Italian DJ Rocco Rampino, better known to the industry as Congorock, hits the Ministry of Sound on December 26th with Laidback Luke. Here he talks about travel inspirations, cocaine, and playing in punk rock bands.
Date published: 9th Dec 2010
Rocco Rampino was born in Lecce, a city located in the South of Italy. By the age of 15 he was indulging in his love for punk; joining a endless list of angst-ridden noise bands. A direction far removed from his onslaught of electro-funk laden staples of today.
Rampino is LA-based DJ and producer Congorock; a DJ who embraces Twitter as a tool for communication but also one that should be not taken too seriously. His feed may be riddled with drug related comments but each should be taken with a grain of salt. “I just mess around 'cause I know lots of people (and DJs) use it, but they don’t have the balls to publicly admit it”. It’s this hedonistic side of his career that Congorock has little or no time for. So instead we talk about his travel inspirations, from Mexico to Japan, and why a film’s score is more than just mere background noise.
As an Italian artist you’re originally from Milan, but have been based in LA. How is Milan as a place for fostering the development of music? Did you find more inspiration in LA?
I started my DJ career in Milan but I am from South Italy, Lecce. Milan is the best place in Italy for music business, indeed I was working for a label when I started DJing. I recently got a place in LA so I am moving back and forth from there. I think LA is really exciting about music but relaxing at the same time with everyday life, that's why I like it. Yea I guess LA is where I can get more inspiration in a long term...
Another location that always inspires you when you pay a visit?
Japan and Mexico are definitely some inspiring places, for different reasons. I admire the dedication Japanese people put in everything they do... being it art or just work. Mexico is the place where I got my best holiday time ever, and I am really fascinated with its ancient history, arts and culture.
For a DJ, traveling is part of the job. What’s something that traveling has taught you?
Before being a DJ, I was in bands. I used to tour a lot before I was in dance music and I think the first thing I learned is being grateful to people who give me food and a bed when I am around. Sounds pretty obvious for people believing in the "rockstar" DJ thing, but I guess respect for people is the on top of my list when I am around. Of course I expect respect from other people too.
When did you first develop a strong feeling for music? When did you know you wanted to do it as a career?
I had my first band when I was 15 and I started touring and releasing records around 18. Since then I always dedicated all my time and passion to music. I was into punk bands before my first steps as a DJ. I had to quit bands after I graduated from University, 'cause I had to move to Milan because of my work and I wasn’t able to keep playing with other people. That's how I started making music by myself, DJing and after a while I realised I could make a better living from spinning records rather than working for somebody else.
How do you source your tracks?
I share tracks with other friends, look at playlists on the internet and I use Soundcloud too.
Most expensive thing you ever bid for on eBay?
A vintage bass tube amplifier for 300 EUR. Not much, but very cool item.
Due to your experience with music, does a movie’s soundtrack have a big impact on your perception of it? Do you take particular notice or specifically watch movies for their soundtracks?
Last Summer I fell in love with Vangelis, who wrote lots of soundtracks. His music is very evocative and cinematographic in general. I really liked Akira's soundtrack, Ghost In The Shell. Final Fantasy's video-game series has some crazy stuff too. Cheesy but good. When I am in Tokyo I always go buy soundtrack CDs at Mandarake; they are kinda expensive but it's a good source for inspiration and sometimes even good sampling.
What’s something that’s missing in the music industry that was there 10-15 years ago?
People actually buying records, which allows an income from releases both for artists and label.
What’s something that the music industry has that it didn’t used to?
Democracy and balance in exposure. If there's some talent anywhere, I am sure it will break through sooner or later, that's the power of the internet. I think it's benefiting the development of new styles... and gives more chances to people like me who come from places (South Italy) where there's not a real music business and a way to break through without an internet connection.
You produce your own tracks and remix others. Which do you prefer and why?
I hate doing remixes, it's very stressful and I am always scared not to like the track after the deadline. I like working on my own things, 'cause I'll take my time to decide if I really like it or not, and there's not any sort of deadline to realise it.
Best way to cope with late night/early morning sets?
SLEEP! Sleep is good, never enough. I don’t do drugs. I always make jokes about drugs on Twitter, I just mess around cause I know lots of people (and DJs) use it but they don’t have the balls to publicly admit it. So if you read stupid jokes about cocaine on my Twitter, its just a joke. In the last few months I’ve been so stressed I cant even drink alcohol!
First record you bought?
Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie, I was 12. My own X-Mas present.