Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.
Tommy Garofalo is known in global DJ circles for his eclectic multi-genre sets. Having shared stages with big names such as Moodymann, Gilles Peterson and Mr Scruff. Under his Turbojazz moniker he’s had releases on respected labels like GAMM, Local Talk, BBE, and S3A. He’s about to make even more waves with a stunning full-length collection Whateverism, a long player that glides effortlessly through soul, jazz, broken beats, and deep house. The arrangements on the album just ooze class, with constant changes in mood and rhythm. Here I gain a little insight into one of the most exciting and innovative house music producers around right now.
Thanks for talking to us Tommy. Where are you today and what are you doing?
Ciao. You actually caught me on my couch on a chill Saturday afternoon in Milano.
Where is it you are from exactly?
I’m from Verona, near where the world famous Cosmic Club of Daniele Baldelli was.
Can you tell us a little about where you grew up?
I born and raised in a small town of 10, 000 people in the southern country side of Verona. Fortunately a bunch of good guys were already DJing and clubbing there at the end of 1990s when I first started being interested in DJ culture.
I was very lucky because we had some of the most famous and iconic clubs of the @90s golden era, like Alterego and Mazoom, near by, and most importantly a record store called Le Disque. So I literally learnt how to play vinyl watching Def Mix DJs coming down to rock parties every weekend here and there between cities like Verona, Riccione, Milano and Bologna. Ahhh those days…
Where are you based these days?
Difficult to say lately, but I can tell you that my records and studio are in Milan.
What is the music scene like in Milan?
Uhhh Milan is very vibrant! I can definitely say that it became one of the European capitals of music like Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin… Every weekend you can find plenty of parties with international DJs and acts.
Do you consider yourself to be part of a “scene”?
I definitely think so. Back then I used to promote events, doing line-ups, in addition to playing every week somewhere, and I can say that it contributed to shape and develop the local music scene of today.
Do you play out much in your hometown?
Well, I’ve almost played everywhere over the last 17 years here, but thanks to the music releases, I been more on tour lately, spending weekends, weeks or even months between South Africa, Japan, Europe or USA.
When did you first start to dabble with music?
Well I remember that the first turntable I bought, after working summers at my brother’s car wash, was at the age of sixteen – 20 years ago guys… wow!
Were you a DJ first? Where did you play in those early years?
Yeah, one hundred percent! I was spending my pocket money on records every week, then I started DJing more and bought more nd more vinyl until I was 17 when I received an offer to play at the famous Mazoom-Le Plaisir during the season of 2004/5. It was a dream come true!
What kind of stuff did you play?
Jon Cutler’s It’s Yours
95 North’s Chasing My Dreams
Soul Central’s version of Strings Of Life
When did you make the move over to production?
After graduated in Art Direction, in Milan, and spending a year working for an events agency in Roma, while I was preparing my final project, I applied for the Electronic Music Production course aimed at international students at Dubspot Institute of New York – and I made it! That has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I was finally touching with my hands everything I`d heard about, the history of clubbing and DJing of New York; going to the Paradise Garage reunion parties at Santos, etc. Another dream coming true!!
What was your first release?
The first thing was Go Broadway.
What do you feel has been your most notable release to date?
Wanna Dance, with Javonntte.
Which one of your releases do you think slipped under the radar?
Two, on Local Talk, was one that got away.
Who are the artists from the past who inspire the music that you make?
Off the top of my head… Donald Byrd, Quincy Jones, Richard Evans, George Duke, Azimuth…
Who do you think is making great stuff right now?
I really like Jazuelle.
What kind of stuff might we hope to hear in a Turbojazz set?
These 5 would probably get a spin…
Junktion – Real To Me
Chronical Deep – Make Up Your Mind
Jimpster & Rich Medina – This Thing
Dam Swindle – You
Melé – Tribal Layers
How have you found the industry as far as releasing music is concerned. Is it an easy / smooth process?
In the last ten years I’ve worked with many different labels, from the emerging to the well established ones, and like every job it can be challenging sometimes. Especially if you want to make a living out of it.
What are the challenges you`ve faced?
The release schedules and their delays, the ups and the downs. The “No”, the feedbacks, no replies… well it can be wild sometimes but it makes you understand what works better for YOU. Self confidence, consistency, and willingness to learn, and sometimes take risks, are the keys to navigating these deep waters and be in control of your career.
How old is Last Forever Records? What artists have you had on the label?
I started it up at the end of 2019, so its actually quite young, but we are already, with my album, at the 18th release. I started with the release of Parker Madicine – with me on the very first one too under Turbojaxx moniker – June Jazzin and Monocles from South Africa, then M-Scape from Kyoto, and some good, new, Italian producers like Laesh, Ranka and Black Pomade. Sean McCabe and Detroit also brought into the family the Don of remix DJ Simbad aka SMBD. Piers Kirwan and many others will become a part of Last Forever soon!
You have released your album on Last Forever. Was it always going to be on your own label? Did you think about putting it out on other labels at all?
I actually tried to avoid thinking about the output during the creative process. It helped me to bring out what I really wanted to say and it is honestly the best thing I could do.
Then yes, some singles ended up in the hands of some players in the industry and I received some attention. I spent some time considering different options, but this body of work seemed to be too personal to not be completely in control of its release, so I just take those “attentions” as very good feedback from the A&Rs I really respect, and I listened to that voice telling me to release on my own label and get the best out of it, especially in terms of: experience, contacts and economy.
The title, Whateverism, is a word that I’d love to explore. What does it mean to you?
I was waiting to this question and congrats, you have been the first one to ask!
You see.. having studied arts I learned that every opera get its meaning from being conceived in a precise historical moment, and I think that the word “whatever” is the best one to describe the crazy times we are living. We are re-discussing everything and seems nothing has a secure answer anymore. From “What kind of music genre is the album?” to “What would be the best sound to break the market” or “What is quality nowadays?”… we gonna end up saying: “Whatever” – That’s the unsure state of mind and exciting feeling of hope where I feel free to create.
It’s rare for an album to be so complete and so packed with quality. Congratulations on that. Who are the musicians on the album that you need to give credit to?
For this album I decided to work with some of the most promising Italian musicians and singers. People like Fabio “Veezo” Visocchi – a long time collaborator and part of my other music project, called Jaxx Madicine – then Fabio De Angelis on drums, Domenico Mamone and Riccardo Sala on woodwinds and the divine voices of Sara Vanderwert and Arya.
There are plenty of featured artists too. For example Nikki O. Was she an obvious choice for you?
Yeah, I’ve dreamt about working with Nikki since her first appearances on Moodymann’s albums.
Dave Giles II. What was it like working with him?
It has been so inspiring! Dave is such a cool guy and talented artist, and he helped so much on the video’s production too – which was shot first in Venice beach – where I was staying – and then at the studios where we finalised the track and around the beautiful and vibrant neighbourhoods of LA.
What role did you play musically on the album tracks? Are you a musician and what do you play?
I basically wrote, produced and arranged the whole album, but I don’t consider myself a musician. I like to program drums, play some chord progressions and synths, but the arrangement is my favourite part – as it should be for the most of the producers. The target with the album was to realize my ideas as best as possible, and sharing and working with my closest musician friends was the turning point!
Lemme tell you… sometimes producers, or musicians, are too stressed to collaborate, because of the credits, etc., forgetting how many chances they are missing out on to create something special. If we have the good fortune to bring good music to this planet, then it is a shame to sacrifice that for the sake of taking all the credit!
I have to talk about The Standard as that track comes out of the gates with a bang. Was it always going to be the opening track?
It’s actually the first track I made, when I started thinking about doing an album. I’ve always wanted an acoustic track in my catalogue even if The Standard isn’t actually a live recording at all.. we now have a secret! That’s the magic of music. You can create illusions (laughs).
Is there a favourite for you on the album or is that too hard to answer?
On its own every track is my favourite in its style. There are a lot of different flavours in one collection, and that doesn’t always work well.. but it works on Whateverism!
Did you start out with the intention that is would be such a varied collection?
I’d say yes but as said before, I also didn’t plan this album too much… I probably felt the need to take a snapshot of the last twenty years, this journey into music with all its influences.
I love the artwork. What is the story on this? Who did it?
My friend, DJ and illustrator Sebastiano Urciuoli aka Robotalco, gave me this artwork a couple of years ago, and I always thought that it would be perfect for a cover sooner or later… and now, here we go!
It is going to be hard to follow up this album. Have you got some rocket in the making already?
Aahaha of course! And yeah, if there is something exciting about music production, it is that you get better with the time, so I’m not afraid at all!
What are your next goals as an artist Tommy?
I’d like to work more with singers, and collaborate with some musical unicorns from around the world, and deliver some future dance classics.
I`d love you to have the last word on this album. Tell us from your heart what it means to you.
This is for you Dad!
Turbojazz`s Whateverism is out now, on Last Forever Records.