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The Italian Job: 5 Steps With Riva Starr



He’s long been East London’s favorite Italian import (driving a Ferrari around Shoreditch is a massive faux pas) and now Riva Starr looks set to blow up to a much larger audience beyond the taste making capital with the release of his new albumDefinition Of Sound.

Yes, it’s all go at the moment for the man born Stefano Miele but then again it has been for the best part of the last 10 years. Having released dozens of records on a number of the scene’s most respected labels all the while running his own Snatch! Records imprint, we think it’s fair to say that the irrepressible producer has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

With a globetrotting tour schedule seeing him touch down to spin discs at hotly anticipated European festivals such Groovefest and Extrema Outdoor and his latest album in our heads and on our playlists, we pinned down the house loving techno don to take a look back on his illustrious career and share his hopes for the future. This is 5 steps with Riva Starr.


Learning The Ropes

Like many other producers, my musical journey began with the purchase of a sampler and a PC. The sampler was an Akai s-950 that I bought second hand from a random guy in Naples. I didn’t know that much about what made a good sampler in those days – all I knew it needed to do was to work and be cheap! I started with a PC and production software Cubase, which I knew from the guys who were already making tracks was the best for dance music at the time. I tried to read the instruction manuals but soon got bored and just plugged in and worked it out by trial and error. The first tracks I tried to produce were a bunch of vocal samples over random looped breaks… ( I’ve always been fond of Hip Hop, Breakbeat and Jungle) and I must have started and scrapped 50 tracks before I was happy with anything I produced. I still remember getting my first ever production ready for my DJ set. It was proud moment and filled me with a real sense of achievement. I was on my way to being a producer! I never kept those early demos but I wish I had now – it would be mad to hear them again!

Putting The Hours In

My first decks were unsurprisingly cheap ones and my mixer was an old Gemini. Being crazily into Hip Hop at that point of my life, I learned a lot turntablist tricks which put me in good stead for when I moved more into House and Techno. I’ve always been a creative mixer and found it easy to learn how to mix that particular style, although I quit the turntablism side because it’s just so time consuming and I really want to produce music rather than scratch it!

I was so keen to improve my skills that I took every opportunity to play out in addition to putting mad hours in in my bedroom. I played at all events that I could –  birthday parties, weddings and low level club gigs. I mainly played Hip Hop and Funk at the beginning but could move across any party sound depending on where I was playing. I eventually got residencies at Flakabe and Havana Club, two of the biggest spots at the time in Naples. I then started my residency at Velvet Zone , a pretty underground little spot in the city where I would play for 10 hours at a time every Saturday. The crowd were always very keen to follow my music trip and I learned a lot from that experience. 10 hours a week is a lot of time to fill. My biggest records were bought from Vinyl Addiction in Camden.

It was a tiring but amazing experience and I definitely became a better DJ because of it. I had to quickly learn the difference between just good records and good club records – which is essential – and making it work for 10 hours in a city like Naples is good training for any DJ .


Contacting Labels

After initially producing tracks just for myself and playing my them in my sets via minidiscs I then decided that if I were to become a true producer I had to get my tracks signed to a label, or at least get them pressed up and sold in vinyl stores. In those days the route to getting a record signed was either pressing up vinyl yourself and selling it to the vinyl distributor – and/or the vinyl shops in Naples – or sending it to a record label as a demo. The first track I pressed was a bootleg of Minnie Ripperton’s ‘Loving You ‘ with a wild breakbeat underpinning those angelic vocals . I pressed 1000 copies and sold them to various shops through Flying Distribution. When these did well I decided that the next step was to start getting my productions signed to the labels I loved. At that time I was buying and playing a lot of Mantra Breaks records and after managing to find out the contact at the label, arranged a meeting to give them my demos. The Madox project was born! It was very daunting for a kid from Naples but having secured my first record deal I finally felt like I was a real producer! The first production to get signed was MADOX- THE G TOOLZ VOL 1. It came out on Mantra Breaks and really opened the doors of the UK market.

Moving To London

After spending so many years producing records and DJing in Naples I felt that I was not getting the recognition or making the contacts I needed to get to the next level. It seemed to me that most of the action in the scene was happening in London. London is a big city and I didn’t speak English that well in those days so it was a massive move, but I knew that I had to take that chance to make it happen. By now I knew that I wanted to be a DJ and producer full time and so I had to go after my dream. I took a plane and rented a flat in Brick Lane with a friend of mine. Having got to London I networked like crazy to make contacts within the industry with various labels and producers whose work I loved. I worked on my productions in the flat I rented and started DJing in the UK a lot more. I got a residency at afterhours clubs such as Redlight in Old Street and my DJing paid enough money for me to rent a studio. I began to do things better and I hired a manager to take of the business side of things while I concentrated on DJing and production full time. London is a tough city to live and work in but now it’s the place I call home.


Launching SNATCH!

It was always a dream of mine from day one to have my own label and try to establish it as like one of the labels I loved when I was starting out. I started Snatch in 2010 with the first release being David Keno’s ‘Upside down’. We are now in our sixth year and nothing has made me prouder than helping a our of talented artists develop their sound. For me, pushing new talent is a priceless privilege and something I feel very lucky to be able to do. I’d like to thank each and every one of our enthusiastic followers for their continued and fervent support, they really make the label what it is. The next stage for Snatch! is to launch it as an event brand too and to push our sound all over the world – not just Europe. Watch this space!

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