My first introduction to Stèv's music was back in 2014 when Alex shared his spacious track "Hotaru". I think in order to grasp Stefano's music, you'll just need to hit the play button, clear your mind and try to really dive into his world.
If you're looking for intimate music, sort of a cool blend between ambient & downtempo, then the young Italian producer is someone you'll fall in love with. After following his sound adventures, I thought it's time to get to know him better and invited him for an interview. In addition, he created our 52nd artist mix. Pure bliss.
ps tracklist is at the bottom of the post
Ciao Stefano! Let's break the ice with some really random fact about you, most people (even around you probably don't know)?
Ciao Stereofox! So good to start with such an unusual question!Actually, I have several unknown snippets scattered around my different slices of life and interests... Very few people know, for instance, that I remember my very first thought ever. Sometimes I think about it and I still find this pretty shocking, but it's the truth. I remember thinking, "Why, if I see other people, I can't see myself?". I keep looking for the reason behind that thought... but I know that this was the first independent thought I had of my own consciousness.
I was surprised when I discovered the movie "Mr. Nobody", which is also one of my favourites, because the newborn actually wonders about the same question. It's something I find truly inspiring, but I know that it may sound also a bit creepy, so I rarely ever share this with anyone…
How would you describe your mix?
Our brains are programmed with information from this lifetime and beyond, full of memories and experiences – some conscious, and many more subconscious – which dictate our actions in the physical realm. When we are faced with an emotional situation, our brains scan the information database they have accumulated to make sense of what is happening and to formulate the proper reaction to the emotion – always tapping into previous experience. This process happens in a couple of nanoseconds and the rush of it elicits excitement, fear and panic all at once, allowing an infinite stream of thoughts to pass through our consciousness.
In 30 minutes, my mix aims to capture this colourful journey we experience in an instant each moment of our lives.
I love the progression of your mix and the description that came with it. I had a weird feeling of lonesomeness while listening to it. Towards the end the whole experience left me really happy and light. Like a much needed therapy. What's your favourite thing to do by yourself?
I have many "habits" I try to keep with on a regular basis. Of course, my favourite thing to do is music, but I'd say that being creative in general is something I find truly rewarding. When it’s difficult to feel creative inspiration, I like to lay in bed and think about future projects, how to blend ideas with concepts, researching unknown musical gems on the internet and so on.
Otherwise, I love using my longboard and going for rides, or taking walks outside, looking at the beautiful landscapes and all details of my surrounding environment. While I love the world outside, I also love watching a lot of movies, tons of anime and playing a decent amount of video games. Should I simply say that I'm a geek who also loves to get outside?
Yesterday I went on the rooftop and filmed a short beat set with just the Monome and the Midi Fighter Twister, along with one of the many beautiful sunsets my hometown can give! Video coming soon! . . . . . #monome #djtechtools #midifightertwister #liveset #live #electronics #rooftop #beatmaker #musicgears #beats #beatset #ancona #stèv #cityscape #summer #sky
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So, tell us about your music journey? You're not only a producer, but also play various instruments. Did you have a musical upbringing and when did electronic music "enter" your life?
I actually started with electronics before even playing an instrument. I mean, at the time I was in middle school and I had music class twice or three times a week. The teacher was lecturing us on musical theory and how to play keyboard. I remember I was pretty interested in that (not like most of the other kids), mainly because I was break dancing at the time and I got my hands on Fruity Loops, so I was interested in trying to create fresh beats. Shortly after starting my first actual Hip-Hop breakbeats productions, I realized something was missing - I loved the fresh mood but that was all.
I was looking for something other than the cool, bouncing-head tracks, so I started putting a bit more effort in playing keyboard and reading music. The enlightening episode was the appearance of Bonobo's Animal Magic in my records collection. At the time I was just 13! After that, everything was more clear and I started pursuing a musical research where I aimed to blend Hip-Hop drums with emotional melodies which led me to intensify my training on keys and to buy a bass guitar, which I decided learn on my own.
Later on, I moved to guitar, which I've been taught by my mother, who used to play classical guitar, and a teacher I hired for private lessons. In the meantime, I "unlocked" some kind of potential of my personality that led me to be interested in starting other musical instruments in a self-taught way. I picked up my grandpa's clarinet for a while and tried to play some strings (mostly cello). I also had the chance to have a small, self built studio for a short period if time, where I used to play my friend's drum set whenever I wanted. The way I love to approach acoustic instruments is a bit weird, but useful to me. I basically deconstruct all the single logics behind the correct playing techniques and try to consider why that position, why that dynamic, how the instrument itself is mechanically able to create sounds and so on. Most of the times I manage to create something I like with them!
What's your setup? Could you take a picture of where you record your music?
My studio is basically a bedroom full of stuff that makes noise!
I love to collect gears and musical instruments and I love to keep them with me. The reason why I love to have my studio at home is that I feel no pressure and everything I create is made in a very intimate and personal way. Like I said, I tried to use an external studio for a while, but the flow of the ideas was being literally interrupted while I was taking a drive from my house to that place. I now know that proper studios fit my workflow just for technical adjustments, like mixing and mastering, which of course I'm not able to do on a fine level in my bedroom due to the lack of fine acoustic treatment. That setup may be fine for certain projects, but I don't feel comfortable in releasing a record without "cleaning" it at a high quality listening room.
My equipment list could be too much extensively boring, so here they are my favourite gears between all the ones I own: Monome, Midi Fighter Twister, Korg Kaoss Pad 3, Arturia MicroBrute, Korg MicroKorg, Akai MPC 1000, Roland A-500 Pro, Eko Cobra electric guitar. Oh... and there's an acoustic piano in the living room of the house I'm currently living in!
Here's an Instagram link of a picture my very intimate bedroom studio aka my sweet paradise of noise:
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You've released a few albums with Emancipator's Loci Records - how did you guys started working together?
I discovered Emancipator's music back when MySpace was still the main social network around. At the time, I was listening to Nujabes a lot (I mean A LOT) and I was digging around every project he was involved with. Emancipator's music was like a flash to me. Every element was so catchy yet so delicate and crafted with such technical quality that I remained speechless! I've been following him through the years as a self-declared number one fan and discovered the label he created when I was about to finish my Elsewhere EP.
I remembered I thought "Let's try to send Loci this record I've done. Could be pretty amazing if they like it and we can create some sort of connection". Then I just went on living my life for a couple of weeks. When I finish a record, I usually take some time to stop making music, to clear my mind. One night, I remember I came back home and I checked my SoundCloud notifications - there was a message from Loci. The message preview was "Dear Stefano, thank you for..." and I was really thrilled just to be in touch with them. I thought it was just a greetings message, but the real happiness came when I opened the whole mail and it said that they were interested in releasing my record. I remember I was about to cry, seriously. From that day, my music found one of the best homes it could hope to be a part of and our collaboration started from there.
I'm hugely grateful to Doug and Loci for all the trust they give to my art and thinking that now I can call them my friends is one of the most rewarding things I've ever reached with music!
As the industry is changing, the role of labels should naturally evolve as well. What do you think "the new generation" of labels should be doing when supporting artist (beyond the things they've done so far)?
I think labels should be willing to constantly change and evolve in order to develop an authentic identity. To do this, I think it's necessary to strongly believe in the artists and have an intensive involvement in their careers, from the image they project to continuous communication. Personally, I love to surround myself with people who are passionate about what we're doing together. Even if the music is done by just one person, a release should never be the work of a lonely wolf. The people working on that release must share the same energy and excitement as the artist.
My closest collaborators are not only "work peers", they're close friends above all and I love to call them a "family". I think labels should be emotionally connected to the music they release, cause that's the only way they are going to give it the highest value they deserve. For me, Variables and Smoke & Mirrors are my top notch spiritual connections and I just love them!
Is music a full time thing right now and how does your day usually look like?
Yes, I do my best to make my living out of music (and am lucky enough to manage in doing it), whether it being releasing records, performing gigs, creating soundtracks for media projects or even sound design for video games. I'm happy about my career and am full of hope for the future!
My day is kind of easy. I wake up and have a coffee for breakfast, then I do all the cleanup (body and bedroom); before starting my day, I dedicate at least around one hour to study Japanese, then I move to the musical side of my room and start working on my projects; I find it really useful to make to-do list on my small paper agenda, so I know with which kind of mood I should approach music that day (for instance: I have to finish a soundtrack for a video, or I have a deadline for a remix I've been asked for, or everything else) and, if the list is empty, I just start to create something new; this goes on until the evening usually, with lunch break in between. Then I chill by going outside or doing something else.
There are days though, where the inspiration needs to be stimulated and being locked down in a room is definitively not good for that, so I just go around doing non-musical stuff and when I come back I usually manage to work with a more clear focus.
You're from Italy - one of my favourite countries in Europe. What's the electronic scene & community there - is there a strong local presence or producers you follow / bounce ideas with etc.
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I love the Italian electronic underground scene cause it's full of people doing their own stuff! I like the fact that recently the audience is welcoming experimental music as well as more "classic" creative movements, and I feel that something unique is being created. Although, there's a bit of overhyped stuff, but that's something that doesn't really bother me and happens in the whole world, so I don't really care.
Most of the Italian electronica artists are my friends and sometimes I manage to work with them: Godblesscomputers, Go Dugong, Earthquake Island, Dario Lupo, Machweo, Furtherset, Yakamoto Kotzuga, Bienoise, Sonambient, HLMNSRA... the list of my esteemed Italian musicians is really long and I just don't manage in listing all of them without accidentally doing the unpleasant thing of forgetting someone...
Your live performances involve looping, playing a few instruments at a time and so on - how you "design" the whole live experience. How important are visuals in the whole mix?
Visuals are not a main interest of mine in a live performance to be honest. I believe that they should act as a fill in for an entertaining performance, so while I try to make them captivating for the audience, they are not my focus. I do my best to create something that allows me to have fun and play with as many elements as possible.
My show has gone through a lot of changes since the very beginning, but the idea of creating something in between a concert and a live set has never changed: electronic music has no boundaries and I try to create a personal bubble which allows me to express my joy of performing live while keeping the eyes and the ears of the listeners focused on what's happening on the stage. I do actually have a short visual loop that I can use sometimes, but as I said, it acts just as a background of the actual performance.
What's next for Stèv in 2017? Should we expect some touring and new music?
I'm working on a lot of new music and I'm planning some single releases on Variables and a short EP for Loci.
I'm currently planning my summer tour, which I aim to bring around Europe as well, with the support of my beloved Smoke & Mirrors. I finished a soundtrack + sound design work for an indie, spaceship 8-bit nostalgic video game, that I'm planning to release as a digital album on my Bandcamp after the official release. I have also created an ambient Lo-Fi side-project for the Tokyo based netlabel I LOW U Records, which I plan to release also on very limited audio cassette at the end of the summer. A lot of projects going on, I have nothing but faith in the future!
Who have been the most supportive people in your personal life when it comes to music? Do you think you've ever sacrificed something really important in the name of making music?
My first two big supporters are of course my father and my mother.
I'm deeply grateful to them for being such smart and careful parents, who made me understand the importance of finding my own path through working hard, and the importance of dreaming while pursuing said dreams with logical plans! Then I have Lueda of Smoke & Mirrors, who is not just my passionate manager, but a lovely friend and a huge inspiration for everything I wish to pursue in my life; Stefano from Variables, who's been supporting me with his technical knowledge and passion since we met back in 2012, and of course all the Variables staff; Loci artists, who are such a genuine community that loves to share ideas and inspire each other; my friends across the world, from my hometown to Tokyo!
Thanks to all these people, I've never felt like I had to sacrifice anything in order to pursue my dream. It's just beautiful to wake up knowing that I could create something new!
Thanks Stefano! All the best mate, love your music! Any last words?
Thank you for having me, it's an honour to be featured on your space! Spread the love, be creative and do something that can make you feel proud! Catch a good feeling and don't forget it!