With the second volume of Soul Clap Records' ‘Italo Funk’ compilation about to drop, we spoke with the album's curators
Soul Clap’s Eli Goldstein and Italian DJ, producer and radio host Lele Sacchi [pictured below] have just put together part two of their Italo Funk compilation series. Released on Soul Clap Records in December, it’s a 10-track collection of brand new smooth, sleek house jams, dedicated to Claudio Coccoluto who passed away earlier this year.
Italo Funk Vol 2 picks up where its predecessor left off, collecting together some of Italy’s most forward-thinking producers, resulting in a comp that delivers all the melody, harmony and sun-kissed, groove-based aesthetics you could wish for. We spoke with the pair about the wide world of Italian dance music outside the traditional piano bangers, and about the legacy of Claudio Coccoluto.
Thanks for your time today… for any of our readers who might not know, please can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Eli Goldstein: “I've been making music and touring as half of Soul Clap for the past decade and I mastermind our label, Soul Clap Records. Soul Clap has always pushed an EFUNK sound and we have collaborated with legends like George Clinton and Nona Hendryx. We also have toured extensively around Italy and especially Milan. In Milan I got really close with Lele Sacchi, a long-time DJ, producer and radio presenter who has helped curate and written the liner notes for both editions of Italo Funk.”
What’s the idea behind Italo Funk?
EG: “The idea was born a few years back, at a group dinner before a Soul Clap gig in Reggio Emilia with DJ Rocca, Lowheads and Capofortuna. After playing around Italy for years and getting close with a number of DJs and producers who all make unique and funky music, we decided to curate a compilation of new, original productions from around Italy.”
Did you give much thought to the programming – the order that the music is in?
EG: “Of course! As a DJ, programming the order of the music is a key part of the process. When I'm working on releasing my own albums or albums from other artists on the label, I try to think of the order of the music like a DJ set and take the listener on a trip. I think this is even more important with compilations, when the music is all made by different artists and needs to be weaved together into a coherent story.”
This compilation is dedicated to Claudio Coccoluto – can you please tell us a bit about his legacy and influence as you see it?
LS: “Claudio was a leading light for most of us from the Italian DJ community. He came into the scene right at the moment when house music really got massive here, he took a music scholar and cultural approach to the dance sounds, and he was also an exceptional talent at mixing. The combination of both, plus his natural effortlessly empathic character, brought him to a superstar role here in Italy, and for a good part of the late 90s/early 00s internationally too.
“He was the one DJ that your mother also knew the name because he never refused to go on TV shows or any kind of event where he could represent and defend the scene. At the same time, when he was hitting the decks, either at a massive open-air event or an underground venue, magic would come out of the speakers and with absolutely no trace of compromise to the commercial mainstream. Personally, coming from a pure underground/alternative music background. I always liked his approach to DJing and the way he envisioned our scene and the DJ’s work. Claudio recognised this spirit and became a helping hand in the early stages of my career, a sort of mentor sometimes, and then a friend for the rest of his life.
"I know so many other DJs, promoters and producers who feel exactly the same because he has been pure and stainless. We all miss him all the time. Luckily his son Gianmaria, aka GNMR, is a very talented artist on his own and he’s committed to keep Claudio's legacy alive, including his massive collection of unreleased music.”
Tell us three of your favourite Coccoluto tracks, then?
LS: “I don’t think anyone can pick three without mentioning Belo Horizonti by The Heartists – even if it’s been a massive hit and it might sound predictable, it was such a game-changer when it came out. Everyone was playing it and you have to remember that the original was a long house suite that had that famous riff (such a bold move picking an Airto Moreira song in 1997!) exploding after minutes of a growing progressive Latin psychedelic trip.”
“Then I’m a big fan of the Dub Duo album on NRK, so I picked I Love You, the single from that one…
“And his remix of Spanish Clubhouse's Samba Baby because I was the label manager/A&R who commissioned it, so I have a personal memory of it.”
EG: “Those are all personal faves as well and I have to add It's The New Funky, a super rare funky seven-inch from the late 90s – an inspiration for the Italo Funk sound.”
For lots of people, Italian dance music means the euphoric piano tunes of the early 90s – but there’s more to it than that right? Can you tell us a bit about the wider Italian house and dance music scenes?
LS: “The so-called Italo-house (or spaghetti house, a bad name chosen by some UK media back then!) was just the commercial tip of the iceberg of what was going around. Luckily for some of the producers involved that meant big success and big money, but the whole scene had a lot more to offer. It just seems that the big picture was written by a bunch of UK magazines and radio stations – and those Italian productions were huge hits in UK, and consequentially in a few other countries – but there was also a deeper side too.
“There was a pretty healthy Italian electro/techno scene and then afterwards a jazzy/rare groove and a breaks scene as well. It had less success than the big piano tunes but there were tons of good producers around. There was a big bias that linked Italian dance to more commercial sounds, big hits, summertime Ibiza style, but when people actually saw and heard what was going on underground they were always very impressed. And when I say underground I mean musically… because the numbers were still huge.”
Can you sum up the essence of the Italian house sound?
EG: “For me the Italian house sound is a mix of the mountains meets the city meets the ocean. It combines flavours and cultures and influences, but always feels good on the dancefloor or on the beach.”
How do you see Italian house music developing in the future?
LS: “Hopefully it will keep its heritage in a deep and melodic approach but takes a bit of the punch of bassline urban sounds. The younger generation have grown up with the sounds of urban music in their ears and now I see them loving four-to-the-floor house, but it’s good to give them elements of rawness. Personally, having always loved the 90s UK approach to basslines in drum ‘n’ bass, breaks, garage and so on, I hope this is the way to go.”
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
EG: “In 2022 Soul Clap Records is celebrating 10 years of releasing funky, housey, spacey, deep, and strange music from around the world. Stay tuned for some special projects!”
Words: Harold Heath
Italo Funk Vol 2 is out on Soul Clap Records on 10 December – order it here.