“I guess I feel I’m Italian but, in the world”, says Severino Panzetta from his home in Brixton, an area of South London where he’s lived a large chunk of his 17 years in the city. He’s a DJ and founder of Horse Meat Disco, a club night based in Vauxhall that prides itself on its underground disco and house rarities. You also might not guess it from his accent, still liberally littered with the tell tale signs of a life lived in Verona until he was 26-years-old, but Panzetta, now 43, considers himself more a Londoner than Italian. That doesn’t mean he can’t bring his past and his present together in a DJ set alongside Nico de Ceglia for Dazed’s November 14 event at The House of Peroni – a residency celebrating 50 years of Italian art and culture with its own focus on stepping back while looking ahead into the future of creativity. So after talk about the “really strange and cool” Tel Aviv gay scene (where Panzanetta has a monthly residency), London’s shrinking record store circuit and the hard times of the music-industry-at-large, Panzetta touches on the weirdness that is the 20-year music and fashion cycle, which goes to show that some things never change.
Dazed Digital: I’m interested in how Horse Meat Disco is about disco, obviously but you share this affinity with punk culture. It’s fairly fitting when you think about how transgressive early disco was.
Severino Panzetta: Yeah because it’s the combination of places and minorities, The main amazing disco places in the 70s were like gay clubs and gay nights. Okay, there was Studio 54 but the proper underground, which was Paradise Garage is actually our main influence and was probably 90 per cent black, gay people in New York. And then punk, they’re also in a minority and we’re always fighting a little, always staying on the corner. The disco thing, when we started ten years ago, even if I was DJing in the gay scene I would play lots of house music, which I still do, and nobody was doing something different 10 years ago with electroclash.That was just a really good idea from James Seeler, one of the guys from Horse Meat Disco to say, ‘why don’t we go back to where we all started', to the 70s and took our inspiration from Paradise Garage to have a gay disco night for the crowd that probably went through the 70s and 80s, obviously a crowd in their 40s, but also for a young crowd. That was the thing that I love about this country. Young people, they always want to learn the history. You need to know the fundamentals of music.
We all love the Internet generation, but it gets a little bit more difficult to create your own style
DD: I guess that’s what House of Peroni is doing with Italian culture.
Severino Panzetta: Yeah and everything goes in circles of 20 years. Now everybody’s inspired by UK garage. I was there already and I know what it was. I’m 43 but all the kids that are probably not even born, or they were ten or something, it’s their way to do something in 2013 that was only in 2000. It’s good.
DD: Speaking about this cycle it seems that because it’s harder to be in a band these days, that electronically-based urban in the bedroom is the punk of today.
Severino Panzetta: Yeah obviously we all love the Internet generation but it gets a little bit more difficult to create your own style. There’s so much out there. There’s too much. For me its’ all cool but there was more individuality, I think, a long time ago. That’s why, in a way, I respect those countries that don’t really use the Internet. I’ve never been to Africa but I would love to go there to explore that individuality. Even a country like Japan, I’ve been three times but I haven’t been there for five years and they told me it’s changing a lot because of the Internet. It’s a shame because Japanese culture and street fashion and music has always been like, ‘wow’. It’s always been an inspiration but they tell me it’s changing there too but hopefully it will not. The Internet, it’s always got it’s good things and bad things so you need to know how to use it.
DD: It’s interesting that something so diverse can produce so much hegemony.
Severino Panzetta: It’s like when you respect people that don’t have a mobile phone or facebook. I totally respect that, in a way. It’s a very independent, very strong position, which I don’t think I am.
DD: I suppose it’s not so much about pushing boundaries anymore but pulling them back around you, in a lot of ways.
Severino Panzetta: Yeah it’s like having three hours of dinner with a friend without touching a phone. It’s amazing. I am every on the phone checking facebook, everything, five minutes. But, going in a circle and talking about the Italian situation, you see something like The Great Beauty, by Paolo Sorrentino, and looking at that one, it’s great and it’s definitely true that it’s a new version of La Dolce Vita. We had that in the 60s in Rome. It was glamorous and going out every night, with this guy, a lucky Italian lover who got to meet beautiful women tourists and stuff like that. The Great Beauty is pretty much the same. The story of this writer who is nearly in his 60s and is still having fun going out every night, getting drunk, doing coke and having fun in this sort of terrazzo in 2013. It makes me think that Italy is not old but we still live in our beauty.