Interview: Luigi Tozzi On The Lessons Of Being A Resident DJ, Finding Balance, Afterlife Release

We chat with Parisian-based DJ and producer, Luigi Tozzi to learn about what he has gleaned from some residents in his hometown of Rome, what he uses for his set up and how he builds his songs.
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Luigi Tozzi

Luigi Tozzi is a rising star in techno with productions released on labels such as Hypnus, Dynamic Reflection, and Outis, and toured last summer at top European festivals. The young Italian producer met with us in Paris, where he just relocated to from his hometown of Rome. Sitting with us at a beautiful Parisian terrace, which somehow reminds him of his native Rome, Luigi Tozzi shares his early influences for dub and ambient music, what it was like working alongside his masters Claudio PRC and Dino Sabatini, and how his his recent project with Antonio Ruscito was released on Tale of Us label Afterlife. Tozzi also mentions producing and DJing techniques that surely resonates with the modern, sophisticated techno producer of today, and how it's like to be a resident DJ of the "new Berghain," Khidi Club, in Tbilisi, Georgia. With exciting upcoming projects—a few VA tracks on Dynamic and Mental Modern and a solo EP to be released for the first time on a label he loves—Tozzi's journey to the deeper sides of techno is a never-ending adventure.

Where do you live these days and can you briefly explain your first introduction to electronic music?

I just moved to Paris, I've been living in Rome for my entire life and I needed a change. My first introduction to electronic music comes from ambient and dub techno, I got to know these genres by the older brother of one of my best friend, he was into it and got us hooked.

Are you Italian, French or both?

I'm Italian but did all my education at the French school in Rome so I know the language and I've absolutely been influenced by the French culture a lot in my youth.

You had a busy summer touring at some of Europe’s most prominent festivals such as Freqs of Nature. Will you go back to the studio soon?

Actually, my summer wasn't that busy, with my agent we planned to have a calm summer and play only in a few festivals that I particularly love (Freqs of Nature, Waking Life and Parallel Festival). It was important for me to have time for holidays and studio work, and to be able to prepare these gigs accurately as I've been playing live sets mostly and it is something I was doing for the first times, an important step for me to be finally able to make this kind of performance.

You recently finished a remix for Claudio PRC from whom you are close and share the same type of music. Can you tell us more about this remix?

Claudio was probably the artist getting me into the deeper sides of techno, he has been a huge inspiration to me and I feel very honored to be able to "touch" and give my personal interpretation of his sounds. For this remix, I felt that the bass line of the original should be preserved, and in my version, I focused on making a very functional track for the dance floor. The whole remix package came out very good and I recommend to check Alan Backdrop's versions, which are stunning.

You also recently worked with Antonio Ruscito for Tale of Us’ Label Afterlife, among some in-demand artists. Tell us about this collaboration and this project for the label.

We've been in touch with Antonio since a long time and when he came to me suggesting a collaboration I thought it was logical to do so: he's a fantastic person and a very passionate musician. We came up with the track we released on Afterlife while jamming for our live set, it was very natural and basically the track is a one-shot recording that came out in the very first take. It is very emotional for both of us. We're making more and will hopefully release them soon. Antonio was in touch with Matteo and Carmine and he sent them the music, they were happy with it so we agreed on a VA format for the release.

How did you craft this style of music, mixed between downtempo, slow techno and hypnotic sounds? What are your influences?

As I said before, the main influences for me are ambient and dub techno. My main goal when starting to make music was to mix the dreamy side of ambient with the more tribal and rhythm-oriented side of techno. But the crafting of a style and an identity is an endless process and I'm evolving a lot lately. At the moment I'm interested in separating the work I do in harmony and keep it for pure ambient tracks while making a serious effort on rhythms and timbres for what concerns techno. I think that the whole scene is very saturated with "standard" techno-ambient tracks that were interesting years ago but have become a big cliché at the moment.

Tell us about the Swedish label “Hypnus” on which you had your latest release.

Hypnus is like home for me, I joined the label when it was starting and I've built a very solid relationship with the owner (Ntogn) and all the members of the roster. It feels great to be able to work in a sort of "resident" base with the same label; we're influencing each other a lot and progressing together. I think that this will be an important year for the label, we had great additions to the roster and every adept is making fantastic music at the moment.

What are your favorite tools as a DJ and producer?

As a producer, I've started with a mixed setup of laptop (Ableton + VSTs) and old analog machines like Ms20, Juno 106, Acidlab Miami, some Jomox and others. But since a couple of years, I moved to a completely digital setup. The possibilities you have nowadays with digital are endless if you're able to limit yourself and find the right tools you need it is more than enough to make any sort of sounds. Another huge advantage for me is that I can work anywhere with just my laptop and headphones, it is great not to be forced into a studio to make music, but to be influenced by the different places where you're able to make it with such portable setup. I remember making "Divenire" the last track of my album Deep Blue in an island in Sicily, and that the environment influenced me so much in the making of the track, that to me is still one of the best things I did in music.

For DJing, I also relate to a digital setup. I've been learning the basics with Pioneer CDJ 100 back when I was in school and got into buying records many years later. I find collecting vinyls very pleasant but not interesting for me when speaking about playing in clubs. Performance-wise I chose Traktor and I stick with it, it really allows me to give my very personal interpretation of the music I play. Using four decks I am able to layer many loops from different tracks and come out with something completely different from how the original pieces were conceived by the artists in most of the cases. For example in this set I recently recorded in Milan you will find a lot of layering and get a proper idea of what I am talking about. I am also planning to expand my setup a bit this year, with new mixers like Model1 and Allen & Heath Xone 96 I find it very interesting to bring into my setup some external drum machines or synths to try something more hybrid for DJing.

Can you share a moment where you had a DJ fear? How did you overcome it?

I think that pressure is part of this job and I obviously experienced it quite a few times already. Then there is a "good" pressure, that keeps you focused and motivated, and a "bad" pressure that might get you to a point where you're confused. But the more you do it the more you'll be able to control it and use it in a positive way. Also it is always important to remember that we're not saving the planet or doing anything different than expressing ourselves with music and trying to create a cathartic moment for the audience to relax and enjoy an evening out, so the key should just be to have fun and accepting that sometimes you do it perfectly and sometimes you don't.

Can you tell about your experience as a resident DJ in Khidi club in Georgia? What did you learn?

Having a residency has always been something I wanted; I feel that it is the most formative experience to deeply learn DJing. Playing for the same crowd, in different contexts and slots is very stimulating and forces you to really search for new music that fits the different moments of the night. It also gives me the opportunity to be in the warm-up slot, which is my favorite. Being able to do this in Khidi is even more formative for me as it is one of the best clubs I've seen, with one of the most open-minded crowd.

What advice would you give to upcoming DJs to get their first residency at a club?

What I'd advice to the newcomers is to go at clubs and watch/listen to the residents before getting a residency themselves. I remember going out alone in Rome to see Donato Dozzy, Claudio Fabrianesi, and Fabrizio Lapiana when they had their own residencies at various clubs in the city and it was very important for me to understand what DJing is about.

How could you advice young producers to balance between getting booked at a club and take time to craft their sounds?

I don't really feel comfortable in giving advice to "young" producers as I feel that I'm still at a very early stage of my path in music. But for sure I think that there should be a balance between bookings and time in the studio, nowadays the market can suck you in a very busy touring schedule so fast that you might forget how much you still have to learn about music making and DJing. For myself, I've always been working hard to preserve that balance, and I'm very lucky to have met an agent that understands this necessity so well, without pushing me in any way to play more than I want.

Which places in the world you find the most inspiring?

Music-wise both Tbilisi and Tel Aviv are the places where I feel at home but always challenged at the same time.

What's coming next for you in the fall and winter, any plans, any releases or exciting projects you'd love to mention?

I have quite a few things in the pipeline yes! Besides a few VA tracks (Dynamic, Mental Modern) and a couple remixes I will have a solo EP on a label I respect very much, it will be my first appearance there and I'm very happy with the record we've been putting together. I'm also working on a lot of material for Hypnus and we're discussing what we want to do with it, the whole package is quite heterogeneous and we really need to pick the right stuff to make a coherent and strong release.

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