Alessio Collina provides 100% Italian mix (mix + interview)

Alessio Collina is someone who really does live and breather all things dance music. Beginning his musical journey at the young age of 13, he's since become a core pillar of Italy's dance music community, and is much-respected by his musical peers and many fans for eclectic sets and innovative productions that span a wide range of genres, from deep house to techno. A

Alessio's passion for vinyl and his commitment to high-quality music have earned him recognition from legendary artists like Move D and Kerri Chandler, while he's also well-known as the man behind the much-vaunted Trend Records, a label that was established all of 14 years ago but continues to leave an impact on the scene. He's also known for his side project Hill, as well as its accompanying live set.

Recently, Alessio showcased his deep connection to his roots by creating an exclusive mix of 100% Italian house tracks for us, highlighting his ability to blend the old with the new while paying homage to his country's rich house music history. He's also been busy arranging a brlliant reissue package from Italy's iconic Calypso Records. So basically, we'd a lot to discuss! Here's what happened when we did just that recently...

You started your musical career at the young age of 13. Can you tell us about the first party you DJed and how that experience shaped your passion for DJing?

Hello, guys! Yes... that was a a lot of fun! (big laugh).

I had a big living room at my grandma’s house in Cervia. There were no neighbours, so I decided with my friends to host a New Year’s Eve party there.

No Spotify, iPhones, or stuff like that back in those days, so my dad gave me his equipment (Yes, my dad is a DJ, but I’ll tell you about him later) to play for my friends, and I did it all night long. I played everything, from R’n’B to dance music. I remember I had a lot of fun seeing my friends enjoying my music, and I was very proud. I was very careful about the dancefloor because my dad gave me some advice before; the best one I’ll never forget was: “If girls are dancing, it’s going well!”

I know Ron Trent wrote Altered States when he was about 15! Were you listening to deep house back then?

No, I was totally far from deep house at that age. There were no social media, so I followed the trend of the moment: the minimal and techno era. I remember there were a lot of parties with that kind of music, so I started with it: playing first, producing later with my brother, who’s very, very good with the DAWs, especially Logic.

For those who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe the essence of your music in a few sentences?

Music to sweat to on the dancefloor :)

What drew you to house music, and how has your love for vinyl influenced your style?

Years and years of experimentation. I danced a lot to other DJs, bands, live acts, and I think this helped me a lot. To be on the other side, you can feel better what people need and at which moment, so you can bring these experiences behind the decks. I understood that house music was my pick when I was tired of the same techno-minimal grooves of those years. Slowly, I arrived at house music, listening to master DJs like Ricky Montanari, Flavio Vecchi, Alex Neri, Claudio Coccoluto, DJ Ralf, and more Italian legends.

My love for vinyl started in my adolescence. When I was 16 years old, I started to make some parties with my friends in a club in our hometown. I didn’t have a car yet, so every week I stressed my dad until I convinced him to bring me to the closest record store. Vinyl influenced my style because I think it’s more fun to dig and find some gems of artists and labels you didn’t know about. It’s something real, you can touch it, you can relate a record to a special memory about a gig or something else in your life. The approach to the set is different when you play vinyl; you must be more concentrated about the selection and the mixing skills.

How do you balance running a label, producing music, and performing live? What does a typical day in the life of Alessio Collina look like?

It always starts with a record, every day. It’s hard to manage everything. I’m a workaholic; I don’t want to lose time, and I try to do my best in every project I’m working on. Surely, there are periods where the balance shifts a bit to the live set, more often to prepare the record bags for gigs, and when I’m inspired and have some free time, I go to the studio to work on new music.

Trend Records has released music from both young talents and established artists like Paul Johnson and Ricky Montanari. What do you look for in an artist or track when considering them for your label? Do you need to have a relationship with them first?

Since we opened Trend Records in 2010, we have always focused on music only. Fourteen years ago, the music business was very different than it is today: artists made music. Today, an artist must even take care of their image on social media, communicate content in the best way to reach the most people, and work harder to be recognised and earn a place in this strange world. With Trend, we always focused on music and the human relationships with the artists: we’re still doing this! My idea of the label is a big family where we can help each other: giving advice to young producers about their music if it’s interesting but not mature yet, releasing from deep house to techno but with our vision. Music must have soul in it. We never followed the music mood of the moment; we always thought about the quality of the music without compromises.

Your music has been played by renowned artists like Move D and Kerri Chandler. How does it feel to have your work recognized and supported by such influential figures in the industry?

I think it’s one of the best satisfactions ever. I mean, these are legends for me. I’ve always seen them as examples of what I want to reach as an artist: that’s amazing, for real.

You've performed in some iconic clubs across Europe and beyond, from Berlin to Barcelona to London. Can you share a memorable experience from one of your international gigs?

For sure, the all-night-long B2B I did at the last Trend Records showcase at Crack Bellmer in Berlin with my brother DJ Rou. What I like more is playing all night with an artist like Francesco, with whom I’m totally in connection. A part of the set has been released by Rocket Radio, you can check and listen here: Rocket Radio: Trend Records 016 - Alessio Collina & DJ Rou.

In 2017, you introduced a new alias, Hill. What inspired the creation of Hill, and how does this project differ from your work under Alessio Collina?

Hill was born when I understood that I needed a new alias for my housier side: the one more raw, Balearic, and influenced by my roots. As Alessio Collina, I’ve always experimented in my career. I never had a precise “kind” or “genre” of music; I’ve never liked being labeled. Instead of my name, the alias Hill follows more a “music style,” so it’s easier for diggers to recognize that project.

Hill's music is released exclusively on vinyl. Why did you choose this medium, and what significance does vinyl hold for you as an artist?

I decided to keep Hill only on vinyl because I’d like to keep alive that relationship between DJs and record shops, even though now there are a lot of online vinyl stores. When I meet some big DJs, I make the promotion with records “hand by hand,” the old-school way. Vinyl, for me, has more than one significance: it’s something that will stay forever, it’s something which has a story behind it, it’s something that brings people together; that’s something a file can never do.

Your live sets as Hill incorporate drum machines, effects, and the MPC. Can you walk us through your setup and how you prepare for a live performance?

I built my live setup as Hill fully analog to bring on stage the feeling of the productions I make with this alias: essential, raw, strictly to dance. So the master clock of my live set is my MPC1000, where I have all the samples of every track I want to perform: basslines, pads, grooves, strings, and vocals. I use the MPC's separate channels for every element and go into my mixer, a Mackie 1220i, where I can give them some reverb and delay through the 2 aux channels. For drums, I use a Roland TR8 first model, very simple and easy to program, so I have different patterns for each track I want to perform. Drums are integrated also by a Roland R8 from 1989; it’s nice to build grooves together with the TR8. I’ve got also a Cyclone TT303 to make some acid patterns on the live set.

You did a mix for us recently, comprising solely of Italian tracks. Can you tell us about the creative process behind this mix and what you aimed to convey through it?

Italo House has had a big influence on me, so when I thought about the records I wanted to play in this mix, I selected some old and new stuff, some unreleased of mine and my labels, to tell a story as usual. In this mix, I tried to transmit what I am as an artist, from my sunniest side to the dark one, paying homage to my beautiful country, which has an amazing history of house music since the 90s.

Your versatility is a hallmark of your career. How do you keep your sets and productions fresh and exciting for your audience?

Yes, I’m very eclectic because I love music! I love disco, funk, soul, downtempo, house, techno, and every situation needs a different treatment. I don’t want to give myself limits about music. I can keep my set and productions fresh by digging a lot through old records, being careful about new music coming out, and listening to the promos I receive. I love to make eclectic sets, take some risks, and have a couple of dirty transitions sometimes: that’s DJing, that’s human!

Can you share any upcoming projects or releases on Trend Records that you're particularly excited about?

Sure! The next release on Trend is an EP from the talented artist from Egypt, Adham Zahran, called “Organator.” He has arrived at his fourth EP on the label. Serious deep house stuff: dreamy, raw, and melodic; perfect for warm-ups or after-hours. It has already received nice feedback from Don Carlos, Lars Behrenroth, System of Survival, and from techno artists as well like Sam Paganini and Measure Divide. It’ll be out on Tuesday, June 4th, on Bandcamp exclusive, and after a few weeks on every digital platform. Listen to the preview here: SoundCloud: Trend Records - TR055 Adham Zahran - Organator EP.

How do you see the future of house music evolving, and what role do you hope to play in that evolution?

That’s a really interesting question. I think house, as every other kind of music, has different shapes which can get more and more followers. What I hope is that most DJs try to be themselves, don’t follow the actual music trend. It’s okay to be influenced by but don’t do the same as famous artists just because it’s the mood that’s going right now in festivals or big clubs around the world. This is my mantra, and what I’m bringing on since years in my DJ sets, live performances, and productions. Be yourself, always.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far, and how did you overcome it?

For sure, it’s to keep the high quality of what I do. This is the biggest challenge for me. It’s not easy because sometimes you’ve hoped for better results for a project or expect more gigs to play. Life as an artist is like constantly riding a roller coaster, especially today that technology gives the opportunity to everyone to “become a DJ,” but out there there are simply DJs and those who can tell a story. I prefer to be a storyteller :)

Tell us a bit about the reissues of Calypso Records. Who’s involved? What can we expect? Sounds like an awesome package!

It started with a file I found on a hard disk of my dad’s where I listened to an unreleased version by Ricky Montanari of my dad’s classic record on Irma back in 1992 called “Tumbe,” released with Murk remixes in that year. So I teamed up with Umberto (owner of Irma Records) and Basic Frame (the distribution that takes care of all my projects), and we released a reissue of “Tumbe” with fresh remixes by Ricky Montanari, LTJ Experience, and myself as Hill. This project went very well, so we decided to make more of them. Umberto gave me the opportunity to dig in the huge Irma catalogue, and I found a lot of fresh Calypso stuff from the 90s that made me curious about working on new and fresh versions. The first one is a rare one, “Nabile DJ featuring Lucio Baradel - Moonlight,” released in 1995, coming out very soon with new fresh remixes by myself and my friend Alex Neri. I want to say thanks a lot to Umberto and Basic Frame for making this happen. Stay tuned!

Lastly, what message or feeling do you hope to leave your audience with after they've experienced one of your sets or listened to your tracks?

Music is emotions, so when I play or I’m in the studio, I hope that it can leave unforgettable moments for the people on the dancefloor, can make them forget problems for a while, can make people free to be who they are.

Listen to Alessio Collina's 100% Italian mix for Nightclubber below