With his debut album 'Risonanza' in store now, iDJ meets an Italian DJ and producer with a 30-year track record behind him
Just landed in stores is Risonanza, the debut album from Italian DJ/producer Stefano Ranieri. But while Risonanza may be his first full-length offering, Ranieri is no newcomer – his DJ career dates back a full three decades.
Born in Pescara in the Italian region of Abruzzo in 1974, he was introduced to music via his older brothers' record collections, and was bitten by the house and techno bug early on. By 1991, he was DJing in clubs in his home town, and by the early 00s he'd made the move into the studio, racking up releases on None Records, Army Records, Barrel House, Red Music Production, Neorecords and Sweetleaf Recordings, among others. But it was only in 2017, when he hooked up with Nulu Electronic, the label headed up by Anané Vega, that plans for a full-length album began to coalesce.
Now it's finally arrived – and a fine album it is too. Opener 1942, with its fusion of very now-sounding, Afro-flavoured beats and classic-style pianos, sets the tone for a long-player that takes in a wide range of house styles and flavas, from the eyes-down, squelchy tech of Koncept One to the disco strings of Please Tell Me via the classic deep, soulful vibes of Karming Deep.
In short, it's an album that very much befits an artist with a decades-long understanding of house music. But what took him so long? Read on to find out more…
Can we start right at the very beginning: how did you get into making/playing electronic dance music in the first place?
“The passion for music was born listening to the vinyls and cassettes of my older brothers, then around the age of 16 I began to go to the small record shops in my city. I remember that at the time there was a very low percentage of electronic music, but to be honest the guy who ran the shop was very knowledgeable and had great taste. In a short time we became very good friends and I had become a real vinyl maniac. I really liked the Detroit ambient and techno.”
You're no newcomer to the scene: your production career dates back nearly 20 years, and I know you were DJing for 10 years before that. So how come you're only releasing your debut album now?
“Yes, I started working in clubs professionally in 1991, but working in the studio recording music is another thing. I have always tried to give my best and do things at the right time. I know how to wait, even in life it was like that. Several times I stepped aside, while continuing to work and love music. I have a lot of patience, I firmly believe in quality and honestly the step of making an album is very important for how I see things right now.”
The album comes on Anané Vega's Nulu Electronic label – how did you come to hook up with her?
“It happened through Christian Mantini, manager of Anané and label manager of Nulu and Nulu Electronic. I have known Christian since the early 90s – we have often worked together in our region as DJs. One day he came to my home and I played some demo tracks for him. The happiness that he liked them was immense, so he told me to work on them and finish them.
“Once they were finished he gave them to Anané who liked them and started playing them in her Nulu Movement party and radio show. I was so happy with this and from there in a short time my first EP with Nulu Electronic came out and the most beautiful journey began.”
There's a nice range of house styles on the album – did you consciously set out to cover a lot of musical bases, or is it just what comes out naturally?
“In the album Risonanza you will find my essence, I have never liked to close myself in a genre, I love house music and everything around it. I have always played at clubs in any time of the party, from the softest to the most intense music, always keeping my style.”
That said, the album's clearly rooted in the more soulful/funky/jazzy side of house. That's a bit more of a niche interest than it used to be when you started out, with tuffer, techier sounds ruling the roost in recent years – but do you see any signs, right now, of the pendulum starting to swing back the other way?
“The watchword is good music I don't care about the genre I don't care about who produces it, what matters is making music with the heart and soul. Good music is recognisable and reaches your soul. I am an eternal romantic, I grew up musically with very specific ideologies. In life, I love to be surprised and I love to surprise. Playing with music is beautiful, in my sets you can really expect everything. This is very important to me, to be free to play and experiment.”
How do you tend to work in the studio: are you a hardware nut, or more of an 'all in the box' kind of guy?
“Same thing, before I was more fanatic, I had many synths, samplers, I was always looking. With time and maturity I realised that the winning thing is the idea. I have seen studios with many hardware and synths release very banal music. You have to be creative, life is a wonderful journey. When I arrive in my small studio it is like being in another dimension, this is pure magic.
“The message that must arrive is that to make music it doesn't take mega studios and millionaire equipment, but soul and heart, and a strong preparation. We need to study and prepare, this is the biggest investment that can be made.”
One track that stands out particularly for me on the album is Karming Deep – what can you tell us about that track?
“I love it, it's very old school, it has few elements – pure house music. I remember when I set up the bass, vocals and sax I was on a loop for 20 minutes dancing alone in the studio. I like to fit the sounds together, the groove runs very well. I am also very satisfied with the editing.”
There are many vocal tracks on the album but none of the vocalists are credited, at least not on the preview version I've heard… can you tell us a bit about whose voices it is that we're hearing?
“Going back to the previous question, I can tell you that technology has made great strides, and software offers enormous potential! Some voices are part of libraries that I have purchased over the years.”
With the benefit of 30 years in the game: what are the best and worst things about the scene right now, compared to 30 years ago?
“There are no better or worse things, there are simply differences. The 90s where I started and grew up in and today's world cannot be compared, simply because there is a substantial difference in life and culture. I can feel a lot of energy or I feel little energy, in clubs it is like this. Even before it was the same thing: the soulless parties have always been there and always will be there, because the difference is the work behind.
“Surely before there was more freedom in organising parties and there was also more improvisation, but it's all relative. I am an optimist and I always try to see the beautiful. We make the difference with our choices and our awareness.”
Finally, apart from the album, what else is going on or coming up for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
“An avalanche of music! There will be several releases, both on Nulu and on Nulu Electronic, and some important evenings as a DJ. For now I'll just say this – we are certainly preparing for beautiful things. Follow us and support!”
Words: Russell Deeks
Risonanza is out now on Nulu Electronic