Toronto based artist Carlo Lio has been rocking clubs around the world for the last decade. We sit down with the action man himself to find out what life is like in the fast lane.
Carlo, thanks so much for speaking with us today. As with most of my interviews, I like to start off with a little about background. Can you tell us about how you became involved in dance music, and what inspirations in particular really drew you in to underground sounds?
Well in a nutshell, the Toronto rave scene is where I really learned about this new underground world. Toronto’s scene was so massive at one point that you could find 2-5 underground raves a week all with great international talent as well as local. Back then was where I heard guys like Bad Boy Bill, DJ Dan, Derrick Carter, Mark Farina, Dj Sneak, Dave Clarke, and Carl Cox just to name a few. So I was instantly hooked. I would be a religious weekly raver, so my knowledge and love for this music and the artists behind grew very quickly.
Your productions have consistently been cited as novel, fresh, and uniquely styled. When did your production career start to really take off and what moments in your history really came to define your personal style?
Nice of you to say that. I was messing around with production software around 2001/2002. The first record I released was called “Everybody.” It was released on my label Rawthentic Music in 2006. Rawthentic Music was actually started by my best bud Nathan Barato. We ran the label together for a while before I completely took it over. Anyways, Everybody gained some big exposure because Carl Cox played it a lot. It gave me a ton of confidence, which made me say to myself “hey, maybe this is something I can really do!” Come 2007, it was nonstop production for me. I would say I found my style quite quickly simply because I new which artists I liked, which styles I liked and which sound inspired me. With all of that in mind, I turned it into my own by 2008.
Your native Toronto has seen a renaissance in tech, techno, progressive, and house in the past 5 years. What do you feel have been the active factors in this underground uprising in North America? Do you see this paralleled in other cities in the Western Hemisphere as well, and if so, where?
Well, like me, there are millions who are on this page. It’s always the fans that make things grow and we have always been lucky enough to have that! Soldiers of the underground! I would often play 5 gigs a week in my own city, and I would see many of same faces at most them. We have the most crazy and loyal fans around and they hands down built the underground just as much as we (the DJ’s / promoters / club owners) did. Toronto is definitely one of a kind to say the least. Montreal is the only other place I’d even compare it to.
Your touring schedule is extensive, to say the least! What have been some of your favorite places to play and why? Do you have any memorable gigs in particular that were special for you that you’d like to share with us?
This is always the hardest question! There is just way too many to name just one. Ibiza is always at the top of my list, it’s the holy grail of dance music. Anyone who has ever been there knows why. An island built on this music is something truly special and everyone realizes that. I also really love South America, almost ALL of it. The people are super passionate about this music and I really feel a unique bond down with my fans down there. I have to say my hometown Toronto because still up until this day, I have had some of my favourite parties there. I’ll end it with Italy. Everyone who knows Italians knows they are crazy! They are hands down one of the top crowds to play for.
A question I’ve commonly discussed with a lot of DJs lately is the budding and emergence of new cultural scenes in the underground. Your home Toronto, as previously mentioned, has definitely made it’s mark in North America, but have your travels enlightened you to any other new and emerging markets? What do you think about global trends in dance music at the moment is attributing to the birth of these new underground hubs?
Well for me personally, yes, there are always new and emerging markets in every place. It’s the cycle and nature of this scene. This is something that is supposed to happen. I always choose to embrace it because it can only be better for dance music and its growth. Some choose to do the opposite, but hey who are we to judge? Clearly this is something that is getting bigger and bigger and nobody has the power to stop it! Yes these trends definitely play a role in the birth of new hubs. It’s not just music that one may find this scene anymore. There are a lot of connecting factors that can lead people to the music. For example, someone these days may here an EDM track on a television commercial and look it up, and now this person discovered EDM. Through EDM they may find more of the underground stuff and will start liking techno.
Do you find life on the road to be inspiring for your music? What in particular about the DJ lifestyle can one see imprinted in your songs?
Absolutely!! How can it not be? New place everyday, meeting new people, eating great foods, experiencing new cultures. It doesn’t end! My music has a lot to do with where I have been and what I’ve seen and experienced. According to my fans, one element that is in all my tracks is “SOUL,” and I completely agree. Whether it’s a house track or a banging techno track; it all has soul and emotion.
Aside from heavy sessions of performance and production, the modern role of the DJ/producer has more and more been developed into a social media and online presence as well. What are your thoughts on that, and how have you managed to make your mark in this now crucial aspect of the industry?
Now with the popularity of being a dj or producer, clearly social media has become a must and a new way to promote yourself and get your name out there. Do I think it’s crucial these days? Yes! Are there still people who keep it old school and don’t use social media at all? Yes! Me personally, I have always been into social media before all this, so I guess the next step to incorporate it with my dj/producer persona was an easy fix. Literally up until very recently I have been managing to do it 100% myself, but as my tour schedule has become more crazy, I have hired a little help with certain things. Regardless I am still on it all the time, it’s just for more accurate consistency.
Time for some tech! What is your current studio setup like? Do you have any pieces of gear or software that you can’t live without? Any new gear that you’re currently excited about?
My current set is pretty simple. It’s an iMac, UAD Apollo sound card and Maschine. This is basically it. As much as I love outboard stuff, I’m not much of a gear head. I’ve always been more of a digital style producer. I’m a big fan of the Rob Papen stuff, old and new as well as the sound toys plugins. However I am very excited about all of the new Roland gear! I’ve heard great things about them, so I think this is something I will look more into.
Rawthentic Music, your imprint with fellow collaborator Nathan Barato, has been going strong now since 2006. What is your vision behind the label, and what do you aim to represent with your releases?
A lot of people still get confused about this so I’ll state it once again hehe. Nathan originally started the label with his brother in 2006, I bought into it around 2008, and then I completely took over it around 2010. So as of now, it’s only me. The vision was simple. Release quality music from artists that I love, big or small. This was never a label to make money, it was a label built out of love.
What music has you excited at the moment? Any new artists, styles, and production work that’s currently making you buzz?
I’ve always been a techno head, but the past year or two, I have really started to dig the stripped down raw funky warehouse techno that has been emerging. To me it sounds like the techno I grew up on years ago, but better quality. Artists like Truncate, Dj Hyperactive, Markus Sukat, and Andre Kronert really keep my ears happy.
What’s currently in store for Carlo Lio for the rest of 2014? Do you have any upcoming releases, shows, or collaborations in the works you’d like to share with us? Any new secrets we should know about?
Shows yes, there is a ton coming up, I have a stacked summer. I’m really excited about the festivals I am playing like Balaton Sound and Barrakud. I’ll be in and out of Ibiza a lot, which is always exciting. This years residency with SUARA @ BOOOM and of course, Marco Carola’s MUSIC ON. Also happy to be a part of REVERSE’s new night. The throw insane jams in Madrid!
As for releases, I have just signed a new EP to Dubfire’s label, SCI+TEC, which will be out mid to end of July. I also have a remixes on Dj Sneak’s label “I’m a House Gangster” and “WOW recordings.” Also currently working on some fresh new music for John Digweed’s BEDROCK, Carl Cox’s INTEC and Nicole Moudaber’s MOOD. On the collar side, I have just started a project with my homie Paul Ritch which I am excited about as well.