Monday, 18 July 2016

Interview with Antillas

The Italian Luca Moretti aka Antillas is considered to be forward thinking and highly talented  producer, DJ and label owner. Who doesn't remember Damaged feat Fiora, I Will Find You feat Clannad or his remixes for Tiesto feat Kristy Hawkshaw,  Armin Van Buuren feat Trevor Guthrie - This Is What It Fells Like and many more. Luca has a  highly adventurous personality as he always aspires to be cutting edge and to break new ground. His decision to depart from the safe harbour of Armada Music and start once again his own record company called IHU Music Group certainly is not a surprise to those who follow his amazing career so far. The new record company IHU Music Group will bring under the same roof wide variety of record labels that will cover all the aspects of electronic dance music including Glamorama, Wildrun, Enforcing, 20hertz and his well known trance label IHU Music with more to be introduced in the near future. What is not widely known is that Luca is also going to be more active as he was in the past in producing various style of music including pop projects as well. Certainly with such a productive and tiring period ahead we are extremely grateful that he has found the time to reply in our questions and take us on board for a journey in his career from past to present and future and beyond. 

Interview was written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Music Journalist and radio show host at 1mix radio.


Dimitri: First of all thanks for offering me the opportunity to do this interview. It is great honor for me. It would be wonderful to go back in time and let us know how it happened and you start having an interest for electronic music. Did you start your involvement firstly as DJ and then as producer or the opposite?

Luca/Antillas: My pleasure and thank you for having me. I started as a DJ as a teenager, at the time I landed a job at a local radio and had my own show. Luckily, I had access to countless vinyls thanks to several shops in the area sponsoring us (yes, it was a while ago). After trying my hand at what we now call mashups, I decided I wanted to create my own music. I literally started in my bedroom and used to save every cent to purchase whatever piece of gear I could find; my first productions were hardstyle!

Dimitri: When was the first record that you ever released and on which label? Did you find that was hard back then to sign your first production?

Luca/Antillas: My first release was on an independent Italian label (Brainstorm) in the early 90s. Getting my track signed was not too hard; I went to the label offices with a good old fashioned demo tape, and luckily the it was immediately picked. I was asked to hit their studio to mix it – it was clearly home made, with little means. The label was so impressed with the final result and the fun we had that the owner handed me the keys to the studio so that I could work on my own music; I owe them a lot!

Dimitri: You have released amazing records and remixes for the greatest artists. Can you pick up for us your absolute Antillas Top 10 productions and Top 5 remixes you have produced and give us a short comment about each record and what this records means for you, what you remember the most from its success.

Luca/Antillas: Antillas Top 10 productions

1- “Damaged” feat Fiora: I had so much fun working with Fiora and shooting the video for this track, which was also the first single out of my album “Human Frames”.
2- “I Will Find You” feat Clannad: I would have never hoped to actually receive a clearance from Clannad, whom I have always loved. To me, releasing my first single as Antillas on Sony in 2002 was a dream come true.

3- “Adagio in G Minor”: the perfect track to open any kind of festival and let people know what you have planned for the rest of the night – epic yet quite hard.

4- “Evolution” with Dankann: “Music culture and technology allowed people to create new sounds. Another line has been crossed. This is what we call evolution. This is the evolution.” Those are pretty much words which I randomly put together; the final result pretty much sums my vision of where music is going. My wife had some fun recording that part!

5- “If I Run” feat Anki. This track is just magic to me. I had the pleasure of working with both Amba Shepherd, who wrote the lyrics, and Anki who lent her beautiful voice.

6- “The Love” with Alpha force and feat Lauren Evans. We honestly struggled a bit to put everything together, but we are all extremely happy with the final result. I think the melody is still outstanding.

7- “Route 66”: one of my best memories as far as inspiration goes – this one came while I was actually on Route 66 during my honeymoon. We had visited the painted desert and the petrified forest and drove for miles that day, the track just popped into my head.

8- “Top of the world” with Blinders and feat. Jenson Vaughan: I had the privilege of working with Jenson, who is such a stellar writer. I gained a cool track and a good friend in the process!

9- “When you love someone” with Dankann feat Laurell: This was Dankann’s project on which I then laid my hands . Again, we had the chance to collaborate with a top notch writer and a fantastic singer (Mick James and Laurell). The final result is a wonderful song.

10- “Silenced” feat Destineak. In case you are not familiar with Destineak, here’s what you need to know: they are off the wall! I loved working with them, and it was cool to also collaborate with Jenson again.
Antillas Top 5 remixes

1- Tiesto feat Kristy Hawkshan “Just Be”: What can I say. When the top DJ in the world asks you to remix the most important track of his album and you come up with a good result, well, that’s one of the best feelings ever.
2- Andy Hunter “Go”: I had such a high fever while working on this one, I just did my thing without following any rule, so much that I wasn’t even sure the result matched the standards of the time. After many years, I still think this is one of my best remixes.

3- Dash Berlin “Silence in your heart”: This was, if I am not mistaken, one of the first remixes I did for Armada. I loved that song already, so remixing it just came naturally.

4- Chicane feat Senadee “No more I sleep”: Antillas would have never existed had it not been for Chicane. I have always looked up to him, and I was simply honored to be able to remix one of his works.

5- Armin Van Buuren feat Trevor Guthrie “This is what it fells like”. It’s not everyday that you remix a track that ends up being nominated at the Grammys. Plus Armin is a legend!

Dimitri: Your first company was Motivo Label Group (which was distributed by Sony and then Universal) was a leader in Italy and the home of top acts incl. David Guetta, Fatman Scoop, Snap!, Michael Gray, Tom Novy, Lumidee, Milky, Coolio, Danzel and many more. What you remember the most from the years that you operated the labels in your group? Was hard for you to keep up with all the pressure of producing and being owner of the label as well?

Luca Moretti aka Antillas

Luca/Antillas: Of course it’s never easy to be artistic in the studio and at the same time be focused on office work and everything this entails; on the other hand, after years as a producer (I can afford to say, quite successful years), you feel the need to create something that is yours and give it a sound and identity you own. It is also refreshing to be able to sign and release not only what you actually produce, but also music from many different genres. For me, it was never hard to juggle both aspects; this has actually always been a fantastic way to interact with other artists new talent, inspiring people, entrepreneurs and icons of the business. This was instrumental in teaching me a lot, and I don’t regret a single sleepless night. Let’s also not forget that even if Motivo was originally my company, I was quickly joined by Ricky Romanini, who remained my business partner for 10 years.

Dimitri: Could artists and labels make a decent leaving in the pre-digital age and the sales of CD’s and vinyls were satisfactory enough to keep the business running?

Luca/Antillas: Are you asking me if things were harder when they were actually easier? I can only tell you that, until a few years ago, having a record label could earn people a nice living. In hindsight, all the tools we had were slow and obsolete, but if you had good records and taste you could have fun, sell records and always be ready to put your energy into a new project. Nowadays everything appears easier and more immediate, either you have a massive hit or you have to diversify and also work on all the contingent aspects – mostly management and booking.

Dimitri: What it feels to score international hits and receive gold discs about it? Does this recognition translates into more requests for remixes and dj bookings? Do you felt that the industry respected you more?

Luca/Antillas: Back in the days, you’d earn recognition regardless of how successful your productions were. People would look at the actual quality of one’s music, and that alone was enough to grant respect, constant requests and in general new business. If I look at the current market, I have the feeling that it moves more based on how popular a name is, on how many social media fans one has and on an endless torrent of releases which an artist is forced to do to stay relevant.
Luca Moretti aka Antillas

Dimitri: You are co-founder of Made in Etaly, a leading digital distributor in Italy. Why you took the decision to get involved in it and do you believe that the future format is MP3, maybe again vinyls or the industry moves towards streaming and dominance of services like Spotify?

Luca/Antillas: As you pointed out, Motivo was a leader in Italy. Together with Ricky, we figured it was wiser to create an alliance with our competitors rather than to go at war. Gathering all the labels with strong market impact and creating this distribution system together was a great idea; the system is made so that all parties involved want everybody else to succeed, and that releases can be planned in a smarter way, with no overlapping. I am quite proud to say, we created the perfect, albeit small, digital world. When we created Made in ETaly, digital sales were starting to bloom and there was no time left to lose.

As for the future, streaming is a concept still amazes me. It is fast, comprehensive and gives users total freedom over what they want to listen to. Streaming will do nothing but become an even fundamental part for labels, artists and end users. Spotify, YouTube and all the other platforms give access to so much content for such a low price, if any, and again allow the end user to be the king. These services are so powerful and rooted in the consumer’s mind that even great fashion and lifestyle brands invest in them.

I really hope vinyl actually makes a comeback because the pleasure of holding something in your hands and collecting it is priceless, plus you can actually touch what you paid for. I think it will keep the trend of the past years even if it will still be kind of a niche market.

Dimitri: Next great step in your career when was you joined the Armada Music family. What is so special in this company and you stayed and work with them for so many years?

Luca/Antillas: Even if I have been friends with Maykel Piron since before Armada even existed, I always dreamt of working with the best label of the genre I was focusing on at the time. The coincidence made it so that Armada was the perfect fit for me. I was with them for 5 intense years, which pretty much corresponded to 30 normal years, and its magic is that it’s lead by the top trance DJ in the world.

Dimitri: You released an album there called Human Frames. Are you going to release in the near future another artist album? Is this part of your plan?

Luca/Antillas: I will of course keep releasing music, and when you want to make music you will eventually end up releasing an album. Although it’s been hard work, seeing all your thoughts, feelings, what you are and believe in all wrapped up in a package. This is how I communicate with people.

Dimtri: You started under Armada your own label IHU records. Why you started this label in the first place? Is it difficult to discover tracks to release on this label and who are the artists that you believe that became known because of their exposure from your label?

Luca/Antillas: I actually started IHU Records a few years prior to joining Armada. It was born as an electro/indie/nu disco with great feedback. We tried, almost for fun, to release trance or anyhow more trancy tracks, which received fantastic and long standing support in the trance charts, so transforming IHU into a trance label was a natural step. By that time, I was already part of Armada and we all agreed on giving this label a fresh start and position it among the young labels with new talent and a fresh sound.

Yes, finding the right track for IHU can be challenging. Many producers just think that all trance songs are the same while there are actually countless shades, and only those who really get IHU’s own vision of trance made the cut and did great.

Dimitri: Are you satisfied with IHU records back catalogue so far and which releases you believe represent the sound of it?

Luca/Antillas: Yes, I am really happy with all the releases – I wouldn’t have singed them otherwise! The records I feel represent IHU at the best are the very first three tracks we released: DoubleV & Formal One – Black Hawk (big room trance, dirty and festival style); Dankann – And God Said (the perfect mix of progressive and trance) and Adagio In G Minor which as I said above is epic, hard and dark.

Dimitri: You are about to start again your successful record labels. Would you like to tell us why you think is the appropriate time to restart them and give us some info about each label and the sound that will cater for? Who is doing the A&R for them?

Luca/Antillas: There is no specific reason why I am opening my label group now, I just really wanted to go back to my roots and recreate my label group together with my wife, who also is in the music/entertainment business. This will allow me to dabble in several genres, with no limitation whatsoever; we also wanted to give new talent the chance to manage and be responsible for their own brand – hopefully this is something from which these artists can learn something about the business. Hence the idea of IHU Music Group. 

The first label is Glamorama, for which I personally do A&R and every creative/artistic decision. Glamorama is focused on house and deep house, with all its colors, and will be a channel to develop new artists like Tim Bell, who I am sure has a bright future ahead.

Wildrun is DoubleV’s brand, which the Modavian duo manages 100%. We think Wildrun will allow Vadim and Vasile to really shine through and prove their skills in electro house, trap, future bass, big room and the likes.

Enforcing is spearheaded by my friend Dankann; its sound is rooted in progressive house and will perfectly represent Emanuele’s artistic vision.

20hertz will be my own playground; we’ll focus on techno, something I always loved but never really developed on my end. The first released is planned for early fall.

Things will come full circle in September with IHU Records, whose trance, contaminated sound you know well.

But we won’t stop – new labels will be created in the next month, so stay tuned for more.

Moreover, IHU Music Group is also a Publisher with several talented exclusive writers from all over the world – Assaf, Jeremy Vancaulart, Mixail (we all know these gentleman as “the Black Sunset family”), Riccardo Derio (The Rio), Avii, Dumitru (Formal One), Vadim and Vasile from DoubleV, Emanuele aka Dankann, and of course myself! We know all these acts for the genre they usually release, but I also know they are fully fledged artists who can successfully work on a variety of projects.

Since I like to diversify, I am also about to reopen a main brand (Ten Point Three) on which I will release more mainstream music, anything that is radio friendly and has the potential to become pop.

Published on Antillas facebook
Dimitri: Of course you are great friends with Dankhan and you release always great music together. How your collaboration came about and why this friendship is so strong and do you have maybe an incident that you remember that reflects the strength of this friendship?

Luca/Antillas: Dankann and I met way back, during my Motivo days. I really liked all his demos and thought he deserved attention; we focused on his progressive house angle, even if he has the capacities to effortlessly make any kind of music, and this earned him a nomination for Most Promising Artist at the Beatport Awards in 2009. We immediately found out that we perfectly understand each other and share the same vision, so we started working together even if we live far from each other. While working together, we became close friends. About how strong our bond is, well, he just got married and I was his best man!

Dimitri: You are super experienced DJ with gigs all over the world. You played at Ultra Music Festival BA, ASOT 600 Beirut and Den Bosch, Armada Nights Russia, Malaysia, USA, Hong Kong and Taipei, Electronic Family, ASOT Ibiza and opening for the whole Armin Van Buuren Intense USA and Canada May 2013 tour. I wonder if you have figured out after so many years the qualities that a DJ should have in order to become successful. What kind of skills and abilities the DJ should have to reach your level?

Luca/Antillas: Yes, I was lucky enough to play great events and nights all over the world. What only few people know is that I started DJ’ing when I was 16 and I was actually a pretty solid scratch DJ, so much that I took part to several competitions.

I really don’t feel I have anything to teach anyone here, but here’s what I think. On one side, you have great producers who need to become DJs because fans want to associate a face to the music. On the other, you have “pure” DJs, who started as such and are extremely educated on their genre and always stick to it, offering very long sets which are an actual journey into the DJ’s part. To me, these latter are the true DJs.

There is also one third category: all the guys who are neither producers nor DJs, have no clue on how to work in the studio, can’t figure out how to use a turntable or CD player and so on but have money to spend. Seeing how much festivals overpay them is just adorable. This is how to ruin everything good that was created in the music/show business over the past years.

Dimitri: What exactly makes a successful DJ set and what is a bad DJ set according to your experience?

Luca/Antillas: It’s the audience who decides whether the DJ set is good! Based on my personal experience, I think a DJ set needs to take you on a ride from one point to another.

Forcing the dancefloor, overloading it with mashups, tracks and garbage, frantically putting together a bunch of overplayed tracks to avoid the risk of surprising the audience – that is the recipe for a bad DJ set and also what is making festivals lose their traction.

Dimitri: In which country you believe that you have played your best DJ set and what kind of reaction you have received? Have you ever played a bad set and why?

Luca/Antillas: I have wonderful memories of many places and gigs – for example Beirut, San Diego, Yekaterinburg, Tampa, Toronto, Hollywood….I really can’t pick one. Of course I played a bad set, who hasn’t? I won’t say where and when, but I played the same tracks from the previous night in a different town, thinking I’d have the same kind of audience. I had to face the truth: every audience, every gig, every club, it’s all different every time and one needs to be perfectly able to adapt.

Dimitri: The electronic music festival culture has expanded all over the world with thousands of small, medium and extra-large festivals like Tomorrowland. Do you prefer the festivals or the intimate smaller club places? Do you prefer to play extended sets or the 1hr set usually in a festival is enough to showcase who you really are?

Luca/Antillas: As I said before, an artist/DJ must adapt to the audience in front of you. 1 hour is the right time for festivals, since people know you well already and have expectations – you have to give your fans what they want! I also think, on the other hand, long sets are fundamental in clubs or events with only one headliner, as people go to smaller events especially for that DJ.

In both cases, it’s not about showing who you are rather about engaging the audience, making them dance, feel things and have a good time.


Dimitri: Your beautiful country Italy has incredible heritage of electronic music and great Italian artists have influenced what we hear today. Is there any reason why Italy and Italians are so good in producing particularly electronic music and be always at the forefront of latest styles? Who are the Italian artists or labels that you recognize them as being pioneers and make you proud of being from Italy.

Luca/Antillas: Italy is a country with a very long history, where art and creativity have always been a prominent part of people’s lives – the ups and downs of this history have contributed to inspire creative minds even more. Music is also part of the Italian DNA, so yes, we do have some amazingly talented electronic music producers, but that doesn’t stop here. Italian music has countless amazing shining stars in so many genres – think Ennio Morricone, Giorgio Moroder, Ludovico Einaudi, Franco Battiato…when you are born listening to such geniuses you start from a solid foundation.

Energy Productions, Media Records, Time Records (with whom I shared several hits, both as an A&R and as a producer), Do It Yourself, Expanded Music, and DWA Records are all labels that made the history of Italian electronic music in the world.

Dimitri: Do you accept demos for your labels? If yes what style of music and what advise you offer to the producers in order their demo to shine and stand out and get initially release on IHU Music Group?

Luca/Antillas: We make all kinds and genres of music, from club to radio friendly, so anything is welcome. My advice is to producers is: have fun and be yourself. No one cares about carbon copies. You have to be a bit crazy to be unique!

Dimitri: Finally what we can expect from you in the near future? You just did a remix on LTN latest album as Antillas. Any other originals or remixes coming soon?

Luca/Antillas: As Antillas, I have a collab on Roger Shah’s upcoming new album on Black Hole in addition to other tracks I am working on, both for IHU and for other trance labels. What Luca Moretti and his teamwork have planned is to put our hands, like I used to do, on several top projects ranging from hip hop to future bass, future pop or even pure pop. Not many Antillas fans know that, as Luca or other akas – TripleX, Motivo, Wisdome, MUTE, Plaything - I worked as a remixer or coproducer for Coolio, Simply Red, Fatman Scoop, Lumidee, Panjabi MC, Snap!, Sean Paul, Timbaland & Magoo and more. Expect the unexpected!

Thanks so much to Luca aka Antillas for answering in so much detail and with so much depth in our questions. This is an interview that I consider to be highlight for Flux Bpm Online.

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