Part 1

Name: Carola Pisaturo
Occupation: DJ/Producer
Current Release: Formes 01 on Claque Musique
Recommendations: Art wise I would recommend Douglas Gordon, a Scottish artist whose works have been really inspiring to me. Book wise I’d go for Mémoires d'Hadrien by the Belgian-born French writer, Marguerite Yourcenar.

Website: If you enjoyed this interview with Carola Pisaturo, be sure to visit her Facebook profile for more information and current gig dates.

When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started DJing a long time ago now! My boyfriend at the time was a DJ. He had turntables at home, and occasionally I’d find myself playing around with his records. Gradually, I began to love the feel of the vinyl and soon after I taught myself how to mix. A while after that came my first gig and soon after I got a job at a record store and studied at the SAE institute. Gradually, I got paid DJ gigs before DJing eventually became a job, albeit a job I love deeply. It all happened pretty organically actually.
My early passions were Chicago house and Detroit techno, two sounds that I’m obviously still very drawn to.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

For sure, I agree. In that essence I’d always be the one watching and studying the DJ, seeing how they mix records, how they blend them and looking at what records fit the right stage of the night. I think identifying your own ‘voice’ comes about through the sheer experience of listening to the music in different situations. In terms of copying, learning and creating, it’s become increasingly difficult to become original today, especially in terms of producing music. Naturally I consider myself a creative person but realistically most of the music that we produce today (regardless of what it’s produced on) is based around music that first came about 30 years ago. It’s testament to how future sounding Chicago house and Detroit techno were that their influence is still so keenly felt in modern day electronic music.

What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?

When you start out, the challenge is to keep proving yourself, so that you can make a living out of DJing, something that very few DJs too. But even when you’ve been DJing professionally for a few years, you have to still have the same work ethic and drive. If you don’t, you’ll be forgotten pretty quickly.

How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?

Playing music you love to get people to dance.

What was your first set-up as DJ like? 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?

Two turntables and a mixer. It hasn’t really evolved so much over the years. I can and do play on CDJs too, but the fundamental technologies remain the same.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

Humans explore the possibilities of sound and bring the machines to life. I don’t think they’ll ever be able to write an algorithm that, for example, could write a great techno track. Even though the greatest tracks are often not so complex in structure, it’s the simplicity that makes them even more genius. Just like a guitar, the machine is the instrument, but it’s the humans playing it that makes them great.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

It really depends. Running the label and travelling to gigs naturally takes up a lot of my time. If I’m not doing that I’m usually in the studio but honestly, it varies a lot, so I probably don’t keep a strict schedule, no.
I try to keep some Me time, relaxing with the dogs, walking to the beach, reading.

Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?

I’ll divide my bag into different tracks for different times. Who I’m playing with and where I’m playing is another important consideration, as is the time I’m playing at. Vinyl are packed and CDs are burnt and I’ll bring a USB of tracks too.

Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

Good question. Every DJ will tell you that there are special gigs and really special gigs. It’s the really special ones that keep you motivated and inspire you to keep on pushing with your music. As for my state of mind, again that’s something that’s dictated by when I’m playing etc. I still get nervous before gigs so concentration is key. 

What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?

I pack my vinyl so know there are certain tracks I’ll reach for at different stages of the night. But with my digital tracks I can be a bit more off the cuff. Providing the tracks work together, then all good; I prefer to slowly tell a story than dramatically switch from one sound to another.

Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?

For me, improvisation – it’s what keeps things interesting.

How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?

They can’t really be compared because you can’t capture the energy of a club night at home and vice versa. Naturally I prepare at home, but for example, when producing tracks it’s best to test them on a crowd before you release them. You can get feedback from your peers etc., but it’s a crowd who’ll honestly let you know if they like a track or not.

How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?

That’s a difficult one because all audiences are different in some way, depending on a range of different factors. Generally I play stuff I love and hope they’ll like it too. Reading the crowd is important, but you don’t want to only be playing crowd pleasers all night, either.

Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?

It sounds like a cliché, but when you’ve taken people on a musical journey it generally draws to a natural conclusion. There’s no specific moment that signals it’s over really, but a good DJ just knows.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

It’s complicated! Being a musician can be tough, it can be lonely, but it’s also extremely rewarding. So sometimes you have to make small sacrifices, but in the end they are of course worth it.