Dance music can be utterly meaningless, or intensely meaningful. It can be a wily, practical outlet for sonic exploration, whose functional form allows producers to get paid to mess around with sound. It can be this, and simultaneously be an outlet for personal emotion. When talking about a 3-track EP based around a hard year of breakup, hibernation and familial trauma, Bruce said that the creative process was the same as all his other work; ‘Fucking with sound on my laptop in my bedroom. The only difference being that there were more tears this time round.’
When Luca Musto arrives at my flat in Berlin at 5:30pm, wrapped in a thick jacket, we’re both tired. He had to wait at a train station for 7 hours yesterday, falling asleep the moment he got home. I only moved into this flat (and city) 7 days ago, most of which I’ve spent alone, sorting stuff out.
He takes off his thick, warm jacket and we sit down with a pot of pink tea to talk about the reason I asked to interview him: his new EP Parabel, the second he’s put out under his own name. The EP's three original tracks are focused on the experience of migration, inspired by Musto’s father’s stories of setting up a new life in Germany, away from his Italian family. The carefully paced, shifting beats have a feel of anticipation, both bad and good, that anyone moving to an exciting country without the solidity of a job will recognise.
How did this project start?
I started producing the main track in early 2016 because I had the idea to move back to Berlin, I wanted to finish a chapter of my life.
Did you already know you wanted to do a concept record?
Yes, I already know that the next record will be a concept record as well. I don’t know, it’s just my thing, maybe coming from my hip hop roots.
Does that conceptual stamp on the music allow you to work harder on it?
I think so. Since I’m not doing this for just a couple of years, I’ve made music since I was 16, I’ve had many different names, so when I started this Luca Musto project I wanted it to be real in every way.
What drew you to the concept of this record?
There was a certain thing happening in my family – most of whom are still in Italy, where unemployment is really high – two years ago, which was super personal. It gave me a drive to translate this story of my father, and then my mother, first coming to Germany. I can’t tell you why I did it, I just knew I had to make something about my roots, my heritage. And I didn’t do it because the issue of immigration is timely, I just wanted to do it for myself really. Still, immigration is a major issue nowadays and like always, it makes some kind of sense to drop this.
You told me earlier that you spent months on the EP’s first track (and my favourite) - Once Upon a Grind. Were you working on it for long before you were aware of its concept? Did the meaning come into it subliminally?
Definitely, I’m sure that if certain things hadn’t happened in my life I wouldn’t have finished it. I needed to make that record as reflection for the fact that I’m here, doing what I’m doing now. I think that track needed some months to grow in my mind, and it really got the meaning afterwards. The poem in its intro, which I wrote, was the last thing I added to the record, after that it was just mixing and detail-working. So the bigger meaning came kinda natural in the process.
I can really imagine it working in a club as an eye of, or calm before the storm. Did you think about that practicality when you were making it?
I never thought about it on that track. Maybe more on Parabel actually, but for Once Upon… I just wanted to make a good introduction to the trip of the record. I played it once in Turkey, and had the feeling that people were really getting it, but the moment has to be right. The first time I played it out was in my hometown, where the story was from, and the people really didn’t get it in any way.
Ah fuck, that must have been disappointing!
Well it was for an opening of an own organized night, it was really just for myself, I had the booth fully pumped and just really enjoyed that moment, hearing the final version. For the meaning of the track I had to do that, at its ground zero. The second time I played it, in Turkey, it was more that the setting was perfect; it was a beach party and the sun was setting behind me, the tempo was just starting to rise. A friend once told me: "You have to become a king outside of your country to get recognized as such in your own" - I think that really points out the fact that my style of music isn’t understood in my hometown.
I can really imagine that, as the track has such a strong sense of anticipation, which I guess is related to its theme.
I wasn’t born at the time of my father moving to Germany, but I know from talks that it was a struggle, on side it’s exciting, but on the other it’s terrifying. The rest of the family didn’t understand why he was doing it. It’s funny because the track was risky as well, as it’s not that dancey, it’s something between hip hop and dance. That was really the idea, to be blurry about it, as when you’re emigrating the whole situation is blurry for you.
I guess that the risk of the track was that people might have started to view you as less of a functional dance DJ. Having it at the top of your Soundcloud could have messed with bookings.
In the end I think artists shouldn't give a fuck about that, it’s important to have your own vision. I’m really happy that Magic Movement believed in it, as there were some record labels that didn’t. It’s pushed me to follow my own sound, most of my current works in progress are more towards that hip hop energy.
What do you picture when you think of hip hop?
Well the first label I set up aged 19 was just hip hop. For me hip hop is about expressing yourself when you’re having hard times. I had a good friend who was a damn good lyricst - so we decided to hit the studio every weekend, and it was really just about him expressing himself with his raps, and me expressing myself with the beats.
It sounds like the reason you see your music as hip hop as much as house, is as much about the thought behind it as the sound. Like when you were talking about not giving a fuck, a lot of house producers give many fucks what others think, and justifiably so; their music has to be functional.
I had other projects after my hip hop phase that were very functional tech house, for about 3 or 5 years, and all of a sudden I really lost interest in it. It felt right in the first place, but after the vinyl was pressed I didn’t see myself in there, I wanted something more personal. And it can’t get more personal than what I’m doing right now.