I-Robots has been hard at work for more of three decades, a stalwart from Italy who has an enviable list of collaborators that most recently includes François K, Hard Ton and many others like Giorgio Moroder, Donna McGhee, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kuniyuki Takahashi, Los Hermanos, Daniele Baldelli, The Units, N.O.I.A..to name but a few.
His prolific output as a producer is only matched by his versatility of sound, he has a love for a wide variety of music and we wanted to sit down and find out more about him…
Great to have you on DMC Mag. Gianluca, I guess the best way to start is with a question for those who don’t know you. Tell us a little bit about your history and how you started in music?
It was a natural call… I was really a young kid when I started to play with my father’s Stereo 8 portable tape and a portable stereo turntable; two bits of kit that now are truly vintage.
I have some vague early memories of Disco tunes on the radio, when I was accompanying my mother to the hairdresser in 1977, like Santa Esmeralda “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (Nina Simone 1964 classic remake) and Giorgio Moroder “From Here To Eternity” but also I clearly remember Kraftwerk “Trans Europe Express” and Jean-Michel Jarre “Oxygène” that was the soundtrack of a local furniture shop radio advertisement spot back then.
During the summer holidays in the south of Italy was a big influence the selections of the “Lido Flora” Disco located on the seaside walk in Roccella Ionica (RC) Italy where in the early 80’s I discovered Italo Disco from boogie to synth electronic…
Me and my Turin friends were seriously into “late-night radio” Italo Disco tape recordings; we were the guys that were waiting to discover the titles of records to buy on Saturday in our local shops… After moving house and school in 1984 I discovered the “Cosmic Sound” with my new classmates: we were listening to the “cassettes” of Daniele Baldelli… a bit late maybe but it was a strong influence that opened a new music frontier to me; anyway unconsciously I never forgot my love for Italo Disco and in 1996 that love became strong again in my music selections and researches.
From mid 80’s I started to learn DJing and my first professional mixer was the Tascam M-106, I used that until 2006 when I changed it with the Pioneer DJM-500. From my start in the early 80’s I became an avid vinyl collector, seller, trader. I had a short time “Cosmic Sound” DJ career that quickly turned into Rare Grooves, Hip-Hop, Chicago House, Detroit Techno and Acid Jazz scenes that saw me gain a lot of relevance as an Italian artist in those styles.
At that time I was most influenced by Fela Kuti, James Brown, Kool & The Gang, Roy Ayers, Gil Scott Heron, Donald Byrd, Can, Kraftwerk, Ash Ra Tempel, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Throbbing Gristle, Front 242, Severed Heads, Simple Minds, The Human League, Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Liquid Liquid, ESG, Fad Gadget, Yello, Giorgio Moroder, just few to mention… I had fallen in love with the sound coming from labels like Blue Note, Prestige, Verve, Dee-Lite, West End, Prelude, Salsoul, SugarHill, P&P, Sound Of New York USA, Jive, Tommy Boy, On-U Sound; then also Transmat, KMS, Metroplex, Chicago Trax, DJ International, Dance Mania, Balance, Prescription, Cajual, Sumo, Planet-E, Wild Pitch, Def Jam…. Just few…. It was a new beginning…
During that time I was resident dj in some of the most seminal Turin clubs like Studio 2, A.I.E.O.U. and Sottovoce and I was also playing at most of the clubs in the city before to built my international profile.
To make my club nights more popular I started to organize and promote events by myself since I was on my own as the first to strongly believe in the alternative sounds I was enjoying. I had a strong career as a local promoter so I organized events (not in order) like Guru’s Jazzmatazz that was touring also with Donald Byrd and Courtney Pine, BGP all Star (feat. Reuben Wilson, Idris Muhammad, Pucho, Eddie Pazant), Carleen Anderson, The Roots, Paolo Achenza Trio, Quintetto x, Bossa Nostra, Night Trains, Russ Dewbury, Paul Murphy, Kevin Beadle, Nicola Conte, Vitalic, Aqua Bassino, Krisma…
I did abandon House Music for few years and from Acid Jazz to the jazz step of Drum’n’Bass was an easy transition; I moved to Tribal Techno and back to Deep House in the mid of ’90s strongly influenced by Dave Angel, St Germain, Carl Craig….
I shared mixer with Photek, Digital, Grooverider, DJ Hype and the mighty Kemistry & Storm, but also with James Lavelle, Depth Charge, Andy Smith, Doctor Rockit, DJ Punk Rock, DJ Mushroom, DJ Food, Herbalizer, Adamski, Dimitri From Paris, Eddie Amador, Derrick May, DJ Harvey, Daniele Baldelli, Prins Thomas, Young Marco, Tiefschwarz, Mike Huckaby, Chez Damier, Josh Wink, Anja Schneider, Sven Vath, Trentemøller, Sid Le Rock, DJ Koze, Soul Mekanik, François Kevorkian and many more…
You have done a lot of collaborations over the years, what are the stand out ones and why?
My first and still the most unique and great collaboration was and is the one with Scott Ryser from The Units synth-punk USA 80’s band… Probably in 2010 I was not so experienced to start the collaboration with an artist like Scott but at the end The Units “Connections” project was released with more than 60 reworks/remixes/edits made from more than 40 international artists including Todd Terje, Daniele Baldelli, Klein & M.B.O., N.O.I.A., Alexander Robotnick, In Flagranti, DJ Gart, Chris Carrier and many many more.
I met Scott on myspace then in person in NYC where we finalized the terms of our contract. “Connections” was a rebirth for the band and a celebration of their unique music. I was always thinking that Ryser was a “space” sounding name and now I can say that Scott is a really extraordinary artist and the person that gave me the freedom to “destroy” his music and still let me do it… in fact, we will release some new remixes together soon.
You are more of a producer / creative than a studio head, how do you work when you are in the studio?
I have a natural instinct on the music selection this is also why I try to leave space for the new artists that I think are talented: I can give now to them what I never received as beginner. My stronger ability is also to unuderstand what could make a track perfect in terms of editing and arrangement. The high % of times I go to the studio with just an idea that after the early production I finalize with editing and samples. I must admit that the process is rarely quick and I am not easy to collaborate within the studio.
Do you have any interesting stories of when you were collaborating with someone?
I became friends with a high percentage of the artists/engineers/designers on my label and I owe them everything… They are the most precious elements of Opilec Music… We shared a great time together even if we are not in the same countries but also we had some hard times of course… I am still happy to have them on board also if the collaboration is over with some of them I think it creates a strong bond.
A couple of funny stories with my artists did happen out from the studios anyway:
I met Eric Lewis and Terry Ivy from Virgo Four in London after the “Dirty Talk” release and we ended up planning a trip to visit “Stonehenge” randomly, so we took a taxi and make it happen…
It was the 2010 when I met Scott Ryser from The Units in NYC to finalize our collaboration. We decided to go to Body & Soul party event and I’m not sure if he were dancing to the Joe Claussell, Danny Krivit and François K selections…
Do you have any go-to equipment or methods in the studio?
I collaborate with many studios using different kind of equipment but I always prefer to let my dj/vinyl collector background help the production so I love to use samples from rare grooves or get inspirations from the old school, this is why most of my “Reconstructions” are mostly mash-up with a lo-fi vintage vision.
One of your next records is a reworking of a Madonna classic with Hard Ton, is this something you particularly enjoy doing? I see you have done a few reworkings previously?
My first remake was “Spacer Woman/Frau” Italo Electro Disco 1983 classic from Charlie alias Maurice Cavalieri (Firefly/International Music System) produced with Oxtongue and UND that was immediately popular from the 2004 and remixed and destroyed by Boysnoize two years after in the 2006 but I think the “Frau” acapella is one of the much used in the electroclash-tech schene…
The “Dirty Talk” remake was released during in 2015 and I must say that it sounds better than the original Klein & M.B.O. from 198 since we produced it using exactly the same equipment used in 1982 in the same studio with the Piatto Brothers (N.O.I.A.); so I decided to contact Donna McGhee (Fatback Band/Phreek/Universal Robot Band) to make the vocals. Radio Slave immediately loved the idea of reworking it since he is an Italo disco lover and records collector.
The idea to produce the remake of the Madonna’s classic “Lucky Star” started in 2015 but I lost a lot of time looking for the right voice for it but finally Hard Ton was suggested to me and we are releasing the first part of the two at the end of November with 4 versions and the second in the 2020 with also the remixes of DJ Pierre (Phuture) and Severino (Horse Meat Disco).
What are you working on currently, any big records coming up?
I am releasing the I-Robots – Laws Of Robotics : 2020 on January 20th, 2020 that incl. 20 tracks remixed by Hiroshi Kaito Watanabe, Red Axes, Danny Ocean, Djembe Monks, Kuniyuki Takahashi, Alexander Robotnick, Daniele Baldelli & Marco Dionigi, Gary Martin, Los Hermanos, G. Digger, Santiago Salazar, DJ Minx, François K, M. Caporale, Mark Evemport, Riggel, Mr Raoul K and featuring, Harry Dennis, Mike Anderson & Demented Machine.
L.O.R. : 2020 is also including few unreleased material and some of the forthcoming “Perfect Logic Circle” remixes that will be released in two parts vinyls next year including DJ Minx, François K, M. Caporale, Mark Evemport, Riggel remixes.
I will follow up the “Turin Dancefloor Express” project and I will re-release some Turin area Italo disco classics from Ego Neco, Oxid, Talko, Firme D’Autore, Reale Accademia, Johnson Righeira, Happen D.J., David Gray, Bagarre, Between The Sheets and more….
What are your goals, where do you see yourself going with your music in 5/10 years time?
I wish all our efforts make our profile grow and get a bigger reputation for the sound I love… for the future I could see the label catalog follow the eclectic non-commercial concept and focussing on introducing new talents and sounds from underground artists.
I am not following the market directions but just my instinct and my background.
I am not following the market directions but just my instinct and my background. I wish all our efforts make our profile grow and get a bigger reputation for the sound I love to release… for the future, I could see the label catalogue follow the eclectic non-commercial concept and focus on introducing new talents and sounds from underground artists.
Where can people find you? Tell us about gigs you have upcoming?
I am working on starting a serious worldwide tour but in the meantime, I am focused on music production and label management.