September 6, 2017

Bigote: A Berlin-based Italian with a Long History In Wax

Europe is a melting pot of dance music history, well-versed electronic experts lie sprinkled across the continent. Each major city has a sound of it’s own, marked by major events and iconic sets, nightlife culture of the mediterranean is permanently joined with dance music. Long time DJ and purveyor of dance, Bigote is an artist who’s music history is pressed in wax. As a dance floor tastemaker and event curator, he’s done it all in the globe’s most influential electronic market.

Now based in the underground hub of Germany, Bigote is leading the next generation through a variety of projects centered around the art of DJ. As he grows his new Berlin event RITMO, this vinyl tastemaker is a the tip of the art. Using classic methods to progress dance music, Bigote’s crate is trustworthy through experience. See what he had to say about growing up in Italy, wax trends, and digging for records.

Your projects and sound reflect coming of age around the Mediterranean. How have your surroundings shaped your aesthetic as an artist?

A quote that really made an impact is “Someone claims to be an artist but we are just playing records”. I don’t remember who said this, I think may be We Play House Recordings’ boss Red D. I want to use these few words to make a very important point: I am not an artist. I am passionate about music, I think of myself as an “aficionado”, but not an artist.

I know that could sound weird but I don’t feel like I did anything to be called an artist. Maybe I will, who knows, but now I like to listen to records, buy them, play them and help people to have fun. I also like eating a lot but this has nothing to do with music unfortunately!

Given that, I don’t even know if I can talk about any specific “aesthetic” as an artist, but what shaped my life. My hometown Gaeta, Rome, Barcelona are three towns that made an impact. It’s no coincidence that are all places on the Mediterranean, the region helped me to get where I am now which is in Berlin but that’s a totally different story.

It’s been a long path so far, to really understand myself and tastes in music I had to go through many different phases. Specific events shaped my relationship with music as a listener and a deejay. I started with Djing kind of late, I was 17-18. The year was around 2005-06, I used to play soulful and deep-house to start, the first vinyl I bought with my own money was a repress on Blaze’s “How Deep Is Your Love” but minimal and tech-house were about to explode. I was confused with all the hype of these other scenes so I started following labels such as Cécille, Cadenza, 8bit and stuff like that. I was still buying some house music, mainly on CDs, but playing hit tech-house tunes was easy and recognizable. This sort of “mainstream coma” even included also a phase when, later on, I was listening to fidget and electro-house, artists like Crookers, Boys Noize, Soulwax…you get the picture. Don’t ask, it just happened.

The lull lasted until 2011 when, to celebrate my Bachelor’s Degree, I went to Sonar for the first time. On my Barcelona debut, I had the chance to catch to Gilles Peterson’s super eclectic dj set at Sonar Dia; something just clicked. He helped me understand that I needed to change my approach and point of view on music, I needed to start discovering. Within the following two months, I dove head first. Attending Rome’s Meet In Town festival, Todd Terje made an impact with his sounds (and an incredible Michael Jackson t-shirt!). During the same period, I also bought Motor City Drum Ensemble’s DJ-Kicks, on which I discovered artists like Sun Ra, Walter Gibbons, James Mason. These three things all together have been some sort of wake-up call: there was a lot of impactful music out there and I was totally missing the point.

bigote

Luckily, just as the groove felt right it was time to continue my university studies. I decided to move to Rome first – where I also started writing for a webzine called RITC Roma In The Club – and then to Barcelona, where Bigote project initially saw the light (before that I was using other monikers). These moves have been two very important steps to develop the right direction as a human, professional and deejay.

What along the way sparked your interest in vinyl and the culture behind the wax DJ? What keeps it fresh for you?

I am not one of those guys who grew up from a long line of musicians. My parents have never been into music and I started along their path as well. I wasn’t introduced to vinyl records until my brother Benny started djing in the late 90s/early 2000s. His involvement in djing and vinyl was been crucial to my introduction. He taught me the basics and introduced me to amazing artists (like Air, Daft Punk and Cassius to start).

Along this path, there have been many friends who helped me improve and develop my skills and knowledge as a DJ. A few essential shout outs are Matteo Lieto, Fabio Branco and Giuseppe Magnatti who all had a major impact in the very early years. Today, friends like Enzo Elia, Alessandro Pasini, Michele Tessadri and Luc Sauvage are contributing a lot in growing and refining my passion.

Other than that, moving from my hometown, Rome, Barcelona and now Berlin crafted my passion just by nature of location, accessibility was a huge gap starting out. Once I was able to discover wax through the tight-knit network of vinyl shops in these large cities, the infatuation truly grew. This daily routine was not possible in Gaeta because there were no record shops. The closest thing to a shop near me was an A/V service shop in the nearby town of Sperlonga named ‘Remix Sound’. Though they had a limited selection of albums, they only carried CDs but I was lucky enough to find two St.Germain albums and almost all the “Coast 2 Coast” compilation series released by NRK Music with features by Kerri Chandler, Ron Trent, Quentin Harris, Karizma and many more…I still missing Miguel Migs one!

In addition to music I spent a lot of time at a friend’s apparel and footwear store called Kafbel FK Sneakers. It’s here I discovered many many electronic music djs, producers, and festivals I didn’t know before. I still remember when Fabietto – the owner – gave me Ellen Allien & Apparat’s album “Orchestra Of Bubbles”, telling me to have a listen. Nowadays I couldn’t imagine playing a DJ set without vinyl. The sleeves and covers trigger sounds and selections. USBs are convenient and handy for demos, but once it’s out I’m grabbing the wax.

As a resident of Berlin, from your perspective what makes the city attract creatives from across the globe? How has this artistic melting pot led to the modern day ‘Berlin sound’?

I’ve only lived in Berlin for a bit more than 2 years so am by no means a local yet. I’ve heard people saying that maybe the city lost some of its real underground attitude but I can surely confirm a lot of cool stuff is going on here. Parties, exhibitions, concerts…sometimes it’s even difficult to choose where to go. On the clubbing side of things, Berlin is of course known as a techno city but it offers not only that. There are also quality disco and house parties, all genres welcome.

It’s no surprise that the great music comes with great networking opportunities. This helps, exchanging and sharing ideas, creating and experimenting what you have in mind. In addition, Berlin is a “human-sized” metropolis, not so stressful and not expensive as other big cities like London or Paris. All these things make this city one-of-a-kind but, on the other hand, I have to say that all that glitter is not always gold. Berlin is not so different from other cities when it comes the dynamic of clubbing/nightlife. It happens, you see the same names rotating. It would be nice to see clubs doing a little bit more diversity, but the crew is always king. You also see guys playing just because they know the right people. I’m definitely aware that marketing yourself is (maybe too) important nowadays but I am sure there must be a better way. I know, I am not saying anything new. This happens everywhere but, yeah, I’ll still say that it sucks.

How do you come across your favorite new records and the ones that stay on rotation in the crate? Online? In store? Label promos?

I usually hit record stores every Saturday or late in the afternoon during the week and, yes, I am one of those guys you have to tell three times that the shop is closing. In Berlin, I’ve spend the most time at Oye Records in Prenzlauer Berg. I still visit other stores, but keep coming back to Oye. And, just like Schroeder (the Peanut’s comic character said), I spend even more time in the record shos when feeling low because it always cheers me up.

I’ve never done a “digging trip” in my life but when I travel I try to spend couple of hours in local stores. Pro tip for the 2nd hand ones that don’t have decks: put one or more so we can listen/check the records, please! I also listen to and order online, I check websites, newsletters and I am super happy to receive promos as well. Latest one that caught my attention is Gropina’s “Mare Aperto”, an EP released on a brand-new label called Paesaggi Records based between Berlin, Amsterdam and Tuscany. You should check it out.

Globally, record stores are making a comeback, labels are pressing more and more wax, what do you think is driving the resurgence?

Give that their our heaps of vinyl aficionados with massive collections, and 2nd hand vinyl is still the strong market, I think the resurgence is related to a variety of factors. We know the first part of the resurgence has to do with wax being ‘cool again’, we can’t deny that’s fuelling the scene. Second however is a different resurging demographic based on nostalgia. A lot of major labels started pressing re-issues of old releases and people are actually buying them, especially rock, blues, jazz. This is revitalizing a different generation who spend on vinyl.
I have the feeling that younger generations are getting bored of streaming, this is the third factor. Users of these platforms may be using it to discover, but often want to buy something tangible and real. It’s a stupid example but when I scroll down my news feed on Facebook, I see people I would never expect to have a turntable or a single record at home posting pictures of vinyl.

My question is: can this resurgence be beneficial enough for smaller independent labels and musicians? Or it’s just something good for the majors that obviously take a very big piece of the more-expensive cake? How long will this last? What will it happen when the hype about vinyl disappears again? Who knows…but as long as I have 10€ in my pocket I will buy a record because it’s my passion, it’s a ritual for me. Also, I want to keep mum asking why I always need to buy new records if I already have stacks.

Who are a couple of active labels that you constantly grab their new releases?

That’s a great question and it’s not easy to give a short list. There were times when I used to discover a certain label and only listen to that for months. Now I have a more “holistic” approach and I check as more stuff as possible but I still keep a close eye to the Italian scene because there is a lot super-duper good stuff and there are interesting brand-new labels coming out as well.

There are way too many labels, it’s difficult to choose just a few! I can tell you the first ones that come to my mind but the list can be longer: Neroli, 12records, Early Sounds, Kitjen, GetWet, Favorite, DeepArt Sounds, Common Series, Gustosa, Rhythm Section, KalaKuta Soul, Brothers From Different Mothers (The Pilotwings releases are great!), Enzino’s…Rush Hour is repressing a lot of interesting stuff plus Faces/MCDE and Sound Signature because I am in love with Motor City Drum Ensemble and Theo Parrish. In addition, I want to mention Flash Forward as well, which is repressing a lot of Italo-House classic gems. Btw, if you want to know more about the records I buy and bring with me around, you should check my (more or less) monthly column called “Living Room” on the Italian music webzine tsinoshibar.it.

Give us an overview of your approach to DJ sets? How much of the record selection is planning vs how much is on the fly?

Planning as in checking the venue, who’s playing before and after me, are all things I do. Record-wise I usually don’t prepare the dj set itself. It’s a combination of an ample crate of record’s I’m in to and the mood on that day. There are records that I pick up and tell myself ‘ok, I really want to play this tonight’ because of how I expect the vibe but, other than that, everything else in on the fly. It’s important to read the situation, the dancefloor, and try to create a connection between you and audience. It’s not easy – what happened to Tiga lately, we’re human after all – but you cannot play for yourself. If you want to do so, do it at home but not when you have people in front of you who are there to have fun.

You’ve made big moves in the event space as art director of the Italian festival Esperimenti and the Berlin-based party RITMO, you also run FMUD parties in your hometown in Italy. What got you into events and how do you approach curating a music experience?

Two main things got me and my friends into events like Esperimenti Festival and FMUD. After a long time driving around to enjoy other people’s events (especially in Rome and Naples), we felt it was time to start on our own and offer our fellow citizens the chance to enjoy some zero-mileage quality music event. As other people did with us, we wanted to put the people in the right position to discover new music and that’s basically the way we approach curating a music experience, always willing to spread the word of what we think it’s good quality music. It’s not that easy in a little place like Gaeta, it takes time we hold on and never give up.

In regards to RITMO, the party I curate in Berlin, I have to thank Fillipp and Robin for giving me the chance to curate my own little space at the awesome rooftop spot which is Klunkerkranich. I’ve had the pleasure to host artists like Enzo Elia, Deep88, Private Agenda, Zambon, Tom Sky from Black Pearl Records…it’s great! The latest RITMO episode was on August 19th with one of the finest Berlin-based producers Rising Sun. He played an amazing deep and elegant dj set, which truly embodied the party. The Italian talented dj Feel Fly also took the decks and literally smashed the dancefloor. I played the wam-up set and the recording will be online soon. In the meantime, I am really looking forward to the next one already!

What’s next for the Bigote project? Big events coming up? New vinyl to speak of?

In September, I am making my debut in Brussells at Bonnefooi. My friends and I are also planning the 3rd edition of Esperimenti Festival for next year. Other than that, I added a couple of machines to my little set-up I have in my flat and I’ll finally start working on some ‘original’ productions. Let’s see what happens, I really want to prove myself! In the meantime, there’s something planned to come out on vinyl this winter but I cannot tell you any more just yet, you’ll see…