Before the snow has fully melted, Monument caught Luigi Tozzi for a quick chat before his four-hour set at Monument’s club night arranged at Oslo’s Blå.

Luigi Tozzi’s atmospheric sounds have been hypnotising the listeners into sweet surrender since his first release in 2014 (Geonosis EP, Hypnus Records). Despite gaining international acclaim at a young age, Luigi remains very humble and is very approachable. Like the sounds he produces, he is mysterious yet grounded. We talked about his recent relocation, his new approach to making music, his inspirations, the state of techno scene and live sets.

First things first: you recently moved to Paris after living in Rome your whole life. Why Paris?

Yes, I moved in September. I needed a change, but there is nothing wrong with Italy. It is a good environment for relaxing and it’s also great weather- and food-wise. Staying in the same place all my life could get a little bit boring, and also the scene is not doing great at the moment – it’s not very healthy.

Do you mean the electronic music scene in general or techno?

I would say electronic music scene as a whole, and especially the music that I like – ambient and more experimental techno. There are almost no places to go to listen to music that could inspire me.

But why not Berlin? That seems to be the destination for most techno artists. And there is quite a nice Italian techno community there it seems.

I speak French, not German, so this makes everything easier for me in Paris. Speaking the language fluently is a big change also in social life, especially in countries like France and Germany in my opinion. I love Berlin, but it is a place where I would rather spend a few months rather than move there. And yes, there is a nice Italian techno community there, but I do not need that in my weekdays! I live in the techno family in the weekends, so I can do without it during week.

Do you still find the time these days to party and enjoy the scene when being on the other side of the decks?

Yes, but not so often as I would like to. That is still something I need – to sometimes be on the other side. Of course I often do it before or after I play, but sometimes I also go out when I am not playing. But it has been tough to find the time for it the last while… Paris has so many great club nights and I have not been able to attend even one since I moved there!

What does your typical week usually look like?

My routine in Paris is pretty simple: in the days after the gig I mostly make music and the days before the upcoming gig I prepare for it… I work from morning until almost late evening every day. And in my free time I meet my girlfriend or friends. Really normal stuff.

You seem very humble, given you are in demand for the biggest and coolest techno venues all over the world. What helps you to keep this curious and open-hearted take on reality?

I don’t think it should be anything special, but I know what you mean – being a DJ can make one to become egocentric. It is important to balance the DJ-life with more down-to-earth activities. That is good for you, and for the people around you.

When living in Rome, I was teaching French to kids for a while, and I think that might have helped me to not get too big for my boots. But already while living in Rome, I had to give up the teaching, because with all the travelling it became a bit too much. It is a big responsibility to work with children, and one cannot turn up on Monday straight from the airport after little sleep. Working with kids requires a lot, and they also give a lot in return.

As I say, throughout the week I am surrounded by people who are not part of the techno scene and do very diverse and serious things in life, I think that’s healthy for me.

You have previously expressed your concern about the tendency for what is seen over what is heard in the clubs. Could you elaborate on this?

I feel that this is not just about clubs, in a way it is like a whole veil on the scene. I think it might have started with the revival of vintage, as in retro stuff. And this huge revival brought back vinyl and 80’s and 90’s analogue machines. And that is not bad in and of itself, any approach is good. But I feel that a problem starts if in order to enjoy something, one has to know that there is a huge amount of old synths or modulars on the table. For me, it then becomes silly, because music is firstly something you should listen to, and not look at. I am currently more inspired by the digital ways of making music – they allow you to achieve more and you can also save the patches you produce, because it is software-based. So I just feel that for most producers spending so much money on a modular machine is sometimes pretentious, and it creates a sort of elitism in the scene. So I just do not see a reason for the excessive hype of these modulars or analogue machines in general. If you are 40 years old, you were born with it, and this is the approach you are used to, then it is of course a different story.

Do you prefer to play for a big or a small crowd, and do you adjust your sets based on the crowd and their reactions?

Surely I adjust the set based on many variables, and the size of the place is one of them. When I started playing, I preferred being a bit further away from the audience. Having less experience meant that I felt some pressure from the crowd rather than got inspired by their reactions. But lately, I have really been enjoying playing in small venues – but it is not just about the size. Khidi in Tbilisi, where I have a residency, is a huge place, but they have such an amazing energy that it compensates for the big size. But generally 300-400 people is an ideal venue for me at the moment.

And speaking of Khidi, since when do you have a residency there and why did you choose Tbilisi?

When they asked me I was super happy. I think the first time I went there was in 2016, when we had a Hypnus Records showcase. And then a few months later they asked me if I would be interested in the residency. The set up in the club is perfect. And while there is a lot of harder techno related parties, it is a super young scene and they are super open in terms of what music they accept. The first set I played there was a closing set, it was a great experience but now I think I know that my best role in Khidi is to do a warm-ups, because they do have a taste for the harder stuff and when opening I have the chance to propose something slightly different. My definition of what is quite fast tempo techno is not so fast in their eyes. But to shortly answer ‘why Khidi?’, it is because the crowd is special. They are coming out from the period of cultural stagnation and they were isolated from the west. And now the borders are opening and the artists are coming, although there are already plenty of amazing artists there. But generally, while Tbilisi scene is inspired by Berlin, it is still super pure, because there are not many techno-tourists there yet. At some point they will come, and that is not to say that the Tbilisi techno will get worse then, but it will be different than what it is today.

When is the next time you will be playing there?

At the moment we are having a really hard time to find a time that suits Khidi and me! I also want to do a double dip and play in the new club iN in Baku (Azerbaijan) while I am on that side of the globe. And it is tricky to find a weekend that would work for this. I was in Khidi on NYE and it was an amazing one.

Do you ever feel pressure to shape your sound in a particular direction, like play harder, so that you would get more gigs for example?

No. Well, my problem is that I really do not want too many gigs and I try to work with people who understand my needs and where I am going. I never worked with a big agency, I had a great relationship with my previous agent, with whom we sadly had to part recently. But we still meet whenever we are in the same city. My new agent is also someone I know for quite some years. She does not push me and understands that I want my music to develop organically, so that I feel I grow as an artist rather than follow trends to get as much bookings as possible.

Do you feel that you have expectations for yourself in terms of how you would like your sound to develop or do you just let it unfold?

Yes, I absolutely have expectations for myself. What I want is to have a super strong identity – originality that is immediately recognizable. So that when you put your headphones on, you are transported into my universe. And this ambition requires a lot of work and a lot of thinking, because I cannot just repeat myself. It took me a lot of time to figure out what direction will I take after my 2016 album Deep Blue: Volume 2. But now I have a picture of what I want to do and it is starting to take shape, especially with my latest release Tender Is The Night on Non Series. It is already slightly different than my previous releases.  And in my upcoming release for Hypnus Records in May you should be able to hear this new direction even more. But basically lately my main focus is on sound design and timbres rather than harmony.

Let’s talk about your latest release Tender Is The Night then. Was your new sound inspired in any way by the Parisian soundscape as opposed to the more tranquil sounds of your hometown?

No, because I actually produced this before moving to Paris. The track ‘Tender Is The Night’, after which the EP is named, is over two years old, So I kept it for a while, which is not something I usually do. Due to this, this track has much more of my older sound. But the rest of the tracks are more just me trying to move towards the sound I have in my mind, rather than having a specific inspiration. Deep Blue and Deep Blue: Volume 2 were inspired by my love for diving and the universe underneath the water, but that is an LP, and with EPs it is a different process for me. Tender Is The Night EP is much more just working on synthesis and timbers rather than creating textured atmospheres which describe a specific setting like underwater or some emotions. Lately I am interested in moving away from atmospheres and harmonies, which were key to my previous releases, and instead focusing on generating new timbres. In my previous releases I would start from the solid kick and bass and then would create a lot of texture around it. Now I feel the need for a central element of the track to be a synth lead, and let this evolve into a track. With modulation it can result in a hypnotic sound too. So basically the latest EP is more about sound design than any more abstract inspirations.

So far you have been sitting really tight with Hypnus Records, as well as  Mental Modern and Outis Music. Why did you decide to release ‘Tender Is The Night’ on Non Series? Does your new sound not match Hypnus well?

Why not release on a new label if I like it and respect it? Also the owner of Non Series (Psyk) seems to share a similar vision with me. We are both interested in minimalism, and it felt like Non Series was a good platform to release that record. My relationship with Hypnus Records is very special and I am not sure if anything will ever top that. I have been with them almost since the very beginning of the label and I think we shaped each other’s sound. It is a lot of sharing, exchange and growing together. Our friendship went way beyond music, but we also discuss music on a daily basis with Michel. And often we have different opinions, but in a broad sense where we are going is still quite similar. And my upcoming release is on Hypnus again, our ways have not parted.

In the last while you’ve been more active than before when it comes to collaborations. Do you feel they are important for you and help you shape your sound?

I think that the collaboration with Antonio Ruscito was very special for me. We were in touch since I started making music, and he wanted to do a live set together. When we met, I really started to respect him even more, by just seeing how much he loves what he is doing – the passion he has is very moving. And also I feel that he pushes my music in a direction, which is different from where I am usually heading, and I see that as a good thing. He likes melodies and in my opinion he has a special skill to not make them cheesy.

But also collaborations can be tricky for me, because while I can be fast when producing, I can also be very slow and take 5 hours to polish one sound. So I do not want for someone I am collaborating with to have to stand there while I do my super nerdy stuff. So generally I don’t think I am a profile who can jam with many people and do many collaborations. But with some people it feels right and in the summer we have another collaboration coming out with Antonio.

Most of your releases seem to have a theme which is reflected in the song titles. I wonder what is your creative process: do you start from the sounds or do you start from the theme?

It depends. For my release for Non Series I did not start with any theme, as I said earlier, my main goal was to make music with a different approach. But very often for my releases on Hypnus Records it starts from themes, and the upcoming release on Hypnus Records will also be thematic. But generally I need visual inspiration, and lately even more so. For example I really like Moebius, he is telling stories with his images, and he has a very clear aesthetic.  The colours he chooses are really fascinating. He invents his own universe and he helps me to invent mine.

Most of your song titles have some references to Greek mythology. Where does your fascination with it come from?

The roots of this must be kept secret. It’s a funny story, but I will not share it. It is something coming from my early youth though. It’s a very big part of my youth, related to fun and games. I do not have any formal education in this, but the rest I will keep secret.

Live sets – they are new for you. How many have you played so far and how has it went?

Yes, it is a thing I wanted to do from day one, but what is new is that I finally figured out how to do it and feel confident. And in my early days my music did not fit live sets so much, but now it works. I think I played around a dozen of them by now. I only started last summer, so I have been quite active with it. A couple were with Antonio Ruscito and the rest alone. It was a little stressful at first, but it is super, super rewarding.

Do you feel that playing live also shapes your production sound, since you get to deconstruct and play around with your tracks?

A little bit. I am producing some music with live sets in mind. So bpm-wise and structure-wise they are different than before. But it also slightly changed the process that has to take place before I release. Playing live gives me a possibility to make a sketch and play it and adjust it after playing it. Before my relationship with my music was producing, arranging and releasing. Now it is producing, playing, playing, playing and then understanding what the best arrangement and structure for the release is.  

And how is the rest of 2019 looking for you?

My year started with a break – I took February and March completely off. I have an EP on Hypnus Records coming out in May, the premiere of the track for Monument is from this release. Later in the year I also have one collaboration, as well as a couple of remixes coming out. I think that is more than enough. Last year I only released one EP, but I was touring quite a lot, I had around 40 gigs.

Also I made an album last year, but in the end I decided to not release it, because by the time it was ready I felt that my vision had slightly changed.

Compared to last year, 2019 will be more rich when it comes to production.

Thank you Luigi!