Mauro Picotto is like his native Italy’s finest desert, tiramisu. His nature is sweet and easy to indulge in. You know what you’re getting when it comes to the 48-year-old producer, DJ, Alchemy label boss and now-author — no substitutes or false layers need apply.
After a five-year hiatus from the dance music racket, Mauro returns with a new album, ‘From Heart To Techno’, as well as an autobiography bearing the same title, which he’ll release this month.
He’s flown to London for the day from his Jersey home in the UK specifically to meet with DJ Mag USA, where we’re gearing up for ADE. Some artists you chase for weeks to nab an interview; Mauro, on the contrary, is gracious and goes the distance for his second coming.
As we kick back over a few beers, discussing his pioneering days of groovy techno and getting up to speed on his many new endeavors, it becomes clear that one thing has remained constant when it comes to Mauro Picotto: with some savory dashes of techno sprinkled in for good measure, he’s essentially all heart.
You’re on the heels of releasing a book and an album, both with the same title, ‘From Heart To Techno’, after five years? Where have you been?
“I’ve been in fatherhood full time because I had a daughter a long time ago, and I missed that side, I missed the children. I wanted to enjoy it, and be with the family. Before, to me, the music was number one; now it’s number two. Still very high, but it’s still number two.
The children are in school, I have more free time and I felt something was missing in the music because it was all about loop and groove, groove and loop. I felt there was a gap in my side, and that’s why I’m back in the music business.
I am re-launching [my label] Alchemy and I made a new album; that is actually what inspired me to start again with energy, melody, groove and techno. The most important thing in ‘From Heart To Techno’ is I found a way to make music in different ways than others. There’s a lot of energy but there’s also emotion.”
What was the process that went into creating it?
“I felt like I was going to clubs, listening to the other DJs and all of them were playing not the same tracks, but the same sounds.”
Like the EDM stuff?
“No, even in the underground, even in the pop-y underground. It was more minimal. Actually there weren’t many surprises; still yes, Sven [Väth] is the only one, even he struggles sometimes because with vinyl there’s not so much choice. Now there’s more, but he’s still the only one who can manage to surprise me.
He’s a mood catcher. For the others it’s all about the brand. For me, the challenge is to find something new, at least something new for me. That’s why I started this new album, to try to create a track that’s like a journey around the world.
You know, it’s like when you watch a movie, you feel emotion in some moment of the movie. I felt I was missing that in the club, and that’s what I tried to bring in my album, a cinematic melody in the track, in the music.”
Would you say there’s a narrative to the album? Or, is just one sonic vibe or something else entirely?
“As the title says, ‘From Heart To Techno’ — heart you can catch emotionally, to techno, [which is] more for your legs, for your arms. To give an example of how eclectic I am, I don’t like to produce one unique or one mono sounding music like many artists are these days.
They say, ‘That’s my sound, that’s my music’. But I actually think it’s sometimes boring because that’s the maximum you can go. I like to explore more. I need to feel some emotion.”
And now some of the guys like Marco Carola, who spun your longstanding Meganite residency at Privilege Ibiza back in the day, is a king of the White Island today. How does someone like him sound to you now? Are you still friends?
“It was simple. We were friends. We were playing South America and I was doing some party there and I was meeting Marco there as well and it just became simple. I’d just ask, ‘You want to come play for me?’ We did the first party and it was in a space in Miami.
Then, Meganite party Ibiza was the same. It was just calling and saying, ‘Marco you want to play?’ And every year he was coming back, and coming back until then he realized, ‘I’m a big man, I’m going to do Music On’ … and he’s right to do it because he created his own sound.”
Would you ever go play at a Music On party?
“I don’t think my sound would fit with what he’s doing; maybe not for his room, better not for the main room. He has his own world, his own sound, it’s not the opposite but we are completely different styles. I also go and visit all of them in the summer because for me it’s an experience, but it’s also good to go listen to them. You can always learn, from watching a small DJ to a big DJ.”
Now this sound is bigger than it’s ever been, especially in America, but it’s different in America. Would you call upon on anybody specifically to collaborate, or maybe do remixes?
“I don’t know, I’m not a big fan of remixes. I think when an artist creates a track, I’m talking about a successful track, to be honest — when it’s a normal track, someone can make it better and that’s welcome. It’s always in the plan to make remixes … but I much prefer original stuff. Maybe a collaboration for a new track, it’s something that would be in the plans for sure.”
Are you going to tour the new album? Do you feel you have to tour the album?
“Yes, but I want to try to give myself time. One week a month, I know the artist life; when it’s nice you can’t say no but I still want to think, ‘I don’t care’. One week a month I want to stay home, and I want to enjoy myself.”
What about the festivals?
“I was living in Italy and I moved to Jersey now. Jersey Live, they do in July and on the beachside of the island. It’s in a beautiful location and now that I’m there, I met the guy who throws it and he said, ‘If you want, I can put you in charge of the techno stage and you’re going to take care of that’.
I’m very excited about this, and I think next year I want to move my Alchemy Festival there. I will still do the party in Italy but since I’m not there I would want to take care of this one in July, in Jersey.”
How is your album going to translate live? Obviously you can’t play an album live; some DJs do it with a USB stick, but you’re not going to do that…
“No, I’ve never been like that. I need seven to eight hours. It needs to be a journey; it needs to be a compilation. The idea is, especially when I’m touring, obviously when you go somewhere far from your hometown there’s always some fan following you because they want to hear some of the old stuff.
I don’t want to play my old stuff as it was say, 15 years ago. I want to do it with a new dress-up, like 2015, and that’s my plan in the studio at the moment. I’m working on organizing some of my most popular tracks in like a mega mix, where you will hear all of them in less than 10 minutes.”
Do you see yourself returning to the forefront of electronic music?
“My goal is not that. However, that would come if I reach my goal, which is to make my sound interesting for the new generation. It’s not that the sound isn’t interesting; it’s me, I disappeared, I wasn’t in the market for the last five years.”
Is there anybody that you could point out in the DJ super realm?
“The techno guys always have that kind of purist [attitude], and some people like techno, some people like house, some people like trance. I just like good music.”
Besides the techno guys, are you into any of today’s modern DJ superstars, say in the Avicii or the Afrojack realm?
“No, I’m sorry, I never went to listen to one of them. I can’t judge. I can’t talk. I can just say I’ve never been to one of their performances. I still like to go see people with vinyl.”
What’s the plan for the re-launch of Alchemy?
“I have already six new tracks. I always want to go in the studio now and make some new stuff because I’m playing again. I didn’t promote a tour but every week I still go play like I played for Jersey Festival and the after party last weekend.
I was in Italy, in a club with Dubfire on a Tuesday. It’s open air, it’s beautiful — anyway, when I tried the track and I saw the reaction in the crowd to the track they never heard before, to me, that is the most important thing you can do.”
What about the book?
“The book was an idea that my wife had because she was touring with me a long time ago when there was no media or web media, to create documentation of what was happening 15 years ago, or even more. She was always saying, ‘You should write a book with your new album.’
I started to write my point of view for the book; my memory, moments of my life traveling … I just started writing. I put together a proper autobiography, from when I was born in my hometown with my family, to how I developed to a DJ. I sent it to an editor in Italy and they saw it and said they wanted it.
In the end we put a CD sampler in. I did it because in Italy there’s no record shops — there’s some, but not many. I want to go to the normal crowd with my story from age 16 or 14 to 60, to explain how DJs work, which is why I chose a CD, because a CD [can be played] in every house or every car.”
In this day and age, you should put a USB stick in it…
“If you want the USB, go to Beatport and buy the real album because it’s 11 tracks and the sampler isn’t the main one … it’s the teaser.”
Words: SARAH POLONSKY