Look up ‘Italian techno’ in the dictionary, and you’re likely to find a reference to Luigi Madonna – such is the Caserta-born DJ and producer’s influence on the genre over the past two decades.
A familiar face at venues such as London’s Fabric and Berlin’s Watergate – not to mention Old River Park, located in his home town of Naples – Madonna cut his production teeth with 2009’s Madonna EP, on Rino Cerrone’s Loose Records, following that up with killer cuts on Drumcode, Plus 8, Redimension, MKT, Sleaze and Pan-Pot’s Second State.
His latest release, alongside longtime sparring partner Roberto Capuano, is the Mad World EP – a timely title given the year that’s in it – which lands on Drumcode in October. You can pre-order the EP by clicking here.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Luigi, thanks for talking to us. The COVID-19 situation has fundamentally altered the dance music scene in 2020, and Italy was one of the first countries to be impacted. What changed in your life?
I believe that COVID has changed all of us and the world system quite a bit. Personally, I was able to devote much more time to myself on a daily basis. I started doing things that I’d never had the chance to do, due to the frenetic rhythm of life pre-COVID – day to day things that people who don’t have to travel loads kind of take for granted.
This also includes spending time in the studio and being able to be creative without the feeling of haste and pressure of having to complete projects in a short time. I felt it quite liberating to be able to sit in my studio and allow my creativity to flow in its own time, without having to adhere to tight deadlines. It was different!
To this day, I’ve always believed that you must give space to the things that really make you live well, without getting sucked into the ‘whirlpools’ of our system. I’m not saying that everything I did before was wrong – indeed, I’m happy with what I have built – but today it seems right to change gear, to change my course slightly.
Your latest EP, Mad World, sees you team up again with fellow Italian Roberto Capuano. You have worked together in the past, what do you bring to your productions, and what does Roberto bring?
Yes, as well as a colleague, I would define him as my brother. In recent years, Roberto and I have lived together in Amsterdam, a city that personally – and I believe for him too – has made us mature a lot and has given us so much
We have forged a bond that we will carry for a lifetime and all of this is reflected equally in the studio. There has always been a harmony between the two of us in the tracks that we make – that is, despite being two techno producers, each of us stands out for our characteristics, such as the choice of kick, or bassline, and I think these come out perfectly in the tracks.
The EP is released on Drumcode, a label that has seen quite a few releases of yours in the past, such as 2015’s Le Ly Land. What is the label like to work with?
Adam [Beyer] is very hands on in the entire A&R process within the label. He’s also quite demanding in terms of what he asks of a producer. He pushes to get the best out of you and your work, and I think this shows in his choice of releases on Drumcode.
Adam is without a doubt a person who puts his soul, sweat and blood into his label, and that’s also why he’s made it a standout force within techno and has a unique angle from a musical point of view, in my opinion.
I’m lucky to be able to say I have worked with many labels during my time as a producer and I must say that it is one of the most professionally run labels out there, with an excellent team. In short, it is always a pleasure to work with them, I always feel welcomed, appreciated and part of the family.
As well as Drumcode, you’ve worked with labels owned by some of your compatriots in techno: Joseph Capriati’s Redimension, Rino Cerrone’s Loose Recordings etc. Would it be fair to say that you enjoy working alongside your friends, learning from each other etc?
You’re right! I have the utmost respect for them and I believe that unity is a bond of strength.
Naples has had a very respectable and pioneering techno scene for years and years that started and grew from the artists and labels you mentioned. Amongst other things, for a few years I also offered my contribution, working with one of Rino’s labels [Unrilis] to select music and artists.
Never forget your origins and your past. That’s something I like to live my life by.
You’re renowned for your ‘peak time techno’ – tracks like Mad World, Midnight Sun and last year’s Enfant Terrible are tailor-made for the dancefloor at 5.00am. At what time of the night do you most like to take to the decks, and why?
Well if we are speaking of clubs, I love doing slightly longer and more extensive sets – I would say at least three hours, because you can express yourself at 360 degrees by dictating the rhythms and the flow of a night. So 3.00am onwards, I would say, is perfect.
I also love doing sets that are from start to finish, where I take control of a room and immerse the people on a journey through music together. It’s magic! I got the opportunity to do this in Fabric London, where I had a residency in one of the last parties this year before lockdown. I loved it.
Your early releases leaned more towards the ‘minimal’ side of techno, almost a DC10 kind of sound – was the minimal movement of the 2000s influential in terms of getting you into production?
Yes, a lot. I agree with you here, I was born as a house DJ, and I’m talking about the 90s up to the early 2000s, where my musical research and tastes moved to more electronic sounds in general.
Therefore the ‘minimal wave’ of those times caught my ear, and evolved into what today we call techno. I feel this interest and history of other aspects of electronic music gives you more strength as a producer and a DJ.
What is your favourite venue to play and why – I would imagine it’s probably Old River Park?
Old River Park is my home where I grew up, together with my dear friends Joseph, Rino, Markantonio, Roberto. Our people were there – those who supported us at the beginning and continue to follow us everywhere around the world.
Now, unfortunately, those times have passed, but Naples and its people remain as passionate and supportive as ever. The love and what the music means to them is an inspiration for me and many other Neapolitan DJs, if not all.
I have to say that there are also many clubs and cities in the world where I like to play for both the people and the club. Fabric has to be mentioned – the history of that place and the vibe and connection you can make with the crowd, who are there to dance as hard as they can, is unique. My residency there has cemented this thought.
Crobar in Buenos Aires is another favourite of mine – the Argentinians can blow the roof off that place! Of course, cities like Florence, Rome, Amsterdam and many others have special places in my heart too!
You recently took part in the Beatport ‘Together for Beirut’ online festival. Do you have fond memories of playing in the Lebanese capital?
I was in Beirut with my friend Roberto, and we both thought the city had a unique vibe to it. It’s a city with culture and passion in its blood and I found that the people had a level of hospitality that made me feel as though I were at home. It’s a very beautiful city with a culture that is a mix between Mediterranean and Eastern – fascinating, I would say. I would like to return.
I was devastated to see what happened to their city, a blast like that took my breath away when I saw the videos. So many people affected: businesses, homes and everything. I hope they get the support they need and I was glad to be able to do something by taking part in the stream.
What sort of techno scene will emerge from the COVID-19 situation, do you think?
It’s really hard to predict what will emerge after this finishes, when we don’t even know when, or if, it will finish. I think it’s possible that the sounds could be very different than in previous years.
I think it’s fair to say that when certain sounds get popular, and big tracks feature at many summer festivals and parties, then there is a trend towards a particular type of music. It might be a faster BPM, or a type of sound that starts to become more prominent.
Because there have been no parties, or festivals, it’s much harder to calculate what the current ‘sound’ is. I hope this has influenced a lot of producers to explore the sounds that they are drawn to in isolation, instead of what has been popular on tour. In this sense, I think it could be a really positive outcome for the music.
I feel that people want to dance, and will find a way, so it is our professional responsibility to work together to try and create a safe environment for them to do so – progressively and reactively. If something is safe one day and not the next, then we must be able to accept that.
As your Instagram profile reads, you were ‘born and raised on techno and pizza’. If techno was a pizza, what toppings would be on it?
This one is easy. The mother of pizzas is Margherita, simple ingredients that make a true classic and tells a story about my land. It’s an explosion of flavours. Just like techno! 🙂
[Thanks Luigi for talking to us. The Mad World EP is released on Drumcode in October – you can pre-order it here]