SLOK: Music in the blood from day one
One of the many tracks that I’ve had on repeat for a while now is Lonely Child (2012) by a man who calls himself SLOK. SLOK is the alias of Alessandro Russo, an Italian producer who was born into music and has managed to establish himself as a reputable music maker in his own right, with a few albums already under his belt and releases on labels such as My Favorite Robot, One Records and Get Physical to name but a few. We caught up recently to speak about Alessandro’s life so far.
Firstly, can you introduce yourself… what’s your name, where are you from and how would you describe the music you make?
Sure, my real name is Alessandro Russo, I’m 100 per cent Italian, I was born into a musician’s family and I’ve been a sound engineer and producer of various styles of electronic, underground music for almost 15 years under few different names. For example the tech and progressive house project called “Stereonova”, which with I released a few vinyl EPs with the renowned (now sadly closed) Covent Garden records store and record label Plastic Fantastic between 2002 and 2005, but mainly I produce under the my first and favourite artist name “SLOK”. I have used this name to release remixes and original tracks on high-profile labels such as One Records, My Favorite Robot, Get Physical, SAW Recordings, Turbo, OM, Circle Music, Baroque and plenty more, including my own imprint Electronic Petz.
Being from the centre of Italy, what were some of your early local musical inspirations?
I was born in Ancona, a nice little town of the beautiful Marche region, we can say the elbow of Italy – right on the Adriatic coast opposite Croatia. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, much to do with electronic music, or any good place where to go if you are looking for new inspirations apart from Rock, Punk, a few Jazz bands that usually jam around the city, and that’s why I played as drummer in different local bands. Really Ancona and its neighborhoods are only good for relaxing!
Luckily in my parents and uncle’s living rooms there was a huge collection of vinyl from every genre, from the Jazz of Mile Davis, to the Sixties pop and rock’n'roll sounds of The Beatles, Rolling Stones to the Seventies Progressive Rock like the UK’s Genesis and some electronic bands like Kraftwerk for example, to the father of Soul James Brown, or Prince, the Italo producer Giorgio Moroder – Giorgio is actually a native from the same region where I come from and his family now produce a really great wine (Rosso Conero Moroder) – and then we also had Depeche Mode to listen to… so many artists and bands to mention!
What were the big clubs in your city and who were the most famous DJs?
Luckily Ancona is only one-hour, by car, from Riccione, Rimini and Misano Adriatico – places where almost all of the great Italian clubs are, or were like “Ethos” and then “Echoes Mama Club”, “Peter Pan”, “Price”, “Cocorico” – cool places where house music grew in Italy thanks to the greatest local DJs like Flavio Vecchi, Ricky Montanari, Ralf, Wayne Brown together with the international DJs like Dave Piccioni, Frankie Knuckles, Tony Humphries, Satoshi Tomiie, Hector Romero and many other talented guys played the new underground music, very different from what you could hear on the radio and everywhere else at the time.
So I started like this to discover “Club Culture”, taking lots of time alone my car, driving to the north to go clubbing, having fun and listening to new and rare music, dancing, asking for mixtapes from DJs, and mainly observing how they worked with the turntables. In Rimini thanks to my DJ friend Wayne Brown, from Birmingham, I started to understand and to learn some important tricks with which to produce house and hip-hop music.
Why did you decide to become a DJ?
It was naturally decided, and it was around the same time I released with the Italian label IRMA Records my first jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, break beats album, They Call It Jungle, followed by the second more eclectic one Freak 2000 just because I was looking for the way to mix my music, and my favourite artist’s music and play it around the world!
How did you make this dream become a reality?
Well it’s not easy at all with any artistic or freelance work today – I’m not only talking about the music business, and if you are not well-connected with someone that can push you because you are talented, well there are some years to stay, sit and wait, then if you’re really good for sure the only magic words I know for let a dream come are: “Work a lot with passion and be careful!”. But yes, the dream becomes a reality when someone calls and books you to play in front of a crowd that’s ready for your sound and that loves the music you produce, that’s top!
Where does your name come from?
“SLOK” is a 1972 John Landis low-budget movie, a spoof, where a human ape kills people and puts bananas peels around the imaginary town it inhabits. So when IRMA Records, Italy, sent me the paperwork for the first EP I did with them, there was the ‘artist name’ space to fill, and I hadn’t yet though about it. With the fax paper in my hand I looked at my mother and she said, ‘SLOK!’ and I asked why. She replied straight away, ‘Because when you were a kid playing at home you jumped around like that Banana Monster!’ And I said, ‘Well okay! You’re right mum, I like it!’
There seems to be a strong scene in Italy, Life And Death, yourself, Lorenzo Dada, Leon, Pirupa, NiCe7 and lots more… plus all the big clubs and festivals. What do you love most about the Italian scene?
I think on that list surely Life And Death is the best organised and strongest underground Italian music label at the moment. I really like the music they have released during the last two years and really hope to open a collaboration with their team soon! I’m totally sure that in Italy there are lots of young and talented artists and some great festivals too, but to be honest I don’t see any local scene today. What I can only see, thanks to the digital era, is a global international panoramic scene where lots of people have a great desire to produce house music, and I’m finally glad that after all of those years of work to be considered part of it!
I wish I could play again in my dear Italy, that is something I miss! I think Italy needs an electronic music radio station like there once was with Radio Italia Network! But hey, do you really want to know what I deeply still love in my country? Well, Mozzarella, pizza, pasta, wine, vegetables, olive oil, the sea, the good air, the sunshine, the countryside, the history, the beautiful girls, you know, Italy is one of the best countries in the world for those things!
In your opinion who are some of the most important old school Italian DJs?
Flavio Vecchi, Ricky Montanari, Ralf, Claudio Mozart Rispoli (aka Jestofunk) are surely the four most important and Riviera Adriatica’s old school house music and funky afro DJs. But the first DJ I ever knew of was a guy who was living in the the same building as my parents. When I was six he put his headphone on my ears… wow, it was too wonderful for me. The first time I felt the frequencies and a stereophonic mixdown, pure love, that was kind of the start for me!
When did you start to make music?
I started to make music, I mean to produce my first tracks, when I was 16 with a drum machine, a sampler, a guitar, a digital delay and an 8-channel mixer. But I never went to a music school as I was born into a musician’s family and so my parents living room was full of instruments to discover – like percussion, synthesizers, electric basses and guitars, amplifiers, trumpets, saxophones. Also, I had the chance to watch some professional engineers and musicians at work and that’s how I learned and then I spent hours and hours and days of practice by myself, that’s the only way.
You’re coming to London soon, what do you like about the city?
Yes, I will come in the south of London the October 19th, because I will play at Lightbox with Max Chapman, Russ Yallop, DJs from Studio Barnhus (Axel Boman, Kornel Kovacs, Peter Nordkvist), Data Transmission DJs (Lawrence Daffurn, Dalton & Trench, Jimmy Switch, Jack Lyons) and so I’m very excited about that. I know London a bit, I lived there for a few months in 1999 when I was recording the second SLOK album, and I also went to the Blue Note for Goldie’s legendary Metalheadz party, then I went back a couple of times also for the carnival in Notting Hill. Every time I visit I’m impressed in a different way, and I can’t wait what kind of new feelings and emotions I will have in October.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m actually busy with everything, and into compiling a new various artists album with unreleased house music tracks produced by some of the artists which I love to work with: The RealBirds (FR), Javier Carballo (ES), Santos Resiak (AR), Kirill Kirik (UA), Franck Valat (FR), Ashley Albritton (US) and newcomers like Juliche Hernandez from Gran Canaria Island and the talented female DJ Vicky Groove from Barcelona but obviously it will contain a few tracks of mine – the release date is planned for the end of November on my own imprint Electronic Petz.
At the same time, I’m working on my new album, The Fat Pasta Grooves 2012 that should see the light during 2013. I’m also starting to work on a couple of singles/collaborations with Eric Volta and Jonny Cruz. I just want to make everything happen soon – I’m even accepting lots of proposals. I’m receiving from labels to do new EPs and remixes… we’ll see. I work alone, I don’t work with any sounds engineers like many people do, so it takes time and I don’t like to release stuff which I don’t like, so I hope that I will be able to work at the same time with all of these projects.SLOK
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter