Interview: Luigi Tozzi

Luigi Tozzi’s fathomless techno deep-dives and captivating biomorphic atmospherics have been a favorite of ours at Dub Monitor since the young Italian producer began regularly releasing in 2014. Tozzi is one of a surprising cohort of Italian producers who have distinguished themselves as an undeniable vanguard of ingenious experimentation in techno and commitment to its fusion of modernist and shamanistic impulses. Think of Lucy, the Dadub guys, Voices from the Lake, to name just a few. I was curious to know how Tozzi came to be doing what he’s doing, how he goes about making such weirdly organic techno, where he thinks Italian techno is going right now, and what his future plans might be.

Inyahed Signalman: I notice in your Resident Advisor bio that you refer specifically to musical connections to the deep techno from Rome. I’ve been very interested in this phenomenon of great deep techno producers from Italy and would like to ask why you think this wave (one could almost call it a tradition or school of techno) developed and why it continues. So the first questions: Why do you think this phenomenon has developed? To what extent are there a community of producers and a collection of localized music scenes in Italy that have supported this development? And how did you get involved in this music?

Luigi Tozzi: I discovered this music by following artists such as Basic Channel and Deepchord. I was fascinated by the attention to details and the use of delays and reverbs which added a depth that I couldn’t find in the more dance-oriented kind of techno. After that, thanks to labels like Semantica and Prologue’s early catalogue I found what I was looking for, the so-called “cinematic” techno. I was surprised to see that Italians such as Sabatini, Gianluca Meloni, Brando Lupi, Dozzy, Gigli and Claudio PRC had largely contributed to create that type of sound. In my opinion the common trends present in our works are the consequences of influences from the socio-cultural situation that we are living here in Italy. I noticed a kind of similar situation in Sweden, for example: I can feel the strength and the impact of the nature on the sound of most Swedish musicians, whom, by the way, I consider to be the most incredible artists on the scene at the moment. Regarding the second part of your question, I believe that in Italy we have a great potential for the formation of a community of producers, composed both by newcomers and more experienced artists. There are several young and talented artists that still have to release their first records but are already working and achieving some very good results. On the other hand I think that the club scene is not actually supporting enough the local talent. Our big names had to make their way outside of the country before being respected and supported in Italy. There is not a very large space for the small parties and the new organizations. Also the lineups are often filled with big international names which come to the same city maybe three or four times in the same year. But i think this is slowly changing, and I see some fresh things coming. I just hope they will stay and grow in the next years.

IS: You alluded to the sound arising out of the socio-economic context of Italy. Could you say more about that context and how it’s reflected in the music?

LT: Yes I meant something general, linked also to the climate and every typical aspect of a country. It is not something that is easy to explain with words, and it can be subjective from one artist to another. But for example I think that the very slow rhythms of the Italian lifestyle and the decadent socio-political moment that we are living is connected to the accent put on repetition and obscure atmospheres in this particular style which is deep techno.

IS: It sounds like you feel some momentum toward a more solid techno community in Italy. Is that something that is centered in Rome? Does it have other important centers? Is there a noticeable trend for producers to relocate in these places, and is there a growth of things like studios and labels?

LT: Yes I think that there is some momentum toward a more solid community here in Italy, absolutely. I would not say that it’s something that is only centered in Rome, which was already a worldwide renown city for techno in the early nineties. Today’s phenomenon is more diffused in the whole country and has prominent centers (the major cities) but also other unsuspected ones. I notice that there are some small but solid realities that are trying to change the club scene by moving in other directions than the diffused hype-centered organizations, which I mentioned before. These movements are bringing something different to the people, not only musically but by offering a new environment and inspiring mood. For example WAYS, in Apulia, is bringing forward an interesting project. I am not sure whether this trend of producers who start to relocate in the places where the movement is developing more has already started, but I think it will be happening more consistently in the future. On the other hand the growth of studios and labels is already something very present everywhere. Regarding the studios, I think this is fantastic because it gives the opportunity for the new producers to learn new approaches. I mean that nowadays the newcomers are very often working at home and with a mostly digital approach: bigger studios allow them to monitor their work in a professional sonic environment and to use machines that cost a lot of money. The proliferation of new labels has good and bad sides. The market is saturated with a lot of music, but if you are able to filter it with your own taste and patiently dig then you can find great pearls.

IS: So would you say that while there is this wave now, many of the well-known Italian producers came into what they are doing kind of on their own, and the formation of something we could call a community or school or movement developed afterwards, often when these producers formed connections in places outside Italy, especially Berlin?

LT: As I said before I developed my taste by following other genres and then discovered this “Italian movement,” and I think it’s the same for other producers. For what concerns the connections formed in places outside Italy this can be true for some musicians, but it’s not a general trend. Probably it’s easier to make connections in places where you have a great club scene like Berlin because people are going out more.

IS: There are lots of references to nature in the names of your tracks. Some are more scientific, like Bioluminescence, and others are more pagan, with references to Greco-Roman mythology, like Dryad. Additionally, one of the things that distinguishes your techno from other producers, is the living, biological feel that it has. How are these scientific and mythological references related to what you’re trying to do musically? How do you go about creating a techno track that sounds natural and life-like rather than mathematical or mechanical?

LT: The references to mythology are linked to the primitive and religious characteristics related to this music: when it is played in the right context it can have a strong cathartic power on both the audience and the DJ/Live Performer. On the other hand Bioluminescence and Deep Blue in general is something a little different from my other works: I remember really focusing on the idea of abyss and the lack of light in the deep sides of the oceans. I was strongly inspired by this while creating the “album.” I put a big effort on atmospheres and textures in my music because I think that it gives a strong natural and vital feeling to the listener and most important it can transport him to a brand new environment. This is also crucial in my approach to producing which very often starts by creating a complex soundscape of ambients, winds and textures that inspires me to build the rhythmical side of the track.

IS: I find that each of your releases has had its unique and consistent sound. What sort of sound were you going for with the new release with Outis?

LT: I have an incredible respect for Dino and his music and have always been a fan of Outis. As a consequence I tried to understand in depth the themes and the sonorities brought by the label and went in two directions which I tried to melt together: one was centered on a epic vibe and another was more directed on rhythmical experiments to achieve a more tribalistic feel. I think that the tracks from the EP are quite different but still came out coherent in some way, and Dino’s version completed it perfectly!


IS: You’ve been very productive with new releases over the past year. I see only one event listed on your Resident Advisor page. Have you performed more than that? Do you have plans to do more performance? If so, are you going to do any DJing, or are you focused on live performance of your own music?

LT: I have started this musical path since a couple years and it came by making music, which is the most important for me. But for sure the performance is a crucial moment of connection with the people, and I will be doing it more and more in the next years. It was a hard choice to start turning down all the booking requests I received in the last year, but I am strongly convinced that I needed a lot of time and work in the studio to start forming a definite taste and to create something that is really mine before bringing it out. For me DJing is great and I practice it a lot with all the platforms, and it’s unbelievable how every different platform gives me a very different output. I have a lot of fun with vinyls, but I also appreciate the computer which allows me to make longer mixes and layer three or four tracks in the same time to get a very hypnotic and personal result. But as I said before I come from making music more than Djing so I have decided to invest the last months in working on a live performance, with mostly new and unreleased projects. As a consequence I will be pushing on these two different formats of Djing and playing live, as soon as I am finished with the material for the live set, which should be by the end of summer.