As a music enthusiast, a follower of the scene and arts one has certainly come across one of the many early aliases, like Transitive Elements, Riviera Kidz or Deep Choice, of Italian House music mainstay Enrico Mantini, who’s been releasing music from as early as the 90s of the last decade – classy and classic Deep House music that is, nearly 30 years after it was recorded, still fresh and relevant today. Shortly Enrico released four more tracks from that period of time on his EP 1991 Unreleased Gems, after he had put out an EP 1993 vs. 1995 before, music he discovered while browsing through his archives as the demand of releasing some of his works had risen. As Enrico’s passion or addiction has been accompanying him since the age of ten, the artist has made all kinds of experiences in all fields of the music business and industry. This has affected the different music from various genres he produced as well as certain projects Enrico was involved with. Also Enrico has been taking care of labels and worked as an A&R, has been traveling the world to play gigs, is a full-time engineer at DDA Mastering and – as you can tell – his life is mostly circling around music related topics. Right after the release of 1991 Unreleased Gems Torture the Artist sat down with the artist to speak about his daily and studio routines, his early years as a producer, how he got into the scene and much more.
Torture the Artist: Ciao Enrico, tell us something about your day.
Enrico Mantini: Ciao, oh well, my days are currently made of simple things and have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. I basically wake up early in the morning and spend the first two or three hours, swimming at the pool or doing some road biking outside. After that, I’m fully awake and re-charged, ready to go to work. Usually, I’m at the studio at around 9:30 – 10 AM working the whole day as a full-time engineer at DDA Mastering. To be honest, for the last couple of years, I’m haven’t been as active of a composer, with the exception made for a crossover project. I’m working on it with a trio, where we meet two times a week. However, once I am finished with my studio job at around 7 PM, I go back home to spend time with my family and kids and either go for a walk outside or have a drink with my wife Veronica. At the moment I’m a bit far from those hectic times where I found myself immersed in prolonged studio sessions working as a producer and flying one or two times a week for gigs.
Torture the Artist: You just released your EP 1991 Unreleased Gems – four blends of pure 90s (Deep) House from your tapes archive. Of course, the tracks hit the zeitgeist but how come you did not release them back then when you produced them?
Enrico Mantini: There are plenty of tracks that remained unreleased for many years, mostly because I was so productive when I was 18/20. So when labels didn’t like the idea of a track I was already working on some new ones. My mind was really growing at the time (quite a natural thing when you’re young). I remember I used to spend 12-14 hours in the studio, sometimes even 16. Kind of an after-hours thing… All of the effort during those years lead me to collect so much stuff that I fortunately still have saved and stored on DAT tapes today. Some of them are lost unfortunately because time has deteriorated the tape cassettes, but I have been pretty lucky to preserve the majority of them. The tracks being part of this 1991 Unreleased Gems are part of this archive and include some of my early compositions. I always wanted to release them but I wasn’t able to because no label chose them in the 90s.
Torture the Artist: How did you find these gems again and did you touch them again or are those tracks basically the original versions from 1991?
Enrico Mantini: I simply found them while going through and listening to some tapes. I soon realized that they needed to be heard and definitely deserved a physical release. Since 2012, I’ve been asked by a few labels if I had something old and still unreleased. So I found myself spending several hours playing old cassettes while recording them on file, to secure my digital spare copies of them all. All tracks featured in the 1991 Unreleased Gems are original recordings and haven’t been touched, with the exception I made for Don’t Wanna Hurt where I made a small edit, cutting out a vocal part.
I only had my mind crowded by ideas and skills on the sampler.
Torture the Artist: According to Discogs your first EP under your real name Enrico Mantini was released in 1992, it is called The Maze. Does this imply that the tracks from your 1991 belong to a set of tracks that were produced way before you firstly released music or what’s the story behind all this?
Enrico Mantini: I began releasing my compositions in 1990. At the time I was 18 and had no clue on how to properly arrange a track from the beginning to the end, I only had my mind crowded by ideas and skills on the sampler. To get some help in doing what I wanted to do, I found a job in a recording studio in my hometown Pescara and started collaborating with Fabrizio, who was an arranger and engineer in the studio. I’ve learned many things from him and we funded the 707 Boyz together. I always found collaborations quite stimulating, especially at the beginning of my musical journey and that’s the reason why my early discography is made of aliases and monikers. By the end of 1991, I already had my own “vision of House” and wanted to experiment on my own, that was the time when my real name first came and The Maze was the official debut on my own Smoothsound label. I kept on collaborating with other artists at the same time, using aliases such as the Transitive Elements or Deep Choice.
Torture the Artist: In 2020 you released your EP 1993 vs. 1995 – again very classy and classic House music. Were you overly productive in the 90s?
Enrico Mantini: Yes, I used to spend the entire day in the studio and there were years (like 1992 and 1993) where I was able to release almost every month. Most of these times as a composer and producer part but also as a sound engineer sometimes. The need of going out with monikers also turned to be necessary to avoid overdoing it with my real name.
I never had a break in making music, I only moved within many other music genres.
Torture the Artist: You released quite some music from the early 90s until the new millennium, but then there is a gap of almost thirteen years. First of all, why did you take a break, and secondly what made you release music again in 2013?
Enrico Mantini: Honestly, I never had a break in making music, I only moved within many other music genres. Temporarily abandoning House music by the end of 1996 until 2000, a time when I moved to London for the first time and got completely blown away from Drum’n’Bass and Jungle styles. Not by chance I funded The Fast Runna project and released that kind of music from 1997 until 1999. In 2000 I got back into the House scene with the Riviera Kidz alias and launched later on a couple of digital labels in 2005. At the same time, I was busy touring live as a sound engineer with many Italian artists and playing bass guitar with a New Wave band that I was a part of. It always kept me busy with music.
Torture the Artist: How did you get into the electronic music scene back then, meaning what was your first encounter with it and what made you decide to become a part of it?
Enrico Mantini: Ah! Here I need to specify first that I’ve had a music addiction since the age of 10, in that time I was into Disco music and Funk, especially Electronic Funk of the early 80s. That was my first love that literally captured me. As I started deejaying in 1987, music was changing and the first House music attempts from the U.S. were influencing Italy’s club scene. The chance of being able to compose myself — only using a few “relatively cheap” electronic devices — allowed my inner dream to come true. It was quite a while that I had my own ideas (maybe I was listening to too much music at the time!) and this great chance couldn’t be missed. In 1986, I bought my first multi-track tape machine and a sampler and begun trying to translate my ideas into songs.
Torture the Artist: What piece of advice would mature Enrico tell young Enrico from back in the 90s, and why?
Enrico Mantini: I’d say “Enrico, always be yourself and listen to your heart”. I had to learn this myself over the years.
I considered myself to be lucky enough to have been able to enjoy my musical journey in full, under different perspectives.
Torture the Artist: You have been a scene’s mainstay for more than three decades. What events, cooperations, or works changed the course of your musical career or left an impact on you as an artist?
Enrico Mantini: I think that every single step I took has left an impact on my career, some were positive and some negative. But I considered myself to be lucky enough to have been able to enjoy my musical journey in full, under different perspectives, both in terms of the styles that I have been producing as an artist and the roles I played in others’ music as an engineer, a DJ, and most recently as a mentor.
Torture the Artist: You founded your own labels, PURISM and Veniceberg Records, in 2017 respectively 2016. What made you decision to found those two labels in the first place and secondly what made you found them as late as in the last third of your career and not earlier?
Enrico Mantini: The idea of launching Veniceberg Records came in 2015 through Michele Preda, who is the Veniceberg club owner. He wanted to take the club’s brand to the next level but had no experience regarding the music distribution industry. He’s always been a fan of my music and offered me to join the project both as a partner for the label and as a DJ resident at the venue. As the musical cut of Veniceberg Records is more Techno-oriented, constantly keeping an eye on what’s going on around, later on in 2017 I felt the need to also starting the PURISM label, where I could just release Deep House tracks with an old vibe. Something more pure and true to my origins. However, not everyone knows that I’m a veteran as a label owner and A&R, having been somehow a pioneer in the Italian scene during the early 90s with projects like Smoothsound, which I ran in partnership with MBG’s Gio Canepa, and also Groove Sense Records.
Torture the Artist: You produced and released music under a lot of aliases and projects. One of your first projects was the 707 Boys – actually, only one EP came out under that name, which was called Track F..K and dates back to 1990. While one of your monikers, Transitive Elements, is commonly known as the tracks on UMM, meaning Volume 1 to 3 are still played out today. However, why did you follow some of your projects only very short and others way longer?
Enrico Mantini: Like I was talking about earlier, the use of aliases was due to the various collaborations I had over the years, but unfortunately, not all of them lasted. The Transitive Elements was the longest-lived moniker, I saw different artists joining and alternating during the three-release “saga”. Some of the tracks produced as Transitive Elements got a second life in recent years, probably because their style sounds still fresh today.
Torture the Artist: Would a comeback or a revival of Transitive Elements make sense to you these days or do you rather stick with your real name now?
Enrico Mantini: I don’t have much time to compose recently so, I’d rather focus on my real name than confuse the audience with aliases, as the industry now knows who was behind all of my projects, it wouldn’t help in my opinion. If I was still prolific as I was at 20, that would make more sense… however, in 2014 I made a nice comeback of my Deep Choice alias, one that I used in the early 90s on the MBG International label, but without my original partners (which are currently doing completely different things in life) it wasn’t the same moreover I had to do everything myself. Basically using the alias was kind of useless, also because everyone knew it was me behind it, at least the ones who consistently follow me.
Torture the Artist: A lot of (younger) artists come up with monikers to release music while older artists just release under their real name, do you think it’s a process of maturing to do so, and what was the crucial point for you personally to release music mainly under Enrico Mantini?
Enrico Mantini: Yeah, it is also something related to maturing as an artist, feeling more confident in what you’re doing, and finally ready to put your face on it. At least that was my experience.
Remixing a song is a delicate process that should improve it but this rarely happens nowadays, I mostly find variants to tracks that are meaningless to my ears.
Torture the Artist: It is evident that you produce mainly on your own and that there are – compared original tracks – barely remixes from you. What’s the reason for both, do you preferably work on your own and do not find it challenging or interesting enough to take on remix duties?
Enrico Mantini: No, actually I think remixing could be very intriguing. The thing is that the remix concept has moved far away from what it was in the past. Most of the artists simply work on tracks that have nothing to do with the originals, no elements, no voices, nothing suggesting the original track they reworked, but they still called them remixes. This makes the art of remixing somewhat lacking and uninteresting from my point of view. Also remixing a song is a delicate process that should improve it but this rarely happens nowadays, I mostly find variants to tracks that are meaningless to my ears.
Torture the Artist: If you could sit in with any producer in the studio, who would that be, and why?
Enrico Mantini: I honestly have no preferences in my music scene but, I would definitely love to sit in the studio with a legend like Herbie Hancock. That would be a real dream for me.
Torture the Artist: What kind of track would you like to produce but have not?
Enrico Mantini: I would like to compose something completely free, unconditioned, and different from what I’ve done up until the present. I’m currently working on it with my partners (in crime), through the previously mentioned trio project, so, expect to hear something soon to come out of my spectrum…
Inspiration is something happening to me when I’m doing the most disparate things so, I rarely sit down in the studio looking for it.
Torture the Artist: As a producer for more than three decades, how do you overcome these moments when being creatively stuck with a track? Do you have any routines or equipment that you turn to in these situations to become inspired again or find another/ different approach to the track?
Enrico Mantini: Getting stuck with creativity is something that can sometimes happen. In my case, there isn’t anything to solve it other than leaving what I’m doing, getting out of the studio for a day, or more if needed until I get inspired again. Inspiration is something happening to me when I’m doing the most disparate things so, I rarely sit down in the studio looking for it. I find it useful instead to record audio notes on my mobile while whistling a melody or singing a bass line that comes to my mind. I will get back to them when I’m in front of my MPC. I personally don’t use synth arpeggiators or random sequence generators to get help or inspiration. The idea must naturally come to my mind first, then I find a way to translate it into music.
Torture the Artist: What would be a musical or studio extravagance you would pay for if you were very wealthy?
Enrico Mantini: It would be recording a track, that I previously composed on my MPC, with a complete orchestra. Maybe it will happen someday!
Torture the Artist: What track, either one of your own or a foreign track, comes close to be as delicious as your favorite food dish?
Enrico Mantini: Nice question. It’s hard to answer for me. Basically, because I’d have too many tracks in my mind which I consider as delicious as my favorite food dishes (even here I don’t have only one). Making it simple I can just name you Get Infatuation, Get Into Da Muzik and Try To Get Out Of This, all taken from my discography.
Torture the Artist: What was the last thing that deeply touched you, and why?
Enrico Mantini: It was the death of a few friends, some of them colleagues, because of Covid-19. I really hope the world can soon turn this black page.
Enrico Mantini’s EP 1991 Unreleased Gems was released on August 4th, 2021.
Words by Holger Breuer