Electronic musician, producer, arranger, sound designer, DJ and teacher, Daniele Vantaggio has always lived his passion for sound. Class of ’87, he has already collected a series of important collaborations with artists (Deadmau5, Pig&Dan, Goldfish, Sam Paganini, Moonbeam, Reinier Zonneveld, Underher, Electric Rescue), record labels (EMI, Sony, Mau5trap, Wall Of Sound, Armada, Time, Yoshitoshi, Filth On Acid and Tronic) and internationally renowned brands (Steinberg, Arturia, Novation, Specialwaves, Midiware, Qosmo Modular, Livio Argentini). His music is supported by Richie Hawtin, Danny Tenaglia, Hardwell, Groove Armada, Markus Schulz, Cosmic Gate and the Tomorrowland team. He also participated in the soundtrack of the docufilm on Paolo Sorrentino’s series ‘The Young Pope’ aired on SKY. We had the pleasure of interviewing him.

I’m attracted to whatever makes sounds.

Daniele Vantaggio

How did your passion for electronics begin?

It all started thanks to my father, a drummer and computer technician who worked on the first computers in the 1970s (a perfect combination). My brother is a jazz drummer and I got into electronic music very early on: I was about ten years old when, on holiday at the seaside, a friend showed me some music software, and a whole world opened up to me at that moment. Then, at the age of fifteen, I received a Korg Radias synthesiser as a present. Playing it was very complicated for me; then I realised I had to apply myself and study, so I enrolled at Saint Louis in Rome.

Tell us a little about your training.

My first teacher was Luca Spagnoletti, a true giant, a pioneer of electronics. With him, for four years, I studied recording, composition, synthesis, but above all I developed a creative technique that allowed me to create a personal sound that was truly my own. I was very interested in understanding every necessary mechanism, so I dedicated myself to studying djing with Paolo Zerla and sound with Vittorio Nocenzi. Then, at the conservatory, I had the opportunity to further train with illustrious names in electronics and electroacoustics, including Giorgio Nottoli. Finally, in 2017, I completed a master’s degree in sound design and film scoring at the University of Tor Vergata.

What have been your collaborations?

My debut record dates back to 2006 (with the EP Seismography, released by Royal Tek Records). But it was with Autist Records – a German minimal techno label whose members include the great names Boris Brejcha and Kanio – that I achieved my first significant results, coming first in the Beatport charts. In 2008 an important dj, Richie Hawtin, used my tracks for the presentation of the Traktor Pro software: so I was very happy with how things were evolving, and that’s when I started performing around Europe. From then on, there were many collaborations with top artists and labels such as Armada and Wall of Sound. In 2011, however, I had my first real encounter with the world of radio (which had always fascinated me) and with my two mentors, Paolo Bolognesi and Andrea Rango, who allowed me to host a format of my own creation, ‘Wonderbeat’, on radio m2o, on the air every Friday night for eight years. Another important foreign collaboration, between 2018 and 2019, was with Deadmau5 (of the Mau5trap label) who played one of my tracks on BBC Radio. A few days later his A&R contacted me on Twitter asking if I was interested in sending more material for new collaborations; I then went in person to their studios in Los Angeles and, to my surprise, I was even offered a remix for Mau5trap (Avaritia, released in 2019). I was over the moon. A number of releases have come out with them, including on vinyl.

Daniele Vantaggio and Derrik May, Kappa Future Festival, 2014
with Derrik May, Kappa Future Festival, 2014

In your environment it is necessary to keep up with the times. Can you tell us why?

I consider myself a rather transversal artist. I like to follow the “musical moment”, unlike others who choose to focus on one thought or style despite the constant changes around them. To be honest, I don’t think there is a precise rule: after all, we listen to and make music that represents a “reinterpretation” of the styles of the past (80s, 90s) through advanced technologies and the latest software. For me, keeping up with the times means maintaining attention and curiosity from both a musical and technological point of view.

You are the founder of OGAMI Music. What do you do exactly?

OGAMI is a network of professionals who offer to young people and aspiring artists, experience and skills. The project was born from an idea I had, developed together with Jacopo Perillo with the aim of ‘enclosing’ various activities in the world of music within a single hub. We have therefore set up three distinct departments: there is OGAMI Studio, for those who want to learn more and be supported during the composition, production and publication phases; there is OGAMI Academy for those who, before or after studying at the conservatory or following a school course, want to practice in the field in our studios and attend specialised courses; and finally there is OGAMI Audio, a technological department dedicated to the creation and development of software and virtual instruments based on algorithms designed by our team.

Do you prefer to work alone or do you have a trusted team?

I don’t mind working in a group at all (I have many projects in this sense), but over the years I have learned that most of the time a good outcome depends on who you have in your team, and nowadays finding ‘true’ people and professionals is not easy. Without my production team – Andrea Roma (producer, record company and publisher), Francesco Pierguidi (our sound engineer specialising in mixing and mastering), Giulio di Gimberardino (young producer and guitarist), Vittorio Montesano (producer and radio DJ) and others – none of this would be possible. In a team we are stronger because there is more heterogeneity, and therefore more versatility. Personal projects, on the other hand, I prefer to develop on my own and then entrust them to my collaborators.

You are also a teacher. Who are your pupils?

I have two different types of students. When I teach one-to-one, my aim is to understand who I have in front of me and to try to enhance their potential by building a tailor-made teaching path; on the other hand, when I teach in private academies such as Fonderie Sonore and Sonus Factory (where I teach classes for three or six months), I try not to be the classic ‘prude’ teacher who imposes his point of view, so I remain as neutral as possible. I want to be a guide – what my teachers have been for me – and stimulate the creative side of the learner.

At Forward Studios, Rome, 2021
at Forward Studios, Rome, 2021
Daniele Vantaggio with Luca Pretolesi, Studio DMI 2019, Las Vegas
with Luca Pretolesi, Studio DMI, 2019

Do you have confidence in the new generations?

Yes, a lot. If the world of communication is changing, so must music – which is communication -. At the moment, the biggest and most highly paid artists are in their twenties (see Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, etc.). I believe in musical cyclicality: every four or five years we have to deal with big changes and it’s hard to keep up with them. There is certainly one constant, which is the regeneration of old concepts applied to new technological and social generations. I don’t really know how music will evolve; maybe tomorrow we will use artificial intelligence to compose, but it will always start with young people. Italian music is also evolving and there is no right direction to take. If you think about it, in our country, a large part of the productions do nothing but imitate foreign realities (trap from the States, reggaeton from Latin countries, etc.). But here too there is a constant: Italy is the land of poetry, melody and the song form, and it will remain so even in the future. The fashions and genres coming from outside do not belong to our background: they have forms and structures of composition that do not reflect us; they are and will be ‘fashions of the moment’. My hope is that we return to ‘playing for real’ as soon as possible. In short, less clichés and more ‘human’ music.

What is your relationship with the latest machines and software?

Quite a morbid, visceral relationship. I’m attracted to whatever makes sounds. There are times when I only make an immoderate use of a certain type of machine; other times I programme almost every sinusoid. In music I support the concept of unpredictability, a personal theory of chaos. For example, I let my state of mind determine the choice of one machine rather than another. If I experience a moment of compositional lack, the breakthrough and the idea may come to me from the sounds produced by a particular device. I’ve even developed software for it: with a set of rules, the machine starts to generate sounds, beats, etc., and this unpredictability is very useful for getting me out of an impasse. It’s a creative process that I often use, but it’s an initial phase: then I go back to a primitive form of judgement to establish what is to be kept or discarded.   

In conclusion, is there an anecdote, a curious episode that you would like to tell us?

Yes, I remember the Kappa FuturFestival in Turin. I had just finished my set and was in the dressing room with other DJs eating a sandwich in front of the buffet. At a certain point we heard the sound of a helicopter in the distance, and here comes – with a team of bodyguards – Richie Hawtin, one of the best techno DJs in the world. He was surrounded by a perceptible aura of ‘unreachability’ as he walked across the room towards his dressing room. Meanwhile, a voice was asking me (in English) about sandwiches; I turned around and it was Derrick May, considered the inventor of the techno genre and Richie Hawtin’s mentor. We exchanged a few words and he – the ‘Pelé of techno’ – complimented me on my performance, saying that I was going to be successful. I told him it was also thanks to him that I was involved in music, and then I thanked him for inventing techno. It was one of those moments that repays years of work and dedication, an essential stimulus to continue.

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