iDJ gets to know the man behind one of the biggest house anthems of recent times
There haven't been many house tunes, over the past few years, that got to be quite so ubiquitous as Joys, the chunky, SOS Band-sampling houser that took Ibiza and the world's dancefloors by storm in 2019, then somehow managed to retain its grip on them all the way through 2020 as well, topping the Beatport and Shazam charts and picking up an incredible 17 million streams on Spotify alone.
It helped, of course, that the track got remixed by everyone from Jonas Blue to Todd Terry, via Purple Disco Machine, Nic Fanciulli, SOSA, Paco Osuna and Offiah. And quite possibly one or two others we've forgotten about, and doubtless the odd cheeky boot or two, too! But then you know the old saying about how you can't keep a good tune down…
Needless to say, since the runaway success of Joys, its maker Roberto Surace has found himself quite the busy lad, with a string of EPs on labels including Superfett, Oblack, Bamboleo, Mindshake Records and his own SURA Music. Oh, and he was asked to remix David Guetta's BED for Atlantic Records, too – which shows just how far his star has risen in the five short years since he made his production debut on Italian label SK Black, at the age of 24, back in 2015.
Most recently, there's been Cookies, which dropped on Sonny Fodera's Solotoko imprint last Friday, and which features the vocals of female singing/songwriting duo The Melody Men, perhaps best known for their recent Mark Knight collab If It's Love.
With Cookies ploughing a similar musical furrow to Joys, there's no reason why it shouldn't emulate its predecessor's success – though it would help considerably, of course, if we're all allowed out to experience the track in its natural dancefloor environment this summer. Which, as we found out when we spoke to him, is something that's very much on Roberto's mind right now.
Here's what he had to say…
As you haven't featured in iDJ before, can you start by telling us a little bit about your background, and how you came to be making/playing electronic music in the first place?
“Hello guys, and thanks for inviting me! Let's say that since I was a child I was passionate about music. I tried to play the drums, two bass accordions, the bagpipes and even the lyre. Then growing up, around 18-19 years, I became passionate about Virtual DJ, which was the first software I used to mix. However, after a couple of years, I was no longer satisfied and I looked for something else, so I bought my first console, and from there I really loved house music which is the genre that belongs to me.
“Later I was no longer satisfied with mixing other people's songs, and I decided to try to produce some music. I started with something more minimal initially and then after a few years I explored house music which stole my heart. I love music at 360 degrees. I don't have a consolidated genre, the fundamental thing for me is the groove in a song!”
We're talking today because you've just released your latest single Cookies, featuring The Melody Men. How did you come to hook up with them?
“Cookies is a track that where I had only done the instrumental part without the vocals, it has undergone many changes. When I heard The Melody Men's voices I fell in love: their vocal is fantastic, it has an absurd energy and I am happy to have collaborated with them.”
You're undoubtedly best known for Joys, which was released in many different mixes – do you have a particular favourite, among all the different versions?
“I like all the remixes made for Joys. Every artist has done their best to remix it and I'm very happy with them all, they've done well.”
Looking through your discography, there aren't a lot of collaborations listed… do you prefer to work alone, or have the right opportunities just not presented themselves yet?
“Well, I have made a few collaborations in my musical career… maybe more can happen in the future, but for now I'm concentrating on finishing my EP and an album.”
Tell us a bit about how you work in the studio: are you a hardware nut, an 'all-in-the box' kinda guy or somewhere in-between?
“In the studio I love to produce with a MIDI keyboard, to create just what comes from my heart, and for the drums part I use a drum machine.”
Here in the UK, our third national lockdown is slowly but surely coming to an end and clubs and festivals are due to reopen soon… where are things up to in Italy right now? And are you dying to get back out there ASAP, or are you in the more cautious camp?
“I hope that this situation will be resolved soon in Italy and throughout the rest of the world, I am confident this summer that everything will be unlocked. I really miss DJing at parties and entertaining people. I love to see the excitement of the dancefloor at the start of a track, and I can't wait to go back to playing. I miss the dancefloor too much!”
What are the best and worst things about being Roberto Surace in 2021?
“In 2021 I certainly thought the pandemic situation would be resolved a little, but unfortunately nothing has been resolved yet. But as I said before, I am confident that this summer clubs will reopen.
“The most positive thing is that I am producing a lot of new music for when our sector will restart. The most negative thing is that I cannot share my music with the dancefloor to understand the emotion that a song can create. In my opinion, our sector is as fundamental as all the rest of the entertainment industry. I hope everything will be resolved soon, so we can return to playing in the clubs and above all return to normal!”
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
“I am producing a lot of new music, and I am exploring many genres – I like to mix it up a lot. Thanks for the interview, and I hope we can all get back to dancing and having fun together soon!”
Words: Russell Deeks
Cookies is out now on Solotoko