Name: Toto Chiavetta
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Recommendations: Nagarjuna “Seventy Verses on Emptiness”. Mondo Grosso “Star Suite” (Shelter Vocal Mix) from min 8 (:-).
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When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I can’t recall precisely when I started. But I do remember the first time ever I played music in a club was roughly 1999/2000.
At that time, my influences were mostly NYC/Chicago and Detroit music and all the derivatives that were spreading, nothing more nothing less. I was actually also into disco. I enjoyed some garage as well.
Do you know that feeling when you're standing right outside a club and you can hear those sub frequencies coming to you through the air while waiting in line? And then slowly entering the club and the music becoming louder and louder?! This is what, at the core, drew me in. Also, the mere act of placing a vinyl on a turntable was a true pleasure on its own.
For most artists, originality is 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?
It's quite difficult to describe this development, if not impossible.
Indeed I never planned to earn my life from music, so a few phases are a bit blurry. I will sum it up as follows: In the beginning, I was totally captured in the process of understanding how producers such as Masters At Work could have such so good and different sounding drums (my focus). I recall trying to emulate that sound since the very beginning, just at home and for fun.
Shortly after that, I was captured by the ancestral sound of labels such Yoruba and the sound of acid house and producers from that direction. Around 2006 I discovered that I could satisfy my more personal musical needs with more electronic focused music released on label such as Innervisions.
This process took place over a time frame of 15 years if you consider that I had what I hold to be my “true” first release in 2013 on Yoruba, followed by 5 on Innervisions and the most recent one on Diynamic. Two years ago I also startet my own Borders Of Light imprint which embraces what I came to like over the last few years.
Lately, for the past one year and a half I haven't released as much. So I think this means a new “personal voice” might be developing.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I would say monotony at the core, which unleashes variety the more I move toward the surface.
What were your main creative challenges when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?
Finding the music I really liked, keeping in mind that to me, the way a given track sounds has always been of foremost personal relevance; I would dare to say, as much as the music in itself.
Finding a balance that would result in something that's enjoyable (emotionally enriching) for myself while I play, between energy, musicality, and different moods; and in doing so, trying to offer the listeners music I believe in. Either because of its message, its production aspects, or its honesty - to mention maybe the most relevant aspects only. All this possibly trying to draw more and more people into this world.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started producing on my PlayStation, only to move to mac and logic pro shortly after. At a certain moment, I thought that setting up a “proper” recording studio, where I collected everything I thought I needed, should have been the path to follow. So, eventually, I did.
I then realized that the process of going to the studio, switching everything on, recalling the last session (even though my mixer was digital), was a bit of a limitation. I also realized that when I wanted to update my machinery or introduce a new piece of gear, things became more of a struggle than a pleasure (even to patch things) and financially a burden.
At the same time, I realized that I was working more and more in the box, with basically even better results. Which led me to now create most of my production ITB.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you perform?
Luckily not. Once you focus on the main artistic aspect, you're sure to find the way through.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience?
My goal as a DJ is to play out in a way that results in something that is enjoyable for as many people as possible (myself included), within the framework of the music I believe in. Fulfilling expectations, a desire to receive positive feedback from the audience, is hence one of the aspects of what I'm looking for. However, it is not a goal for which I'm willing to sacrifice my being in its entirety.
In a song or classical composition, the building blocks are notes, but in a DJ set the building blocks are entire songs and their combinatory potential. Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening and perhaps also, if applicable, your work as a producer?
I think that my view of music and production have been influenced quite relevantly (a lot indeed!) by my work as a DJ. At the same time this has been happening in a natural way, like a spontaneous process (and thanks for asking this question because right now I might pay some extra rational attention on this) and I am sure this will happen again.
I would say many of my mix-down choices, many of my arrangement choices, are being strongly “suggested” by my experience as a DJ.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
It's quite simple. During the week, I usually have a very lazy and late wake up and then: Coffee. Coffee. More Coffee. Studio. Food. Nap. Coffee. Studio. Sport. Restaurant and wine. Studio. Sleep (around 2 am).
Can you talk about a breakthrough DJ set or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I cannot pick only one or a specific one. I have instead many moments during various performances. I would tell you about 3 specific sets that I recall for being so extra exciting that this overwhelming feeling actually got me to choose and play music in a sort of automatic mood.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Yes I do. In the beginning I approached music because it was (and is) the biggest source of healing that I had at my disposal. On the other hand, I have never been hurt by music. For sure, I have been hurt by people who work with music, but this is a different story.
When music is honest and if it is composed and produced with the intent of representing a specific state of mind and/or being of the originator, and the choices are made purely woth the intent of translating, in the best possible way, those emotions into music, there we might have a composition with healing potential.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Indeed it is very fine. I would say that unless one is not damaging the art and sensitivity of another artist (so we must take into account the respective positions ) and/or exploiting them for a whatever personal advantage, I am quite flexible with said limits.
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?
I really don't know how to describe it. I rationally focus on being exposed to sources that are feeding “positive” vibrations into every minute of my day.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Some music can create a sense of being “liquid”. With that idea in mind, it becomes clearer and clearer that we are empty of an isolated self.