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In Conversation: Sam Paganini

In Conversation: Sam Paganini

Andrew Kemp | Features & Interviews

Few techno artists can claim to have written a genuine mainstream hit, but one who can is Italy’s Sam Paganini. Best known for 2014 hit “Rave”, Paganini has been making waves on important labels like Plus8, Cocoon and Drumcode for many years, constantly refining his work to achieve an enviable consistency throughout his decorated career. A true musical devotee, Sam was always going to be an excellent addition to the Ticket Arena In Conversation series, so we were all too happy to chat with him about sunshine techno, EDM and an exciting show in Liverpool for Circus.  

Hi Sam, we’re nearly into the summer festival season now, which means techno gets let out of the dark clubs that host it for most of the year and pours over crowds as they soak in the sun. Do you prefer the warm sun on your back or the cloak of darkness when DJing?
Hi guys, yeah summer is coming! Well, it depends, the vibe is different on an open air festival so if I play with the sun I choose something a little bit different, more groovy. Anyway, at the festivals you can play in a tent, and there, most of the time, the vibe is very similar to a warehouse. The big difference is that in clubs, during the cold season, I can play for over 4/5 hours and during the summer the festivals ask for 120 minutes max sets.

You’ve been refining your craft for two decades now. As a producer, how do you keep things fresh after all these years?
The love for the music, it is a total passion, every day I listen all the promos I receive and my passion is not for electronic music only; I grew up listening to Rock, Jazz, Soul, R&B, Classical, then I discovered the electronic music. I love every kind of music, even Funky, House and Disco.

Your track “Rave” is one of the most popular tracks in the Drumcode catalogue, with 8 million views on Youtube and a full two months at the top of the Beatport chart. Would you say it is reflective of your best work, or is it the case that accolades will sometimes just fall upon one particular track by chance?
When I start producing a new track I always start with an idea, it can be a sound or a melody, or a groove - we are talking about Techno (that means dance music) so basically it’s all about a good groove, to do a groove that works good on the dance floor is not so difficult, but it’s not enough for me. I try to push the track on a different level, I try to do a “song”. I was lucky with “Rave”, it is a work that combines a hypnotic groove and a dark and sinister melody and it worked well.

Your productions have a fairly strong tech sound about them, but you actually have a background in rock music having played drums for local bands. What prompted you to transition from playing in bands to DJing? 
As I said, to me music is everything. I expressed my passion for music since the age of 5 starting playing drums, then at the age of 15 I started DJing. Back in the days 15 years ago was a really crazy time in my life, in the same night I was able to do a live concert sitting on my drum kit, and then rush to a club to play my records… in my opinion Techno is like Hard Rock.  

Speaking of your background, you’re one of a well-stocked group of techno DJs to come from Italy. Would you say that techno culture is more widespread in Italy than other European countries?
Techno is stronger than ever currently, everywhere, it is incredible how many requests are coming also from countries that you never imagine that they could love techno.
Techno now is deeper and slower than 15 year ago, many more girls love techno nowadays too!

You’re well established as one of the Drumcode family now. How significant do you think Adam Beyer and his label have been in the growth of techno over recent years?
A lot, Adam did a great job with the label, I’ve been following his work since the early years, the sound of the label has changed, obviously, but that’s the reason why Drumcode is one of the most respected and followed label on the planet. Someone can say that now it’s more melodic than in the past, yeah, but it’s still fresh and that’s the reason why the techno scene is so huge today. Talking about EDM for example, it’s not my style, but it’s not important. What’s important is that a lot of people discovered electronic music, maybe with some shitty EDM tracks at the beginning and then they jumped into the techno world. I’m really honoured when a fan wrote me “I discovered techno listening to your productions”. Then maybe he can love too the radical extreme part of techno. It is a path, a journey.

You’ve got a show with Yousef’s Circus coming up in a few weeks and then a trip to Junction 2 in London on Saturday 10th June. How exciting are the summer months to someone whose job revolves around partying?
What can i say, it is the best job in the world, indeed, but it is also a job you must take really seriously if you want to stay in the game. There are many pitfalls and it’s easy to lose your mind with success, I really worked hard in the last 20 years, I know where I came from and I don’t want to forget that I’m really really lucky.

The Circus show also features French house icon Laurent Garnier, who will also play a four-hour set. What do you make of Garnier’s contribution to dance music?

Laurent is one of my heroes, I always say that he’s The DJ. He can play every kind of music, his technical skills on the decks and his taste and passion for the music, if you are on the floor you feel that. Sometimes it’s funny to think about the difference between a real DJ and music lover like him and those poser EDM DJs…

2017 has already seen you release two new EPs, both on a new imprint called JAM. Can you tell us a little bit about the label?
It was the right time to do something on my own, first because of the busy schedule of the labels I was working for, I mean, it’s great when you are ready in the studio with some new tracks and you don’t have to send it over to A&Rs and wait for feedback - sometimes it’s really stressful. Now I have just to plan the release date, that’s it.
The first 2 singles “Desire / Mercury” and “Candy / Skin” have been very well received on vinyl and digital format, so now a new single track “Hypnotize” ft Zøe will come in July before my new album in September. I’m very excited about that new project.

Each year, a few tracks get played across festivals near and far, becoming sunshine anthems as they soundtrack the summer. Give us your best guess as to what one of this year’s batch will be.

What can I say…:-) Would be great if it were some tracks from my upcoming album. See you around! 

Sam Paganini plays at Circus on Sunday 28th May, commanding four hours in the loft on a night that also sees Laurent Garnier on the decks for a full four hours. Sam can also be caught at Junction 2 at London’s Boston Manor Park on Saturday 10th June.

Photo courtesy of Sam Paganini

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