan and DJing at more parties!
HMZ004 is out now via HomeMadeZucchero, order a copy from Juno.
A1. Chuva de Rio (ˈʃu.vɐ dʒə riːəʊ)
A2. Saudade (sawˈðaðe)
B1. Coercive Twist
B2. Coercive Twist (YPY RMX)