Dance music in a constant state of flux – times change, scenes develop and new faces spring up every other week in this age of fast consumption. But for some, the aesthetics, mood and love for electronic music never waivers, no matter how popular or in trend a certain sound is. Enrico Martini falls into this group of lifelong-committed pioneers – kick starting his career in the early ‘90s, as house music first grew in international pace and the first wave of Chicago artists on tour took place, Enrico has always kept a vision of deep, soulful and raw aesthetics in his music, in a career that’s seen him release everything from acid house to techno, syncopated beats to jacking grooves and beyond.
His classic tracks have been revived by some of the underground’s finest heads in recent times, including pioneers such as Raresh and Ricardo Villalobos (no surprise when you consider Enrico’s love for analogue production matching that of the Chilean DJ), leading to a fresh crop of music on the likes of Traxx Underground, 4lux and more, all the while maintaining his raw and unique sound. Recorded live at his recent, show stopping set for Half Baked on Sweatlodge, MEOKO.101 epitomizes Enrico’s energy live in the moment, the Italian gliding and chopping between acid drop basslines, 4×4 beats and stacks of soulful energy. Except no imitations – this is deep, raw music in its most open, honest form.
What’s up Enrico? Thanks for taking some time to speak with MEOKO. How are you, and what have you been up to recently?
Doin’ great guys, thank you for the chance. I’m just in the process of closing a new project that will be released in early 2014, plus have been around playing a few gigs. Deejay life then, I guess you know…
Now you’ve been DJing since 1987 and producing for over two decades… Did you ever anticipate that your career could have the sort of longevity you’ve enjoyed back when starting out?
Honestly, no. It’s actually a great surprise! But I think it is something coming up quite naturally when you keep on doin’ the things you like and put in all your love and soul.
What initially sparked your love for electronic music? Was there a healthy music scene where you grew up?
I grew up in a small Italian town where there wasn’t any electronic music scene except a couple of venues doin’ parties on Saturday. At the time disco-music was the deal. I had a very small collection of vinyl that I started buying when I was 10 and which I used to listen to in the evening, while my family was watching TV. I can clearly remember I got stuck when I first went to a club and saw people dancing with the music playing on continuously, I was 14. Went to the guy at the door and asked how it was possible that music had no rests at all. He pointed his finger to a guy upstairs, standing in a small dark box with the headphones on. Well, I spent the rest of the night watching at him and listening music, totally ignoring what was happening around me. As soon as I got back home I started trying myself, with a very basic turnable I had and a Super8 tape in the attempt of creating a musical flow naturally with no mixer at all, just switching amplifier inputs.
That was the very beginning for me where I got inspired and motivated to take things to the next level. After a couple of years that I started DJing in a club, the need of producing something mine came out, think as a consequence of the love I had for the music and mostly because of the interest for what was growing up those years. Drum machines started to be used to create simple 4/4 beats, instead of the usual funky-disco patterns. So I bought my first TR909 and started from there…
Going way back to some of the early releases from ’93-‘94, its clear you’re a real pioneer of true deep house. Who were your early influences? If you could choose one track in particular that was a turning point for you, what would it be?
Strange to say but, I can’t mention any influence I can remember, except for the fact that we were all doin’ experiments and most probably influencing each other back in ’90-’91, years in which I had my first releases out. With my currently hyped tracks it’s a different story than the ones from ’92-’94. They had a clearer direction that we were all about in those early years, deep house already was a reality. For sure I could mention tunes such as Knuckles & Tomiie’s “Tears”, Sterling Void’s “Set Me Free” or Todd Terry’s “Weekend” which will all forever have a spot in my heart.
I read somewhere that you’ve got something like 80 releases under your belt now, all under different monikers. How do you feel your sound has progressed over the years?
Damn, I can’t talk about progression now that people want my old stuff and I got back producing rough deep house! Jokes apart, I can say I’ve always been experimenting a lot over the past years, and loved to be involved in different kind of music. That’s why you may find me out with different monikers and different releases covering drum ‘n bass, hip-hop, jazz and pop down-tempo. The upcoming stuff you will hear in the next months will mark a few changes in my approach to deep house of course. I feel like there’s something more to be said.
Producing aside, you’ve spun records all over the globe at some of the world’s most adored venues … but what’s been the most memorable party you’ve played at, and why was it so special?
I’m a dreamer and in my dreams I’ve always had a clear vision of a damn beautiful party in a villa. And, as all dreams come true, this couldn’t be an exception so, it happened back in ’96 that I went playing a gig in a villa in Italy. It was a secret party- a real one – and no-one knew where to go exactly. We kept it secret until we all reached the villa. Try to figure a queue of something like 50 cars looking for the place to party – madness. Once we arrived at the villa there was the guardian waiting for us with the PA turned on and ready to go. I also arrived with all the other people and, it was exactly like getting back home and partying with friends. It was honestly like being in a dream, the vibe was great and everybody was really excited about every detail of the party. People were dancing everywhere, both inside and outside the villa. The sunset and the fact we were like lost in the middle of the country made this happening special. I still think about it sometimes…
2013 has been an amazing year for you so far, with three killer releases on 4Lux, Wilson, and most recently Traxx Underground all gaining huge support from artists like Villalobos, Raresh and Zip. Do you think the current trends in house music have played a role in your resurgence?
Definitely, let’s also say that it was because of them and because of the music they chose to recover that the new house music trend is so strong at the moment…
Tell us a little about your creative process in the studio. I’ve heard you’re big on analogue hardware? What’s your favourite bit of kit?
As a technology fetishist I’ve basically had almost every piece of hardware over the years and also approached to the virtual studio workstations as they came out back in 1999. The reason why I’m still analogue is just because it’s the easiest way to go for me. It’s what I learnt at first and, as for love you won’t ever forget the first one!
I also find all the amazing software options available nowadays quite confusing for me, the less I have and the more I’m stimulated to use my own creativity and most generally do things with more attention… that’s what happens to me of course. It is subjective. The setup I currently use is very basic and is made of MPC1000, 909, S330, DSI Tetra, Tx81z, Pulse, an analogue Mackie mixer and a couple of old outboards for the effects. I don’t have any specific rule in the creation process, best ideas usually come to my mind when I’m off riding my bike or swimming!
Earlier on I asked you about your early influences, but whose sounds are you really feeling at the moment?
Well, there’s a lot of stuff I like, and I can’t deny that most of it is obviously old-school oriented – but please don’t ask me for names nor titles because I’m a real mess. A guy I particularly like in terms of production is my French bud Seuil. Love his roughness and the workflow, very close to mine. I also like a young guy whose moniker is Frits Wentink. I got very impressed by his last release on Wolf Music. But once again, I like lots of tracks so it’s quite hard to mention them all.
Listening back to your set from Half Baked in September, it’s hardly surprising they’ve snapped you up for their agency! Are you looking forward to returning to their party in November?
What do you think? Try to guess… ha! Let me tell you that the Half Baked party is without any doubt the best party I’ve been playing at in London in the last decade. There’s so much positive energy in the air and the audience is real nice. Love it. Plus Bruno and all the family made me feel like I was playing at home! That doesn’t happen so often I’d say…
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Keep on doin’ what I’ve been doin’ till now. Meet new people, share love and smiles on the dance-floor and most generally have fun! I think we all need to have fun these days.
Cheers for chatting to us Enrico! Before you go, give us one track that you couldn’t live without…
Nice chat guys! Jocelyn Brown’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ is the song I couldn’t live without; a pure inspiration for life.
By James Ellis