Italy is a country that’s never been shy when it comes to electronic music. The home of some of the scene’s most dedicated, passionate and talented DJs and producers, it embraces electronic music like few other countries across the world. As a country, Italy itself has long been a melting post for different sounds and cultures — and its modern musical output is no different. Patrizio Restelli’s Castanea label serves up a firm case in point.
Established in Patrizio’s hometown in northern Italy, the label has played host to some of contemporary minimal’s most exciting names: think the likes of Topper, Pressure Point, Sedee, Birdsmakingmachine, Zefzeed and more. Under his Modbox alias, Patrizio is similarly responsible for a quite brilliant output that showcases the very best of modern house and techno. The label’s latest release sees Restelli turn to Romanian producer Nu Zau for an original EP, with the remix coming from a long-time favourite of ours, Dubtil. With so much going down, we decided to tap up Patrizio for a quick chat, while he also turned in a mix for our mix series which you can listen to here…
Hi Patrizio, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Can you tell us a bit about your history in electronic music? How did it all begin for you?
Hi guys, thanks for having me, it’s a real pleasure. My love for music and vinyl was born from an early age, when at my maternal grandparents’ house I listened to 45s by Lucio Battisti, Renato Zero, Lucio Dalla, Franco Battiato, Luigi Tenco, Fabrizio De Andrè just to mention some. The interest in the historical Italian songwriting and also for the more modern one still remains present in my daily life with listening to various contents of this genre.
The interest in electronic music instead begins in adolescence, around the age of 13-14, when with friends we listened to the cassette tapes of the 90s of our older brothers, sisters and friends with the DJ sets of the “golden era” of Italian house music. Obviously the interest in this new world made of sounds and lights was very high, but my young age did not allow me to access the Clubs which at the time dictated the rules of the game.
Where did you grow up in Italy and what was the local scene like?
I grew up and still live in a small town about halfway between Milan and Turin, where certainly still the interest in underground music is not the priority among young people and among the owners of Clubs or venues, who they think of proposing content that is mostly “instagrammable” but totally devoid of artistic content. However, I must also admit that my province, that of Novara, going back to the discussion of the first question, starting from the 90s until the first half of the 2000s had excellent artistic ideas proposed by historical staff of the area always belonging to the famous “golden era” of Italian house music. In the meantime, I too was growing up and finally joining these clubs was also accessible to me.
So after having done a little running-in in the clubs of the area at the age of 16/17, with the arrival of the driving license and the car everything changed, greatly widening my range of action, leading me to attend the best clubs and parties of the time in Italy (Mazoom/Le Plaisir, Fluid, Alterego, Tenax, Folies De Pigalle, Chalet, The Base, just to mention a few) It is precisely in the second half of the 2000s that the music proposed in the clubs changes, giving space to international gueststars who they proposed a very different sound, arousing enormous interest in me which then resulted in the purchase of the first DJ equipment. After a few years of militancy in Italian clubs I was fed up with the “usual” situations, so after 2 holidays with friends, in 2008 and 2009, in 2010 I decided to move to Ibiza to be able to work and live in a place where love and culture for electronic music was breathed in every corner of the city (unfortunately now it’s not like that anymore ehehhe).
I stayed there for almost three years starting to play in the free parties on the beach or in the villa at the afterhours in the morning after the discos close or much more simply in a small party at home with friends, it was certainly an intense period but one that shaped me a lot under the artistic plane. Back in Italy with a richer baggage, I started playing for some local situations, bringing important artists of the sector to the “Province”. My “desire to know” later led me to tour the best European clubs and festivals, with an eye for the Berlin scene that I have been attending assiduously for almost 10 years and obviously also for the Romanian one.
Are you still involved in the local scene or do you take more of a backseat? And if so, what’s your involvement?
Let’s say that growing up I dedicated more time to my work in the studio and to the label, but currently, after almost 3 years of stop, caused first by the pandemic and then in the last year by my other personal problems, which due to force majeure have pushed me away from the music, I decided to go back to work with my main passion that practically raised me.
This resumption of my artistic activity has produced various contents:
The release in March 2023 of Castanea 012 (a topic that we will discuss later in the interview) the opening of a new label, Violet Series, which will give space to a different concept than Castanea, with the release of old remastered projects, but also fresh tunes and unreleased tracks. The first EP, by Seafoam, came out on December 21st and is already giving me great satisfaction.
I’m also working a lot in the studio to be able to release at least one EP in 2023 and I’m approaching some staff to also resume club activity, but only in situations that I deem appropriate and that can guarantee me a certain artistic contribution, as I already happened in the past by collaborating with some party organisers, with whom I also made friends 🙂
Tell us a bit more about Castanea Records. What was your motivation behind starting it?
Castanea was officially born in 2014 with the release of the first EP, but the idea had already flashed through my head since 2012. First of all, the motivation to start it was certainly passion, then I liked the idea of being able to introduce my “minimal concepts”.
It was born after I fell in love with this musical trend, which at the time was not as “vogue” as it is now, I assure you 🙂 I think that the “love at first sight” towards this type of minimal music came in 2009 at the closing parties in Ibiza, where I witnessed Ricardo Villalobos’ epic set with Arpiar in the DC-10 garden; I believe part of that set can still be seen on dancetrippin.tv. I came from years of militancy at Richie Hawtin’s m_nus parties, so the minimal sound had already been inherent in me for some years, so I think my “artistic switch” happened gradually but also very naturally.
The artwork on the release is always really striking: is there a thinking behind the leaf that adorns your releases?
Thanks 🙂I’m very glad you like it. Honestly no background thoughts, I wanted to find an onomatopoeic name that could easily be traced back to a logo, so one day I was walking in a wood near my town, I came across an area full of chestnut trees, very present in the place where I live , giving me the idea of the leaf, plus the name in Latin, Castanea, I really liked how it sounded, and here is the birth of the name and the logo.
You work as a vinyl-only label, which I guess isn’t so easy in this environment. Have you guys been affected by pressing delays etc? Do you think it’s more difficult to run a label now than it was 5 years ago?
My almost 3-year stop with the releases saved me a bit from this dark period after the fire of the vinyl lacquer factory, Apollo Masters, which took place in California in 2020 and which sent the entire world production into a tailspin. Obviously also to press the CST012 and the VS001 it took almost 6 months, unlike in past years where in 3 you already had the vinyl for sale, but I was aware of the current times so I moved a moment in advance. Lately speaking with my distributor it has emerged that the times are returning to the pre-fire canons, so I hope that in 2023 we can go back to work more quickly, so I would say that the working method is the same as 5 years ago, only with longer timelines for release and often compounded by further delays.
Do you worry that with running a vinyl only label that you’re making your music less accessible to certain fans? Or is that part of the beauty?
Many labels, which in the beginning worked only with vinyl, due to these biblical timings have opted to open their bandcamp or beatport page, releasing their new and old releases also in digital version. I sincerely don’t agree very much with this company policy even if I respect it, because I find it a fallback to remedy the problem of long release times, so I struggle to give a logical and artistic sense to their actions, which I believe are moved mainly by the need to release and above all repay the investment faster…. I have remained faithful to my initial idea, releasing only on vinyl, certainly narrowing the field of action as far as buyers are concerned, but this is part of its exclusivity and beauty too.
Onto the music; can you tell us a bit about your latest record and the thinking behind it? Am I right in thinking you have Nu Zau and Dubtil on that one?
The next Castanea will be number 12 and will consist of three original tracks by Nu Zau with a remix by Dubtil. It can be safely said that almost 3 years of stoppage in the recording industry is a really long timescale. My idea was to start again in a strong and decisive way to draw attention to my baby again so I focused on these 2 artists who I consider 2 sacred monsters in the sector, Nu Zau (with whom I have already worked in 2015 for the CST003) who with his tripphie and pressing groove in recent years has established himself with his productions and his DJ sets in the Romanian and world scene. Instead, I chose Dubtil for the remix because I consider him one of the masters in completely analog production, thus giving the release an artistic “three-dimensionality” that can attract the largest number of fans possible.
We also really loved Topper’s remix of your track, ‘Halo Effect’. How do you decide on a remixer? Is it important you have a personal connection with them first?
Surely being able to forge interpersonal relationships with the artists I work with is essential, even if it is often not easy due to a very simple logistical distance, which is often filled with video calls or similar things. Everything happened quite naturally with Topper, with the first contact via email, then later we met in person in Berlin establishing a good friendship and from here the collaboration was born for his remix on my track “Halo Effect ”.
Do you make music more for yourself or for others do you think?
I can say that I am primarily a record company-producer, then a DJ and finally a producer, so starting from my passion I try to share my idea and the concept of music in the current market, so I would say that I do it for myself but above all for the other.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio setup? What pieces of gear do you lean on more than others and why?
In the studio I use a hybrid configuration, but mainly my sound comes from analog machines, I mention some drum machines and synthesisers that I use: mfb tanzbar and korg ER1 for the drums part and Moog miniatures, Waldorf XT, Prophet 6 and Microkorg for the synths, but I also use digital VSTs such as Jupiter6 and SH101, but I also have other equipment in the studio that I use assiduously, but I think keeping a little secret creates charm and interest.
Is it fair to say that your sound and aesthetic is as influenced by Romania as it is Italy? What is it about ‘minimal’ Romanian sounds that you so love?
Castanea has a very ‘Romanian’ vibe, even if I made some releases that went a bit outside this vein, such as Paradroid for the CST007 or Alka Rex in the CST005, but certainly the minimal Romanian concept is the master on my label.
Slightly different is the discourse concerning my personal artistic background, which ranges far beyond the Romanian minimal; I have contaminations ranging from minimal techno to 90s house music, also passing from ambient sounds to the deepest and darkest minimal.
If you were to introduce your music in three tracks, what would they be and why?
Soulcapsule – Lady Science (NYC Sunrise) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXHKo0lwi3U
Lucio Dalla – L’ultima luna
Can you also tell us a bit about the mix you did for us? What was the vibe you were going for with that one?
I tried to create a mood that, in my humble opinion, encompasses the sounds that I currently prefer most, with contaminations that go beyond the classic concept of “rominimal”, while still maintaining faith in my idea of minimal music. I have inserted in the central body of this podcast a strong enough selection, which brings the listener’s mind back to a fiery dancefloor situation, or in any case this was my intention!
Listen to Nightclubber 194 by Modbox here
Keep up with Castanea Records on Soundcloud and Facebook,