Be it through food, fashion, art or music, Italy has long been associated with quality and style; characteristics that are central to Florence-based DJ and producer Matisa‘s approach to her own musical endeavours.
Her DJ sets and productions follow a similar sonic lineage; pumping and energetic jams that could fire up any warehouse rave. Since debuting last year on JD Twitch’s Optimo Music, she’s followed this up with a sophomore release on French label Biologic Records a couple of months ago, whilst also contributing tracks to a Butter Sessions V/A and our own Isolation Therapy compilation.
Looking back to those records that paved the way for her, and also celebrate her cultural upbringing, she rallies her vinyl mix around old school dance anthems and progressive trance selections that represent “her being”. This sits alongside an interview about her relationship with records.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
That was not really the case with my upbringing, as my parents strived to raise me free to express myself. So, I started playing the piano at the age of six and the oboe at ten, then studied for a year at the music conservatory but never completed the studies because I was simply too young to understand who I was.
At the age of 23, I bought my first record: Apparat’s The Devil’s Walk (2011) but didn’t own any turntables. One day, a good friend asked me: “can I leave my mixing table at yours? I’ll take it back!!” – and that’s how my adventure started.
I still remember the feeling of opening the boxes and understanding how record players worked. It was really hard at first but, as with most things in life, training and willpower will take you a long way.
Some DJs said I had talent and that it was impossible to mix at such level after such little time. Then I understood that I wanted DJing to be my way in life, and after a couple of months, my friend took back her DJ Console and piece by piece I started to buy mine.
KEY PIVOTAL RECORDS
- DESIRELESS – VOYAGE VOYAGE,1986
- THE PROJECT – KICK THE HOUSE,1990
- QUADROPHONIA – THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE,1991
- DEEP FOREST – MARTHA’ S SONG,1995
- LIAISONS D. – HE CHILLED OUT, 2000
People buy records for multiple reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
The motivation is simple: an obsession and a desire to discover new music.
Think about the thing that excites you the most in the world. In my case, it is spending hours and hours in a record store. And each time it’s the same, for years now: enter, hunt, discover, buy. It quickly becomes addictive – like a drug. A good drug, I would say.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I have been living in Florence for two years and when I moved here I only took my turntables and the records that could serve me to work (therefore mixes mainly). My whole collection is in Rome, where I was born, and I tend to organise it by musical genre. My records are often difficult to categorise, since they represent multiple genres at once. In that case, my taste chooses the exact location.
I usually imagine where I will play, and my imagination helps me choose which records I should bring with me and which I should leave at home. I often overpack so I have to use a scale to check how much my record bag weighs to find out if I can add more or not.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
When I lived in Brussels throughout 2017, I used to be a regular at Crevette Records. Every week, sometimes multiple times during the day, I would find myself digging through their amazing selection. The guys have great taste and tips and we still have a beautiful relationship! Highly recommend! I am also still always and forever a HUGE fan of second-hand shops!
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
I met an incredible person in Montenegro last summer, his name is Shuya Okino. He is one of the most fervent champions of the global modern jazz scene and a former record store owner who now runs a club in Shibuya. Shuya has been at the forefront of the Japanese club culture for over thirty years. He gave me five incredible records and I will always remember this gesture. Every time I listen to them he comes to my mind.
I want to share one with you: BOB JAMES – HANDS DOWN 1982
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
There are a few, actually:
- MOBY – AMBIENT, 1993
- THE FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON – CASCADE, 1993
- ORBITAL – ORBITAL, 1991
- UNDERWORLD – BRUCE LEE,1999
- FARFABILITY – FARF ABILITY, 1992
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I have to admit I am a bit of a loner when it comes to buying records. I like to choose them myself first and then share them with friends! I find digging records a very intimate moment that should ideally be done alone, because only you know what you listen to and what you really like and what excites you.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
The most difficult thing is to explain to the person who works in the shop what you have in mind. Describing a type of music is not a simple task and you often find yourself having to give examples that could be reductive. So, you often listen to many things that you wouldn’t want to hear. It only takes 10 seconds of listening for me to know if a disc is valid for the club in my view. Obviously, if we talk about albums the matter changes.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
It plays a big role! Besides hiding a lot of insights into the artist and music, the cover is essential in terms of memory. When you play a record you often associate a symbol or an image or colour on its cover to its sound. Whilst DJing in a club this is particularly useful because that memory can trigger an instant “play button” in your head that allows you to scan through your record bag and pick the right tune.
Usually, I love to divide the discs that I carry with me in 3/4 sections: at the beginning I put the first disc and at the end I put the disc that I would like to play at the end of my set, in the central part I divide by musical genres: deep, house, progressive, hard-dance, jungle, techno.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
Being a mix made only on vinyl, it is a pure representation of my musical taste and my mood while I recorded it. I was very happy and I was jumping while recording. That’s a good sign that there is the right energy.
You can find 90s dance anthems that form part of my cultural background and I always carry with me when I play lately. You will be able to hear them again and again. I haven’t thought much about the choice of records, as I wanted to create a product that instinctively represented “my being” today.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
Utah Saints – What Can You Do For Me (Original Mix)
One of the records I most like to play and have played for you!
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire?
Random (: … Andrea Benedetti (Roman historian), Giosuè Impellizeri (knows all about electro) and Vincenzo Viceversa (an authentic cultural monster, between new wave and techno sounds as well as house and detroit).
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
I really hope I can go back to work as I used to and even better! 🙂
Right now, I am working hard on my next releases. I have just finished an EP that will be released on Moxie’s label On Loop and I hope you’ll enjoy it. It is definitely a difficult if not impossible time for my job, but after a storm, the sun always comes back.
My first date after the lockdown will be at the Polifonic Alternate Festival in late July and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back in front of a crowd! And also on August 2nd in Naples with Seth Troxler and Jackmaster! It will be amazing 🙂
Matisa ‘The Elsewhere’ EP is out now on Biologic Records.
Liaisons Dangereuses – He chilled out (Remix)
On Vision – Why Don’t You Love Me (Club Mix)
Sueño Latino – Luxuria (Massimino L. Extended Version,1989)
Sil – Blue Oyster (Rhythm Records,1992)
Joy Kitikonti – A Century Of Beatz (Alka Funk Mix)
Cappella – Get Out Of My Case (12 Inches Mix, 2010)
Black Legend – We’ll Be In Trouble (Radio Edit)
Utah Saints – What Can You Do For Me (Original Mix,1991)
Hype Active / Playing (Make My Body Boogie) (Dan Winter Original mix)
Sunscreem – Perfect Motion (Boy’s Own mix,1992)
The Spirit Of Gipsy – Homo Sapiens (The Vibrant Mix,1993)
Speedy J – Fill 25 G-Spot LP 1993
J Zky & Dobre – Tronk Somefour 1995
Narcotik – Blue (Remastered Original Mix, 2015)
The Hacker – Mind Games (Tigersushi, 2011)
Jon Watts – AMB5 (Butter Sessions, 2020)