Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Paolo Del Prete is one of the true legends of Italo Disco music and also one of the few exponents of the genre who can really claim to have experienced living it from all sides. Having produced some of the most revered Italo classics of all time such as Music For Us, Stop, Livin' Up and A Dog In The Night, and having played on countless records in the role of session musician he was also a club DJ and radio presenter in Italy throughout Italo Disco's glory years...
Hi Paolo! Let's begin at the beginning - whereabouts in Italy do you come from and what was your early life like?
Hi James. I was born in Rome in '61. At the age of 6 I learned to play the keyboard by playing the organ at the church I used to go to as a boy scout and thanks to my "good notes" I was considered a child prodigy and jumped directly through the classes. I liked to play various sports and also got such good results there that the national media started to take an interest in what I was doing. I remember that when man landed on the moon I was invited to participate in a talk show with the most famous scientists of the time including Professor Enrico Medi (who later became a saint!) A few years later I started to play keyboards in several bands covering tracks by Yes, Genesis, Soft Machine and Led Zeppelin. During this time I learned to play the guitar, drums and bass.
What is the first music that you remember having an impact on you and when did you take up making music yourself?
Certainly the album Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Then there were other masterpieces in this period such as Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull and Fragile by Yes that convinced me that sound would be my future.
How did you first become involved with the Italian disco scene?
Already when I was 15 I was playing with different rock bands. A friend of mine who was an artistic director of a radio station suggested that I make a rock show for him. So I started as an announcer and was listening to other groups such as The Commodores, The Supremes, LaBelle, The Jackson Five, The Temptations, James Brown, Hamilton Bohannon, Cerrone, Marvin Gaye and Herb Alpert...
The disco music exploded shortly afterwards with the soud of such authentic monsters as Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, Narada Michael Walden, Donna Summer (and then Giorgio Moroder), KC & The Sunshine Band, The Bee Gees and many, many more! It was easy to fall in love with this genre that cherished sound! And it was on the basis of all this that the music scene that would later be called Italo Disco would develop...
Can you please share some of your memories of Italy and its music at this time? What was it like to be a part of it?
Sure! As I said, around the end of the '70s the music that mattered in Italy was the expanding disco scene, thanks to the booming private radio stations and clubs that were in full "Saturday Night Fever". Thus was born the figure of 'DJ Master Of Ceremonies' who upon his arrival was worshipped, even to the limit of adoration. I myself started to make radio shows based on disco music while continuing to play keyboards or bass or drums with various rock groups, and I also took up the role of Disco DJ and it was for me the most natural thing. Some DJ-colleagues decided to create music companies specialising in Italo Disco and naturally I was asked into a few collaborations, not only because I was able to play instruments but because I had technical knowledge about how to record vocals in the recording studio and had also just begun to compose songs of various kinds. Of course the fact that I was also a DJ helped as it was not easy to find musicians in that period who understood disco music.
Of course you're very well known to Italo Disco fans for your work as Blackway, B.W.H. and Mr Master but were there other projects you were involved in before those?
Both before and afterwards I was fortunate to work with dozens of artists as a musician, sometimes maybe just being responsible for the sound of one instrument, but other times as composer and sometimes even as a sound engineer. There are lots of productions where my name is credited but to make a full list... that would be impossible!
How did the two Blackway records come about?
As it often happened in such situations: we met with friends and colleagues, some of us put forward the idea, we went into the studio giving our BEST in order to deliver the greatest possible master-tape to the label to get them to show more interest in the project.
The following year saw the release of the legendary B.W.H. 12" on House Of Music which featured not just one but two of the most classic Italo Disco tracks of all time! (Stop and Livin' Up). Who or what exactly was B.W.H. and can you share with us some of your memories of the recording process? The release is often credited to Stefano Zito and Carlo Favilli (as with Mr Master) although I believe you and Salvatore (Cusato) were also involved? I'm sure there's a lot of fans who'd love to have the record set straight!
At this time (the early '80s) I did not enter into contracts with all the productions I was working on and often somebody else was getting the credits instead of me. Regarding Stop and Livin Up the names you mention are not even credited on the label among the producers and the authors… despite that I can surely confirm that the late Carlo Favilli was the real executive producer, and as for the rest it's easy to check the data-banks of Siae and Suisa (www.suisa.ch) where it's easy to understand once and forever the name of the authors and the publishers and discover that everything else beyond that are just rumours…
That year also saw the release of another Italo classic that you played a part in - Mr Master - A Dog In the Night. What was the story behind this one?
This project was born randomly, like many others. At that time I was busy spending my time between doing radio shows, DJing in the nightclubs and recording in the studio. We went to the studio, tried to our maximum potential and left shortly after. There were so many other commitments that we had that we often barely had time to sign the contract... and of course we often even forgot to TAKE THE MONEY! (laughing)
In the few years that followed you appeared on a number of records - notably the Farm and High Resolution 12"s. What was your role there?
In both productions I played bass, some of the keyboards and I also programmed rhythm tracks, and in addition to that I helped work on the initial music. Again I was contacted by friends/colleagues to reprise the roles that I had played there previously. With High Resolution we had great success and we played the best parties and nightclubs and made a lot of TV appearances. I can't really say that I was never bored in life but in that period it would have been impossible even if I had wanted to be! (laughing)
You were also a DJ as well as a producer, composer, musician and arranger! Can you tell us a bit about that and what kind of sounds you like to play, both in the old days and now?
Just like many musicians I was raised with the sound of rock in its various nuances, from the hard sound of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin to the progressive music of Genesis, Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, to the pop of David Bowie and the Jazz-Metal-Rock of Brand X, Weather Report and the like. I also enjoyed the disco and funk, alternating between the soul/dance and electro/techno sides. Today I can say that I love all the music, except the part of the Italian charts that is insipid "South-Americana" made by anonymous artists imposed on us by today's media.
Recently you've been working on a new project, Xenophia, but what were you doing between the late 1980s and your recent releases with Xenophia?
I've been around the world. I played with many Rock and Blues groups and I have also made a pair of albums that were entirely comprised of rock interpretations (me playing bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, vocals, lyrics, arrangements and mastering) that were praised by critics and audiences alike in Germany, but mostly I've been creatively contributing and writing articles for specialist music newspapers and magazines, and even a socio-political one. I've also written books on various subjects from theology to history, material that I was able to thoroughly investigate at this time together with philosophy. But my book that had the most impact and highest status was my "DJ Manual", a theoretical and practical course for beginner-DJs to get to grips with the concept of hard-disk recording. The number of requests that I got was so high that I decided to put it online for free download. Every day there are still dozens of boys and girls who downloaded it who write to me to thank me.
How did Xenophia come about?
In the early 90s I was already a well-known part of the music industry. I got to know Maria Giovanna De Santis, a delicious 19-year-old model who soon became my girlfriend (and still is!). She had absolutely no ambitions in music or art but I noticed her talent and between us was born a creative 'symbiosis' that has led us to not only cover different musical genres but also to create and explore new art in sculpture and comics, in a very personal and original way. I'm really happy with the designation XENOPHIA, which continues to give us a lot more satisafction in these fields. This project allows us to create 'freely' without any conditions internal or external.
What releases have you got lined up? Are there any plans to play live?
To get an idea of the many projects, both for the record label and artists in general produced by XENOPHIA I recommend searching for us on the internet. We live for future projects - psychedelic effects, lasers and large screens, specifically created for large spaces such as sports stadiums and sports fields.
And of course you have a new single as Paolo Del Prete out on Music Control called I Believe... How did this one come about?
It just came out that way, suddenly. One night I was in my recording studio and I had a sudden inspiration - rhythms, then a guitar riff and wind parts supported by a melodic line. I made the basis of it in less than one hour, and then I added the other parts on a later day... and I Believe was complete. I immediately thought to contact my friend and great professional Salvatore Cusato, who heard the track and started to work on it... he was the one who post-produced it to perfection, pulling out four impeccable versions with a sound that can only be described as: "Powerful!"
What are your most happy memories from your life in music so far?
Thank God I can say I was happy in every period of my life. I started playing in my childhood, and since then my life has only been... MUSIC! Naturally there have been hard times but they also have their own beauty, especially if they are exploited to improve things and strengthen you. And then also the bad days have their own rhythms and melodies!
And what do you hope for the future?
Always to aim high, always to give my maximum both artistically and personally with full freedom...
Any final message for your fans?
Live life without useless problems, without letting in bad influences or conditions from third parties. Be always in coherence with your talent and do not let anyone take away even a shred of your freedom or happiness. Sometimes look to the sky and admire its immensity, and the greatness of He who created it; and remember that that's the only thing above you. Everything else depends entirely on you!
Monday, 13 July 2009
Thursday, 26 March 2009
We present an interview with one of the most legendary names in Italian disco music that ever there was - Alex Novaga. In a genre full of one-hit wonders and labels that disappeared as quickly as they emerged, Alex forged an incredible track record with his varied and consistently brilliant productions, ran the classic label D.I.D. and also found time to contribute his musical skills to the near-mythically remembered Cellophane club in Rimini... a truly unique talent indeed whose personal modesty should not be allowed to stand in the way of the recognition he so clearly deserves!
Hi Alex! Can we begin by asking you about your early life and first musical influences?
I was born in Forlì, a city between Bologna and Rimini where nothing usually happens but it's good enough to live in. I remember the first record I bought, Waterloo by Abba... It was followed by an LP by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity...
My father was a musician so I had a lot of keyboards at home to play with, but I was too lazy for practising. When I realised that elecronics were starting a revolution in music-composing I became very passionate about it. I wrote many songs together with a friend who was playing guitars, but we never produced a record.
It all started when I joined a group of friends working to set up a free radio...
What are your memories of Italy in the 1970s and what music affected you most in this period?
The 70s were my high-school days, my first loves were Pink Floyd, Santana, Genesis, Jethro Tull and all "progressive rock"; ELP above all, but I was also listening to classical music (Bach, Beethoven, Debussy) and the famous Italian singers/writers (Battisti, Baglioni, Bennato etc.)
From 1977 to 1981 I worked in a radio (Radio 2001 Romagna as I said before) and I became a DJ during these years, discovering and playing what we called "disco music". I remember that I liked the most "energetic", some of my favourite tracks were Beat the Clock by Sparks, Anikana'o' By Kongas, Disco Inferno, Crusader by Traxx and so on.
You first came to prominence in the early 1980s - what was your first record and how did you get involved in the music industry?
This is funny... there is NO FIRST record, but THREE. I was recording my very first record for a radio based in Venice (Superradio), they wanted a song about what we now call wrestling , this song was called Catch and the artist was this "Sun-La-Shan", so I composed, performed and recorded in a Studio called Sky Record in Forlì, my hometown.
This was very funny because I had been in a studio only a couple of times because my father was a musician, but I was called because I was just passing by... Anyway, we did this recording, all sequences played by hand by a completely not professional guy (me...)
In the same building there was an Import records firm called DID (this would be my future company) that had produced a song called All Night Long by B.B.Band, a song that had good sales in Italy, so they wanted to start making music and they called me... (Mario Boncaldo from B.B.Band made another track in the same period, the famous Dirty Talk by Klein & M.B.O).
At the same time I was working as a DJ together with Giorgio Paganini at Cellophane Disco in Rimini and together we made a cover version of our favourite I'm Your Boogieman by K.C & The Sunshine Band, but in a very "electronic" way (Digital Game). The boss of the disco (Cellophane) had the idea to make a 12" to promote the club itself so we holed up in the same recording studio (Sky Records) and recorded Gimme Love, the same way as Catch and I'm Your Boogieman, all by hand...
Franco Scopinich from Superradio was so happy with Catch that he asked me to make a cover version of Ali Shuffle by Alvin Cash, the same way as Catch. And I did it. (To be honest I was not really happy with the resulting product, but he liked it).
(Paganini, Oriolo and Novaga at Midem Cannes)
So all together - me, my future partner (sales manager) in DID and Giorgio Paganini - we participated at Midem 83 in Cannes, trying to sell the track from Cellophane, the one from Digital Game and to take a look at the international market. Going back to Italy, we were surprised to find out that Cellophane's Brain was signed with Emergency Records in New York, so me and Paganini were put under contract with them, and Digital Game was licensed to ZYX (a newborn label at that time).
Also, thanks to Elvio Pieri, a great DJ and a friend, we found a cassette tape from Sweden from a group called Fake and we decided to remix their record and sign them under us: we started a label. The conclusion: Fake was a best seller in Italy (distributed By CGD for the 7" and LP and by Il Discotto for the 12"), Cellophane was re-edited in New York by the staff of Jellybean Benitez (a major american DJ of that period) and made good sales also in Italy thanks to the soundtrack of a national TV Spot for Rimini Riviera, and Ali Shuffle became a major hit in 1984 in Spain reaching the national radio top ten ( - this was another story, but a lot of fun). After all this, music became my job.
Which producers/artists did you collaborate with most at this time?
Of all the people that worked with me at that time some changed their field of work (you know...it's been more than 25 years...) but some found their way in the music business and they still work in it. Remember; i was young, but they were younger... you can see about all the team working around DID records in the Camaro's Gang video of Ali Shuffle on youtube... There is me too, 40 kgs ago...
We made the tour as "Camaro's" because "Camaro's Gang" was only a name on a 12", so we made a band for "going on promotion" with some of our performers like Maskio, Lipseye, Symona, Barry Mason from Superradio (the singer) etc.
The thing is that I was frequently receiving and listening to a lot of demo tapes, so we produced and created a lot of artists and sub-labels after the recording. Example: on all my records the vocoder voice is always me, but in Digital Game Please Don't Go the singer was Romano Bais and the "face" was a dancer from Bologna...
Anyway two of the guys I worked with on a lot of productions are now serious musicians; I want to remember Mike Centonze, now one of the major music producers in Italy (Olympics, Pavarotti etc.) and Mark Sabiu, most well-known in Great Britain as Mark "Rapino" from Rapino Brothers...
The two Cellophane records, Gimme Love and Music Colours are among your most well-known - what's the story behind them and what was the connection with the Cellophane club in Rimini?
As I said, I worked in Cellophane club in Rimini during late 1981 and all of 1982 but what i did most of all was performing with electronic drums, a bass-line and a keyboard during and on top of the tracks Giorgio Paganini (resident DJ there) played.
About the story, you can read it above. Music Colours was composed by me and Mark Sabiu with lyrics from Mark Howells.
You produced under a variety of different aliases such as Stopp, Fake and Digital Game. Which were you favourites and why? Can you tell us the stories behind a couple of these records?
We made records and in our region, Romagna, we were in my opinion the most prolific. So it happened that we became friends with a lot of artists, DJs, etc.
One of these was Francesco Paolini, still my best friend, that wanted to produce a record: so I made with him I'm Hungry by Stopp and Don't Worry by Lipseye (fact: the B side of Lipseye was a song by Angelo Valsiglio, the man behind the early success of Laura Pausini).
(Polar Studio, 1985)
Fake was our best selling band, we lost them at the time of Brick, when "real money started to flow" and I think that this is one of the reasons that made me leave production. But the work I made with them is still my favourite; Eric Stromblad was a great musician and Tony Wilhemmson a great singer and melody writer. Definitely my very best production experience.
(Alex Novaga - wearing sunglasses - with Fake)
Digital Game was a game. It was one of my first productions and the first we sold to ZYX. The sound is very similar to Cellophane, same recording studio and same "hand perfomance".
The second one from Digital Game, Please Don't Go, was recorded at Rimini Studio together with Mark Sabiu who also wrote the B-side with me. It was funny because to mix these tracks we covered all the LED bars of the mixer (a 52-channel MCI) with toilet paper to "listen only to the sound"... I must have some picture of that day... I remember this because the owner of the studio, Mario Flores (the writer of Maybe One Day by The Creatures) was a maniac of cleanliness and order and when he was not in the studio we (young and bastards) start "parties" and "have fun" with all his very expensive hardware... Ah the sleeve-art of I'm Your Boogie Man (as a lot of others) was made by our graphic partner, Checco Montefiori, today playing lounge music in his band Montefiori Cocktail, very popular in Russia and eastern countries.
(Mario Flores in Rimini Record Studio, 1985)
You were also released on a huge amount of very prestigious labels such as DID, Discomagic, ZYX, Blanco Y Negro, CGD, Break, etc. The list is like a 'who's who' of classic Italo labels! What memories do you have of working with them?
DID records was my own label (I was the major owner) and we had a lot of sub-labels because we produced and remixed a lot of tracks. Our company was made up of three people: me, working in studio, plus a sales manager and a secretary (Canadian from Toronto). When the big work started my main interest was to "make the music" and I had no time to "make the papers" so I did not deal directly with Discomagic, Blanco Y Negro, ZYX etc. because I was all around Europe working in studios; all the publishing and distribution contract were in the hands of my sales manager.
Companero by Camaro's is another Italo classic that you produced - is it related in any way to Camaro's Gang? What's the story behind your involvement with the Suprradio label?
After Catch and the success of Ali Shuffle in Spain, Franco Scopinich wanted to make another record, this time a Long Play (today you would call it a CD) with a lot of new songs. So I called all the people we toured with in Spain and asked them to join the project. To make things quick after the choice of the songs I divided into three the production team in three different studios walking from one to another. Lots of problems... When I started to mix there were different levels, diferent sounds etc. A nightmare!
Anyway, we finished more or less, and released Companero as a new track for the 12" together with Move A Little Closer. So as you can see, Superradio was an "external" asking DID to make some songs and I wrote and produced for them.
Afterwards, they started producing things themselves, and I believe that they are still making music.
Ah, the name NOVADO as composer of Catch; it's a mis-spelling of NOVAGA... (thanks DISCOGS for not letting me correct this!)
What were your favourite synthesisers to use when producing in the 1980s? Was there any other studio gear that you enjoyed using particularly? I'm sure there's quite a few producers out there who would love to know!
Well.. tons of them... before and after MIDI...
I remember the first one, a Roland MC-4 micro-composer sequencer (with trigger and control voltage...) and my first love, the Korg MS-20, totally analogue! When we made some money with the music I started using everything that was affordable from out of our own pockets, all the drum machines (Lynn, Drumulator, Roland TR-808 and TR-707, etc.) My favourite keyboards were the OBX-1 from Oberheim, Prophet 5, MiniMoog, Korg MS-20, ARP 2600, PPG, all the Roland keyboards and so on. My favourite sound and mixing style was the "Trevor Horn" sound.
About the recording studios: I worked in a lot of them, during that period there were no computers (affordable) to use to make music and therefore so much work to do... I remember that in 1985 I had something like 290 days in recording studios, sometimes recording in one and mixing in another at the same time (a lot of car trips...).
This was usually the production timeline: making a demo, arranging it, making the sequences in a little personal studio (very little) - after that one or two days of recording, one day for vocals, one or two days for mixing.
(demo studio at DID, 1984)
(Novaga at Rimini Record Studio)
There were exceptions, of course; Brick, from Fake (the Swedish band) took about one and half months of recording and mixing in Stocholm at Abba's facility, Polar Studio, and another one was Space Opera by Negro, that took about two months at Rimini Record Studio in Rimini.
One other time we recorded at Rimini Record Studio and mixed and wrote new tracks at Weriton Studio in Munich with Moroder's sound engineer (that track was Love Me Like I Do by Robert Bravo, co-produced with Fratelli La Bionda). Leaving England by Skrazzo, Vision In The Mirror by Control-D and Don't Worry by Lipseye were recorded in Italy and sung on and mixed in London, at Matrix Studio.
Other studios I worked in were Real Sound (Riccione), Phonoprint (Bologna) and a lot of others.
Going back to our earlier question about the Cellophane club, what else do you remember particularly from that era in Italy? What was Rimini like in its glory days?
Yes, it was glorious. Clubs like Cellophane had 2000/2500 people every time they opened; lots of fun, music and girls...
Where did your career take you next after 1986? Did you continue producing?
During the whole of 1986 I belonged to the army service and when I returned to life as a civilian I changed (a bit) my work, making myself an artist manager. In 1995 I left music and joined a multimedia company (Ideadrome) and in 2000 I started my own company as a tech consultant. Until now.
Is there any advice you can offer to today's producers who would follow in your footsteps?
Do not follow in ANYONE'S footsteps. Try to make your OWN music. And be prepared to deal with artists...
Could you give us your personal approximate top 10 Italo Disco records?
I do not have a top 10... When we made the music that people now call Italo Disco our influences were various and many but what I tried to do was to "explore electronic music" sometimes without caring or not about selling the record...
During my career (from 82 to 86 excluded) I arranged or produced or wrote or played on more than 70 tracks... with or without my name on... I enjoyed making music, that's all....
Do you have any current musical projects? What are your activities these days?
You must ask Mr Cusato (Casco) about this... We've known each other since 1983 but two years ago after a lunch at Midem Cannes he has been trying to convince me to do some more music... maybe I will, just for fun... but only with him!
(Giorgio Paganini and Alex Novaga with Mario Colonna, voice of Boris Parker)
What gigs from the old days do you remember fondly? Are there any stories you don't mind sharing with us?
Hmm.. as a DJ I remember one gig in Cellophane (1982) that started with a big headache, so I took a lot of Aspirin and when I felt better, drank a glass full of whiskey... I was so OUT that I left my electronic drums playing for about twenty minutes only with a bass drum in 4/4, something like boom-boom-boom-boom. It was with NO music and NO kind of percussion.... I was staring at people dancing, and people danced like they had a hit song in their ears, but it was only a bass drum... When I realized what I was doing I played a record and people looked at me as if I was stupid or something... This incident made me think a lot...
Another funny experience was the Spain tour. We arrived there without any idea of what would happen, finding out that Ali Shuffle was topping the charts only when we got there. I remember a lot of things on that tour; like to have a live concert with 3000 people on a Sunday morning, on live state television and to have to perform for about 45 minutes with only ONE song... It was funny to be a rock star for a day with autographs, intervews and ALL THE COLLATERALS... this is still one of my best memories...
Do you have any final message for Magic Waves' listeners?
Wait for "ITALO MASTERS"™, maybe...
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
It's our great pleasure to bring you an interview with a man we here at Magic Waves hold in an especially high regard. Not just the creator of the legendary Cybernetic Love and one of Italy's greatest ever DJs but also we can happily say our Italo godfather! From the word go this man has leaped in to help Magic Waves out at every turn, from digging out old BASF tapes of 70s mix-sets in his basement to flying over to London and playing one of the most amazing sets we've ever heard from anyone for next to no money, Salvatore Cusato has the true blood of Italo running in his veins! This interview is long overdue!
Hello Salvatore! Can we begin by asking you what your first musical memories are?
- Hello James! My love for spinning songs started with a “His Master's Voice” gramophone and a Bakelite record running at 78rpm. It's easy to remember the song name because it was the only record my father had: Santa Lucia, a Neapolitan song by the tenor Caruso… and the gramophone was the only toy I had… for years. I was 4 years old.
I seem to remember you telling me a couple of years ago that before disco you were into glam rock... can you tell us a bit about that period in your life, and a little about the music scene in Italy in the early to mid 1970s? How would you say it influenced what came after?
- That’s true and it's natural; I started to be a DJ In 1971 and aside from the black music glam rock was making up a big part of the musical selection of every DJ . The musical taste in Italy was mixed between the USA 'funky' and UK 'rock' palettes. Sweet Blockbuster, T Rex Get It On, Bowie Rebel Rebel, Gary Glitter Rock n Roll Part Two, Joe Cocker High Time We Went... and on the other side Mr Dynamite James Brown Sex Machine, all Motown-sound records, the fine Stax Melting Pot (by Booker T & The MGs), Ohio Players, Fatback Band, Commodores, Wild Cherry, Bar Kays…
So what led you to Medel and those chance meetings with Giorgio Moroder?
- First time I met Giorgio was not in L’Medel but at L’Chamin, at his favourite patisserie in the afternoon. In the evening this place was changing skin and becoming a disco club. Giorgio was at home on holidays, being a “normal person” and not a “V.I.P.” He was often visiting the disco at night. He was already famous (having a number of hits in Germany and was having his first number 1 in the UK with Son Of My Father), and he gave me a 45 single to play of Son Of My Father: my synth sickness started like this.
As I stayed as a resident in Val Gardena many seasons, I met Giorgio other times. When Nights in White Satin was out on Casablanca Records... yes at this time I was playing in L’Medel. The most chic place of Dolomiti. And of course where it was strictly forbidden to play commercial songs or current hits... just brand new tracks and pre-releases…
After I left Val Gardena I never again met Giorgio. But I wrote to him to get the permission to cover his song Son Of My Father many years afters (in 1985) and he answered me very quickly and positively from his Giorgio Moroder Enterprises in L.A.
How important would you say is Moroder - both to you personally and to Italo Disco as a whole?
- Moroder is the father of the disco-sound made in Europe, but not only that. To me personally his work means a lot because it's thanks to him I survived; I used so much his music for my DJ job that I wonder that if he didn’t exist, somebody would have had to invent him… he is not just the inventor of Italo Disco if by Italo Disco we mean electronic music born from an Italian brain and made for the purpose of dancing, but he also existed for people who were not into electronic music. I was playing a lot of popular songs such as Looky Looky or Moody Trudy and also Spinach Action Man (1971) too. Spinach were Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Giorgio was able to put together such genius as Bellotte and Faltermeyer. A phenomenal trio: Moroder-Bellotte-Faltermeyer.
What else? He produced artists such as Freddy Mercury, David Bowie, Blondie, Berlin and so on... was able to win 4 Oscars for the best soundtracks… I think it's ridiculous to think about him just as the musician using vocoders and synthesisers or the man behind Donna Summer. He also wrote Italian melodies, the Olympics anthem, football hymns… whatever he does he has the Midas touch! The best producer of the last century for sure: a real maestro of versatility and creativity. Therefore the fact that he also designed futuristic cars and his brother is one of the most famous wood sculptors in the world... this can give an idea of what's in the gene-pool of the Moroder family artistic talent.
What were the big records getting played in Italy just before Italian records started getting produced in the style we now call Italo (like Easy Going, Baciotti, Azoto, etc)?
- The audience loved pure disco made in the USA obviously! To mention also the incredible success of Buddah Records (Andrea True Connection's album was one of the most played). The funky '70s sound also played a big role in it together with the 'symphonies' disco style like True Sound of Philadelphia.
Download a set of Salvatore's from Medel in 1976 here: Medel 1976
Where were you working at the time Italo started to emerge and what was the disco scene in Italy like in those days?
- I was in Italy at Piranha Discotheque in Novara (close to Milan) as a DJ, and as wholesaler first in Gong (Zanza Records) then as director at the Milan office of Best Records... I was visiting daily Discomagic, Il Discotto and Many Records too… I noticed that 90% of all Italian 12 inches were going to export. Then when I was in Switzerland in Bern DJing at Babalu Discotheque I started to distribute Italo Disco 12 inches to shops myself and I was getting more money from Italo Disco records sales than as a DJ. By the way, the Italian disco scene was very influenced by the UK. The most played were Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet , Culture Club... Paul Hardcastle’s 19 was the number 1 without any doubt. It means that the UK dance sound was on top during those days.
- I toured Italy from North to South (also Germany, Switzerland, France…) with an old small boiling Fiat 600 first, then with a very funny NSU Prinz, a Volkswagen Beetle, a ridiculous yellow 127 and my first new car: a white Renault 4… all these cars had something in common: plenty of vinyl amounting to a total weight of at least 4 people! My only work during my whole life was as a DJ so I had nothing else to do other than spin records and make people dance at all latitudes.
- I was making more than 10.000 people dance every weekend at the famous Piranha Discotheque, one of the first Italian megadiscos I don’t know if was the pick... but when I listen to a k7 of this period I can surely say that it was strange to play my own records in the same night and mixed together with Eurythmics! I felt ashamed and I wanted disappear from the desk as I wasn't feeling big enough as to be spun in the same tracklist as Patrick Cowley or Bobby Orlando… I never liked to play my records. I used to hope the break would arrive quickly so I could change it to something better!
Who were your main musical associates in the early 1980s and are you still in contact with them?
- Amongst all of them I like to remember Elvio Pieri, with whom I produced many records and toured a lot of clubs as a duo, Claudio Casalini of Best Records who played also a main role as distributor, friend and DJ colleague offering me important DJ jobs, and last but not least the people who involved me in the label House of Music. I'm in contact with Pieri regularly, occasionally with Casalini and currently very often with Paolo Del Prete, the only one still active from House of Music.
Download a set of Salvatore's from Dillan's Club in Switzerland, 1981, here: Dillans 1981
[text removed here for legal reasons]
Honestly the award of ‘DJ champion’ - I felt was more of a favour done for me by some generous colleagues during a DJ Festival in a club on the Como’s Lake where they decided as a jury to give me a nice gold plate (they wrote my name on it before the event), without informing me in advance - a prize which really I should have been sharing with all of them. I never felt myself to be the best or a champion DJ, but a champion of spaghetti eating yes, always!
- It wasn’t difficult, actually it was better… in 1986 I had a release on one of the best labels worldwide. The same as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, George Michael... I talk about EPIC RECORDS. In fact in that year I produced proudly my first important artist, the Afro-American Ronnie Jones who is still considered a living legend and an example of longevity for most Italian DJs. The time where I was scared to put my name on the records was finished, ended.
Captain Of Her Heart by Ronnie Jones entered the UK Record Mirror charts (euro section) at number 7 and was released also on ZYX, CBS, and other prestigious labels. Originally it was released on my own very small label SCO. This was just one step before producing house versions of Whitney Houston So Emotional released on EMI Greece, followed by my unique acid track Hey Deejay where I used the pseudonym of Dr Acid. Today this track is getting rare and searched for on ebay very heavily. Casco and Italo Disco were dead for me… a souvenir d’italie as I was moving off in other directions, opening my musical views up to UK downbeat, Soul to Soul style…
Cusato Samba Pa Ti is an example as a remake of Wicked Games by Chris Isaak. But the big surprise was still to come in my production career: in 1997 I achieved a gold record with Comanchero by the Swedish Robin Cook. It was an honour for me to be awarded gold producer in Scandinavia, such a difficult market. I never stopped producing different things under different names, it was the first time I can say that I was not just addicted to one genre. I also got into Eurodance getting the international hit Sarà Perchè Ti Amo by Eu4ya in 2003, top ten in most of the countries where it was released (gossip here is that the singer of this track is today the spouse of soccer star Anelka!).
How does it feel to have your music re-discovered after so many years? Were you surprised by the recent resurgence in interest in Italo Disco?
- Definitely yes. I don’t understand how it came to pass that one day I had to be Casco again… I brushed the dust off my rare old italo vinyl and started to play them again… that’s nice!
What are your favourite gigs that you've ever done and why?
- My favourite gig is always the next one coming up because it can be always the last. That’s why I give all my heart on the turntables till the last drop of my energy. PS The next gig will be in Naples on the 13th of March 2009! :)
We hear you have over 20,000 records stored in your house in Switzerland - what are the ones you keep coming back to?
- Depends if I have to be DJ Discoking or Casco… but for my private life I change the 7 inches in my jukebox every week… soul, disco, jazz... I love music in 360 degrees!
What are your current plans for releases both as Casco and on your Music Control digital label?
- The upcoming release on Music Control Italo is I Love Dirty Italo Disco - it contains tracks by some of the most interesting artists from the current european italo scene such as Ali Renault, Revolving Eyes, Dr Kmer, DJ Gio MC-505, Miss Plug Inn, Bottin as well as material from the more well known Fred Ventura and George Aaron... but the pearl for me is the Finnish cover (sung in Finnish) of Cybernetic Love called Kiberrakkautta by my Scandinavian clone Kasko - this track is now considered legal (cleared by publisher) so it's the first time it will be released digitally legally.
Besides that is Milanese super-DJ Pippi Langstrumpf The Church Of Pippi Langstrumpf on the new sub-label Dischi Bellini, including some experimental infected tracks of emerging electro artists caught by Pippi and Elisa 'Super Liz' Colonna.
Work is in progress also for the Blackway EP featuring Paolo Del Prete. It will contain original versions of Blackway tracks as well as the rare Music For Us re-edited by Casco. As for Casco himself... as we know, "Paganini non ripete" but I'm trying as well to start a new project with the guru of Italo Disco and creator of Cellophane's records, Alex Novaga (top secret!)
You've managed, produced and worked with some very famous names over the years - are there any stories you mind sharing with us?
- I could write a book on it! But is 7 o'clock am and I can only tell you now that I booked over 100 classic dance artists in more than 50 countries around the world, during a 20 year career as artist/manager… Actually don’t trust the appareances…
I'm not a credible tour-manager since I laugh all time on tour and I like to make jokes instead of being the policeman of artists!
I’m better as a DJ :) Hope so!
Can you pick 10 records for us that reflect a typical Casco selection from the old days?
- Casual order:
Mr Flagio Take A Chance
Casco Cybernetic Love
BWH Livin Up
Alexander Robotnick Problemes D’amour
Charlie Spacer Woman
Flexx (Fred Ventura) Love Theme From Flexxy-ball
Cellophane's Brain Gimme Love
Doctor’s Cat Feel The Drive
Finally, any message from Casco for the listeners of Magic Waves?
- If DJ Casionova didn’t exist, Casco would not have come back… Keep on listening to Magic Waves and give honours to Casionova for being so passionate a lover of ITALO bringing to you also musical culture! Also this interview would not be happening if it weren't for my mentor Mr Maurizio Cannici (boss of CGD International for many years), such a wonderful person who helped me in funding and casting at the first pioneer Italian DJ agency Recordmen in Milan in 1973! In fact my professional DJ career started from this moment. Thank you Mauri!
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Flemming Dalum is one of the world's most famous Italo-collectors, actually having a collection that can be decribed as "near complete"! His legendary mixes such as 'Amazing Run In The Tube Vol 1-3', 'Lost Within The Fog And Strobe' and 'Dance Of The Obscure Robot' have long been favourites on the playlists of both CBS and Magic Waves, championing obscure gems alongside more established underground classics. We had the pleasure of interviewing him about all things Italo Disco...
How and when did you first discover Italo Disco?
- In 1982/83 a friend of mine played some Italo records he bought on a
holiday in Italy. One of them was KOTO – "Chinese Revenge". I was instantly hooked to this pure synthesizer masterpiece. So far I listened to more commercial stuff – but with the synthesizer a whole new universe of sounds emerged right in front of me: I was really hooked – and have been ever since.
In 1983 the same guy asked me if I would like to go with him to Milan
to buy Italo records. The first of many trips to Italy...
That's basically how I discovered Italo Disco and my passion about Italo Disco started.
What are the most special memories you have from the early days?
- Ohh so many great memories....
Of course my visits to Disco Magic and Il Discotto were outstanding. Being able to buy all the records directly from the source was absolutely fantastic. The guys at those famous distributors were really surprised over me travelling all the way from Denmark to Milan... just to buy records. It gave me a unique possibility to find ALL the Italo classics.
At that point we hadn't the internet – I mean, now everybody can order records from all over the world and have them within a few days. Definitely not an option back then! So it gave me a huge advantage, having certain records a long time before everybody else.
For example: I bought Valerie Dore - 'The Night' from the Merak record shop in Milan – it arrived/"hit" the Danish radio stations approx. 6 or 8 months later... Same thing happened with several other releases.
Also great memory to experience the Creatures live show at A'ltro Mondo Studio in Rimini. Robots on the dancefloor in 1983!! And the state-of-the-art laser show. I also remember being inside the spacefly as something very special.
Another nice night in Rimini we visited the Cellophane Club – and met
Giorgio Paganini. He was so surprised and at the same time really
happy to hear about our love for his 'Gimme Love' track. We had a long
conversation with him.
... I could go on.
(one of The Creatures kidnaps a girl at L'Altromondo Studios)
I read that you made in total 11 trips to Italy to meet with the main distributors, is this how your collection became so legendary? And what was it like to observe the Italo phenomenon in its glory days first-hand?
- Yes that's right – in total 11 trips in the years 1983 to 1986. It was fantastic – just imagine stepping inside "THE ORIGINAL SOURCE" of Italo Disco and being able to buy everything! (even with fair/cheap prices: approx 2.5 to 4 euros per record).
And at the same time the guys who worked there were very cool and friendly... I also contacted them by phone in-between the trips... to be 100% updated.
(Discomagic's distribution department in 1985)
Did you visit many clubs while you were over there and what do you remember the most about them?
- Number one is without doubt L'Altro Mondo Studio in Rimini..... with the Creatures show and everything. I wish I could bring you back to experience that vibe and atmosphere. Also a lot of others clubs were cool – Cellophane Club in Rimini was also super nice.
And in Milan there was this super dope underground club called "Plastic" - very freaky. Smoke machine and strobe running all night – very raw atmosphere. They didn't play Italo. Other clubs in Milan were "Odissea Due" (huge discotheque) and "Mistral" (which had lots of great
I also visited a small club in north-west Italy called: "Pata Pata" and became friends with the resident DJ – so he invited me to DJ: meaning I actually played a 45 min. Italo DJ-set in 1984...in Italy ;-)
(Flemming Dalum outside Pata Pata club)
Who were the greatest Italian DJs in the old days in your opinion?
- Well several – hard to pick one. But I have to mention Jonathan (Jan Edouard Philippe) at Studio Jonathan 67 in Switzerland. I'm very inspired by his way of mixing on several compilations for Il Discotto...
Can you tell us a bit about the scene for Italo in Denmark where you are from? Scandinavia in general seems to have always had a special relationship with Italo...
- I don't think Denmark had a special scene for Italo... Sweden was
much more into it... with Beat Box records etc.
When Italo Disco faded into obscurity in the late 80s as Chicago House and various other forms of American and British dance music came to dominate the market, how did you react at the time and what did you do for those years through to the late 90s? Did your passion for Italo stay strong or did you need a rest from it by that stage?
- For me the real Italo sound/period stopped in the summer of 1986. This was my last trip to Italy after records, quality wasn't high any more and the sound also changed... so I moved on into House and later New Beat etc. My passion for Italo was always there.
When the CBS launched you were a vital contributor to them, both through providing classic mixes full of Italo gems and through extending the general wealth of knowledge about a lot of these very rare and often overlooked records. How did this relationship come about and what are your feelings now the CBS is gone?
- CBS was the perfect place for me. Ferenc also has a true passion for Italo and Disco, so that really made me want to contribute and share my passion. It started by coincidence - I was typing: "italo" on the net... and out came: CBS. I sent Ferenc a mail and received a friendly "greeters" back. A shame CBS ended - because my little mission wasn't over. Still lots of nice more or less unknown records to share in mixes etc..
But I believe something new will start soon: "Intergalactic FM".
You're the man behind Belgian label Flexx's recent re-release of Ghecko 'Firelight' - are there any other nuggets we can look forward to you bringing back in the near future?
- Actually it was the label owner Tom who asked me. So I guess he is the man behind the release – let's say I helped with it. I only do this for fun and again to share my passion. I still have a
demanding full-time job – besides this I manage to find extra time to make mixes and edits.
And recently I teamed up with Steen Gerulff from "Body Electric"...really exciting.
Lots of new projects in the pipeline.
Which Italo records are your personal favourites after the many years you've been into it?
- Hard to pick one or two – the list would be long...
You're renowned for your themed mixes such as 'The Last Days Of Italo Disco', 'French-Spanish Italo', etc Which is your personal favourite of these?
- I like them all.... all my mixes include records which mean a lot or something to me.
What does it feel like to be able to say that you've been into this music now for over a quarter of a century?
- Great – I really used music to relax and to recharge my batteries over the years, plus I still find energy when I'm mixing. 25 years with Italo and the 80s style gave me a unique and almost complete overview – which has proven to be very useful for me.
It was great for me to find CBS, and actually make a few new disco discoveries! That's the interesting part about collecting Italo and Disco.... There always seems to be more out there, just waiting to be found.
Which of the current batch of artists/producers do you like the most?
- A lot – actually most that were played on CBS...
In what ways has Italo benefitted your life?
- Some amazing memories from the 80s – but also now a lot of very cool friendships with other Italo freaks from all over the world...
What other genres of music do you enjoy you listening to?
- I've always been interested in the underground and was growing up during a time where lots of styles emerged – such as: Hip Hop, New Beat, Electro, Electronic Dub, House, Breakbeat, Techno and early Hardcore.... It's been great to be amazed over new styles
during the years. Now it dosen't seem so innovative any more....
So I've been back to my "roots": Italo, for some years.
If you could drive any car down the highway in the world listening
to any records, what would they be?
- Often Italo like: Peter Richard – 'Walking on Neon'... Brian Auger - 'Night Train to Nowhere' or more unknown tracks....
What other obsessions/passions do you have in life?
- Hmm besides music: I used to play a lot of badminton earlier in my life...
And of course: my family.
(sorry, have to ask!!) What is the rarest italo record of them all in your opinion?
- Tricky question – so many rare records. Hmm if I mention one... then
"the records hunters" will start searching for it and soon it's not THE
most rare record anymore...
Well OK anyway here's a shot: DIVIETO DE SOSTA - 'Forever' (Poker records).
What do you think of the current resurgence of interest in Italo?
- It's already been around for some years now... I love it.
Finally, where do you think the future of Italo Disco lies?
- There will always be an interest for Italo Disco, maybe not always big....
But I believe Italo will here be forever.
(inside Il Discotto)
(SIAE, the Italian music publisher)
(Merak shop, legendary supplier of fine Italo vinyl)
(the tube at L'Altromondo Studios)
(photos courtesy of Flemming Dalum)
To download Flemming Dalum's 'Italo Fetish' Mix containing the ultra-rare Divieto Di Sosta track 'Forever', click this link:
Flemming Dalum mixes to download
Flemming Dalum on myspace