Photo: Press (Matisa)
Matisa has releases on Optimo, Steel City Dance Discs, and most recently Gudu under her belt, so it is fair to say that the Italian DJ and producer is progressively leaving her mark on the international scene. Her contribution to our Groove podcast is a two and a half-hour long ode to Summer, full of tunes and not in a rush to reach its destination—it’s all about the journey.
You were born in Rome and started making music early on, first learning to play the piano and then the oboe. How did you get into electronic music originally and what did your first steps as a producer look like?
As a child, I studied music and it helped me discover and explore things I did not know. However, I stopped playing the piano at the age of 13, and while I continued to immerse myself in music, I felt a void as I could no longer experience the same emotions I felt when playing. At the age of 18, my passion for electronic music was ignited when I started frequenting clubs. Watching artists perform live, captivating the audience with their music, fascinated me. Though I never aspired to be a DJ, I dreamed of becoming an artist who could perform in front of a large crowd. Fate intervened when I met someone during futsal training who left some equipment at my house. Curiosity got the better of me, and I began exploring this new avenue. I delved into the world of electronic music, buying records and eventually acquiring my own set-up. My journey as a musician slowly unfolded from that point onwards. Feeling that just playing records wasn’t enough, I ventured into music production. I wanted to create the sounds that were in my mind but didn’t exist yet. It was challenging at first, just like when I started learning to play with vinyl. I sent my first demos to Paramida, hoping for an opportunity, but I soon realised that I wasn’t ready yet. The COVID pandemic prompted me to take advantage of the situation and enrol in music courses, which were more affordable at the time. I firmly believe in the importance of continuous learning, and these courses greatly improved my technical skills. Despite facing initial rejections, the breakthrough came when Optimo Espacio decided to believe in my talent. They were the first to respond among the countless emails I had sent out. My track “Honey Comb” opened doors to a whole new world of opportunities for me.
You had picked up DJing in the early 2010s. What were your first experiences like?
My first gig took place at the end of 2013, and back then, I exclusively played vinyl records. I had no experience with CDJs and didn’t even know how to create a loop. Naturally, I was very nervous and fearful of making mistakes. However, as soon as I started playing, I wished for that moment to last forever, and I didn’t want to leave the stage. Despite my lack of technical abilities, I always made an effort to select records that shared similar wave frequencies, which really helped in developing my music selection skills. I remember when I first played I would have a small notebook near me in which I wrote down the track order. While I felt insecure initially, my knowledge of my vinyl collection was solid, and I invested a lot of time in preparation before each gig. I made sure never to step on stage unprepared. As time passed, I began to experiment with improvisation, and to my surprise, I discovered that some of my best ideas and emotional moments were born from those spontaneous performances. The experience taught me never to stop improvising, as it is where emotions truly come to life. Today, my passion for music remains strong, and I am continuously searching for music, the perfect harmonies or beautiful frequencies to incorporate into my sets. I love music from different eras, the past, present, and works from emerging artists. This allows me to keep things interesting while also paying homage to the roots and evolution of electronic music.
Music is not the only world through which you have been moving all that time: You have a master’s degree in Fashion Product Management and have worked in the industry. How do music and industry tie in with each other in your daily life and work?
After completing my studies in Political Science and gaining work experience in Brussels, I came to the realisation that office life was not the path for me. I felt restricted and longed for a career that would allow my creativity to flourish. This realisation led me to pursue a master’s degree in Fashion at Polimoda in Florence, one of the most esteemed fashion schools globally. This experience was like living a dream, and I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to my studies in English for a year. Following my studies, I immediately delved into the fashion industry and began working at Ferragamo. While I had the opportunity to contribute to art exhibitions, I still felt confined in some way, like being in a cage. It was at this point that I decided to embrace my true passion, music, and make it my life’s focus. This transformative decision occurred in June 2022. Certainly, fashion and music can complement each other beautifully, and I plan to utilise my skills to create something extraordinary for my listeners. My fans hold a special place in my heart, as they are the ones who inspire me and give my music meaning. Without them, I would feel incomplete.
You have only recently become a full-time DJ while being quite prolific as a producer. How do you manage to balance your production work with a full tour schedule?
Indeed, it is hard, but possible! In today’s music industry, the competition is fierce, and there’s constant pressure to release new music regularly to stay visible. However, I firmly believe that music is more than just content; it is an art form that requires time and dedication to maintain its quality. Every day, I struggle to resist the fast-paced demand for constant releases, knowing that rushing the creative process could compromise the excellence of my work. I am actively working to educate the people I collaborate with, my audience, and even promoters about the importance of patience and giving the creative process the time it deserves. While performing takes up a lot of my energy, I have learned to create space for production. Sometimes, long-haul flights provide me with an opportunity to explore my creativity. I also set aside specific days dedicated to production, where I can focus solely on creating music. Unlike some artists who churn out a large number of tracks in a short time, I prefer to take a different approach. I cannot produce 25 tracks in a month and expect them to sustain me for a whole year. Instead, I believe in crafting a unique story for each label I work with. Each release should be a thoughtful representation of my artistic journey and the emotions I want to convey. Looking ahead, I aspire to have my own label, where I can tell the stories of talented young artists and those who inspire me. This platform will be a celebration of creativity and passion, nurturing the growth of promising talents. My motto is “quality over quantity.”
Your previous releases saw you pick up on different genres. What draws you to work across different styles?
I know this may sound strange but I don’t love just one musical genre—the same as when I play records. Each record I play holds a unique place in my journey as an artist. While many artists aim to define their style, I don’t feel bound by that rule. I embrace the freedom to explore different genres and evolve as a musician which I think is a beautiful part of growth. I started my music production journey in 2018/2019 and I still feel like I am a young and curious producer. Creating beautiful music is my passion, and originality is of utmost importance to me. I firmly believe in staying true to my own creativity and avoiding imitating others. Embracing my uniqueness is vital because each person’s individuality is special and valuable. I am not the same person today as I was yesterday, and I don’t know who I’ll be tomorrow. This constant change and growth inspire my artistry and allow me to create music that reflects my experiences and emotions in the moment. For me, there are no limits to artistic expression, and I am on a continuous journey of self-discovery and musical exploration.
Through your Bandcamp page, you have released a slew of edits of tracks such as “Moi … Lolita” by Alizée. What is your motivation to create those and share them as standalone releases?
Sometimes, I come across tracks from the past that left a lasting impression on me, but I can’t play the original versions. So, I create my own high-energy versions and share them on Bandcamp for everyone to enjoy. I started with The Beloved’s “Sweet Harmony,” then did ATC’s “Around The World,” Three Drives’ “Greece 2000,” and as you mentioned, Alizée’s “Moi… Lolita.” These songs from my childhood evoke a positive feeling that makes my soul happy and brings out the little smiling girl in me.
Your latest release was the Tongue EP for Peggy Gou’s Gudu label. How did that come about?
I played before Peggy Gou at Fabrique in Milan last September. It was a remarkable honour for me and little did I know it would lead to an even more significant opportunity—creating an EP for her label. It started with “Tongue,” where I poured my heart into crafting the lyrics and chorus, recording my voice with a small pocket recorder and later polished it in the studio. Following “Tongue,” I ventured into tracks like “Brunela”, “Sunrose,” and “Lusia.” Each step was a journey of growth and self-discovery. This EP pushed me beyond my comfort zone, exploring new horizons in music production. Challenges are vital for my development as an artist, and this record was a significant one. Embracing challenges helps me grow. The EP marks a milestone in my musical journey, reflecting my dedication to my craft and the limitless possibilities ahead. I’m grateful for the opportunities and eager to share my passion with the world. I hope it resonates with others as it does with me.
The title track marks your debut as a vocalist. How was it working with your voice for the first time?
I’ve always dreamed of singing, but I never thought I’d start now. Singing has been a passion of mine, and my sisters can attest to that! As a child, I also took a short course in opera singing alongside piano while studying music, but I eventually stopped. However, I believe singing is a wonderful way to express creativity, and this is just the beginning for me. This is the first time, but it won’t be the last.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I wanted to create a mix that embodies the essence of “pleasant travel.” Summer’s positive vibes make it the perfect time for such a journey. The mix spans almost two hours and 30 minutes, set at around 126/127 BPM with music from the past and an unreleased track from a significant project of mine. I’m excited to include unreleased and recently released tracks from DJ friends like Clint, CC Disco, Bella, and Running Hot, highlighting the spirit of camaraderie within the DJ community.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
My dreams are to do more tours, connect with new people, collaborate with DJ friends, share music, establish a label, perform live, and eventually buy a house to store my ever-growing record collection and set up a studio. These aspirations drive my passion for music.
Stream: Matisa – Groove Podcast 389
Matisa has not shared a full tracklist but will answer track ID requests on SoundCloud.