Rossi. chats new label, HOMEGROWN...
If you’ve raved at virtually any of the world’s best-known clubs and festivals over the past year or two, chances are Rossi, is a name you’ve familiarised yourself with. A native of the UK, Rossi. (real name Ross McCormack) is someone who’s been on an upward trajectory for some time. Known for an innovative and fresh approach that spans house and techno in its many guises, he first came to prominence a few years back courtesy of his “RKiNn” track on Modula Records. Indeed, he’s barely stopped for breath since, and has garnered support and admiration from a legion of the scene’s most influential heads in that time. We sat down for a chat with the main man himself recently, as he talked us through his association with the Dutch boys, his new label, HOMEGROWN and a very special all-night long set planned for fabric...
The last while seems like it’s been an incredible journey for you. How do you look back on the last few years? Do you still have to pinch yourself that it’s all happening? What moment above all else has stood out for you?
To be honest, yes! I always feel the need to pinch myself when looking at the things I am getting to do, the artists I find myself amongst and the experiences I get to live because of my career. I look back on the last few years as some of the greatest moments in my life, there is a big sense of pride just in the fact that I am getting to do what I love. I would never have imagined getting to this point if you were to have told me seven years ago, what I do now! I think a moment in the past year that stood out to me, was my debut in New York. Playing a set to a sold out 600 cap boat, that was cruising down the Hudson River during a summer sunset with the skyline of NYC surrounding me. It was a moment where I almost couldn't believe my music career had taken me to. Thinking I was just a guy from Essex making music in his bedroom to playing to a crowd of my own fans in the Big Apple!
What do you think was your big moment that really spurred you on? Who really supported and mentored you above all else?
A big moment was when I met my manager Humza. We first met as friends, but he took a chance on me before anyone ever knew who I was! He wasn't a manager at the time, but had all the ambition and drive to want to do it for me. We both decided we had nothing to lose, so began to work together. He was someone who made me realise that if I worked hard enough, I could actually do this as a career. Arguably, he believed in me before I even did! His guidance in building strategies and marketing myself as an artist, truly changed my life, without it I don’t know if I would have been a DJ. Meeting Humza installed in me a drive that I have never let go of to this day, and we still work the exact same way now!
Tell us a bit about your relationship with the Dutch guys and how that came to pass. How influential have they been to your career?
I met all the Dutch Djs in the scene pretty early on! Initially I met Jesse and Oz (ANOTR) who had heard my music online, they had seen I wasn’t really well known and wondered if I would be interested in making an EP for their label as they were bringing their music in a different direction than they had done in previous years! This was a great moment, it would be my first release on an international label and they coupled it with a gig at one of their early No Art parties, my first international gig!
I’ve always been so grateful to the No Art crew for how they supported me and helped push me as an artist early on in Amsterdam. From there I began spending a lot of time playing in Amsterdam, it became my second home for a while and it introduced me to the likes of Toman, Chris Stussy and many more. We would share music and give feedback all the time … at that point it felt like we were all part of this new wave of artists who were coming through, all on the same team pushing a new sound! It was inspiring to be around and we all supported each other, so these became very influential relationships.
Does playing in Holland differ much from playing in the UK? Do you prepare differently?
Playing in Holland does have its differences to the UK. I like both for different reasons! Holland, especially Amsterdam has a wonderful expression of rave culture and electronic music. You can really feel the Dutch loving energy when you play there … I find a lot of the time in Holland I can play more dreamy and emotive music in my sets, stuff which has more focus on the synth melodies. But when playing in the UK I find myself playing no-nonsense basslines and chuggy drums, the energy I find can be a bit faster and more gritty. But a lot of this can depend on the club, the time of day and environment you are playing in, so I try to keep an open mind wherever I am playing to read the crowd on the day and decide what I think they should hear!
The UK seems to be having a real moment right now in terms of electronic music. Can you tell us a bit about your beginnings? At what stage did you settle on a career in electronic music?
My early experiences at the beginning were a love of early Defected and Hed Kandi! My dad used to play all the compilations in the car or on holidays. It was where I had my first glimpse of House! Once I started raving around the age of 16/17, I began to delve deeper, spending my weekends at Fabric, Warehouse, Cargo, Cable, Studio 338 etc. These places introduced to more underground music, brands like Fuse, Half Baked, Oscuro even the early Abode days. These parties really showed me how much I loved the dance music scene and all the culture inside of it! Fabric was really the mecca of it all for me, I remember just going to Fabric on a Saturday without even looking at the lineup. I just wanted to be there and listen, whoever it was that was playing it was always so inspiring and I would come away each month with a list of artists names who I would begin to religiously follow and listen to.
You mentioned fabric just now. You’ve got an all-night long gig coming up there soon, right? Can you tell us a bit about that one?
Yes, well I've had the honour of being asked to play my first ever all night long set on the 14th April!
The thought that I will be doing my first all night long was exciting enough, but the fact it is going to be under the lights & history of the iconic ‘Room 1’ at Fabric is sort of a wild moment to process. Originally I had been programmed for Room 2, but as ticket sales have gone so well, the club has decided to place me in Room 1, which is a special feeling to have that much support in my home city!
As I mentioned earlier, this is a club that is an integral part of why I am here today. A place I grew up falling in love with electronic music and understanding the craft of being a dj. I used to imagine what it would be like to play there, what records I would spin to make the crowd go nuts & visualise that moment again and again!
So the fact that I now get to do that & do it for a whole night is just incredible. It is going to be a night where I really get to express myself through all the music that I get a kick out of hearing or playing! Something which I usually don't get the chance to do in a two or three hour set.
When did you think you decided to settle on a career in electronic music?
For me I don’t think i ever really had a moment where I ‘settled’ on a career in music. My goal at the time was to be an actor, and electronic music was just a passion that I had on the side. It was never my intention to be a DJ who tours the world, making and playing music. I think around early 2019 was when things were beginning to pick up and I was getting offers to release on labels which then lead to gigs. So then from meeting Humza and having these opportunities come my way, I decided I would stop acting and put all my energy into making it in the electronic music industry.
On social media, people see the positive side, but they rarely see the hustle. Can you talk us through some of the sacrifices you’ve made to get to where you are today?
Yes social media always seems to paint a perfect picture of anyone's world, but there is always hustle and sacrifices you have to make to really excel in anything.
I would say because of my career I have had to sacrifice a lot of friendships to get to where I am wanting to go. Either because of a lack of time, because all my time was focused on making music and networking at the start! Even now, I travel every week to a new place and in the weeks when I am home there are always new projects me and my team are building on .. we are always creating a new idea or planning new content etc.. so my free time is short! This doesn’t leave a lot of room for a social life, which I think is something you have to sacrifice if you really want to push yourself in this industry.
How do you approach your music production? As you’ve experienced success, has your approach changed at all?
Honestly, with music productions I've always taken it each session at a time. I make whatever comes out on that day! Most of the time I like to bring an idea or inspiration into each studio session, whether that be a bassline that I thought of on the train, or a vocal sample I've found or anything at all. I don’t like walking into the studio with a blank canvas on the screen and thinking, right let's go! At the start of each session, I have a dig online via youtube or discogs for some inspiration. I find this to be a lot more productive for me to get ideas out and also it got me out of a pattern of making the same sort of sounding tracks.
My success hasn't really changed my approach, but it definitely made me want to keep evolving and try new things, to build upon the sound which made me successful in the first place.
As someone working in the contemporary electronic music space, do you feel a pressure to produce banger after banger, for example? When you produce a track as popular as Paradise do people come to expect similar from you all the time?
I think it is important not to give yourself the pressure of trying to make ‘banger after banger’ … yes people will want to hear bangers from you and we all want to make them. But it is just as important to test yourself as an artist, and also somewhat educate your audience to appreciate your tracks which can connect with them at a different level or tone. When I had my release on Burnksi’s label Constant Sound, this was something I really tried to do, show people a different side of what I can make and also bring more people to listen who may even prefer that side of me.
By exploring like this with your music, I think it gives you more versatility and builds longevity in a career. If I took the attitude of trying to make ‘banger after banger’, the pressure would be too hard to sustain. And if you begin to struggle with the pressure, I think that is where you can get into a dangerous place as an artist of not fulfilling your own/ other people's expectations.
That said, I love the track! What influences motivated that one especially?
Paradise was influenced by a vocal I was introduced to from a friend. It was an old 90s record from a group called ‘Insight’ released on ‘Strictly Rhythm’. Joe, the guy who showed me the vocals, said he thought there was room to re-make the vocals with a new modern dance music track. So I took on the challenge and it worked out really well! This track was one of the ones that really accelerated my career.
You have played in venues such as Amnesia, Space Miami, WHP and BPM Festival. How does playing at festivals differ from playing in a club setting, and which do you prefer?
Festival and club sets differ massively (depending on the size of the club). Usually most festivals are about high-impact, big room energy music … sometimes I find this more of an easy task as the big crowds mean you know what energy you need to bring to keep them engaged, and the pay off is an incredible feeling to both see and feel. But for me a sweaty club night is always special … Nothing beats the energy of a 300-400 cap club which is filled to the sides with ravers who are listening to your every spin of the decks or tap of the cue button. I find I can be more versatile with what I play and take people on a real journey.
Is playing those kind of clubs still daunting for you? How do you deal with pre-gig jitters in these situations? Is it all about preparation?
For me nowadays I don’t find it to be daunting, because there is always comfort in the fact that people on the dancefloor are usually there to see you. So the support is always immense .. but I think we all get the butterflies in our stomachs just before we are about to jump on. I try to channel this into excited energy, and really boost up my energy levels to match the hype I want to create when I start spinning.
How do you stay motivated and continue to push yourself creatively? Is it difficult when you’re on the road so much nowadays?
I think the motivation comes from a mindset that there is always more to learn or to achieve. I never want to settle in the idea that I already have enough, I love the feeling of pushing myself to create. Sometimes this can be difficult to remember if you're tired from being on the road a lot, but having a good team around me keeps me motivated to always strive for more and to create new and exciting music or projects!
I’ve Been Waiting looks set to be a really big one for you too. Can you tell us a bit about the vibe you were going for with that one? What was the most challenging aspect of the production process?
Yes, I am really excited about this EP! When planning my releases for the year, I wanted to start the year with an exploratory tone. The EP is built up of tunes which focus more on dynamic range and variation in each track … layering of electric or dreamy synths. In my opinion some vibes that people haven’t heard from me yet, this is sometimes challenging to push yourself out of your comfort zone in the studio, but i've been enjoying that process recently.
I thought this would be a nice way to start the year, as I have two more releases planned on other labels this year, which you could describe as more typical ‘Rossi Bangers’!
Can you let our readers know something they wouldn’t necessarily know about you?
I have recently become obsessed with Padel! It is an incredible sport that I have been trying to perfect in any spare time that I have.
And finally, what’s next for you - musically and professionally - that you’re really excited about?
For me this year the focus is on building my label and brand HOMEGROWN. We have some really amazing releases coming from other artists, which will be the first time I have invited other people to release on the label! I also have a really cool project planned which will be coming on Youtube … somewhat of a show for people to watch, which will be another way that I will be taking the ‘HOMEGROWN.’ brand down. So watch this space!
Keep up with Rossi. on linktr.ee/rossi.dj
Listen to our premiere of Rossi.'s Wildcard here