One of the most important producers in the world sets clubland alight once again
Rocco – welcome to DMCWORLD young man, an incredible two years behind you and 2012 just seems to be getting better and better. Your musical path began a little bit differently to the African carnival rave and manic percussion you bring us today. At the age of 15 you were joining Punk band after punk band in your home town of Lecce in Southern Italy. When did you see the dance music light?
“When I was 10 I was taking piano lessons, but I was interested in any kind of loud music, from punk hardcore to electronic music, and it’s still like that. The easiest way for me to play music at a young age was by starting a band. It was like sharing the best times of my life with my best friends, an experience that shaped my music culture and my approach to life on the road. Anyway, I was listening to dance music too all through high school and college, so when I had to quit my bands because of a job I got out of town, I decided to start something on my own, because I didn’t have anybody to play with and at the same time I was really interested in what was happening in dance music at that moment.”
How important was hearing Basement Jaxx ‘Rooty’ and meeting Bob The Bloody Beetroots for you?
“‘Rooty’ is probably my favourite dance album ever. I remember the first time I heard it was completely blown away and shocked. I think the concept of “being blown away” was different back then because it wasn’t about the “drop”, that record is just a music masterpiece, great melodies, energy, a very original sound. It’s pretty amazing how every track on there sounds like a radio-friendly single and a dancefloor bomb at the same time. I am a DJ/producer now, I owe a lot to Basement Jaxx for making me want to start producing dance music. I owe a lot to Bob from the Bloody Beetroots too. I met him when I was working at a record label he was signed to, and we immediately got along cause we were listening to the same kind of new wave electro from 2006/2007. I was messing with music software but I didn’t have any clue how to get a track done. He liked the few brief ideas I showed him and offered to make a track together. More in general he helped a lot with teaching me how to produce. He’s still one of the most motivated and inspired people I’ve ever met. You feel his energy just having him around.”
What is the current top 10 you are spinning?
Clockwork – Squad Up
Zedd – Shotgun
Mata – Dutchness (Moska Remix)
GTA – Booty Bounce
Laidback Luke – 1234
Alvaro & Partysquad – Watahh
Marting Solveig – The Night Out (A-Trak Remix)
L-Vis 1990 – Rubber CrashFelix Cartal – Domo
John Roman – TGS
The Buzz Chart crew were jumping all over the remixes of ‘Ivory’, “it’s like an angry elephant” was one of the excited comments! How would you describe the tune, why did you pick your remixers and what did you think of their reworks?
“It’s one of the most experimental tracks I’ve ever done and one of the tracks I am most proud of. The two things that make a dance track stand out are originality and loudness, I think this track has both of them. I wrote it starting from this Absynth synth sound I tweaked a lot till I got something that reminded me of an elephant. I added some good African percussion samples for some groove. They sound so real because I kept the natural reverb of the room they were sampled in. For the remix package I picked up all people I know and respect. Bob The Bloody Beetroots offered to remix it, and this thing is an honor for me. Laidback Luke did his own edit too, I know he likes to edit a lot of tracks for his sets, and did a more bassey version of the tune. Mumbai Science and NT89 are the future of techno music. I really like what they are doing now and what they represent for the overall dance scene. I think everybody should keep an eye to see where their music is going, because it’s where we are all going in a year.”
You had a brilliant Miami WMC Ultra week, ‘Sirius’ and ‘Monolith’ were being smashed out everywhere. How was the event for you this year, what were the highlights?
“Yeah Miami is fun. A very intense week when if you are a producer, you can see your music finally going out of your studio, making it on a big stage and you can see how people like it and react to it. It’s still a good feeling, expecially in Miami, walking party to party and hearing your tunes around. This year was crazy because I played I think 7 shows in 3 days or something like that. Liv with Benny Benassi was great fun, also The Fool’s Gold Party at Grand Central is a must, it gets better every year.”
On the new American EDM takeover, some are worried too much money is going to be thrown at the scene and the whole culture side of clubbing is going to be lost. Thoughts…
“I don’t think there’s a real problem about money being thrown, I mean it’s no news that anything that gets popular in the US becomes a real business. There are more DJ managers in California now than in the whole European music scene. A lot of my European DJ friends don’t even have or want a manager. As a European I can say Americans work in music with a more professional and less snobby perspective. On the other side, Europe has a more established club culture, where good music and taste has priority over anything else. I don’t know what’s best and who’s wrong. As a European living in the US, I think I am right in between the two scenes.”
What is the best and worst thing about living in LA?
“Good things: the weather, great variety and quality of food, being close to the beach, being close to the desert, being close to Disneyland, lifestyle is relaxed and open-minded.
Bad things: traffic I guess, but I don’t have a car and I live in the middle of everything, 20 mins from the airport, 20 mins far from the beach, 20 mins far from the Hills. I only experience traffic when going down to San Diego.”
What do you miss about your home country?
“Family of course, the food, and more generally I think that interactions and relations between people are more “real” back home — not based on interests or business. My oldest friends like me for what I am and not for what I do.”
Had you any idea when you remixed ‘One’ for Swedish House Mafia that your version was going to be bigger than the original?
“Haha, well first of all I was surprised to get their offer to remix it. I remember opening the folder with the files of the song and feeling histerically excited. I am not sure it’s bigger than the original, but it’s still great seeing SHM play my version of their song. A lot of things changed after that remix, it was definetely a turning point in my career.”
What are the big festivals you are playing at this summer – and will we see you in Ibiza?
“Yeah! I’m playing Tomorrowland in Belgium, Open Air in Amsterdam, Motion Festival in Switzerland I’ll be at Cocoricò Riccione with David Guetta, Avicii, Deadmau5, Benny Benassi, Afrojack and others and in Ibiza for three nights at Godskitchen Privilege.”
What is the finest record you have ever played to a dancefloor?
“Last summer I played a vinyl-only DJ set, all stuff taken from my acid house collection.. it was all fun!”
You travel all over the world, you smashed Asia with A-Trak, Australia has seen your skills and you love Mexico and Japan. What is about these two places you love?
“I like Mexico and Japan for different reasons. I’m obsessed with Mexico because of its history and the archeological sites, so everytime I’m around there I try to spend a few days off for explorations. The parties are pretty crazy too, and the fans are really dedicated. They know every song, party hard, tweet a lot before and after the show. It just seems to be a very good crowd. While Japan for me is like going to another dimension. It looks like a futuristic movie. Also if you look at the way they dance at parties it looks like they are having the time of their lives, they completely lose control, and the vibe is always extremely positive. You know, no tough guys making girls feel uncomfortable on the floor or things like it. Shopping in Japan is pretty amazing too, cause you can easily find something you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. I think when it comes to fashion Asia owns the game right now, and Japan more than other countries.”
What country has the best crowd on the dancefloor?
What DJs do you like spinning with?
“I like warming up for Benny Benassi, and I like having Harvard Bass warm up for me. They are both good friends, and we mutually know our styles so much that we perfectly fit together for a show. The concept of the warm up set is dying, but I think it’s still very important..and way more challenging and more fun than playing 20 hits in a row.”
Not many people know this, but Congorock is really good at…
“Wasting time on videogames. I’m a big fan of the Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls and Gears of War sagas.”
Where is the strangest place you have bought music when looking for inspiration on African and tropical music?
“I like buying records on the road expecially when I am abroad. I’ve bought cumbia records at Mercado Sonora in Mexico City, Gamelan music in Bali, I’ve never been to Africa but my friends know I am into collecting records so they would bring a tape back. I also surf a lot on the web where you can find good rips of african music tapes. Some of them are unbelievably good.”
You once said that you hate doing remixes. Why?
“It’s not like I hate doing remixes, but I know when it’s right to say yes or no to remixes. I get like 10 offers a month but I have my own policy about it. First of all I’m not fast producing so there’s no reason to overload my work. I also feel that people ask for a remix having in mind one song I’ve already produced, or ask me to do a remix like the SHM remix. It’s just downgrading from an artistic perspective and not very smart on a business level, cause I don’t want to saturate or sellout my own sound just because someone is paying for it. I think remixes are exciting to do, but I am really selective on what I do and I also like to feel free to do anything I want with my mix.”
What is your guilty pleasure record?
“Carly Simon “Why”.”
What is coming next from the Congorock studio in 2012 – the album? Some collabs?
“I am working on an album with some big collaborations. I’m excited to release all this stuff later this year!”