We, DJs, are taking control of the interviews with this new series of articles 100% DJ-oriented, opening the doors of our favorite art form to the techno lovers worldwide. We started our project with Joachim Spieth last month and today, we are proud to shed light on the thoughts of Ness, one of our most intriguing & talented Italian superheroes.
If hypnotic techno was a religion, Ness would probably have his DJ residency atop Mount Olympus with his mate Claudio PRC, a prediction absolutely not inspired by the duo’s name “The Gods Planet” (absolutely not…)
The destiny of the two mystical techno masters started in fact under the song of the cicadas in the sunny island of Sardinia. During an open air rave, they were scheduled to play one after another, but decided to go for a back 2 back mix. As a result: a long friendship & music collaboration, which brought them to found the notorious label “TGP“, starring talented artists such as Deepbass, Reggy Van Oers, Iori, Alan Backdrop, Luigi Tozzi, Blazej Malinowski and Donato Dozzy.
Being also a well-established producer, Ness broke the isolation of the Mediterranean island with numerous releases on influent labels. If you are not familiar with his music, start with the luminous Trancemigration LP [TGP, 2017] and move on to our favorite tracks from him, such as his remix of Inertia by Alhek [Several Reasons, 2016], Thought 1 [Frames Of Thought, 2013] and the epic Vardar [Affin, 2015].
As a DJ, Ness recorded a huge amount of podcasts, including for us with entry #69 & #141. Add his numerous gigs in the greatest clubs (Space in Ibiza, Corsica Studios in London, Concrete in Paris, Tresor in Berlin, Bassiani in Georgia) and you’ll understand why one of the most established & prolific disseminators of the Italian hypnotic techno worldwide deserves his status of “a God(father) of the genre”.
Here is his input on DJing:
1. Which of your mixes would you suggest our readers to play while reading this article?
This is an old one but it still carries a special energy for me; I think it was my first ambient set ever recorded:
2. So how old were you when you started DJing? What have been your best resources to learn this art form?
I started DJing around 23 years old. I’m self-taught, so I spent a lot of time practicing on turntables and CDJs before my very first DJ gig. I also spent some time observing other DJs performing at parties when I had the chance. I think it has been a quite spontaneous approach for me. During the years, I evolved my DJing from vinyl to digital: I like the idea to keep yourself interested also in this art, so challenging myself with new technologies is very stimulating.
3. Your openness on the new technologies will make it difficult for me not to request your opinion on Richie Hawtin’s famous quote: “It’s not about what the equipment does, it’s about what you can do through that equipment. That’s where the soul is.” What do you think of this statement?
As a big influencer for more than a generation of producers, I can only agree on what he says. My personal opinion on that long & endless debate is very close to his version. In fact, it doesn’t really matter how you do something; what’s important is the output you can achieve through your tools of expression. I’d say I’m a proud defender of both the vinyl approach and the new technologies, since the possibilities to explore DJing are much more interesting if you don’t limit yourself just to one support. The reason why I still collect and produce vinyls is because I respect the choice of who decide to use this tool for playing music. Diversity is what makes us original and interesting at the end, so I will keep investing resources and time into this. But I’ve found myself more comfortable in the digital domain lately. At the present moment, it works better for me. Maybe some will disagree, but I think analog and digital are equally good ways of discovering and playing music.
4. Since you’ve been traveling a lot in your DJ career, you must have developed a great critical sense about the clubs: what makes an event “a good plan” or “a bad one”? Can you anticipate that better now when a promoter sends you an offer?
The care I receive from promoters who invite me makes always a big difference if the party goes wrong, if I have at least a good crew that acts professionally. It makes me feel more comfortable with whatever can happen. Having a proper sound system is one of those things that influence the performance too. I can have a general feeling about how the party can be by the promotion of the event also: by the graphic design of the artwork or by the people who have been writing me before. But sometimes, it’s really unpredictable to say how a night can go. I’ve already been promoting couple events myself and it’s difficult to guess the final result before experiencing it. Every time is a different story. Looking at the history of a promoter can also give you some hints about what you’re going to face. Sometimes there are crews which might be new to the nightlife and a bit unprepared, but on the other hand there are also some events which come out surprisingly good. It’s hard to anticipate how great will be a gig. So most of the time I try not to have too big expectations; I just deal with my anxiety, enjoy playing music and am thankful anyway for the invitations.
5. How did you get your very first gig? How do you get gigs since then?
The very first one was in a small bar in the beach near my home town. I think it was around 2005. At that time, I was posting my DJ mixes on a local forum. A DJ who was working there invited me to play. About the first gig abroad, I’m not sure if it was in Barcelona or Berlin back around 2008/09. Since then, many things have evolved and changed: I started producing records and run a record shop in Cagliari for few years as well. I got booked regularly worldwide from 2012 and changed couple booking agencies since then. Right now, due to recent events, my last agency shut down, so I’m currently in a transitory phase where I’m doing things by myself and planning future steps.
6. So in the past, you were getting gigs mainly thanks to booking agencies: how did you get in touch with them and why did you make some changes?
I’ve always been contacted by agencies, that’s why I’m not unhappy to take a break from it now and try the DIY method [A/N: Do It Yourself]. The lack of transparency and communication has been one main motivation which leaded me to make some changes over the years. A great communication is fundamental for me in a working relationship: I’d rather go for an uncomfortable truth over small lies.
7. Have you fulfilled most of your dreams as a DJ? What else would you like to accomplish?
I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet. I would give up on DJing otherwise! There are still many places I want to visit and go back in time. I would like to visit Australia and the countries of South America, but also Copenhagen and Stockholm are some of the capitals I haven’t landed yet. Boom Festival in Portugal and the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Australia are some of the ones I would like to perform. Recently I’ve been into this psychedelic gathering oriented events, since I played in Ozora (Hungary) and MoDem (Croatia). It really gave me a new dimension and perspective of embracing a festival. I feel that they differ pretty much from the Techno type in Europe. The Rex Club in Paris is among those legendary places I would like to play one day as well. I love DJing, as well as playing live sets. I dream to continue this path for a long time. I have this philosophy that says “once a dream is accomplished, I make space for a new one”.
8. Let’s talk about your DJ habits: where do you dig for music and what are your favorite platforms to buy it? Are you still enthusiast to find new gems?
I’m usually digging between vinyl and digital shops online, so it’s a mixture of both. I prefer to buy a track or album from Bandcamp where I can support directly the artists. It’s a critical choice to support each other in this community nowadays. But I also receive a huge amount of promos, so I have a lot of music available for my choices. I’m absolutely enthusiast when I discover something new, artists or labels. I think it’s fundamental to constantly refresh and update your DJ collection.
9. Can you share some “weapons” which you often use in clubs?
So you want the Ness classics! All right… I might not be very impartial here, but I’ve been playing these tunes quite a lot in the last five years…
(From left to right: Ness, Luigi Tozzi, Claudio PRC)
10. How do you organize your music collection? What routine do you apply to a track you just bought?
Normally, I have separate folders in my laptop, renamed by the intensity of the tracks (according to me). So basically if you open my hard disk, you’ll find four main folders in my Music section: Ambient, Deep, Medium and Peak. Then, I also have some chaotic folders where I put my newest tracks not catalogued yet. I also have an “Off” folder where I put tracks I don’t want to play but still consider valid to be selected at last minute. Then, for every set, I review the folders each time. It depends also if I’m going to play with Traktor or CDJs; the selection can be different. I’m recently also trying to mix in key, but I don’t force myself into it too much, as i’ve followed my intuition and ear since the beginning with vinyls, when there was no analyzer or BPM counter. I rarely setup markers; I do it only when a track has a too long intro, to be able to jump in the first beat directly without doing manual scrolling.
11. When it comes to record a mix, what is your creative process from recording to mastering?
The average time of a mix is usually one hour, so I plan the selection of the tracks firstly based on that time. I’ve recorded most of my mixes through my audio card or an external audio device. One take recording is pretty rare but it’s the most satisfying for me. I enjoy live recording the most because it really shows the purest and real part of DJing, mistakes included! In a studio environment, I must all the time carefully think of my moves, which doesn’t mean that the intention isn’t real, but it’s missing the adrenaline of the live moment, no matter how much I try to recreate it. I don’t operate much mastering on my mixes: I just try to level some peaks when necessary or adjust the volume if the recording was too low.
12. How do you approach your transitions technically in your mixes?
I usually keep a smooth approach. I like long mixes where I fade in and out slowly. I also enjoy to keep the set dynamic, especially in the The Gods Planet performance, where I work more on loops and samples. Technically, I like to play with frequencies, FX (mainly DLY & reverb) and subtle moves of volume. I’m quite happy with the Traktor Internal FX and sometimes use an external Cathedral Reverb. Otherwise, my live shows are only delivered with analog gear.
13. Can you bring us to a typical day of a gig? How do you prepare it, which steps do you usually go through?
There’s a sort of ritual I go through for the preparation of a gig, starting from the day before it. I focus on the selection of the tracks and play with them in the studio. What matters the most for me is how to begin the set. I never prepare the rest of the playlist, which takes an unpredictable direction. Until the moment before I reach the DJ booth, few other tracks can pop up in my mind because I think they’ll fit or just because I’m excited to see how they will work out. But sometimes, I don’t even play them.
I already explained before how my work is organized, so the space left for improvisation is quite wide as the amount of tracks I usually bring with me is large (around 1500 tracks). Normally, for a two hours set, I restrain my playlist to focus on tracks that I really want to play, and the opposite for long sets.
I don’t have fixed habits about arriving at the club. It usually depends if I mix all night long or just couple hours. I usually arrive in the club one-two hours before the performance. There’s uniqueness in every clubs I’ve performed, so each time I enter a place, I first try to feel the energy and vibes, eventually listen to the DJ who mixes before me, to decide if I want to keep the flow or restart with my own. Once you find yourself in action behind the decks, there’s always a mix of releasing the tension and flowing with music.
14. How familiar are you with back 2 back mixes and how do you approach them?
This is something common for me, I’ve performed b2b quite a lot in the last years, mostly with Claudio and Deepbass. Improvised duets with resident-DJs or other DJ-friends also happen sometimes. When the b2b is announced, the basic thing we agree is to check each other’s playlist and be sure to have all different tracks to play. Then if it’s a classic b2b, we go normally one track each. I think playing in this way brings the right level of attention and tension until the next transition. Looping and FX are also very fun to share.
Sometimes, it can be totally different: my b2b with Claudio PRC in particular evolves in something more than a classic one track per time, while during a performance with Darren: we went for smooth mixes and balanced up and down moments.
15. Cio d’Or says she’s inspired by silences in her electronic music work. How do you relate to that in your own compositions and how much room do you make for simplicity in your DJ work?
Silences in Cio D’Or’s music are quite an essential part of her work. I have great appreciation for artists that can master the silence in such a way, Mika Vainio is another notorious example. My music is pretty much noisy, dirty and I honestly give little space for silences. It seems weird but it’s more difficult for me to deal with it during the arrangement. I realize it’s an aspect I want and need to explore more in my compositions. More than simplicity I’m looking for functionality. I feel that my sets are intense in terms of things I’m doing when playing, so I try to keep everything under control in a way that makes me feel comfortable.
16. Can you end up this interview by sharing with us your current projects as a producer?
I have a new project called Ness Reworks: a spin off series from my current work, where I personally remix artists I’d like to feature in the label. Then, TGP013 just got released, with remixes from Alan Backdrop and Luigi Tozzi of one of my tracks and one from Claudio’s album 012.
In the pipeline, I’ve got also several “Various Artists” releases in labels I’ve been already working with, such as Informa Records, Mental Modern, Attic Music, Dynamic Reflection and On The 5th Day.
The next single EP on TGP is also ready, it’s another step in the personal voyage of Ness.
(Credit: Cover picture by Ruzica Milovanovic)