They say Im the grandfather of electro, or sometimes they say the godfather which is better. I dont feel any different. Youre the same person when youre born as you are when you die; you dont change. So when I play I dont feel Im as old as I am and apparently, young people dont feel it either, because they come and they appreciate my music. They dont care about my age and if they dont care, then I dont care either.
Rocking in his chair with laughter, 54 year old italo-disco legend Maurizio Dami (aka Alexander Robotnick) admits hes completely at ease with both his age and his rapidly expanding career as an international DJ.
When youre 80, if you look in the mirror youre aware youre 80, but if you dont look at yourself in the mirror, you don t know youre so old, he muses. Its only other people who remind you of your age, not yourself.
The reason for his late career renaissance (he took up DJing aged 53) is connected to both the electroclash/ italodisco movements and a record he made 20 years ago, which is gone on to be recognised as a clubland classic.
When I first made Problems DAmour, I immediately thought it was a killer track but at the time when I composed it, I was Italian, I didnt speak English and I was a really provincial man from Italy, he admits, So I was aware of the quality of the track but I didnt believe it would get successful at all.
Now I understand the track is timeless, because you can call it an electro track, or disco, whatever; each time a new style comes, somebody starts calling me a pioneer of the style. Now acid house is coming back again and people have started telling me Im an acid house pioneer (laughing incredulously).
Its because Problem DAmour has many elements, he continues, Its bass line recalls some acid house, its also a song with a text (lyrics) that Im proud of. I consider this track as evergreen dance track, he chuckles.
During the intervening two decades between Problems DAmours release and its eventual revival (initially via Michel The Hacker Amato) Maurizio made his living producing and peforming world music, though has lately started producing dance music again, under the guise of his new project Italcimenti. Working withhis old friend Lapo Lombardi, the pair have just released a album Under Construction, which sees Maurizio picking up where he left off in 1984.
Before I started DJing it was impossible for me to compose dance music because I live in the countryside and when I look out of my window I can see trees, and its not the atmosphere at all to make dance music, he points out.
For many years, I made totally different music, world music, for example, which matched my life much better. Though now Im DJing, Im really happy to make dance music again.
Skrufff: (Jonty Skrufff) Your new albums called Italcimenti, how much do you see it as a totally separate project from Alexander Robotnick?
Alexander Robotnick: Its a different project, sure, I made this project with a friend of mine, a computer friend Lapo. We also worked together previously but now weve focused it around a joke about italo-disco. Because as you know, italo-disco is in fashion at the moment, pretty much everywhere except in Italy where its still largely discredited because its long been considered too commercial. I also felt like that personally for many years, though now Ive discovered good underground tracks.
We got the idea to make some new italo-disco tracks but its not the time to remake the same stuff from the 80s. Italcimenti is a play on words; cimento means cement and Italcementi is a famous brand of cement. Cimento is also means to try and do something, hence its a word joke.
Skrufff: Italo-disco is currently fashionable rather like electroclash was (AR: yes,), are you happy to be labelled with the term?
Alexander Robotnick: I never saw electroclash as being particularly fashionable music because I worked a lot in the fashion business in Italy in the early 90s and the kind of music they were into was really different. When electroclash came along, I was interested in it though when people said it was fashion music I didnt believe it because electroclash was so hard and the atmosphere was so dark. It didnt match my perspective of fashion at all. Though now they say it is, so of course, I believe it (laughing).
Skrufff: Why do you think italo/ electro/ discos become popular again now?
Alexander Robotnick: The advantage of electro-disco is that when you think about electro-disco you think about music as opposed to just a loop or rhythm. Theres something that you can also sing along to in the shower. I think thats also better for people to dance to, not just following a rhythm or drum loops. When you can dance and also listen to the music, your emotions also grow. This is why italo-disco is in fashion now because people need to listen to some music when theyre dancing, it doesnt matter what style of music it is, rather its the concept; of rhythm AND music to dance to.
Skrufff: Youve only recently become a DJ, how much has DJing taken over your life?
Alexander Robotnick: Im DJing a lot, I started one year ago for the first time in my life because many times previously I discarded this job. I didnt believe it was such a creative job though when I started to do it, I understood its not so easy to DJ, its a kind of creativity definitely. I was too old to use vinyl and I also dont collect vinyl so I decided to find a new way of DJing, my own personal style. I started with a laptop and a keyboard and I tried to combine being a DJ with being a musician at the same time. Its working now, people appreciate that I play music and sing, instead of only selecting records. Also in mixing the tracks, Im always looking to mix tracks in key, so my mixing becomes more like putting together a composition.
Skrufff: Has your life changed much since you started DJing?
Alexander Robotnick: only when I DJ actually, the rest of the time, its much the same. It changed me in the way I think about music, because when I play I can understand more what you need to play to make people dance and this is one of the reasons Ive started composing dance tracks again.
Skrufff: how do you old friends from the world music scene view your new DJ career?
Alexander Robotnick: They are a bit jealous, I think, though I didnt consciously stop doing the other music, rather I didnt get any more jobs, because world music went down recently. Especially in Italy, I stopped getting work playing that kind of music. But Im ready to start that music again at some point in the future, because everything comes back after a while. Im waiting for world music to become popular again. I also have a lot of fun DJing, to be honest.
Skrufff. Your reputation in London for dance music is growing all the time, are you getting similar recognition in Italy?
Alexander Robotnick: No, in Italy nobody knows me or calls me for gigs. Recently I played in Rome, which is the only place in Italy where electro is quite popular, and also in Milan theres a small scene but nowhere else, its really hard to work in your own country. In Italy, people still associate me with italo-disco and because italo-discos not popular in Italy, this is the reason I dont get gigs. I work everywhere, BUT Italy.
Skrufff: Are you driven to achieve huge success in Italy one day?
Alexander Robotnick: No, its not important for me to be popular or famous anywhere, I just need to be popular enough to make a living through music. This is my only job. Its a utopia to be popular enough to only work in music, but its very difficult. You need to be well known. My character means I dont need to be so popular.
Skrufff: Do you see your music as art?
Alexander Robotnick: Yeah, for me music is art, its not just entertainment, I dont like music when its just entertainment. Music allows me to feel something else, not necessarily a message, I dont like political messages in music, but something thats coming from your heart, from your soul. Not just something to entertain people.
Italcimentis Under Construction is out now on Hot Elephant Music.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)