“I like to make music when there is joy and unity…” 909originals catches up with Davide Squillace

Having immersed himself in Naples’ thriving electronic music scene from a young age, Davide Squillace has forged a reputation for quality house and techno over the past couple of decades with releases on Cadenza, Kaoz Theory, No19, Moon Harbour and Hot Creations, among others.

As a DJ, he’s arguably most closely associated with Ibiza institution Circoloco, as well as being one third of Better Lost Than Stupid, a techno supergroup that also comprises Matthias Tanzmann and Martin Buttrich. As his career has developed, he’s also sought to branch out into the worlds of art and fashion, though his This and That Lab (encompassing the This and That record label), as well as the Bridge 48 community studio in Barcelona.

His latest release is Drive Good, set to be released on Crosstown Rebels offshoot Rebellion this Friday (17 September), which sees him team up with British producer Nolan and French vocalist Jaw. You can pre-order it here.

909originals caught up with him.

Hi Davide, thanks for talking to us. Tell us about your new release on Rebellion, Drive Good. How would you describe it?

I’d rather tell you how it came to life. I was playing around with my modular system, had a good sequence running from the Metropolis and I added a few more elements, and recorded probably 15/20 minutes live. The vibe was just right. I edited and chose a few parts and arranged an elementary three minute arrangement. I thought about Nolan, sent it to him, and he had a go adding a few more elements. It sounded even better now!

While we were listening to it, we thought a vocal would be a killer on it. Jaw was a perfect match for the type of vibe, so we sent it to him and in a matter of a days, he sent me something, telling me, “Either you love it or you hate it, there is no middle ground here”. Guess what…

Is there a backstory behind the lyrics – “If you drive good, you will find me?”

Jaw is the type of singer/songwriter that has that magical, quick approach to it. He plays the song and vomits flowers in both lyrics and melodies. I’m not sure about the story, but when I heard the melody it was an instant catch for me.

You put out a number of releases over the past year, many of which must have been composed during lockdown. Was it difficult for you to write club-focused tracks with the clubs closed?

To be honest, I write lots of non-4/4 music, so it was a perfect time to do it, but I also wrote lots of 4/4 with different blends and directions. Not having in your emotion and memory the feeling of last weekend’s club gigs can be tricky – that feeling you have when you come back home really helps the writing.

That being said I’m not sure I would describe that as an enjoyable time, we were locked down, under very weird and debatable circumstances. The energy was unpredictable. I like to make music when there is joy and unity.

We’ve spoken to a few Napoli DJs over the years, Gaetano Parisio, Luigi Madonna, Riva Starr etc. What is it about the city that makes it such a Mecca for electronic music?

Napoli is a 2,500-year-old city, with many different rulers and cultures over this long period of time. It has always been a very active city in many artistic disciplines; music being one of these.

We were always exposed to a vast palette of music, from jazz to drum ‘n’ bass to techno, as well as both acoustic and electronic genres. I suppose when you grow up in such surroundings without forcing the process of listening to music – because it’s there and all over you – it comes natural trying to be part of it. You get to realise when you choose that path that it’s almost like a genetic need.

We first discovered you through your releases on Conform and Sketch Music Architecture, which are close to two decades old now. How would you say your production style has changed over the years?

Well you grow up, you learn more about life, you get to know a bit more about the world, you change life and society drastically changes around you.

It would be weird if the type of beats or texture you write in your music didn’t change with you. People out there mostly know my 4/4 works, but I bet you can see this change more in the other pieces of music I write.

I think that as you grow up, your physical energy that you show in your music gets somehow replaced by a different type of energy. Your need and curiosity for a deeper understanding of your inner self and the world around you becomes the engine of your choices.

Your This and That label celebrates ten years next year. How has the label’s approach changed from when you formed the label? Also, is the label on hiatus at the moment, we haven’t seen any new releases for a couple of years?

The label is part of a broader project. We collaborated with galleries and clothing brands, now we are opening a This and That Lab co-working space.

Indirectly, the Bridge 48 project brings with it the knowledge accumulated through the This and That Lab, as well as many years in the industry and the constant globe trotting. We just released a record from Ninetoes and myself, but yes we took a break to rethink how to navigate this new chapter of society.

Following on from 2019’s Wild Slide, are you planning any further work with Matthias Tanzmann and Martin Buttrich as Better Lost Than Stupid?

I personally would love to, but before the f**king pandemic we were all very busy with our solo careers – it wasn’t easy to work on music together. Now, we are even further apart, with Martin being in Los Angeles and Matthias in Leipzig.

I have no idea how that could happen, as we like to work together in one place, rather than sending materials to each other. I don’t know if a journey really never ends, it’s maybe just held in time somewhere – I guess that is where BLTS is right now.

How did Better Lost Than Stupid come about?

The three of us were supposed to play at this festival in NYC and the promoter went like ‘would you guys like to play a set together?’ We instantly said yes. We are close friends, we didn’t have a trio name or anything.

The show was very successful, and we got many requests to play together, so we said ‘f**k, it let’s do it!’ Moreover, we decided to take it a step further and made an album.

In terms of venues, you’re arguably most closely associated with Circoloco in Ibiza. Up until the pandemic, you must have been impressed by how the brand has been able to grow and develop over the years?

I’ve been resident there for a very long time. Just the year before the pandemic I was playing more at Ants and other venues, I thought my personal time at Circoloco was done as a resident. I’ve always seen Circoloco as a nurturing place, you grow personally and artistically and you take the next step, so others can have the same experience. Circoloco will always be my family and the place where I grew up.

Q. What sort of Ibiza scene will emerge next year? After the pandemic, do you think anything will be different?

Everything that will happen – or better said, be allowed – in any cities around the globe is will be heavily determined by how the financial/banking apparatus and the corporate powers will allow it to happen. If you are asking if anything will drastically change in terms of music and clubbing in Ibiza, I don’t think so.

[Davide Squillace & Nolan ft. Jaw – Drive Good is released on 17 September on Rebellion. You can pre-order it here]

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