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Feature: Ivory [Interview]

34 min read

Based in Milan, Italian artist Daniel Tagliaferri aka Ivory has been at the cutting edge of electronic music for the better part of a decade. Comparable to the path of his contemporaries, Daniel has found a way to create a personal universe by exploring electronic sounds, and ultimately finding his own place in the trend-driven state of underground dance music. Fully formed within the creative confines of his Milan studio, Ivory's third microCastle project 'Persona', follows on from 2021's 'Light Through Water', a seven-track affair which continued Daniel's mission to create bold synthesizer symphonies from the tools of the club. As an evolution in his sound, the release was significantly more stripped-down and dancefloor-friendly than his label debut 'No Scale Can Resize You' yet continued to demonstrate and build on the Italian's penchant for sophisticated sound design and memorable musical themes. Moving forward, 2022 proved to be a monumental year for Ivory, with the release of his debut album 'Feelin' sitting as the highlight, a release which was preceded by the immaculate EP project 'Rain'. The year also saw the Milan resident gain further recognition as a DJ, as he continued to exhibit fresh programming along with thrilling pace and flow, in turn becoming an in-demand presence at major clubs and events throughout the world. Now,  following a string of impressive remixes to begin 2023, Ivory makes a welcome return to microCastle with 'Persona'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Ivory to learn more about the release of ‘Persona’, his studio process, inspirations, music trends, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

Hi Daniel, thanks for talking to us today. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hi and thanks for inviting me. It’s a very hot morning, everything seems to flow really slowly on days like this. Just few minutes ago I was listening to a couple of ideas I'm working on.

How has your spring been so far and what are your plans for the week?

Spring was quite busy, many gigs and a lot of studio work too. For this week I'm going to define some new tracks/remixes and I'm also preparing a set for the weekend.

You've been travelling a lot over the first half of the year, what gigs have stood out so far? And what shows are you looking forward to across the summer season?

Yeah many places and people, there are some special cities for me where every time I play magic seems to happen. London and Tel Aviv for sure, there is a great energy that comes from the people there. For the summer season I'm really looking forward to play in Amsterdam at Loveland.

Take us through a typical day when you’re not travelling, what does a day in the life of Ivory look like?

Oh well, I have to say that it isn’t something really exciting honestly. I wake up in the morning quite early, I would say 7:30/8, then after breakfast I go out for a quick walk with my dog, once back home if I'm not into an intense studio session there are so many things to manage, I'm always in touch with my agency for incoming and future shows, managing the administrative side of my job, reading and reply to e-mails, listening to promos and discovering new music, more or less it looks like a normal office job during the week. Also there are moments for housework to do and I really love to keep some time aside to read books.

You’re an artist who has always stayed active in releasing music, taking on remix projects as well as carefully placed originals, whether they be as EPs or as contributions to VA collections. How do you think this approach has contributed to your success?

I think it was basically the only thing that helped me to emerge. It’s been also a choice for sure, there are different ways to stand out in this music business, I always tried to build up strong credibility as a musician, because that’s what I am or I believe I am. I don't have a music influencer profile, I never thought to count on my image, I don’t have a big management team behind me. I think if you believe in something and in your capabilities it’s very important if you wanna reach certain goals or points in your career, it’s an everyday challenge with yourself and also channeling energies in the right direction is extremely useful. I make music because I love music and I want to work with it.

You’ve accomplished a lot across your career with releases via Innervisions and Exit Strategy highlighting your discography. What goals do you have going forward? Or a better question might be do you think about the future?

Honestly I don’t like to plan too much or overthink about my next steps and goals. Music is always changing so fast that I believe it’s better being ready and sensible to what is about happen around you, mostly in a time like this one where the DJs and producers are living in extreme exposure and the environment around them is changing very fast.

This week marks the release of your ‘Persona’ EP via microCastle which really shows your versatility as an artist. Do you ever get caught up in thinking about having to stick to a certain sound to appease the current trends?

Actually I think that the goal of every musician/producer is to launch a new trend, only in this way you can stand out, otherwise it’s just a copy. Sure it's not an easy job but it's always good to find new roads through creativity.

And to add to that how important is it as an artist to try and follow along with music trends?

I prefer to say that it’s always important to stay open to every influence in music. Follow the trends is not the evil so to speak, it’s ok too but to create something that can surprise the audience is the path you ultimately try to follow I think.

We’ve seen quite a few videos of ‘Persona’ getting played out but which has been your favorite track to play from the EP and why?

I confirm Persona also, there is a great energy from the dance floor every time I play it.

This is your third artist EP via microCastle, a label with lower output by today’s standards but with a very distinct visual aesthetic and sound, which is perhaps less dancefloor focused at times, what was it that initially attracted you to the label?

It’s always good to have a safe place to release your work,  with microCastle there is a chance and also room to express different styles and to show the versatility of your music. microCastle is one of my favourite labels because the work is not limited to the choice of the tracks, but it's also an open flow of ideas about the aesthetic and harmony of what are we going to publish.

The track ‘Leftovers’ is particularly interesting in that it was inspired by the HBO series of the same name. What was it about the series that inspired you to write such a touching piece of music?

I just wanted to bring out a sense of fragility but also balance, a way to express that sometimes it’s ok to feel fragile, or perhaps to say it better, fragility is a moment of pureness and not weakness, starting from this point you can focus on your strengths and understand your most intimate parts.

On the subject of inspiration, what role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships etc play in your productions?

Yeah totally I love to be inspired by many different things, good sources for creativity can be literally anywhere. Art in general of course but also personal experiences. It’s like when light hits a prism, from one inspired sensation you can bring out many colors to translate into music.

You also have a new track out soon as part of the first release via Mind Against’s new Habitat label, tell us about the track and how it ended up as part of the project.

I’m excited to see this track out because I know it's very long awaited. I was playing an opening set for them at Volt club in Milano and I played that track, they recognized it because I sent it to them months before and they asked me to join the VA with it, also I'm really glad to be part of it because I really like the way Mind Against sees music, and they combine the versatility of their own productions with the big name that they are.

Let’s look a bit more at production, once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you’re satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?

I don’t want to say too much about this because I think it’s useless to say that it's really important. But I will say, to create something it is a matter of patience. It’s a crucial step you need to face once the first full bounce is done, when the creative storm has calmed down, you have to wait a bit, then come back to the music and see what is working and what’s not, things to cut or simplify, usually it’s more about trimming things down instead of adding new elements.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

Putting the ideas out, jamming, elaborating on the soundscape, that’s what I love. Mastering is not for me and that’s why I work with a sound engineer.

Let’s talk about DJing briefly, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

Well, I really love it. It’s the opposite side of my job and it balances everything out. Studio time is amazing but really intimate, playing DJ sets is pure energy, an explosion. The orgasm that comes from the performance through the people's feedback it’s something inexplicable. At the same time it's something really exciting because there’s always a part of risk involved in it. You can prepare a set but actually the DJ in my opinion must always be ready to change something, switch the vibe, leading the audience through a musical journey.

How has your work as a DJ influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?

I consider myself a dancefloor focused producer, most of the time I try to make music that works on the dancefloor. I mean, I'm an electronic/club music artist and I wanna make people dance. So, yes in a certain way DJing does influence my studio work, even if I often like to approach less club-oriented music also. Otherwise, as a listener, I don’t think about being influenced by DJing, it would be really reductive, the music proposal nowadays is so wide, it's better keep an ear on everything without any preconception.

How much prep do you put into the tracks you choose to play?

As little as possible really, I collect the best music possible according to my taste and then I play it, I prefer to go with the flow during the set as I think that's more natural. I don’t like to prepare a playlist to follow strictly that's for sure, but it’s so interesting to be inspired by the energy during the show, I prefer to choose the tracks step by step. Often the track you’re playing suggests to you what the next one should be and so on.

The problem of mental health is complex and nuanced, and it is an issue to which those working in electronic music are especially susceptible. It can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic.  Talk a bit about the pressures of what you do that fans may not be totally aware of.

Competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic, I think you perfectly summarized the risk points. At the beginning I thought that this job would been more easy to face honestly. I mean, of course this is a dream job, there are so many harder and less rewarding jobs, I did some of these before being a dj/producer, but it’s also true to say that this job has a large amount of stress in it. It’s an everyday challenge with yourself, nobody can assure you the success or the keeping of the status you reached with your job, you have to accept that it can be a rollercoaster. It’s a job where everything can’t stay the same for a long time, decisions and choices have to be constantly challenged.

As a prominent artist, how important is it for you to raise awareness of subjects like ‘mental health’?

It’s crucial. Also I would expand on this and say that after the pandemic we all saw how important it is to take care of our mental health, maybe in the past it’s been something to hide, something to have shame of, a sign of a weakness perhaps, but it’s totally the opposite, I would encourage people to be conscious of their mental health and take care of it as it is extremely important.

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Almost impossible for me to pick one book, I  read something like 40 books per year and I love to watch a lot of movies at home and go to cinema too.

Maybe from the latest reads I can name “Black Boy” by Richard Wright, an intense memoir of the author’s life which is an amazing example of what it means to follow your dreams and passions against everything and everyone; or I could suggest literally everything by Faulkner, Nabokov, Kundera and Hugo, their books are pure art at the highest level for me.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you in terms of releases? Anything you can share with us?

Yeah, I did a remix of a Fever Ray song extracted from his album “Radical Romantics”, which I know is really awaited and it’s coming this summer.

'Persona' is available now on limited edition vinyl and digital via microCastle: https://linktr.ee/microcastle

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