Ahead of his performance at this year’s edition of Drumcode Halloween, we sat down with legendary Italian DJ Ilario Alicante to talk about his past achievements, Italy’s electronic music scene, and his recent move from Underground clubbing Mecca Berlin to Milan’s budding scene.
Hi Ilario, thanks for taking your time to talk to LWE ahead of the next Drumcode Halloween party at Tobacco Dock. To start things off, can you tell us how you became a DJ, especially at such an early age?
Hey guys, thank you! It’s a pleasure, I always follow LWE!
My first experience with music was when I was 15. I was in an industrial tent of a friend of mine playing various percussion instruments, from Djembe to Tablas. At one point we needed some music as a background for our jams, so I took my friend’s mother’s vocal mixer who is a singer. That was my first experience “playing” music. It was then that I decided to buy two turntables and a mixer. I ended up practicing a lot on them, until I met this guy who set up events in a club close to my hometown who offered me to become a resident DJ there.
We know you very much like to put the focus on the music itself, rather than all the things that come with it these days. How would you describe your sound? And who, if any, have been your main musical influences, whether band or DJ?
It’s definitely not easy for myself to describe my own sounds. I prefer to let the crowd do it for me, as my music mainly depends on my feelings and the flow I’m in. I don’t like being stuck in a genre, and especially don’t like saying “I’m a Techno DJ”. I love to play in different contexts, as it allows me to modify my sound and to follow my own musical tastes.
One of my main influences has certainly been Laurent Garnier. I love how his sets comprise of all sorts of music, how he creates an almost magical experience filled with energy for every single raver in front of him.
Your career has obviously allowed you to play in multiple world renowned venues across the globe. Which country has struck you the most over the past years, and why?
Over the past years, South America has truly been massive, and still is to this day. Especially countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Brasil, Perú and Uruguay. Then, of course, Italy, as it is the country where I’ve been receiving incredible love and support ever since day one. At the moment, the Netherlands are one of my favourite spots, as I love playing Awakenings and all the other amazing festivals that they have going in the country.
“Italian clubbers for me are some of the most passionate. They travel a lot for the music, so overall I do see a bright and sparkling future.”
You were born in Livorno, an industrial port city, surrounded by Tuscany’s beautiful landscapes and a small number of nearby clubs such as Tenax in Firenze and Pachamama in Pisa. You’ve also lived in Berlin, where clubbing is almost part of the city’s brickwork. Have these places influenced you in any way, and if so, what have these places taught you musically?
I’ve lived in Berlin for about a decade. Berlin gave me a lot in all those years. As you know, their underground clubbing scene is amongst the best in the world and has obviously had a strong influence on me. I had the chance to meet lots of incredible colleagues, with whom we experimented, exchanged ideas, as well as have fun times together. Yet, I had this feeling that I needed to retrace my roots and go back to the country where it all started, so 9 months ago I moved to Milan. Milan is growing at a fast pace at the moment, with lots of amazing events as well as the people who run them. I feel good now here.
You’ve been a part of Drumcode roster now for a while. Can you tell us how the relationship sparked between you two?
Adam Beyer was playing a lot of tracks of mine. We ended up meeting several times at Cocoon Amnesia, so I decided to send him some of my new tracks. He liked all of them, and he gave me the opportunity to do two EPs and some VAs … and here we are now!
Do your achievements of being the youngest performer at Time Warp and being scooped up by Cocoon at such a young age, feel different now that you’re older?
How bad is the word “older” for all of us? [laughs]
Anyways they do not feel different. Instead I remember these moments as if they were happening now. They are simply a part of my path and it’s amazing for me to remember them. They gave me the first pure boost of energy that allowed me to do what I’ve done until now.
“The venue is just amazing, I like that industrial feeling it has. I’ve always had really good gigs there and I can’t wait for this event on Halloween!”
Italy’s electronic music scene has always been strong and groundbreaking, yet hasn’t necessarily been supported properly, even with its massive achievements in recent years. Examples of this would be the closure of legendary club Cocoricó and Pachamama’s state of abandonment. What do you think needs change in Italy’s current clubbing landscape?
For me the issue is that too many promoters now are only focusing on setting up big festivals and events. Italy lost a bit of that club feeling. Lots of small clubs are not doing well because of other priorities like festivals, as I mentioned before. Previously, people went to the club because they trusted it and loved it. Customers were loyal to certain clubs, no matter who was playing. I think that the biggest mistake was promoters focussing too much on big names and lineups. I’m saying this against my own sake, but I personally think it was one of the reasons why Italy lost a bit of the real clubbing scene. Then, if you also add into the mix a lack of support from the government, you get the full recipe as to why the clubbing scene seems to be dying out.
Anyways, there are still lots of great events. Look at Kappa Futur Festival. It’s the first time that I see so many people coming from every part of the world for an Italian festival. This has to make us proud. Italian clubbers for me are some of the most passionate. They travel a lot for the music, so overall I do see a bright and sparkling future.
What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming releases or any surprises in store for Drumcode Halloween?
I’ve had to rebuild my studio, since I moved from Berlin to Milan. Everything is set up and ready now. Once I finish the summer madness of touring and playing all around the globe, I will be back at it. I will be preparing a special surprise for Drumcode, as well as start my first solo Album!
You’ve played a few times already at Tobacco Dock in London. What can you say about the venue? Is there anything you look forward to doing in London while you’re here?
The venue is just amazing, I like that industrial feeling it has. I’ve always had really good gigs there and I can’t wait for this event on Halloween!
And lastly – thanks for your time once again -, if you had to give any advice to any upcoming DJ, what would it be?
Don’t stare at your Instagram account, looking at what other DJs are doing. Stare at your DAW and focus on making music. That is the most important thing. Don’t make the likes and posts speak, let the music do the talking.