“I hope we use this downtime to figure out a more sustainable way…” 909originals catches up with Riva Starr

Raised in Italy and residing in East London, Riva Starr, aka Stefano Miele, has earned a reputation for being one of house music’s most prolific remixers, as well as boasting a comprehensive catalogue that includes everything from minimal techno to scything breakbeat.

He’s also the head honcho of Snatch! Records, which marks its tenth anniversary this year, and has played host to releases from Groove Armada, DJ Sneak, Green Velvet, Mark Broom, Junior Sanchez, Todd Terry, and a myriad of dance music luminaries.

Starr’s latest release is Step It Up, alongside Armand Van Helden and former Basement Jaxx vocalist Sharlene Hector, released on Ministry of Sound, which can be downloaded/streamed here.

909originals caught up with him.

Hi, thanks for talking to us. How has the year 2020 been for you – obviously you haven’t been able to tour, but have you been more productive in the studio?

Since I stopped touring early March, I’ve spent a few weeks just getting my head around the new situation and then got the inspiration to completely dive into music production. I made lots of new tunes and I’m experimenting with full songs as well, as we speak. I find it refreshing, actually!

What was it like working with Armand van Helden again, on the new single, Step It Up? Am I right in thinking you haven’t worked together for a while, since the late 2000s?

Yeah, we met when I made a remix for one of his tracks ten years ago. We kept in touch, and always had the idea of a collaboration.

Step It Up was born way before the lockdown, actually. It has been great to work with him, he’s such a huge inspiration for me. There’s always lot to learn from the greats.

You’re renowned for your collaborations over the years. Are there any that were particularly memorable for you? Also, anyone you haven’t had the chance to work with yet, but would love to?

Well one of the most memorable for me was with Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, on Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.

Norman is another musical genius – he just has that instinct and is such a humble person. I’ve learned a lot from him, and it was also great to breathe the air of his studio where countless hits have been made. Not to mention that I got to meet his long time technical partner, Simon Thornton.

A lot of your tracks have a distinctly 90s-era house rhythm to them. Was this a particularly influential period for you?

Quite, yeah. I just love that vibe. I’m very eclectic though, so I don’t just float around that sound, but yes, I still think that those New York/Chicago/Detroit vibes are 100% still influencing me in what I do.

Snatch! Records celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. How does your approach with the label differ now from when you first started it?

It’s definitely a more mature approach. We delayed the celebrations because of this worldwide pandemic, but rest assured, we have lot more in store for you, including a brand new image – refreshed for the occasion!

You’re originally from Napoli, which in recent years has built up quite a reputation for electronic music – artists like Luigi Madonna and Joseph Capriati, venues like Old River Park. What is it about Napoli that has inspired such a vibrant electronic music scene?

Napoli is a really peculiar city. It’s not just great for its techno history but also for house – Masters At Work, David Morales and the likes were regulars here over the last three decades – and in general for all open-minded music.

I think it’s also because of the location of the city, in the middle of the Mediterranean, and its welcoming tradition towards different cultures. I learned so much while in Napoli: the importance of being open-minded and not only accept but also dive deep into other cultures. ‘Glocalism’, as someone once called it.

You’re regarded as one of the most prolific remix artists in the business. What to you makes a successful remix?

Ah, thanks – for me, remixing is as important as producing new stuff. Firstly, because you get to work with dope material from great artists, and it doesn’t matter if they have a high profile or not, and secondly, because it gives me the opportunity to work starting from a blank canvas.

I like the challenge to create something new and different from the original song.

Where did the habit of scribbling over your face with yellow marker come from?

Ha! Well, it was a ‘meeting in the middle’ with my previous management. They always asked to show my face in the press pics as this is what everyone expects, and so on, and I was like, ‘I’d prefer people to focus on my music’. I’m also a bit shy and would love to be as anonymous as possible.

So I proposed yes to showing my face, but to scribble over my eyes with yellow lines. Eyes are the most identifying park of your face and I thought that by hiding them, I was still managing to get my result, in not showing myself in full.

Besides, people love it, and paradoxically, it’s making Riva Starr more recognisable.

What sort of a dance/clubbing industry will emerge once the coronavirus has subsided? What will have changed?

This is a billion dollar question. There will be a slow start for sure – fewer clubs and probably fewer promoters than before, at least at the beginning.

It’s pretty hard to draw the situation down right now, as we don’t know when this will start happening again. It this takes a long time, there will be more major damages to our industry.

I hope we use this downtime to figure out a more sustainable way for the industry to operate that includes everyone, not just the big guns…

[Thanks to Riva Starr for chatting to us. Step It Up, alongside Armand Van Helden and Sharlene Hector, can be found here]

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