March 03 2014
As the sun rises on Defected’s latest instalment of Miami magic, Ian Winterton talks to the rising stars behind the scorching new compilation.
It’s destination Miami this month as the world of dance music packs its party bag and descends on Florida for a full-on beach ball. While the Winter Music Conference (WMC) has grown beyond its roots as a sun-kissed showcase for breaking new acts and fresh vinyl, one thing is for sure - big tracks and big names are still born in the Miami heat.
As the conference nears, the sun is also about to rise on Defected’s latest instalment of Miami magic. The compilation throws the spotlight on three DJs and producers who have been making dancefloors rattle on the house underground. Italian party smashers NiCe7, Swiss groove builder Andrea Oliva and Montreal’s king of the deep Paolo Rocco bring their unique sounds to this year’s mix.
Created in the mid-Eighties as a networking knees-up for dance music professionals, the WMC has blazed a trail to become one of the most anticipated events in the clubbing calendar. These days it’s not just DJs, producers and label bosses who get to enjoy a blow-out in March’s Miami sun. An army of clubbers from across the globe don their swimwear for a week-long fiesta of beach bashes and pool parties. With the more recently launched Miami Music Week thrown into the mix, it’s party non-stop.
In the vaunted age of vinyl, when producers hand-delivered cuts of their latest tunes to key DJs, the WMC had an unparalleled role to play in promoting new tracks and planting the seeds for the big tunes of the year. In the new media age, where promoting and distributing music has become much simpler, the focus has changed, explains Andrea Oliva.
“Our kind of music gets more and more attention there, which can only be a positive thing,” says the Swiss maestro. “But Miami’s changed a lot over the years. You used to go to meet people from the industry and DJs exchanged records. Years ago they promoted the music, but now there is a lot more focus on the DJs.”
If anyone deserves his place in the Miami spotlight, it’s Oliva. At an age when most of us were fascinated by football or PlayStations, Oliva had already glimpsed his destiny on a pair of 1210s. “I started DJing when I was 12 or 13,” he says. “I was fascinated by electronic music and the art of mixing records into each other to create a special atmosphere. It became my passion.”
He built his life around beats, working in record stores and record distribution, all the time honing his talents as a DJ. Last year saw him make two big statements internationally with his remix of Luciano’s 'Rise of Angels' along with his hugely successful ANTS party at Ushuaia. His mix for Defected delivers the sultriest of Miami flavours. “It’s sexy, it’s deep, it has a groove, and there is a vocal here and there,” he says. “If you go to the parties we do, then you will love the vibe.”
His mix is the work of a master craftsman, skilfully building a summer groove that is impossible to resist. So it may come as a surprise that Oliva wasn’t sitting in the sunshine when he recorded it. “It was fun, because I mixed the CD when I was in the Swiss mountains. It was minus 10 and snowing like hell while I was mixing a Miami CD,” he says. But you really can’t tell. Oliva’s mix rolls and shimmers and warms you up for the night of your life. “I like it. It has a certain flow,” he says. “You can listen to it from beginning to end and it really gets you in the mood to party.”
While Miami remains true to its legacy as a place to promote artists and break big tunes, there’s no doubting that most people simply come to party. And Oliva has his own crazy tale of Miami mayhem. “At Space (for a DJ Mag gig) I had P.Diddy in the booth with me going totally crazy,” he says. “I thought he might want to have a drink and gave him a full glass of vodka. He may have thought it was water! Anyway, I didn’t see him for a while after that so I thought I may have knocked him out… but not quite. He came back half an hour later with 100 roses and handed them to the girls on the dancefloor.”
Talking of flowers, it feels like Oliva’s time to blossom. “I couldn’t be happier,” he says. “As well as my Miami mix, the upcoming Ibiza season is looking like it’s going to be another amazing one and I’m looking forward to taking our ANTS parties to another level.”
Montreal-based DJ and producer Paolo Rocco has been enjoying what Miami has to offer for the past seven years “on and off”. He sums it up in three (well, four) words as: “Music, La Sandwicherie (Miami Beach’s best sandwich stop) and implants."
“WMC is always a good time for me,” he continues. “During the year I exchange emails, Skype messages and phone conversations with people in the industry who I rarely see, so it’s nice to be there in person with everyone and socialise in a more human way. For me, WMC had a more industrial feel to it once upon a time. Now it’s kind of like a giant party. I love going down there. The weather is always a breath of fresh air, especially during Montreal’s winter.”
Of course, too much winter sun can do strange things to Miami’s 24-hour party people. “At a pool party last year, I watched a girl have a full conversation with a fence,” says Rocco. “It was a pretty deep one too. She was really opening up.”
Rocco will be familiar to many Defected fans thanks to his production of 'Move Body, Move Forward' - a superb slice of deep and delicious house. Rocco drops another of his productions into his Miami mix. 'Your Moment' is a timeless roller that is sure to ignite dancefloors. But productions aside, Rocco is delighted to showcase his talents as a DJ, rather than a producer, on his Defected mix.
“In today’s industry, being a producer and DJ is often put in the same basket, but for me they are two very different things,” he says. “This mix gives me a chance to show what music I like as a DJ. A lot of music I enjoy as a producer is often not what I would play. Most people don’t know I’ve been a DJ a lot longer than a producer, so this was a chance to show how I sound as a ‘disc jockey’, how I like to build a night and how I like to end it off.”
Rocco, a self-confessed “space case”, built his reputation on the Montreal house scene. He describes himself as “a music lover at heart” and his passion and eclectic tastes are clear in his unique, slamming mix.
“I just pictured myself playing an eight-hour set in the sun and tried to get the point across in an 80-minute mix,” says Rocco. “It starts off very deep, moves on to be kind of groovy, then gets a little tech/acidy and ends off with a classic touch. But as much as I float from deep to techy to acid to vocal to dubs, I like to keep a certain bump and swing with what I play as a whole, which glues it all together.”
Among the expensive convertibles, ripped bodies and pimped-up hype of Miami, Rocco’s unpretentious attitude to music is refreshing. “As clichéd as it sounds, I just want to do what I love, be the best at it, help others out when I can and hopefully make people enjoy it as much as I do along the way,” he says.
And he firmly believes that hard work is the key to success: “Look at how many hours you’re spending on your craft. Now spend more. If you put in the hours, I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘if’ you’ll make it, it’s a matter of ‘when’. The small successes I’ve had in this business are because I refuse to waste time sleeping.”
While Miami has clearly evolved from its revered roots and hazy memories of vintage Danny Tenaglia sets, Italian bassline soldiers NiCe7 still see plenty to love about it. “It’s a really good vibe,” they say. “Different from Italy and Europe of course. It’s amazing to see all the people working in this industry together partying, working and having fun.”
Miami is the proverbial world away for the DJ and production duo, Nicola Daniele and Cesare Marocco, who call a small coastal town in Italy home. “Where we live is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone,” they explain. “We try to live with no stress in our lives, just getting stressed when we fly around the world to play our music.”
The long flight to Miami caused the boys problems last year. “It was funny when after the long trip Nicola was almost sleeping in a club just because of the jetlag. A security man thought he was drunk and tried to throw him out. It took half an hour to convince him that everything was cool,” laughs Marocco.
Happily, there is no sign of fatigue in the pair’s Miami mix. “Doing the mix was like a dream come true for us, because we bought these compilations on vinyl for years,” they say. “We tried to do it housey, fresh and groovy, perfect for Miami’s beach venues. As well as that, we wanted to showcase the music we do, what we’re signing to our label and what we play and like in general. We also put two exclusive, unsigned tracks on there - Patrick Topping 'Holiday' and Leon 'Atta' - to make it really special.”
The duo’s high standards also took their toll on an unlikely victim. “The funniest thing was the ‘sacrifice’ our friend Paolo had to make during the last of our long studio sessions. We used him as a litmus test for the mix to have the opinion of a true ‘compilation listener’. The night before we submitted it, he listened to the final mix until 8 o’clock in the morning."
“We just follow our passion,” they say of completing the mix. “Every time we do music in the studio or during our live sets we try to have fun. If you’re doing something you really love, you will be happy within yourself and you will get the results.”
Andrea Oliva has a final word for house music fans who can’t make it to Miami: “If you want to be there, but for whatever reason you can’t, just buy the CD, pour yourself a drink, close your eyes, press play and it’s almost like you’re there in the middle of the WMC madness.”