Italian groover Leon has been one of the most present names in the electronic circuit. Having joined Marco Carola’s Music On, since its foundation, Ruggero aka Leon had the chance to play in every corner of the world, including Amnesia Ibiza, Cielo NY, Space Miami, Fabric London, Rex Paris and the infamous DC10 Ibiza, becoming also resident DJ of the recently closed iconic Italian club Cocoricò. He can also boast a wide catalogue of releases on labels such as Crosstown Rebels, Snatch! and Deeperfect. Leon is also the owner of D-Floor Records and Chelsea Hotel Records, a siter-label created to share his deeper and more-minimal side.
Ciao Leon! We’re so glad to have you here! First of all, I’d like to ask you about one of the biggest fun facts about you. For those who don’t know, Leon is the brother of another famous DJ and producer, Pirupa. How does it feel to be the brother of such a popular DJ like him? And how’s the relationship between you two?
I have such a nice relationship with my brother (Piero) Pirupa, we often have calls from different parts from the world and confront each other, although even if we have different in musical tastes and we have taken different paths. Unfortunately, we don’t see each other a lot because I live in Italy with my family while he lives in London, but sometimes we find time to do some tracks together: we have a very strong one which has been already hammered by Carl Cox, Marco (Carola) and Jamie (Jones), but we still don’t know what to do with it because of the over-saturated music market. There’s always the risk of making the wrong choice, turning a ‘super track’ into something that will be forgotten in 1 month! Our collaborations are always very housy and not so “dancefloor-oriented”, but have gone very well, reaching high places in the charts and played by many artists.
I like being Pirupa’s brother, he spends so much time in the studio working on new music, while I spend most of my time searching for new music. Many of our collaborations are born because I’ve sent him an idea like a small loop to work on. I was born as a DJ (and I’m the older brother) and I had many gigs since I was young (and he was even younger), while he immediately jumped into the production side. He later started mixing too. But this is more than 15 years old! Now we’re both DJ and producer and we always try to do our best not to disappoint our followers.
Why haven’t you started a career as a duo together?
I think that we didn’t embark on a career together maybe because we didn’t feel the need. We’ve never talked about it accurately, providing like some marketing strategies to launch a duo on the market. Also, I think it’s easier for a DJ to be alone, you know, you always have to deal with what you like (talking about music) and get excited with. As I’ve mentioned before, when I started my career, I already had some good contacts, alongside some releases and gigs, while he came out a little later, moving towards a genre bit different from mine.
And now, finally, back to the music! What about your Chelse Hotel Records label? Will the label release again new music?
I’m glad you’ve asked me this. Chelsea hotel Records is the label that represents a more minimal and experimental sound that I really like. Right now there are 8 vinyl releases and some have exceeded even the 600 copies, reaching the first places on some deejay.de and decks. I’ve stopped the label 1 ago and I don’t even know the reason, but It will open its door very soon, with an EP from two talented guys from Turin called YOUNIVERSE. The motto behind the label will always be ‘less is more”, with the aim on making few but well-rounded vinyl releases (200/300 copies). I’ve also decided to release a darker and more dub sound on Chelsea, a shade that I’ve always liked.
It’s very difficult to catalogue you about a specific musical genre. You use to space from dub rhythms (like your collaboration with David above) to more dancefloor tech-house cuts. How has your sound evolved over the years? And where is it going to?
Actually, It’s not easy to do it because over the last 10 years I’ve played from small clubs to 10,000 people festivals, so my music changes depending on where I’m playing. I like to be eclectic as much as I can and I prefer longer sets so create a real connection with the crowd, starting from slower and dub stuff even to techno, instead of doing 1 hour and a half sets that make no sense at all for me. Talking from the studio-side, I’ve done from dub techno to tech house, a genre that represented me a lot during over the years, connecting me with Music On family and Marco Carola. Now I’m back into a more-experimental phase if you can say so, always keeping a house soul. But It’s also happened to find myself playing Joy Orbison stuff too, so everything can happen!
Your latest EP has been released on Italy’s AdMaiora Music, tell us more about it.
My latest release called ‘Game Over’ consists of 2 totally different tracks. The first one, Game Over, is darker than the other and features techno sounds like a straight 909 for the drums (I think you can clearly hear it). The other one, Jump, despite being a tech club stomper, always remains in the “house side” that I really like. I’m very happy about this EP and I really admire how the guys from AdMaiora Records are working… keep an eye on them!
What about the future? Are there particular names – Italian and not – to keep an eye on?
Wow… that’s a good question! I think that an Italian name that has rapidly taken the scene with his incredible skills as a DJ is Francesco Del Garda. But there are many many others like Quest, Adiel and Edward. If I have to name some international acts I’ll say Ateq (as most of the Giegling family), Kvanchi (Bassini resident), Hector Hoaks (on the techno-side), Carlos Valdes, Fernando Costantini. As producers, I really like Andrea Giudice, Mike Earth from NY city, Clone, Stenny and Overmono.
Any anticipation for what’s coming in 2020?
I have a lot of stuff coming up this year, some of them are secret and I can’t reveal them right now, but I can tell you that I have upcoming music on labels like Crosstown Rebels, Moan, Our House and a remix on Inmotion. I also have some collaborations with lots of friend of mine to be released later this year. On 2020 I’ll have a couple of major residencies and festival appearances to be announced, plus an incoming South America tour, I place that I’m deeply in love with. The Latinos have such huge energy, similar to the one that I find when I play in Italy.
Sincerely, I no longer care to take many gigs per month because we are in such a difficult period for the nightlife in general, choked by social media and protagonism-maniacs and for that reason, I will carefully pick the places to play. I’ve never been a DJ for money, neither to become an Instagram-star (even if it seems to help), I prefer to stay real and I’m not interested in dummy planning based on the likes I could catch. There’s nothing artistic about it and I’m sure it will end very soon because people are getting tired of it. I’m pretty active on social media, but I’m not addicted to it and there’s no strategy behind it to get like. With almost 18 years of experience, I’ve learned that sometimes a DJ may not be in the best shape but there’s nothing wrong with it, we are all human being and it’s totally fine to be criticized in a fair and proper way.
Words by: Francesco Quieti