Triumph over Adversity with Valentino Kanzyani

Mike Warburton spoke to house and techno icon Valentino Kanzyani about building an underground scene during the death throws of a communist regime, his undying love of vinyl, and a whole lot more.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 25th Mar 2015.
Originally published: 24th Mar 2015

Photo: Valentino Kanzyani

As one of the founding fathers of techno in Slovenia, Valentino Kanzyani has since the mid nineties helped nurture a hunger for underground dance music within his home country. As a DJ first and foremost, Valentino's three deck wizardry was central to the scene, with his residency at Ambasada Gavioli helping him galvanise a solid reputation.

His work alongside fellow Slovenian dance music pioneer Umek under the Recycled Loops moniker helped establish him as a force to be reckoned with across Eastern Europe, with world tours and foreign club gigs an inevitable by product.

Like any producer or DJ worth their salt, Valentino's sound has continued to evolve throughout his career, with his releases now a regular feature on Luciano's internationally adored house and techno imprint Cadenza.

Throughout the changes though, Valentino's dedication to DJing has seen him become one of the most sought after vinyl DJs in the underground, making his live appearances just that bit more special than most (give his live show a listen above).

It's for that reason that Stoke-on-Trent tastemakers The Night Shift have called on him to headline their second birthday at The Exchange on March 28th. Ahead of that appearance, Mike Warburton grabbed a few minutes with Valentino to discuss growing up in a decaying communistic regime, the state of Slovenian underground music, and the thrills of DJing with vinyl.

In a few weeks you'll be heading to the UK to play at The Night Shift's second birthday. Do you look forward to playing in this country? How do you find the crowds here?

I must say that it's getting better and better, both in terms of speaking about the sound I am representing and loving to play. I had some really amazing gigs over the past years and met some really exceptional people during my visits. 

It's always a pleasure to play for crews like FUSE, Art of Dark, Half Baked and WYS in London. In other cities I must point out the crew from Output Birmingham... All those crews are great music lovers, very professional and lovely people.

Leaving the UK for the moment, you were one of the major players involved in bringing techno to Slovenia in the early nineties. How did you first get exposed to dance music and how difficult was it setting up a scene in those early years?

Being born in a decaying communistic regime that was soon leading to a war was definitely not a nice childhood. So it may sound typical, but music really saved my life! If my passion for music hadn't have been there, who knows where I would have ended up, or even if I would be still alive! Things were quite complicated for me and my people especially during and soon after the war. 

But as I said love and passion for music gave me a way to follow, some sacred and secret space to hide and be out of the daily shit! I consider my self lucky already because of that, everything else was and is just a side effect or by product of love and dedication I put into my craft. 

How has Slovenian underground house and techno progressed in your career? Who of the new breed have you most excited?

The scene has its ups and downs like everywhere else, but the most fascinating thing for me is the variety of styles we had and still have for such a small country. Also the influence we had on our neighbouring countries all those years back, in the days when Slovenian techno was growing its recognition internationally. 

From the first small events in bars to the first raves and festivals in the last 23 years I've seen and done a lot. And being part of a movement from day one that had passion for music and joy of living as its first priority made me the person I am now! 

It made exceptional other artists like Random Logic, Umek, Tomy DeClerque, Ichi San, Ian F and Aneuria all working on different styles but having one thing in common - the love and passion for music.

Definitely one of the more extraordinary artist coming from the later generation is Gramatik who's proved again that with a clear vision, passion and hard work the impossible becomes possible! He shows by his example to future generations that, if you want to, you can really make it despite where you come from.

You're well known for your three deck wizardry, and using vinyl too (see him in action above). Why is it that your preferred method of delivery?

I guess it's because playing with vinyl gives you a thrill, like surfing or snowboarding, and like those it takes time and dedication to learn. When you finally stand for the first time on your feet and slide down the wave or a slope the excitement you get is unforgettable.

Starting off playing with vinyl is much more demanding and real than just starting with a software and a controller. It's like learning to snowboard on a video game simulator.

You're now a member of the Cadenza family (listen to '8.Agosto' above), how did that come about and how has the experience been for you?

Well they were searching for a Luciano double for an action movie he was supposed to film back in 2009 in Ibiza and found me as a perfect candidate! The movie never got filmed but in the meantime I took my chances and made some music and sent it to the label... It turned out they liked it and here I am now.

Haha! That's a great lesson in taking opportunities when they arise. You've stated before that you're a DJ first, producer second. But considering that you've had a lot of success as a producer throughout your career. How have you translated your experience as a DJ into your productions?

We DJs are selectors we spend our lives crafting our ears and in doing so we become more and more selective to sounds. Therefore in the production process we need our skills to create and use our intuition to eliminate, or polish our work.

Throughout your career you've constantly evolved your sound whilst keeping underground, instead of being seduced into outright commercial success. What keeps you excited about the underground?

The simplicity, and the sincerity of people I meet!

Imagine for a moment that you are preparing for your last ever DJ set before retiring for good, what three tracks would you pick to close your final set, and why would you pick those?

Well it's difficult to say what it will be then as music keeps on striking me!

Number one would be Steve Reich's 'Music For 18 Musicians', because this track is like hearing heaven coming down to earth! I'd also play the synth track on Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon' to put some age and drama to the situation, and finish up with Ravel's 'Bolero' for a grand finale!

Catch Valentino in action at The Night Shift's second birthday by getting your tickets here.

Tickets are no longer available for this event

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