Artist Spotlight

Leonardo Gonnelli

Italy

A veteran of the Italian house scene, Leonardo Gonnelli has been pushing boundaries since the early 2000's. Starting his career in Florence, Leonardo was influenced early by the sounds of Detroit Techno and acid house.

He has never conformed to one identity, producing music for a wide variety of labels including Knee Deep In Sound, Play It Say It, Spinnin' Deep and Dirtybird. Recently Leonardo has delved deep into the world of minimal tech house, producing frequently with Italian newcomers, Adne.

How would you describe the type of music you create

Hello guys, first of all, thanks for having me here. It’s not so easy to describe my music, I’m very eclectic and I love to produce every time different things. If I can choose two words to describe the music I’m doing It would be “energy music” because when I make music my mind is always focused on the dance floor and the first thing I think while I’m making music is to do something full of energy!

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 Can you point to when you fell in love with dance music?

When I was young my first passion was to play guitar, I was a huge fan of melodies and to be honest I wasn’t a big fan of electronic music scene. Everything changed when I tried (more than 20 years ago) to mix vinyl for the first time. I still remember my reaction: wow! something so easy to do but at the same time it’s so magical! It’s so different to play an instrument and mix some music, but both are so magical that I never expected this. Today I still love my job like the first day I touched that vinyl!

How did you discover acid house and Detroit techno?

Every weekend my routine was to go to “Mastelloni Disco shop” an amazing shop where every week you could listen new music from all around the world. 25 years ago it was not so easy to find good music because the internet was not like it is today. Beatport and all digital stores were not online so the only way to find amazing music was to find the right shop. It’s thanks to Mastelloni if I discovered Acid House and Detroit Techno!

 What do you remember about your first gig?

A lot of good memories about my first gig, I was in Florence the club was Central Park, it was so amazing! I remember for the opening parties it was always sold-out with more than 6000 people. The owner was very strict, so it was very hard to work over there, but finally, after a million of mixtapes sent to him he decided to give me a chance, and that was my first gig! My hands trembled when I played but was so good that I still remember the good vibes. I played in that club as resident DJ for three years.

 How do you try to stand out within the house music scene?

It’s all about quality. Every single day I’m working and trying to do better than the day before. I believe that’s not just following a genre that makes an artist become strong, but It’s working hard on the quality of his productions that makes the difference. You can change your genre a million of times but work hard on the quality because is the key of your career.

 If you had to choose one — festival, intimate club or big venue?

Intimate club is cool for me because you can see people in front of you, you can touch their hands, in a few words we’re talking about “connections.” Intimate club means for me a real connection between me and the dance floor. Festival/ big Venue is another kind of sensation, it’s for sure amazing to play in front of thousands of people but you can’t get the same kind of connection. At the end, I love all venues big or small it’s just the approach that is different.

What excites you about the future of house music?

We’re leaving a bad time for the musical scene, but for sure we going to be back stronger than ever. I guess all the technologic side of music is something that excites me more. In the next years, the evolution of technologic (synths, drums, mix) will influence the future of all world of house music. Maybe we will see something really different!

You came up in the early 2000’s in Florence. Can you tell us what the scene was like back then in Florence and how you’ve observed change and develop over the years? 

A lot of things have changed, especially in Italy and Florence. 20 years ago, there was an amazing movement behind the electronic scene. You can just think about what I told you before, a club like Central Park was unbelievable, 6000 people! Now seems like a dream to find 6000 people inside a club. Over the years people started to follow different things, and maybe there are too many things to follow today, like Open Bars too similar to clubs, Pubs too similar to clubs, even Restaurants sometimes too similar to clubs. You start to dance at 7PM for an aperitif and when it’s the time to go inside a club you already spent a lot of money and you're already tired, that’s the main problem for me. By the way, there’s still a big movement behind electronic music and for sure the quality is now much better today, but to be honest I think after a bad moment from COVID, we should start to re-build the scene and make it stronger than ever.

Big picture, how do you think the house and techno scene has changed in the last twenty or so years?

I think during last years, house & techno scene has been focused on big events like festivals, with amazing line ups and that’s a good thing because I love festivals but also I would like to see a lot of small venues become strong like some festival around the world. Small clubs are the foundation of our scene.

You started putting music out around 2008. Your output has been pretty amazing since then. It feels like in 2014 you start to break through with "Soledad" and then subsequently, the release on Play It Say It. After those tracks, it seems like you began to get a lot more attention from big labels. Did you feel that this was a breakthrough moment for you and do you have particular memories of this time period?

Yes, for sure 2014 has been a really important year for me. Soledad has been nominated in the category “Best Song 2014” at Vicious Music Awards and after that amazing production I’ve started to collaborate with Seth Troxler and his label Play It Say It. I’ve a lot of good memories of that period especially when I was in Ibiza. It was surreal, everyone was playing Soledad multiple times in the same party, it was crazy! I loved that production because everyone from techno DJs to house DJs supported that song all the summer. Definitely an important step for me and my career.

In the last couple of years, your sound has moved away from the more melodic deep house stuff and into some more minimal sounds. What prompted this change for you?

As I told you, I’m so eclectic that is impossible for me to produce just minimal or tech house or deep tech or melodic stuff. It’s absolutely something not planned like all my life. When I’m working in studio I focus my attention on a strong idea, sometimes it's a vocal sometimes a synth or a bassline, or even something stranger like the sample “Thank you, Thank You, Thank you, and FUCK you” the one I used on my track "She Likes It." The most important thing for me is not the musical genre but the idea. Of course I’m not about to produce classic music the day after tech house, I’m talking about shades of the same genre.

You have collaborated with ADNE many times in the last few years. Could you tell us about your relationship with them and how you all connected and decided to make music together? 

They live both near my town, I met them a lot of years ago and I loved since first time their potential as producer and DJs. They’re young but I guess in a couple of years the scene going to put the right attention on them. There’s a very good feeling between us that’s why we started to produce music together. I wish them all the best!

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What are your career goals in the next couple of years and how do you hope to cement your legacy in the world of house and techno?

I’m working hard every day on something new, sometimes cool sometimes not so good, that’s my goal. I think about the present because the future is something that we don’t know and I think the most important thing in our life is to leave well the present!

Are there any Italian artists that you believe should be more recognized or are rising the ranks locally?

It’s very hard to answer because we have a ton of great artists ! My attention right now is focused on ADNE project :)

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