Enrico Sangiuliano – Exclusive InterviewAugust 12, 2018
If you wanted to hear Enrico’s mixes or his own productions back in the day when he was coming up you had to go to his gigs, as you literally couldn’t get his sound anywhere else, and it was something he valued highly that set him apart. By his 18th birthday, he’d carved out a respectable niche in Italy’s burgeoning underground scene. It’s his integrity that maintained his idea of himself in the dance music scene, that if you’d heard of him, then you had to go see him play and experience his music in the setting and environment he crafted his sounds for. For a decade or more he kept to that philosophy until he realised that, due to how the industry had shifted that he would have to emerge and display his compositions to the world. Since he broke his mould, he has had the honour of having the longest number one in Beatport’s history and had a string of massive hits culminating now with his announcement of an incredible concept album that’s dropping on Drumcode no less titled ‘Biomorph’ and its unique, it’s a game changer…
We sat down with the main man to get his side…
Michael Mannix: Thank you, Enrico, we finally got you in your studio for you to share some of your thoughts and experiences about your innovating career so far, what kicked it all off what gave you the initial spark?
Enrico Sangiuliano: Nice one Mike, when I was young I spent a lot of time with my father, he loved music, he was always listening to records so that’s where my interest in music developed. After I started school, when I was about 5 years old, one of my friends and I somehow just got into the rhythm of music from a very early age, we loved the percussive elements and got involved with the musical activities the school had to offer, until I eventually got interested in playing the drums.
As I got a little older I started to collect cassette tapes of music I was interested in from various dance music radio shows. By the time I was 8 or 9 years old I started to get a really nice collection of cassettes which I still have and cherish to this day! I started to get more interested in the dance music cassettes in the collection, and the type of dance music which I heard on the radio, I kind of left the drumming behind and started to make music on computers. It was in this, that I discovered a magic world where I was able to design a sound from scratch that didn’t exist at the time, not even on the internet. This opened up a whole new world of creativity for me.
MM: So did the DJ’ing evolve at the same time as production?
ES: I grew up surrounded by vinyl records and DJ’ing just started naturally from humble beginnings in my bedroom with the CD deck on one side and a vinyl deck on the other. It wasn’t even a Technics just something pretty old and vintage from the 70’s, which meant there was no pitch control or sync. Even today I don’t touch the sync buttons when I’m playing, I never use them as I think it makes everything super boring in an instant. I think it’s part of the game of being a DJ – to be able to manage the sync between the tracks manually by using your ears. I guess it’s part of the necessary skills. I like it when I am listening to someone who is playing live and the records they are mixing are just slightly out, and I can hear them pushing the record to try and get it back on time, I like it because it’s organic and natural. It helps you develop your set, you feel like you’re in control and you can feel every moment.
MM: Once you got the hang of beatmatching in the early days how long did it take before you started with the illegal raves and the mad parties?
ES: Ha ha ha yeah, my bedroom when I was super young was my studio. I had all my bits and pieces in there. Actually, I had everything I needed. One day as I was playing and my friend said ‘’Enrico, I know some people who are putting on raves and parties, you should really come with me and meet them because you’re really good and you can’t stay in your bedroom any longer with your music, you should be out there and someone should be able to listen to your stuff’’, and I was like ‘’ok let’s go’’. Eventually, we went over to their place, where all the promoters were living in the same house and they had a big set up, so when I arrived at the house they asked me if I’d like to play a few records for them on the spot. So, after a little introduction I played a couple of tracks and then they stopped me and said ‘’we really like your style and your productions,’’. I had played mainly all of my own tracks and he asked me straight away if I’d like to join and play at their parties! From that very moment I started playing more and more underground, and at each party, there was always another bigger promoter who heard my music and then invited me to their party, and so it grew.
By the time I was 18 I was playing at some of the biggest raves, my philosophy at the time with my own productions was, “If you want to listen to them you have to come to the gigs because I don’t release any of my tracks on labels”. Actually, it’s true that all of those tracks from that time were never released. For the first 10 years of my career, I didn’t release one single track that I produced, I was just trying to fill my record bag with original tracks that no one would have heard anywhere else.
It eventually came to a point where I realised I was limiting myself, so I took some time out from the parties and dedicated a lot more time in the studio. I moved to Milan from Palma, in the south of Italy where I was living and started a sound design course for 3 years. Whilst studying I started to do some research online and began sending out demos to see what would happen.
MM: And once you did start putting your work out there you ended up with the honour of having the longest running number 1 track on Beatport, nice one man and from there with a mass of successful productions to this massive release that you’ve got coming out on Drumcode your concept album ‘Biomorph’’ tell us about it?
ES: Sure, the concept is about a living form or a living being interpreted through machines. I studied and analysed the evolution of a pattern and how it changes overtime wildly, the same as evolution for us, at the same time evoking organic forms, correlated things, investigating humans as a particular organism in close relationship with nature. Focusing on how our dependency now is on the technological evolutionary side and not so much the nature of life, as is the case of every other living thing on Earth, and that’s what I tried to translate with music. It’s divided into 4 chapters one about the Organisms in general, the next about Cosmic Forces, followed by Metamorphosis and lastly but not least is Two Probabilities which it’s the only chapter that’s looking ahead and into the future, as all the rest are an examination of the things that surround us in daily life.
MM: That’s a very deep analysis and approach to your work and to your worldview in general?
ES: Everything just came naturally to me, and I approached this project the same as all my music. I wanted to put something more deeply personal and connected into this project, to meditate and think about art in a deeper sense and create new levels of understanding in our connection with nature and what’s all around us.
MM: So you’re spiritually involved with your music?
MM: So on the same idea then you’re bringing your energy your spirit your soul of creativity through machines and then out into the physical realm.
ES: Exactly man.
MM: So let’s discuss you’re creative environment your studio your setup what you use what you don’t use do you have a normal workflow?
ES: I’m in the studio now, I never leave sometimes! Haha. To be honest, I don’t really have a set or standard process but what I generally always start out with, are some ideas in Ableton. I use Ableton during the whole creative process. I also use Massive and hardware like Juno 106 and luckily have many friends to swap and borrow synthesizers from when I go to their studios and travel on gigs. I have a close friend in Ibiza and when I am always on the island I drop into their studio. They have every conceivable synth on the planet from the ms20, Nord Leads and every drum machine you could ever need! So, I am really lucky to have friends with all this who are happy for me to use their space.
When I get the chance to spend time in these kinds of studios, with this hardware, I always try and do something in that moment, from that instant inspiration, as it never lasts long, so you have to grab it with both hands and make the most of it. When I finish in Ableton, I export and bounce everything to WAVs to Logic Pro, so that it allows me to reset and step back. I worked in sound design which means my edits and adjustments are endless, so I need an endpoint, or no track would ever get finished. Finally, I work on the mix and the mastering, and occasionally if it needs it, I’ll maybe edit something or add some effects.
MM: Quite straightforward then, ok so what’s the easiest track you’ve ever made and what’s the hardest track you’ve ever made?
ES: Ohhh hmm, I think the easiest was ‘’Can You Hear Me’’ and funnily enough that was the ones which held the longest No.1 techno spot on Beatport. The hardest, well actually most of the tracks are really hard in their own way. The hardest part for me is the final ending process of the track, where I have to go into small tiny details, and this gets me frustrated a lot of the time. At this point, I find it really stressful to try and preserve my sound identity, but at the same time you want the track to be versatile, so it’s not easy. It’s only sometimes when the track has been released and I haven’t heard it in a while that I can go back and appreciate it more. Probably ‘Astral Projection’ was definitely one of the hardest because I started the project back in 2014 and it was released in 2017! I started it, left it for a few months and then came back to it as and when I wanted to, which helped to make the track seem fresh every time I played around with it, slowly I managed to bring some emotion into the track and three years later, it was finally ready.
MM: Patience and persistence, so who is inspiring you at the moment?
ES: Adam Beyer and Secret Cinema – both of them have always been inspirational to me and always will be. I’m also really inspired by and happy to see the scene in Italy really growing into something amazing. We have so many talented producers and DJ’s that are already established as well as those new names. Luigi Madonna and Sam Paganini are two which I can think of to start, both fantastic guys and producers, and that’s something I am very proud of.
MM: What’s your biggest festival stand out moment what you thought fucking hell wow?
ES: I really enjoyed Awakenings Festival, but when I started out playing I didn’t think I had much of a connection with the crowd because from an external point of view when you’re on that super big stage and far from the crowd, I felt a bit alone. But I was totally wrong – and after the first couple of tracks I felt the vibe from the crowd and got into my groove. It was really such an overwhelming experience to see so many people enjoying my music. I also thought ‘Into The Wild’ was a cool concept, which was held in the Netherlands, and another festival which you may not have heard of called ‘Terraform’, which has a sustainable concept festival, and held in Milan once a year. They bring techno acts as well as jazz, so it’s really varied. I think the biggest guest this year is Jeff Mills.
MM: What advice would you give to an aspiring DJ producer to be creatively original in an already saturated market?
ES: You said the right words,
I think People should follow their own vision and journey when wanting to work with music. Passion is everything, and not to focus too much on the market out there. Do your own thing and never copy, because someone else is already trying to do what you are trying to copy! If you really love what you do and dedicate all your energy into it, without your key motivation or priority being money – then you’ll get there. Just hang in, as it’s a long ride and It’s not easy.
MM: You’re coming to Ireland as part of your busy summer schedule?
ES: Yes, I’m visiting Ireland again on the 26th August actually to play at Shine in Belfast with Adam Beyer. I love the Irish crowd because they’re unbelievably warm, it’s exciting playing there, I really like it a lot, as well as drinking all the Guinness! I’ve also got a lot of cool gigs and festivals including Sonar OFF Week with Drumcode, Awakenings Festival, Loveland, Drumcode Festival, Junction 2 and so many more clubs, but we can’t fit them all into this answer! I just hope to see some of you all on the dancefloor with me along the way.
MM: Thank you, Enrico
ES: Anytime Mike – hope you guys enjoy the album