Hear & Now`s Alba Sol was one of the “sleeper” LPs of the year. A mellow thing, released in April as the world went into lockdown, I think a lot of people missed it. Building from epic intros – synthetic swells of sighs and racing-heart sequences – to afro / cosmic chugs serenaded by slick 6-string licks, these are contemplative compositions, slow dancing across sun-kissed summer landscapes. Soft rock balearic beats of rolling keys and clipped jazz chords, downtempo disco, spinning, dizzy, delirious mirror-balled moments, where Art Of Noise Fairlight choruses accompany aching loved-up guitar arcs and oases of hushed harmonies do a still high morning-after-the-night-before boogie. Its bumper bumping arpeggios acknowledging an age of timeless Italian pop, while its blues are hymns to both city lights and brighter horizons. The music on the record perhaps all the more surprising if you were aware of the duo behind its very HOUSE history – Marco Radicioni and Riccardo Luchini, together being veterans of Italy’s party scene. This interview looks back – to rocking at Perugia`s legendary Red Zone – and forward to a happier 2021.
Where are you from? Where are you based? How did you meet?
Ricky: We are both from Perugia, in central Italy, and we are still based here. Despite living in the same city all our lives, our first contact was through Myspace in the early 2000s! Shortly after that, we met up at the club, Red Zone, and there, our friendship really began.
How and when did you get into house music?
Ricky: In the second half of the 1980s – thanks to Alfredo’s tapes from Amnesia and some other tapes from various Italian clubs. At that time, it was still really hard to find house records in Italian shops. There were a few magazines and articles that gave us an idea of what was going on – but generally information was really hard to find. I have a huge collection of ID and The Face from back then. The magazines themselves were hard find! I will always remember, in 1988, a local shop was playing a video on a TV in its window display – called Jack The Video. That was the first time I saw Darryl Pandy, all dressed in glitter and singing Love Can’t Turn Around and Raze performing Jack The Groove live. I was shocked.
Marco: My brother was a DJ – he started at a very young age – so my first contact with house and dance music was thanks to him. I`ve always been more interested in making music, rather than playing records, though. After listening to my brother, I started going to clubs and parties, developing my knowledge and passion.
What clubs did you go to? Which DJs were you listening to?
Marco: Mostly Red Zone – where Ricky DJed alongside Sauro Cosimetti, but also various clubs and parties in the surrounding area, like the Collective parties – where I would also DJ.
Ricky: I’ve been playing music in clubs – every Saturday – since I was 15. I couldn’t get into these clubs unless I was working, but I have worked in a lot of clubs. As far as other DJs goes, again from an early age I’ve been collecting tapes – I have 100s of them that I still keep close – Italian maestros like Moz-art, Baldelli, Beppe Loda, but also other master DJs from all over the world. I also have a collection of mixtapes from Red Zone`s 25-year run. I dug these out during lockdown and have been playing them on my internet radio show.
Did you have a warehouse scene in Italy similar to the one in London? Were there big outdoor raves?
Ricky: There was no real rave scene in Italy. The word “rave” didn’t have the same meaning it had in London. There was no need to go illegal here as the party / licensing laws are different and nearly all of the events were legal. Rave here just meant a big party.
Was there any kind of “balearic” scene in Italy at the time?
Ricky: Yes for sure. Very similar music was being played but it wasn’t called balearic. It was just dance music. In the same way that Alfredo and Leo in Ibiza were playing dance music. It was someone else who called it balearic.
When did you start DJing? Where were your first gigs? Can you remember any of the tracks you were playing?
Ricky: I had 2 turntables and a mixer – an old black BIC – when I was 11 years old. Two years later I got my first gig – a birthday party. I brought all the equipment from home – turntables, mixer, amp, speakers and records – all in a bread basket! I remember playing for sure Helen’s Zanzibar and The Night by Valerie Dore. I became a DJ long before I actually experienced a nightclub – I taught myself how everything worked.
Marco: I started DJing in my teenage years, at the same time as I started making music. My first gigs were mostly school parties or similar – sharing the DJ booth with my friend Memme. I remember playing a lot of `90s house classics – like the Ethos Mama Dub of June Mitchell`s All And All and Jimi Polo`s Express Yourself. The people attending were crazy for it! Later, thanks to the Collective parties, I had my first more important gigs.
When did you start throwing your own parties?
Marco: I`ve been involved in the organization of a lot of parties. The very firsts were the those school parties – run by my friend Sari – and the Collective events – by my friend Max. The first party I organized entirely by myself was called Country Landscape. These were a series of parties thrown in a farmhouse I used to manage – a beautiful spot surrounded by nothing but hills and trees.
Ricky: The first party I threw by myself was an eighth grade school party in 1987 – in the school gym. I videotaped the whole night.
Can you tell me more about Red Zone? Were you both involved?
Ricky: I worked at Red Zone from 1990 to 2015. That that club was so full and rich with history and emotions that it had its own beating heart and soul.
Marco: I wasn’t formally involved in Red Zone, but I did feel musically involved because Ricky used to play my music there before anyone else. It`s impossible for me to forget the first time I heard one of my tracks in there. I also had the honour of DJing in the club, once in 2013.
When did Red Zone open?
Ricky: On the 9th of November 1989.
Where was the club?
In Casa del Diavolo – a small town near Perugia.
Who were the residents?
Ricky: It was me and Sauro Cosimetti in the main room, and then Andrea Romani, Marco Cucchia, Andrea Maffei and others – who succeeded each other over time – in the alternative room.
Given the name of the party, were they inspired by Dave Morales seminal productions and remixes?
Ricky: Keith Gilles named the club in `89. He only kept the venue for a few months before moving on. I don’t think the name was so much for Morales` productions as it was for the actual Red Zone club he played at in New York.
Who did you have as guests?
Ricky: So so many. You name `em, we had them as guests – From Daniele Baldelli to Henrik Schwartz, from Paul Trouble Anderson to Todd Terje (for a more complete list of Red Zone guests please see the notes below).
When did Red Zone close?
Do you know why the club closed?
Ricky: I think that, after 25 years, its closing was simply natural and physiological.
Could you possibly give me a personal Red Zone top 10?
Ricky: It would be impossible to name a top 10, but I can give you 3 tracks which surely are part of the club’s history…
Deskee / This Is A Dancetrack
Revelation / First Power
Roundtree’s / Hit On You (Dub Mix)
I could go on for days.
Have you ever visited Ibiza? Have you DJed out there?
Ricky: The first time I went there was in 1991. I have played there a few times in the early 2000s – at Amnesia and Pacha.
When did you start making music?
Ricky: In the early 2000s.
Marco: At a very young age I studied piano and my teacher was big on pushing creativity. My very first composition was a melody called L’elefante Nel Negozio di Porcellana – I guess I was like 10 years old. I still have the handwritten musical score somewhere. Then I started to play in bands and writing songs – learning other instruments like guitar, and bass guitar – which I now use more than ever in our Hear & Now productions.
Hear & Now is quite a move away, musically, from house. I mean Ricky you’ve had music released on Ibadan and Vega. What made you make that move away from house?
Marco & Ricky: Production-wise I guess, yes, it can be seen as quite a move, but for us it doesn’t feel like one – because we’ve always listened to, and played, all kinds of music. The two of us have spent endless hours listening to all sort of records, together deciding on the music, the sound, we wanted to make. Some people might call Hear & Now “balearic” but really it embraces a lot of genres and experiences. More than anything – living here surrounded by hills and mountains – it expresses a desire, a dream, of the sea.
How did you hook up with Claremont 56?
Ricky: I DJed with Paul Murphy at a gig here, at Trasimeno Lake, a few years back – and had his contact details from then. Paul was the first person we talked to about the Hear & Now project, and when we sent him some of our early stuff, he loved it! He perfectly understood our music – and made some beautiful graphics for the releases which fit exactly with the concept of the albums.
Can you tell me more about the concept behind the albums?
Marco: As mentioned before, the musical concept behind the Hear & Now albums have been well defined in our minds after a long period of thought and research and discussion. Consequently, most of the melodies, chords and guitar solos just came out naturally. Both albums are a journey that includes recurrent themes, sounds and sensations: starting with a warm seaside sunrise – Aurora Baleare, Alba Sol, to nostalgic odes to a magic lacustrine place – Trasimeno, Polvese, to the sensation of freedom of a bird in flight – Airone, Larus, to old memories of special times on a beach – Bellariva, La Marsa… for example. We imagined a story, a lived for a moment behind every track, so the titles, which are all in Italian and Latin, have been carefully picked. Paul’s artwork represented perfectly all of this without us even having to mention or explain it to Paul, he just felt it!
How has lockdown been for you both? What is the situation like at the moment in Perugia? Are you still locked down, and clubs and bars closed?
Marco: Lockdown has been really hard. In spring there was a total lockdown, leaving your own house was forbidden and, consequently, it was impossible for us to meet up in studio so we worked from our homes as best as we could, communicating on Skype. In summer, things moved on a little, outdoor clubs and bars reopened with big limitations but since October, partial lockdowns came back periodically here in Perugia as in every part of Italy. Indoor clubs have not reopened since March so the whole dance movement basically stopped.
Can you tell me more about the internet radio you are involved in? How often do you broadcast? Has doing the radio show helped during lockdown?
Ricky: I was involved in “Radio Red Zone” during the first lockdown – March to May. At that time the radio was broadcasting 24/7 so the work behind that was huge. I dug everyday for hours into my personal mixtapes collection, mostly recordings made at the Red Zone club, and also asked some friends to record special mixes so we could offer a quality selection that would musically fit the whole day and accompany the people through those days.
Have you managed to keep creating music as Hear & Now or otherwise? Can we expect any releases from you in the near future?
Marco & Ricky: Yes. We are still creating music despite the difficulties which, we have to say, are not just about the restrictions on meeting up. For a certain period, ideas, inspiration, and mood have not always been good enough to express the right feelings and emotions that the Hear & Now project`s compositions demand. However, we are really focused and stimulated right now. We have been working on a few remixes for the great Archeo Recordings run by our friend Manu – these will be released in the coming months – and we also put down some ideas for new original H&N tracks.
You can purchase Hear & Now`s Alba Sol directly from Claremont 56.
Ame, Adeva, Paul “Trouble” Anderson, Art Department, Daniele Baldelli, Kenny Bobien, BOP (Paul Scott & Shank Thompson), Kevin Bryant, Martin Buttrich, Kenny Carpenter, Kerri Chandler, Jacqueline Christie, Cirillo, Roland Clark, Joe Claussell, Cosmo, Carl Craig, Digital Underground, Dimitri from Paris, Dirty Channels, Dixon, DJ Camacho, DJ Gregory, DJ Ralf, DJ Spen, DJ Tennis, Teddy Douglas, Dennis Ferrer, Flavio, Frost, Farley “jackmaster” Funk, Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts, Duane Harden, Quentin Harris, Larry Heard, Jennie Hopper, Tony Humpries, Terry Hunter, The Idjut boys, Jebanomano, Jamie Jones, Nick Jones, Jovonn, Francois Kevorkian, Kid Batchelor, Frankie Knuckles, Nina Kraviz, Danny Krivit, Les Negresses Vertes, Lindstrom, Loco Dice, Kimara Lovelace, David Mancuso, Vera Mara, The Martinez Brothers, Mass Production, Derrick May, MKL, Ricky Montanari, Danny Buddah Morales, David Morales, Moz-Art, Jeremy Newall, Ingela Olson, Omar S, Osunlade, Robert Owens, Pal Joey, The Pasta Boys, Dino Perera, Maceo Plex, Jimi Polo, Princess Julia, Timmy Regisford, Victor Rosado, Rub’n’Tug, St.Germain, Carlos Sanchez, Henrik Schwarz, Victor Simonelli, Soul II Soul, Jerome Sydenham, Tale Of Us, Todd Terje, Prins Thomas, Keith Thompson, Tok M, Satoshi Tomiie, Freddy Turner, Ultranatè, Frankie Valentine, Little Louie Vega, Visionquest, Michael Watford, Mr White, Wunmi, Zapology…