Matteo Ruzzon’s unique blends of street-smart flavours and sweaty basement vibes need no introduction. Brushing a wide palette of styles and influences, Madteo has been a regular on some of the finest labels around over the past decade – gracing the grooves of Wania, Workshop, Morphine, Sähkö, TTT, Hinge Finger and more without ever giving up on his resourceful attitude.
As he recently inaugurated his own imprint M.A.D.T.E.O. Records – a label aimed at pushing his widescreen vision unhinderedly, we took the chance to ask him for a mix. The result is a stunning 2-hour trip meshing straight-up bouncy house cuts, dusty disco melters, infectious boogie and other acidic pumpers. Matteo accepted to answer a few of our questions and opens up on his relationship with New York, industry matters and further projects.
Interviewed by Baptiste Girou
"Since I’m still very much in the process of learning, things can sometimes get unpredictable, even a little bit hairy. But it’s exactly that sort of unpredictability that creates real excitement"
Thank you very much for this outstanding delivery, Matteo! Can you tell us more about the mix and track selection?
It’s a “club” mix using some of my favourite of the past few months, using two 1200’s and a cheapo Gemini mixer. I tend to favour a variety of genre or era tempo-based DJ set approaches I can do, but this is about as four-four as I get.
Right now, I’m having as much fun as possible trying to blend club tracks in what feels like a halfway decent way. I’m still really amazed at the vast number of people who actually believe that they can learn to do beat matching in about three minutes or less. All you have to do to realize this is to read the comments on a recent RA piece: “DJing Should Not Be Easy” or something along those lines.
Either it takes a hell of a lot longer or I’m just a really slow learner. But generally, my preference is for long [longish??] transitions, using records that possess very different kinds of energies. Since I’m still very much in the process of learning, things can sometimes get unpredictable, even a little bit hairy. But it’s exactly that sort of unpredictability that creates real excitement; that sense of not-quite-knowing what’s gonna happen next that the audience is seeking, if they want to get their money’s worth. For that reason, I’ve spent the last seven years or so honing my “DJ club skills” and having as much fun as I can doing it.
The other, more selective style of DJing has been a constant since I started, which is rapidly getting to be close to thirty years. I remember that when I first started working gigs in Europe, I’d come from New York with a big, heavy bunch of disco records. But it didn’t take me very long to figure out that they just weren’t appropriate for the events I was playing at; I just wasn’t connecting with the audience. So, as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and I pretty quickly started to figure out a good balance of the record types, eras and moods that would create the missing connection.
Still, everything’s subject to change. There was a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus who said the only constant in the universe is change; that you can never step twice in the same river no matter how much you want to or how hard you try. The variables are always going to be there: the room, the sound system, the mood of the crowd…none of them can ever be exactly the same. So no matter how much you prepare, there’s finally only so much you can count on controlling.
So let’s say The Invisible Skratch Piklz showed up and started cutting up a hundred records a minute for a crowd of disco or techno-house fiends (for the sake of this argument, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re serious enthusiasts or zombie sycophants). You can pretty much predict that anything you were planning on doing wouldn’t work very well in terms of connecting to that particular crowd. I recorded this set in late March at -6, -8%, so it’s “homebody”, pajama tempo. Frankly, I could have kept it going for at least another eight hours or more.
"Since at home I work mostly on headphones, it was quite a fun night, quite a revelation, hearing the stuff I’d worked on so quietly suddenly coming over those big speakers"
Your last effort was the excellent ‘Voracious Culturilizer Disco Mix’. What have you been up to since then?
Prepping new things, filling in many of the gaps in my knowledge of musical styles, and digging around in all sorts of weird places to find anything I can that looks even vaguely interesting. Then, when I find that really interesting stuff, I need to do the necessary vinyl archiving.
I recently played at an event during Detroit’s Trip Metal Festival (Post Trip Metal FIT) where I mostly just used my laptop. A friend had also lent me a small drum box, so I played some patterns on top (or under). Since at home I work mostly on headphones, it was quite a fun night, quite a revelation, hearing the stuff I’d worked on so quietly suddenly coming over those big speakers. It’s certainly a whole different trip from just mixing records, trying to rock the party in a traditional club sense.
It’s also different from doing one of those other sets I prepare for by spending weeks seeking out songs that are usually not in a typical dance or electronic form, adding odds and ends until I have a big pile of unusual stuff I can just pick and play on the fly. Plus, as an added bonus, I got to hear sets by local Detroit acts, one of whom I remembered hearing awhile back in an earlier incarnation of theirs (Tamion 12 Inch) and digging them quite a bit even back then.
I’ve also been working on a remix for a UK label, and should have a whole side 12″ single, to be released late this year. I just finished a cassette for Gene’s Liquor/L.A. Club Resource, which should also be out pretty soon.
The people behind the label who released my 12″ ‘Strumpetocracy‘ are doing a new project and are planning to release a cassette of a live set I did at a now-defunct little New York space called Salvor. And the LP that was supposed to come out two-and-a-half years ago should also be out soon, although it all feels like hot air at this point, since it’s out of my hands. It features a few raps by Sensational, some Sotofett’s edits and interludes and one track has added guitar work by Tapes. There had been another LP project in the works which didn’t work out and frankly, I’m very glad it didn’t.
"Places like the Cedar, The Lion’s Head… they’re all gone now to make room for [...] places for trust fund babies to sit with "friends" and stare at their smartphone screens"
You’re operating of New York, a city known for its pacey lifestyle and multiculturalism. What role do the pulse and atmosphere of the city play in your tracks?
The pulse and pace of New York are what everyone responds to here. Love it or hate it, it’s fast and constantly changing. But the changes that are going down now, and which have been for quite a few years now are really pretty ugly.
I hang out a lot with older native New Yorkers; people who grew up here in the fifties and sixties, and they’re constantly lamenting the loss of what they feel made the city truly great. They tell me that in those days, New York was a place where you could learn about anything you were interested in or master any skill you needed to master for very little money, even for nothing.
A whole lot of great books were written by people who were broke, but who knew how to use the main reading room in the Forty Second Street library. If you were a writer, visual artist or composer, there were great bars where you could nurse a dollar drink for a few hours while you exchanged ideas with some of the greatest people in your field. Places like the Cedar, The Lion’s Head… they’re all gone now to make room for places with twenty dollar burgers and fifteen dollar cocktails, places for trust fund babies to sit with “friends” and stare at their smartphone screens.
Back then there was a real, thriving artist class. These artists could experiment. They could push at the limits of their art and, eventually, master that art, without having to spend most of their time worrying about whether they could cover their rent or food that month. People may talk about the active, completely multicultural street life in every part of every borough, but what they’re talking about is something completely removed from what these friends of mine remember.
Today, Manhattan and Brooklyn are essentially homogeneous, and the population more and more consists of non-natives. I have one friend who refers to both boroughs as “theme parks for the very rich”, and I think he has a point. Except for tiny, rapidly diminishing and disappearing pockets of old rent stabilized tenants, it’s just much too expensive for young artists to live here, unless of course they have some other means of support. This means that the old New York City street life another friend of mine likes to refer to as “uniquely forgiving” is fundamentally gone.
"Whatever "culture" may exist seems to consist of very wealthy newcomers and a lot of the time it feels like we’re living through the death of a culture"
Music venues and theatres are ridiculously pricey and those prices keep going up. Whatever “culture” may exist seems to consist of very wealthy newcomers and a lot of the time it feels like we’re living through the death of a culture. I’m sorry if I’m starting to sound a little fixated and crazy, but I obviously have very strong feelings about this stuff; it makes me very angry.
On the other hand, I had a short conversation with yet another friend just a few hours ago, and he reminded me that, despite all these obstacles, young people are still coming here and creating their art the way they always have.
To a degree, of course, that’s true. But I still worry about the ones who’ll never get here at all because they do the arithmetic and decide it’s wiser to give up before they start… But I’m extremely lucky to have been stationed in Queens for almost twenty years, since on many levels, it’s easily the most diverse borough in New York. I live in a neighbourhood some people refer to as being the “most ethnically diverse zip code in the city”. This is great because living here, you can’t avoid the day-to-day experience of all these blending or contrasting colours, languages, and sounds. It’s still a remarkably stimulating environment for people who create music…
Your sound often displays an asphyxiating, multilayered ambience of smoky late night roamings. Is it what interests you the most: the flavor, rather than the material envelope?
That sounds about right even if I don’t know if I quite get what you mean by “material envelope“.
What links do you maintain with Italy? The country’s scene is brimming with confirmed talents and exciting prospects.
My whole family’s there, so I go back to visit as much as I can. As for Italy’s new little golden age, I’ve been seeing, hearing and talking about it for a long time now. Because Italy’s dance music scene has quite a deep history, it felt like it was only a matter of time before it bounced back and re-emerged one way or another. Should also add that the confirmed talents have always been there, both Italian DJs and producers.
The inaugural release of M.A.D.T.E.O. Records came out a couple of months ago. How’s the label’s future shaping up?
The first release has been out for some months, and I’ve been working on the second one. When I was younger, I loved the idea of working at a label, and I did it a bit in the mid-to-late nineties. At that time, I was just buzzed with the whole idea of learning how to make music a bit, and getting to release it on what I thought were interesting little labels.
Meanwhile, the business “changed” and now it’s turned into this bizarre rush for what are essentially “breadcrumbs” (that is to say, “gigs” or “Live Analogue Hardware” this or “Vinyl Only” that. I figured since I have good people helping me with selecting, editing, manufacturing and distribution, had to go along!
What’s the last record you’ve been rinsing?
Let’s see… DJ Candle in the Wind’s “On the Streets Where I Gotta Be” LP, Marieu “Fair Exchange” 12″, Fat B & Lad Luca “2 Make a Record“… ridiculous club banger, that one – ASIS Part III 12″ on WANIA too… the kind of “bass music” I like. Kotai + Mo “Silencer” b/w “Boys in the Backstreet” 12″.
What does your schedule look like in the next few weeks?
Gearing up for a few new gigs in Europe, September 17th and October 8th. There’ll be more in that period if I can manage to schedule them…
Well, Matteo, thanks for your time. And thanks for a really enjoyable, enlightening interview.
And thank you. I had a good time as well.
Discover more about Madteo on Inverted Audio.MadteoM.A.D.T.E.O. RecordsDiscoHouse