Fabrizio Mammarella on the Perks of Collaborating and Running “Slow Motion”
A conversation with Fabrizio Mammarella about the importance of knowing the story behind a record as well as upcoming collaborations.
Words by Ghina Sabrina
For some, having your music released on your first production sounds like a dream come true because things like that don’t just happen to anybody. But for Fabrizio Mammarella, luckily enough, it became a reality and was the main reason that kept him going. Being a programmer, as he proclaimed himself to be, he is known to have several music projects under his belt. From the experimental Telespazio, deep-house filled Black Spuma, now-defunct electronic band Clap Rules, to releasing under his own name, he surely has a lot of ideas in mind. He’s also keen on giving his friends a platform within the Italian music industry by co-founding the label Slow Motion. As Fabrizio has been brought to play in Jakarta for the SAFEHOUSE’s 5th anniversary, we met up with him to have a chat about working with other musicians, his admiration to Ennio Morricone, and the importance of knowing the stories behind records.
You’ve been making music and DJ-ing for more than 15 years. How did you know that it was your path?
I’ve always been passionate about music. I started DJ-ing when I was 18, and then at 20-21 I started to make my own music. I was very lucky because my first production was released straight away from my UK label, so that gave me the strength to keep doing it and follow my passion. That’s the main reason. I quit university and I was like “I want to do this”.
I’ve never been a trained musician. I started DJ-ing and then I tried to approach music software and then later proper musical instruments, such as synthesizers and drum machines. I would say that I’m more of a programmer since I’m not classically trained, I could use synthesizers, drum machines and all the electronic stuff, but I cannot play the piano. So most of the time I like to work with musicians who can do that. I do arrangements and then we share ideas. I’m more of a computer guy.
You release different types of music under different names (Black Spuma, Telespazio, Clap Rules). How does their sound differ from releasing music under “Fabrizio Mammarella” and why did you find the need for it?
On every project, there are ideas behind it. Telespazio is more for electronic, experimental stuff that’s not 100% for the dancefloor. It’s more – I would say – space oddities, it’s like a film soundtrack. It’s more experimental. While Black Spuma is project I have with a German guy called Lauer, you can really feel his influences in the music because he’s a very good player. He has his own style so I think it’s a good balance between my sound and his sound. Clap Rules was a band we used to run together with some friends in Italy, but now it’s over. It was a full band, so we had a drummer, a keyboard player, bass player, guitar player, and I was doing the processing while we were doing it live. I was doing sampling like MPC, dub effects and mainly audio processing. It was nice because you could feel the ‘live’ feeling. It was more rock, but still electronic music with quite funky and disco sounds. That was nice.
Black Spuma is a music project that you did with Philipp Lauer whose music has elements of Balearic deep house in it – which is quite different than your other projects. Does this mean Black Spuma is a more melodic project for you?
Definitely. Because Philip is more a melodic guy. We mix both of our influences. One of the references of our music is deep house, as you said, from the early 90’s like Don Carlos. It’s definitely more melodic because of the influences from Philip who can play and is really into that kind of stuff. So we mix both the influences together, and that’s the main spirit of Black Spuma.
How did you come together and decided to make Black Spuma?
We knew each other since a long time ago, maybe about 15 years, because we used to run a record label in Frankfurt called Brontosaurus and he asked me to make a remix in 2003-2004. So we started getting in touch, he invited me to play records in Frankfurt, I invited him to play in Pescara, my hometown in Italy, and we started building our relationship. But we never made music together until 3-4 years ago. We decided to start making music together and we came up with the name “Black Spuma” and that’s it.
Aside from creating music, you also co-run the label Slow Motion alongside Franz Underwear which releases solely Italian dance music. With Slow Motion, how far does this label could stimulate the dance music scene by Italy’s local talents?
I don’t know, we don’t really want to stimulate the scene, we want Slow Motion to be a platform for Italian artists to show their musical talents. Because we didn’t have one – a proper record label in Italy for Italian artists. We didn’t want to sound racist, but we thought it was nice to have a platform for Italian artists because we have lots of interesting music. So yeah we decided to start running it in 2009, and now it’s the 10th anniversary of the label.
But, we have decided to create a sub-label for international artists, it’s called Wrong Era. We did 4-5 releases and we’ll have Sunmantra on our compilation – we got the demo from them and we want to release it. It would be a compilation of various artists and they would be on it.
At first, did you sign your friends? What did you look for in the artists you signed?
We’ve always signed our friends. For me, it’s very important, we don’t sign random artists. It’s very important to know the story behind the records because it’s not just about the marketing or business. Not at all. For us, it’s really a formal art and we want to know the story behind every record we sign. It can be a story about friendship or even food. So mainly, it’s people that we know. We got sent tons of demos through our website and email, and if we really love the music we’re going to release it. But it’s mainly for people that we know and we appreciate. It’s the total opposite from commercial purposes. We lose money all the time but we keep on doing it because we like it.
If Slow Motion could sign any Italian musician, dead or alive, who would that be?
Tough question, because we’ve released all the artists we really like in Italy at the moment. So maybe if I look for someone from the past it would be Ennio Morricone, maybe for a soundtrack for a film.
You‘ve also collaborated with producer Rodion for some tracks, including the EP “Monte Veriti” that could be described as ‘slow burning electronic disco’. What kind of direction are you going for in this collaboration?
Same story as the collaboration with Lauer. We don’t have a proper concept behind it, it’s just that we’ve been friends for a long time now and of course we respect each other so it’s a mix of the styles. He’s classically trained, he studied piano at the Vatican in Rome so he knows how to play. We just take it very easily, we get along in the studio, we start recording and it’s very free. We always go with the flow.
He moved to Mexico a couple of years ago and I went there at the beginning of March, I was there and we’ve recorded some new tracks together so we’re working on them right now. It would be our next EP.
When is it going to be released?
I don’t know. First we have to finish it and then we’ll see. But I guess, it’s in late 2020. Because we have a whole schedule for the label until the end of 2020 so there’s going to be lots of releases coming up.
On your soundcloud, it is mentioned that vinyl is your favourite format. Could you tell us 5 of your favourite records to play with?
1. Front De Cadeaux – We Slowly Rot
2. Krisp – Faktor
3. Richard H. Kirk – Never Lose Your Shadow
4. Jeanette Thomas – Shake Your Body (House Shaker Version – 1987)
5. Prince – Purple Music
You’re going to play in Jakarta for theSAFEHOUSE’s 5th anniversary along with Jonathan Kusuma, Sunmantra and Derry. Have you prepared anything exciting for your upcoming set?
What I play, it really depends – my sets are basically a mix of my classic records, like the ones that I like to play often plus the new music I get every week. So I try to pick the new records that I really like and I think can fit in my sets. It’s going to be a mix of old and new stuff together. It’s a challenge every time. That’s what I find interesting about DJ-ing, it’s never a prepared set. It’s always improv. This is what I find exciting about DJ-ing, it’s a challenge.
What’s next for Fabrizio Mammarella?
It’s going to be lots of new music, lots of remixes, new music with Black Spuma and Rodion. I’m going to travel a lot in the next few months and I’m going to keep doing special projects for brands and Automat Radio, which is a web radio I direct. Lots of things are coming up.