We are extremely honored to have an exclusive interview and mix from no other than Typhoon lenend and ‘Afro’ pioneer Beppe Loda.
Many thanks to our good friend Fabiofal over at DJHistory for his tireless translation.
BEPPE LODA EXCLUSIVE ‘COSMIC DISCO’ INTERVIEW
Most people around the world consider me a ‘Cosmic’ DJ but this is not true.
‘Cosmic’ music is a kind of music and also a sort of German collective (Founded by an Austrian DJ) with whom I have no connections. In fact, Cosmic Music doesn’t actually exist!
Most people outside the Italian borders consider cosmic music a mixture of Electronic/Pop/Progressive and New-Wave which I played during the first hour at Typhoon club.
It’s obviously also popular in the Cosmic Club itself. Personally, I think that this terminology is reductive and I don’t like it because the movement which also included Cosmic was much wider and articulated and was more commonly known as ‘Afro’. This movement was based in the North of Italy in the Typhoon disco, a popular meeting point for many DJ’s and a starting point for new kinds of music, at least until 1987…
cosmicdisco: You were born and still live in Manerbo, a town south of Brescia near Lake Garda. How did growing up in this area as a child have an effect on your musical tastes?
None whatsoever! In the 1970s, no type of music was produced here but in the 1980’s the province of Brescia became one of the reference points for the production of Italian disco music. With various labels, including ‘Media’ and ‘Time’ (The latter strictly connected to ‘Disco Magic’), as well as the rest of the world, we were under the influence of English music with Pop/Beat in the 1960’s, Rock in the 70’s and the New Romantic/British Invasion in the 80’s. Instead, in the 1960’s it was Rock, Blues and then Jazz arrived from America. In the 1970’s, Soul, Funky, Fusion and Disco music came which went on to invade the whole world. I must confess that I am very happy to have personally witnessed this post-Woodstock period right through the 1990’s, a period in which musical production was in abundance and of excellent quality.
cosmicdisco: What are your earliest musical memories as a child?
When I was about 12, a friend of mine had an older brother who used to buy the famous 45″ records. Amongst these records was a record by a certain ‘Ricky S.’, one of the ‘Mods’, who sang about a fight in Liverpool between the Mods Vs Rockers. It was the theme tune of most of our games. We used to split up into 2 groups, the Mods and the Rockers and we used to fight. At one point, the song said “I was struck on my head and I began to spin�? and that’s exactly what happened to me. It was as if I saw Queen Elizabeth in person. My first musical memories were of English Beat/Pop and Rock. My first record was a 45″ called ‘Shocking Blue Venus’, which my mother gave me as a present; I also liked the theme tune of the film ‘A Summer Place’.
cosmicdisco: Was your home town integrated? i.e. Are there many immigrants in the area that bring a mix of cultures to the region?
Brescia and its provinces are highly productive and include industry and tourism etc.. as a major income. As a result, Brescia was in the front line when it came down to the immigration phenomenon in the 1990’s. Before then, it was very rare to see a foreigner in Brescia and it was indeed an event if you did see one.
cosmicdisco: Why ‘Afro’ music? What excites you about black orientated dance music?
Definitely the Soul! As I’ve already mentioned in other interviews, Afro is only a name to describe a mix of different types of music coming mainly from Africa and which contain a high percentage of percussion music, but above all, alternative and non-commercial. Obviously, from this term, New-Wave/Pop/Electronic and Progressive Rock are excluded. At the Typhoon disco, many people used to come and ask me (And other DJs, too…) how we would define the type of music we played. It was a bit difficult to explain that African Fusion/Jazz/Brazilian/Funk/Blaxploitation/Percussion etc. so it definitely needed its own definition. What do these types of music have in common? Their African origin: Afro-Jazz, Afro-Funk, Afro-Brazilian, etc… The ‘Afro’ style means liberty of choice of music. I realise that abroad it can assume a different meaning, but this term was being used in Italy at the beginning of the 1980’s (From my series of Afro tapes) in a social context in the North of Italy completely different to that of today. Today, if I had to give myself a definition as a DJ, I would consider myself ‘Free-Style’.
cosmicdisco: Where did you collect your early records from?
My mother used to buy me my first records and I used to choose them from the shop next to my parents’ business.
cosmicdisco: Your wife was also integral to your development in your musical tastes. How exactly?
Actually, Patrizia (My wife) didn’t contribute to my musical tastes, she just kept me anchored to reality, especially when I played at the Typhoon; a reality which consisted not only of a public full of ‘Connoisseurs’ or ‘Strange-Music’ geeks, but also of girls who liked some ‘Easy-Listening’, as Antena, Gilberto Gil, Jorge Ben, Sivuca and so on.
It was a sort of sonic trip to me: A great sound system made up of JBL, Macintosh, Tascam, Micro Seiki, along with a gorgeous light system… Then it was my wife who took me back to reality, when we stare at one each other.
cosmicdisco: Who are your favorite Italian artists?
Plenty; here are some of them that spring to mind:
- LUCIO BATTISTI
- NEW TROLLS
- IL BIGLIETTO PER L’ INFERNO
- LA LOCANDA DEL LUPO
- BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO
- EUGENIO FINARDI
- IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO
- I SIGNORI DELLA GALASSIA
- DORIS NORTON
- ENNIO MORRICONE
- BRUNO LAUZI
- PINO DONAGGIO
- AUGUSTO MARTELLI
- ARMANDO TROVAJOLI
- TONY ESPOSITO
- TULLIO DE PISCOPO
- and so on …
cosmicdisco: Your first ‘Official’ DJ gig was at a local club called ‘Kinky’ in your home town of Manerbo at the end of 1973. Can you describe the club, the people who visited and the music you were playing at the time?
Kinky was a ‘Classics’ club: 250 people admitted, it had a good sound system and modern decor; something like the “Salon des Amateur�? in Düsseldorf. Back in the day; in Brescia, there were quite several little clubs but Kinky stood out for music and for being fashionable yet full of fun people (many of them were friends of mine). I used to play some Rock, R’n’B, Soul and Funky, something along the lines of:
- GRAND FUNK RAILROAD
- DOOBIE BROTHERS
- JIMMY CASTOR
- SAM E DAVE
- ISAAC HAYES
and so on… (in other words, what I was able to lay my hands on).
cosmicdisco: Not long after your first gig you became acquainted with Mec Lamonti & Morris (Two well known local DJ’s) who you quote as being crucial to your development as a DJ. Can you please explain why?
They formed a duo, both in radio and in the club. Mec was brilliant and played Rock, Pop and Beat with an uncommon taste. Morris was more soul-oriented and put me onto many black artists. Back in the day, this duo was a kind of point of reference for young people around, indeed, at least until 1977. Both are still alive and kicking and are good friends of mine, too.
cosmicdisco: You say the ‘Musical Search’ is the most inspiring part of your love affair with music. Can you explain how you go about searching for music?
This year I’ve started digging again, after a loooong, long time. Looking for records is very simple: To discover you’ve got to search hard, traveling to many countries allows you to get in touch with different cultures and this also gives you a good chance to find new music, so… Go travel and search!
cosmicdisco: When you started DJ’ing technology did not permit you to beat match. When did these new techniques come into play and did you become more involved in selecting/playing music based on these new techniques and advances in technology?
Absolutely not! One of my strong beliefs is that you must not give up the quality of music to achieve a technical improvement, or; an ugly mix between two beautiful tracks is far better than a perfect mix of two shitty records. When I started to play, my style was very ‘Radioesque’ and mixers were far different from how they look today. You could mix by only twiggling two buttons, to create a sort of transition (Fade in - Fade out), so it was simpler! Anyway, the mixing trend touched base at our clubs around 1977/78 and it came from Milan.
cosmicdisco: Typhoon was a cinema before it became a club in 1980. Who was the owner who asked you to play, how did he find you?
Back then I was quite well known around here and the Typhoon’s owners weren’t the same as cinema’s. Nevio (the boss) owned a cutting-edge clothes shop, near Manerbio, where I used to go. The saleswomen came to Kinky and really appreciated what I was doing. I used to spend a lot of time talking with Nevio about how to properly set a new club up and some years later Nevio and other people made the dream come true.
cosmicdisco: At Typhoon you had a part in choosing the sound system and other decisions based on the structure of the building. What was the result of your input & ideas for the club?
The club as it was.
cosmicdisco: What type of clientele did you/Typhoon attract?
In the beginning, ‘People of Typhoon’ were mainly from Brescia/Verona/Cremona/Mantova, having many of them follow me when I moved to the club. When success became huge, people started to come from the whole of Italy and from Austria and Germany, too. Many of them looked like hippies: long haired, laced ankle-boot wearing types who used to travel in French cars (Citroen’s ‘Pallas’ or Renault’s ‘Deux Chevaux’), fully plastered with stickers of their favourite discos… and the music was very slow in rhythm, funky, all kinds of Disco, New-Wave, Industrial, Electronica, Percussive, Fusion, Pop, Rock, Prog… It was a real melting pot.
cosmicdisco: You were resident at Typhoon from 1980-1987 (With the exception of late 84/early 85 when Beppe played at Cosmic Club). What nights did you play at Typhoon and how many hours did you play each night?
My residency at Cosmic only lasted 3 months (from September to November, 1984) and I didn’t like it; so, when the club was shut indefinitely, I held some residencies at other clubs such as Futura (Parma) and Chicago (Bologna) until March-April 1985 when I got back to my beloved Typhoon, which was back open both on Saturday and Monday (One Monday a month though, the so called ‘Non-Stop’ night). Being the resident, I used to play alone, except when there was some guests.
cosmicdisco: What is your approach to your DJ sets?
Experimenting and improvising new combinations.
cosmicdisco: What format’s do you DJ with? Vinyl/CD’s/Computer/Instruments – All of them?!?
Both vinyl and CD’s.
cosmicdisco: Do you play any instruments?
When I was a child I miserably hit some drums, ha ha! And I also applied for some percussive lessons in the 1980’s, while the 90’s saw my efforts in learning how to play piano. To be honest, I was quite low skilled as a musician, hence the reason I went into DJ’ing.
cosmicdisco: You could pick your all time ‘Super Group’, who would be in the band playing which instrument?
What kind of music this ‘Super Group’ should play?
cosmicdisco: You are responsible for over 200 mix-tapes. Were there any particularly popular tapes and do you have a favourite?
I don’t really know which is the most known as I sold many of them; more recently it seems that “Electronica Meccanica�? tapes are gaining popularity… Anyway, my favourite ones are those bearing my musical innovation and my inner way of playing, like that ‘BL-49-psychedelic soul’, where you can listen to a nice mix of The Temptations and Willie Hutch.
cosmicdisco: Can you tell us a little about the ‘Afro Gatherings’ you were responsible for around 1982? How did the idea come about and how were they organised?
I never actually organised any afro gatherings; it was just a my suggestion to the club owners in order to solve the problem of keeping Typhoon open also during summer. I was quite aware that afro music was getting more and more success and there was a real need of places and happenings where youngs could meet one each other (there was a real ‘Prohibition-ism’ on this kind of things in Italy). So the summer version of Typhoon took place and it was a great, great success.
cosmicdisco: Around the time of these gatherings you were among the elite group of 4 or 5 DJ’s that could draw audiences of more than 5000 people. Who were the other DJ’s in this team?
The leading Afro DJ’s were: Mozart, Loda, Ebreo, TBC, Spranga and Lollo; there were other DJ’s, as well, but they’re not considered ‘Afro’ DJ’s. Musically speaking, all changed in 1982, but also people evolved… The best DJ’s survived, but others lagged behind, due to technical matter or lack of skills.To be an Afro DJ it didn’t mean to do some bedroom tapes: you had to do gigs, make people dance (and this isn’t an easy thing)… in other words, we had to push this movement forward but, as it always happens, we also had got our burdens to bear.
cosmicdisco: Did all these DJ’s have good relationships or was rivalry commonplace?
There were rivalries in the clubbing scene and I’ve always been on good terms with all but one: I don’t like people who want to take all the credits, because these guys are exactly the ones who don’t have them at all.
cosmicdisco: Can you describe the experience of performing to over 5000 people?!?
After my experience at Kinky I started to play at Le Cupole (in Manerbio, too), a club which holded some like 2,000 people, so I was used to playing for a huge audience. Out of curiosity, in 2001 I’ve played for 12,000 people in Augsburg (Germany).
cosmicdisco: The authorities in Italy were particularly hard on nightclubs that closed many venues for ‘Public Order’ offences and drug use. What do you think of Italian youth culture and how it has changed from the 1980’s to the present day?
I hear that in the Afro scene only 3-4 clubs were shut down for drugs-related problems, others being closed because ‘public order issues’ occurred (too many people entered causing safety issues). Anyway, those were the 80’s and in Italy you could be arrested for simply having a joint. Nowadays, in the globalization era, changes occurring here are the same as in other European countries, with all the pros and cons that come with it. I’m convinced that English young people listen to ‘Better’ music, though.
cosmicdisco: The Typhoon club seemed to be a victim of its own success and was closed due to it being too popular! For a club that was so professionally ran but offered an alternative music policy seems strange today. What were you doing that was ‘Alternative’?
Typhoon has been a victim of its own success and had ’structural’ insufficencies: The club was in the centre of Gambara, bordering private houses, there was no parking and could only facilitate some like 450-500 people. You just can imagine how it was when there were 3,000-4,000 people standing outside waiting to enter… and it was one in, one out.
Anyway, the music and the club were alternative, yes, that’s because radio’s broadcast mainly italo-disco and some British stuff (New-Romantic etc.), a kind of music heard also in the mainstream clubs… and when you came to Typhoon you’re about to enter another world, where Olatunji was mixed with Tangerine Dream while a laser beams crossed the air…alternative, yes, but I think that this could be considered ‘Alternative’ also today.
cosmicdisco: The ‘Afro’ style is currently experiencing a revival in the UK underground music scene with producers making more ‘Afro’ sounding tracks and DJ’s championing this style for people to dance to not only to continuous 4/4 beats but by playing all styles and rhythms in one evening. Can you hear your influence in new music and DJ styles today?
I’ve been in UK once, in 1982, just for digging; I don’t know the UK underground scene, though, and I never wanted to influence anyone: this is my way to be a DJ! What guides me is refusing to follow any mainstream scene, whilst many DJ’s apply to it at all costs. You know, buying all the new stuff, be faithful to the ‘Hit Parade’ or listening to the radio to know what tracks are hammering the audience… all of this is a sort of slavery and this is not my thing at all. To be an ‘Afro’ DJ (or, as I’d say today, a ‘Free-Style’ DJ) puts you in the centre of the music, from where you can look forward, backward, in every direction and still it’s up to you what to play and when, it’s up to your personality… it’s up to you not to be a ‘musical slave’. Being alternative it’s not just related to the music, but also to the methods applied to your lifestyle, expressing yourself by playing music is great! And it’s great to know that others are on this wavelength, good for them!
cosmicdisco: What ‘new’ music do you enjoy at present?
Talking about dance music, few, very, very few.
cosmicdisco: Your ‘Roots’ music (Soul/Funk/Disco) has always had a big influence on you. What would you say are your favourite ‘Roots’ tracks of all time?
I’d say my roots are in the Rock and Soul/Funk of 60’s/70’s, Deep Purple, Ten Years After, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Santana, BTO, Blue Oyster Cult, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Bob Seger and so on… great stuff. And I like all the Soul/Funk stuff; in both genres each artist is essential, one way or another.
cosmicdisco: It seems that you and other pioneering Italian DJ’s were not particularly aware of the New York disco and DJ scene whilst styles and techniques seemed to develop during the same period. Why do you think this is so?
The USA is so far away, but indeed we felt the need to improve what we’re doing as well, and also the ways of carrying the job out were the same; it’s pretty understandable that evolution run in parallel… it must have been the same in other places.
cosmicdisco: Do you currently hold a DJ residency in Italy?
No, just one-night gigs.
cosmicdisco: What other DJ’s do you admire?
Those who’re not strictly related to the hits and get their hands dirty by digging crates. I like the Rotterdam fella’s so much: Tako and Loud-E (Real discoverers of obscure-disco), I-F (The father of Electronica’s throwback)… and Jeremy Campbell, DJ Spun, Lee Douglas, Andrew Lovefinger and Tim Sweeney too… (USA); Albion and Karolina (Sweden); DJ Scott and DJ Enne (Austria); Dr. Nishimura (Japan); DJ Detlef (Resident @ Salon Des Amateur in Düsseldorf, Germany; this is the guru of obscure stuff).
cosmicdisco: What records are still on your ‘Wants’ list?
First LP by MC1 and the second one by Egotrya, which are wonderful; unfortunately, they never got released.
cosmicdisco: Is the ‘MC1’ project with Francesco Boscolo still alive? What do you have planned?
Along with Ralf Beck we’ve just finished to record the new MC1-Counter’s 12�? at Uhrwald Studio in Hilden (Düsseldorf), and also a never seen before Egotrya’s track - Wind. This stuff is really great, pure Italo-synth.
cosmicdisco: In 1985/86 it seemed the record companies were not willing to release an ‘Italo-Synth’ LP as the ‘New Romantic’ and ‘New Wave’ sounds came to the forefront of popular culture. How do you look back on this period and do you like these musical genres?
Those were the times of New Romantic and New Wave (which was a sort of ‘Alternative’ sound, just for few). During the first hour of a set I threw a sort of mixed slow Electronica, New-Wave, Pop, Prog, Industrial (this is what they call ‘Cosmic’ today, I guess…). But I like some new romantic stuff and many New-Wave releases (Just take a look at www.myspace.com/beppeloda). I have fond memories of that period, even if recurring delusions involving Italo-Synth made me abandon this kind of music at the end of 80’s.
cosmicdisco: You have previously said you have lots of ‘Japan’ in your style. Can you elaborate?
Ok, so… Playing different musical genres, not intended for being mixed, it’s not so easy: the secret is the concentration, which I’ve also learnt to get by doing Karate (I like also Bushido and Samurai and people like Takeshi Kitano, Kurosawa, Sakamoto, Kitaro, Hosono, etc. along with the Japanese culture and history, obviously). Strictly related to the technique, I would have not been able to play many tarcks if I had not got the infamous “Micro Seiki DQX 1000�? decks: with a +/- 20% pitch adjustment (amongst other features) they’re a real jewel of the Japanese technology
cosmicdisco: You ran a record shop called ‘Senor Salsa’ with your wife and a friend which gave you access to the biggest Italian wholesalers and records importers. Are there any specific countries that were/are consistently producing great music?
Strange question from an English man! Ha ha. I think that you can find good musicians from every country, but in UK it’s different: there’s a lot of real good music there; also in the USA there’s great stuff. Regarding electronic music, Germany was on top, though.
cosmicdisco: What is your favourite city for buying records?
The one I’ve never been to.
cosmicdisco: During the ‘Italo-Disco’ boom period many producers would come to your home where you would act as a consultant by suggesting music that they could draw inspiration from. As a result you have contributed to several ‘Italo-Disco’ records. What are these records, who visited you (From what label) and what music would you recommend?
This is a long chapter of my life and you could write a book on the subject alone but I won’t tell you others’ secrets so I’m going to give you a short version. Most of italo-disco was produced in northern Italy (Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padua) but when records had to be printed and distributed all the people involved came up to Milan: producers, musicians, DJ’s, distributors, sellers, all meeting each other in that city (many labels were import firms first). I knew them all, being in Milan back when all the importing business started. Labels such as Fraschini bros’ ‘Gong’, Fusarpoli and Scalera’s ‘Discotto’, Severino Lombardoni’s ‘Disco Magic’…they knew me as ‘That DJ who plays strange music’ and I became (along with Andrea Anzani) a sort of “trait d’union�? between them and those record shops which were well into that kind of music. There was a great feeling with Gong’s label (Roberto Fraschini also owned the ‘Mary Posa’ record shop in Porta Romana, Milan) and I gave him some advice about the artists signed on his Zanza Records label: BB&Q Band, Klein & MBO, D.A.N, etc.
Next time I’ll tell you about my involvement in the music business of Bergamo, Brescia, Verona and Padua but for now I want to put the closing title at this: When I left italo-synth and electronica, also Francesco Boscolo spread his wings for other genres: he opened a recording studio in Padua and produced more than 200 italo-disco records, including that huge success by Brian Martin - Sex Tonight. Every now and then we meet each other at my home or in his studio.
cosmicdisco: Is there any ‘Commercial’ music you find appealing either in the past or present?
Yes (Mainly in the past, though): Disco (the good type), spacey-electronic disco, some italo and new romantic. But also today there are many talented new pop/rock musicians… and naturally all the new releases by ‘Classic’ artists, whatever genre they do.
cosmicdisco: Can you give us some examples of ‘Typhoon’ classic tracks?
Two compilations are about to be released, full of ‘Slow Motion’ classics I used to play at Typhoon, one on ‘Synthonic’ label and the other on ‘Compost’. Check our interview and mix with DJ Mooner for details!
cosmicdisco: What tracks are getting heavy rotation on your turntable at the moment?
Mainly space disco, electronica, italo and obscure disco (Tako and Loud-E had a big influence on me, they’re really great!).
cosmicdisco: If not involved in music, what would you most likely be doing?
Who knows? My mother tells me that when she was expecting me and listened to the radio, I moved all the time… maybe I could have been a dancer!
cosmicdisco: What is your idea of prefect happiness?
My wife’s love, my family and…now, that’s a scoop: Music I like!
cosmicdisco: What’s next for Beppe Loda?
Supper in an hour; Tomorrow, I don’t know…
Don’t forget that Beppe is joining us in Manchester for his 1st EVER U.K DJ performance at Sankeys on Good Friday, 6th April.
Hit the links below to listen to a mix from Beppe recorded back in 1984!