Born in 1952 and currently in his 50th year of career making dance music, Daniele Baldelli is still on a roll, busy playing as a resident in clubs around the world and, with a new EP out now, he couldn’t be further from considering retirement. From such a veteran as the ‘born in Cattolica’ founder of the legendary Cosmic – the club where he invented the Afro/Cosmic genre – you wouldn’t expect anything less than a vision of dance music (and how to play it) that transcends time and space. Maybe Daniele Baldelli doesn’t speak Millennial, but chances are he may be totally fine not even knowing who Millennials are.
As we interviewed him, of course, we couldn’t help but going over how great the Cosmic was and how we would all like to go back in time, but the truth is that Mr Baldelli is still keeping up the coolness level of venues that the average Italian Millennial can only dream of. And he’s 67. Back off, everyone!
D360: In your new EP ‘Surrounding Areas’ you collaborate with another veteran of the genre, Dario Piana. How did your paths meet?
DANIELE: I have known Dario for 30 years, as in the ‘90s I was often hired as a performing guest in the club where he played as a resident. We have in common the passion for music and vinyl collecting.
D360: Sticking with your EP, another collaboration is the one with the label Tropical Animals, a Florence-based collective that, besides making the city’s clubbing scene much cooler and less tourist-oriented, has hired residents like Avalon Emerson, Ross From Friends and, lately, Michael Byrne. How did you come up with the idea?
DANIELE: The guys just asked me if I had any track to include in their label and I proposed Baldelli&Piana, that’s how the collaboration with Tropical Animals was born.
D360: How would you describe the sound of your EP?
DANIELE: There’s no fixed rule for us when we create a track. The sound of a track is something you create by experimenting, you play your machines and compose under the influence of the memories in your mind: thousands of vinyls, in my case. And, when we think the track needs some refinement, we ask a musician to put their touch on it.
D360: You’ve created tracks being a pioneer of dance music for decades. Can you make a comparison between then and now? What has changed?
DANIELE: The main difference between now and the past is that, back then, an album lasted a whole year. There was nothing comparable to today’s media, so people just looked forward to entering the disco to listen to a record. [Now] We’re flooded with an excess of music production… sometimes at the cost of quality itself… so there’s much more confusion, as a result. However, without culture, music becomes nothing but another “disposable“ thing… Hence the concept of fast food music.
D360: Could you name 3 vinyl albums for every decade of your career?
DANIELE: I started dj-ing in 1969, when clubs only played 45s. James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Etta James. Of course, at home I listened to Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa. But also Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young… and Jazz .
‘70s: PLAYER ASSOCIATION – Turn the music Up. MIROSLAV VITOUS – Magical Shepherd. GIORGIO MORODER – From Here To Eternity.
‘80s: TALKING HEADS – Remain in Light. CLARA MONDSHINE – Memory Metropolis. WALLY BADAROU – Echoes.
‘90s: LEFTFIELD – Lefti. INCOGNITO – Tribes,Vibes And Scribes. PRIMAL SCREAM – Screamadelica.
……and the beat goes on …….
D360: What kind of influence do you think Fela Kuti has had on your dance music?
DANIELE: Obviously Fela, with his Afro Beat, has had a strong impact on lots of musicians. And dancefloor regulars, too. I think I’ve got all of his records, which means that probably I got influenced too in my Cosmic days, while I included his tracks in my electro dj sets.
D360:How have clubs changed since 1969?
DANIELE: There was no mixer, no monitor, no headphones, no speed setting. Very basically, I had two record players, each with its own volume knob… And I just played a track after another as there was no need to mix. I remember that, from summer 1969 to 1975, I worked all nights at the Tabù Club (Cattolica – Rimini – Italy) from May 15th to September 30th. Full house every night. Back then, clubs were the only places for dancing, drinking, meeting friends and new people!!! The other option was cinema.
D360: As a dj, which was your favorite club ever?
DANIELE: That’s a tough question… Because each club has its uniqueness, you know! But obviously I’d say Tabù Club, because it was my first, from 1969 to 1976. Also, La Baia degli Angeli in 1977/1978, the temple of disco and Philly sound… The Cosmic from 1979 to 1984, where I could experiment with all music genres… The Fura in Desenzano sul Garda from 1996 to 2000, every Friday, with funk and acid jazz. Then London, Manchester, Paris, Tokyo, the Sydney Opera House, Moma PS1 in New York, Dimension Festival, Dekmantel in Amsterdam, Panorama Bar in Berlino… Every venue I go to, be it a club with 100 people or a big location with 2000, I notice that the connection between me and the audience is always great! (I guess I could say I’ve been a lucky dj!?!? )
D360: Millennials are said to be abandoning clubs. How do you feel about this trend, considering you’ve been doing the exact opposite like… all your life?
DANIELE: Actually, at the moment every club I play at is pretty full… I’ve got many old-school fans… But I’ve seen that more and more new generation clubbers are starting to follow me, too!!!
D360: If you could play a back-to-back set with anyone (no space/time limits), who would you choose?
DANIELE: It would be incredible to play with James Brown! But also Al di Meola and maybe Herbie Hancock and Ryuichi Sakamoto!