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Eclectic electronica from Italy via Ireland

2018 Jul 09     
2 Bit Thugs

Leopolda Rosa has been releasing music for 13 years now. But as he explains below, he's in no mad rush to take over the world...

Not all successful DJs and producers are focused on turning their passion into a career. Plenty get more than enough satisfaction from simply being able to share their love of playing and making music. In an age when many in "underground" music seem more concerned with fame and fortune, these are the unheralded heroes of a scene that still needs a vibrant underground to survive.

Leopolda Rosa is one of these people. Since making his debut as Lerosa on D1 Recordings 13 years ago, the Ireland-based Italian has steadily built up a quietly impressive discography. Along the way, there have been two albums (one an experimental-minded cassette on Further Records, another a superior collection of deep house tracks on Uzuri) and well-regarded EPs on labels including Real Soon, Apnea, Lunar Disko, Saft and Idle Hands. Yet Rosa, a talkative hardware enthusiast whose Italian-English accent now comes with a distinct Irish burr, has never thought of himself as a career DJ or producer. In fact, it seems he finds the idea faintly ludicrous.

"I find it a bit weird when people at my level have managers and agents," he laughs. "I come more from the bedroom enthusiast angle. I always see myself almost as a glorified hobbyist. When I started getting records out and gig requests came in, I was already in my early 30s, so it was never really an option that I took too seriously."

Rosa's long musical journey to date has been an interesting one. He first started DJing as a hip-hop, house and techno-mad teenager in Rome during the late 80s and early 90s, but quickly fell out of love with the scene. He took to playing in bands and listening to indie-rock, before a move to Dublin in 1995 - the city he has called home ever since - reignited his passion for electronic music.

"I really got into ambient because I thought I was done with dance music," he admits. "I loved this music you could just play, listen to, get stoned to or just get lost in. Then I started digging a bit deeper than that. Somehow that brought me to some of the weirder Carl Craig stuff and Drexciya, and that pulled me back into dance music."

It was this that first inspired him to buy some music-making hardware - or "boxes", as he constantly refers to them - and try making some electronic music of his own. Five years as a bedroom producer later, he was given the opportunity to release his first 12-inch. He's never looked back since.

Perhaps the most notable feature of his growing catalogue, aside from the consistently high quality of his productions, is his subtle eclecticism. While his reputation was forged on delivering good quality deep house and techno, Rosa's EPs are notoriously tricky to pin down. His 2017 12-inch for Idle Hands, for example, included impressive trips into dubby proto-house, sun-kissed electro and dub techno territory, while his most recent EP, on Spanish label SAFT, flitted between clanking Chicago-style jack tracks, acid-flecked space boogie and ultra-deep, slo-mo house.

"I love it when you get an EP and there's variety on there," he admits. "I love hearing producers trying their hands at different things. We should credit the labels with allowing them to do that. It's not always easy, because you need to find a label that's willing to do that and take the risk."

This, it seems, is a particular cause for concern for Rosa, a keen consumer of music whose eclectic influences and inspirations frequently find their way into the tracks he produces.

"I do go through phases where I go mad for a certain sound - like Italo, for example," he says. "When I was growing up I thought Italo was trash, but then I heard the proper stuff through hearing DJs in the Irish scene and I got mad into it. So for a period I made loads of tracks with an Italo-disco influence. For a while I also worked on an experimental dub kind of thing - a bit like some of what DJ Sotofett produces. I did loads of stuff, ending up with two albums' worth of material, but then I realised I don't know what labels to give this stuff to. You're a bit limited that way unless you press records yourself."

While we may eventually get to hear some of that material via Bandcamp, so far none of the labels Rosa works with have opted to include any of it on 12-inch releases. He does, though, have a slightly more experimental EP coming up later in the year on a small German imprint called Eudemonia.

"The guy who runs the label is quite young but has really interesting tastes," Rosa enthuses. "He picked loads of tracks that were off the beaten track, which is great. There are two electro tracks - my kind of weird electro - and two slower ones. An EP with just four straight club tracks is boring to me. I don't want to release the same stuff again. That's probably why I'm releasing less stuff now."

Rosa also has a tendency to release music on new or up-and-coming labels. Last month, for instance, he contributed a fine fusion of jacking Chicago drums and futurist, Motor City electronics to the V/A debut EP from a new Bristol-based label, Innate - a spin-off from producer Owain K's music blog of the same name. The record rocketed to the top of Juno's techno sales chart in the weeks following its release.

"I've been chatting on and off with Owain by email for quite a few years, so when he mentioned this project, I did what I normally do - send a virtual bag of tracks," Rosa remembers. "I told him to just pick the track he thought fit best. He had been expressing an interest in my music for a long time. I always try and keep in touch with people who express an interest in my music, because I really appreciate it."

Words: Matt Anniss

Innate 001 is out now on Innate

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Tags: Lerosa, Leopolda Rosa, Uzuri, Idle Hands, Saft, Lunar Disko, Apnea, Innat