Whenever anyone thinks of Sicily, the southest region of Italy often referred to as the big island, sea, food, beautiful wheather and beautiful people come to mind immediately. Very few people would actually think of such a vibrant drum & bass scene that rocks names all over the dancefloors of Europe. The last of these is definitely Stoner, which featured his Bring the noise in Eurofunk, one of the best releases of Neodigital of the last months. In case you’ve missed it, here is our article on it (link). However, Stoner is not the only one, and has instead budded from a very thick soil prepared by many junglists before him, one of which is definitely Salvatore Mutolo, aka Dottor Poison, which has joined Stoner in many releases and together with artists such as Stonic and Ethic has built a very massive drum & bass scene through the years. The support has come by artists such as Noisia, Hazard, Current Value, Machine Code, June Miller, Phace, Misanthrop, Kasra, Disprove, Rido, and many more. We had the pleasure to have a chat with them and discuss what they think of drum & bass, of their careers and of their most recent releases: here are their stories.
How did you approach Drum & Bass for the first time? Who are you reference artists and the ones that got you in the loop?
S: When I was 12 I used to listen to Fatboy Slim with my mother, loved it deeply, then some years later at a party I got in touch with this rhythm and it was love at first ear. My favourite artists are Noisia and Phace, they inspired me and made me curious in the first place. Now, my favourite ones are Current Value, Skeptical and Misanthrop.
DP: In 1999 a friend gifted me with a music cassette, there was a mix recorded, it was Fabio & Grooverider. Since then, my heart beats at 172 bpm. The arists that characterized my early days are exactly Fabio & Grooverider, but also Dillinja, Ed Rush and Optical. Now, my beloved producers are Alix Perez, Break, Mefjus and Enei.
172 bpm, I see you’re a man of culture as well. The artists composing at 172 bpm are not many, Noisia and Calyx & Teebee come to my mind, two holy entities in drum & bass. The majority prefers 174, though. This can look like a total brainfuck, all in all it’s just 2 bpm of difference. Another topic which is sometimes perceived just as pointless is the one on digital vs vinyl. What is your position on this?
Both: Many of the artists we follow use 172 bpm. We prefer that, tracks seem to “breathe” more, the funk gets its flow back. It’s interesting how very few bpm can actually make such a difference in our rhythmical perception.
If you could choose between two Technics turntables or two Nexus 2000 with all your music in an USB drive, what would you choose and why?
Both: For technical reasons and to be up-to-date we do prefer CDJs at events, the possibility to mix your tracks and dubplates is something we love and makes our sets always sound modern. However, the beauty and purity of a vinyl mix in your own studio is priceless.
You come from two different generations, and I guess that the drum & bass scenes that you had to cope with in the first place have been quite different. How was Palermo then and how is it now?
DP: There are 15 years of difference between us. When I started in the early 2000s, Palermo was much different from now. It wasn’t that open ot new trends in music, the most underground thing you could find were the illegal raves with Hardtek music. It took 10 years before Bass Music took over. The Dnb Attack group, which we belong to, is now one of the most active in Italy with many releases and the support of famous artists like Noisia, Hazard, Phace , Misanthrop, Current Value, Black sun Empire, June Miller, Machine Code, Kasra, Mefjus, Icicle, Xtrah, Pythius, Optiv & Btk, Signal,Jae Overtech, System Evil, Rido, Freqax, Dreazz, Merikan, Disprove,Neve, Atomi Tags, Maztek, Jade, Stunna, Kodin, Skankandbass, Darkstep Warriors (should I continue?) – giggles.
You’ve got some serious releases and support recently, how do you feel about it? Is it raining gigs, now, or everything is just as it was before?
We’ve been very active recently, we released a lot of material on interesting labels, such as Close2Death, Citrus, Neodigital, Celsius, Delta9, BNC, Faded Music and Major League DNB. Furthermore, Delta9 recordings has recently released an EP made entirely out of remix of 81:94 Fx, a track by me (Dottor Poison) and Ethik, with the remixes by Merikan, Kodin & Logics, Instinkt, Stoner, Neve, and others. In this very moment we don’t have any bookings but we just got in the loop of a drum & bass artist agency so we hope for the best. Hopefully you’ll hear from us across Europe soon.
My most sincere compliments for the agency! This is sure the signal that something is moving in the right direction. Hopefully you’ll be making a lot of sets in the forthcoming future! Speaking of which: what are your best and worst memories of live performance?
S: There are many positive experiences that I can recall, be it little “situations” with a hundred guys or bigger events with some thousands, in Italy and abroad. Sure as hell, also failures stick in your head, but to be honest it’s difficult to distinguish single situations from the whole lot of events.
DP: Among all my live performances, I must name two: when I did the closing act for Pendulum in Palermo and for Roni Size in Ragusa (another important sicilian city – note). Negatively speaking, the worst experience has been in 1998 in Palermo in a very small venue. I crapped my pants -giggles- for the big emotion. I was mixing only vinyls and my hands were shaking the whole time.
Roni Size in Ragusa sounds like something epic, he must have been welcomed very well. When you played abroad, how have you been welcomed? Did they know you already or did you feel like you had to establish a “connection” with the crowd giving nothing for granted, starting from scratch?
We both had similar approaches. But we’re not Roni Size -laugh-. Some people already knew us through social networks but more often we have to cope with people that really have no clue who we are, what we do, and at the moment we do live the situation in which you have to “establish a connection”, as you said.
Do you have any other musical styles that influence you, apart from drum & bass?
S: I do listen to a lot of Hip Hop and Metal, but without skipping classics. Reference artists: Aphex Twin, Wu Tang Clan, Joey Badass, Slayer, Pantera.
DP: I live for music, collected vinyls for more than 25 years and if I have to shoot 5 names it gets difficult -laughs-. Let’s try, though: James Brown, Beastie Boys, Dj Shadow, Massive Attack, Prodigy.
Good, good names the ones you mentioned. Some of them are into my favs as well. I gladly notice that the two musical scenes that share the most with classical drum & bass, meaning Hip Hop and Metal, are both in your favourites. Do you have any other musical projects apart from what you do in drum & bass, perhaps coping with different musical styles?
S: Drum & Bass has taken the most of our time: it is a passion and in the latest years it was incredible to see how much progress we did and how we changed. Our progress is definitely due to the necessity to convey all the different ideas that you gather around from your musical experiences. I can say that drum & bass is not my ending point, rather a creative context that forged me and motivates me in searching for new forms of expression, to experiment with other genres.
DP: My next musical project is to set up a Drum & Bass label. However, at the moment I care more for pushing Stoner, Ethik and the Dnb Attack crew as much as I can! In the next months there are gonna be many other releases, we’re not running out of work.
We heard similar stories from Maztek and from Neve, the italian Drum & Bass scene is growing fast. Do you agree? What do you like the most of it and what the least?
Very few negative sides, we can say that we gladly observed how many talented artists have spread out like mushrooms all over the country in these years, this is very promising for the future. We want to invite the entire drum & bass community to stay put and to not underestimate what happens around here, there are many new names and many old established ones that really rock the scene in Europe: we’re talking of Maztek, Disprove, Merikan and all the others.
In Italy, on average, Neurofunk is more popular that Liquid. Why? Can you make an educated guess?
We’re close to both worlds, to be honest. To add up on this, in short time also a jump up EP from us is gonna be released -giggle-. We do think that in Italy the drum & bass world is heavily connected with the one of underground free parties, or at least here in Sicily this is definitely the case. Therefore, liquid is not a good option to satisfy the majority of the people who come to the floor. These people come from Hardtek, mostly.
What are Mattia and Salvatore doing when they’re not making music or playing it?
S: When I’m not in the studio I usually spend time with family and my girlfriend.
DP: I love cooking for my girlfriend… and listening to vinyls.
Complete the sentence: “Sometimes, when I’m alone, I…”
S: Close my eyes, take a deep breath, become invisible, but nobody believes me afterwards.
DP: I still think about drum & bass.
So that’s it for our chat with the mighty Stoner and Dottor Poison. Their insight on the sicilian and italian scene has been insightful and descriptive of a reality that is growing but has strong, solid roots. Go and check out their material on Beatport, YouTube and their facebook page!