Name: Luca Roccatagliati aka DJ Rocca
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: DJ Rocca's remix of Frederik Schumann's "Come Home" is included on the latter's new EP Come Home & One In Body & One In Body, out via 0G2N.
Gear Recommendations: Sequential Circuits Prophet 5; Roland Space Echo RE201
If you enjoyed this interview with DJ Rocca, be sure to visit his homepage. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
My first studio was in my bedroom.
I used to work with a Mac G4 computer with external audio and midi cards, a 16 channel mixer, a compressor, a couple of synths, plus an Akai sampler and a TR808
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
It evolved with more synths and gears just tor achieving a better sound quality.
The most important pieces now are obviously my TR808, but also my SSL4000 clone bus compressor, the Jupiter 6 and the Prophet 5.
Some see instruments and equipment as far less important than actual creativity, others feel they go hand in hand. What's your take on that?
I think it's a balance ... if creativity fails, new equipment can definitely help you regain it.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
The situation I prefer is the one I currently have ... a few good analog sinthesizers, the best electronic drums and the equipment to be able to get a finished track in my studio, ready to be mastered and printed on vinyl or distributed on digital platforms.
After twenty years of refinement in the studio, with the essential but right equipment, I can say that I have stabilized.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
I am a flutist graduated at the music academy, so for me the tactile element is fundamental.
I use a main keyboard to drive all my analog synthesizers and a beat step for my drum machines … I have to get my hands on all the knobs to give the human touch to electronic music.
In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Tradition is important, you have to learn the original language and then evolve it in a future way.
It's not easy, but I love to experiment with every style of music. Any kind of music I'm making, I absolutely need to understand how it was originally conceived, and start from that point to find a new path.
Most would regard recording tools like microphones and mixing desks as different in kind from instruments like keyboards, guitars, drums and samplers. Where do you stand on this?
Any tool is good to make music. You can be creative on a sound with a microphone, and a good mixer …
EQs and compression can completely change a sound. I mean, my flute could sound completely different if I record it in one way or in another way.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
Technology has completely changed my mind.
The teaching I received at the academy was heavily based on classical music and technology was banned. So when I discovered that through technology I could also be a bassist, drummer, composer and experimenter, my creativity greatly expanded.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I have built a large archive of samples over the years which are very useful for creating new tracks. Most of the samples come from my big records collection, or from sample packs ... bass lines, breaks, drums, all divided by style.
I usually start with samples to make a track, and often remake that sample playing the line or pattern with an analog instrument I have ... however the first idea came from my sample archive.
How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
It depends on whether I am using analog equipment or digital tools. But with both, the most useful way is to record immediately in the computer the unexpected that happened.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
I love the jazz approach to composition ... improvisation is very important to me. I can say that the most important ideas come in the first hour of composition, and the production tools undoubtedly suggest compositional ideas on their own.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I'm a fan of Jamaican dub, so I love using digital delays or tape delay and, without a doubt, those kinds of machines have profoundly changed my way of making music.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I use intelligent composing tools only when I play live sets, and not in the studio. They're good for giving that sense of improvisation with samples that would sound like static loops otherwise.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
For ages, I have dreamt about having a software that can split a song in all its single separate stems .. .just impossible to imagine right now.