The Italian rave voyeur’s mix coincides with the release of Scacco Matto, his new album for Warp
Lorenzo Senni described his earliest releases as ‘pointillistic trance’, where the sonic signifiers of trance music – the big build-ups, the glycerine euphoria – were used as the building blocks for more avant-garde ideas. Over the years and across multiple albums, the Italian producer has both honed and expanded this sound, and his latest album, Scacco Matto, embraces a concept that he describes as ‘rave voyeurism’. This is an outsider’s perspective on dance music, where the melodies, motifs, and rhythms of rave are abstracted into new forms. Growing up, Senni’s background was in the straight edge scene; while he was fascinated by the gabber and rave culture that was springing up around him, he was still playing in hardcore bands. Scacco Matto is the sound of rave music from a fan who’s always been an arm’s length from the scene itself.
Despite being an active musician in the underground club and festival circuit, Lorenzo Senni isn’t a DJ. His Dazed Mix instead reflects his own practise as a musician, full of endless build-ups. It’s the tension of dance music without the release – or maybe the tension is the release. We caught up with the musician to learn more about the mix, his album, and what he’s doing under lockdown.
Hi, Lorenzo. Where are you answering these questions from?
Lorenzo Senni: I’m in my studio in Milan. It looks more like my room when I was 15 than a typical electronic music producer studio.
How have you been spending your time during lockdown?
Lorenzo Senni: My life didn’t change much as I was closed in the studio for 16 hours a day finishing the album, and then as soon I was ready to tour and put my nose outside my dungeon the virus arrived and pushed me back inside. I’m lucky that I can walk to the studio – even if I have to be sneaky, as it’s illegal to move around and go to work if your job is not of primary importance. After the first week, I accepted the situation and reacted very positively. I can’t stop and Ii don’t want to stop, I can’t think anymore about my pre-Corona plans.
It must be quite surreal promoting an album with everything that’s going on. How has it made you feel?
Lorenzo Senni: Of course I’m excited about the music I made and I want people to discover it, but at the same time as the situation in Italy, it’s pretty rough. I don’t want to be disrespectful in any way to people who may have lost someone in this tragedy. My presence online is not that aggressive, I’ll continue to share my things and speak about what’s the most important thing to me, the music.
Have you felt the pressure to be creative during this time?
Lorenzo Senni: Ah no, I never feel that. As I accepted the situation, I went back to work. I don’t really believe in inspiration, I think good things in art show themselves if you spend time on your work. Sometimes something comes after five minutes, but that’s luck, not being inspired. Other times you see the light after five hours, and that’s a normal day in the studio.
Your new album, Scacco Matto, follows a couple of years putting out records with Warp Records. Was there a specific catalyst for the album?
Lorenzo Senni: Working on the album, I realised more than ever, I was fighting a game with myself. It’s always been important to me to find the perfect balance between two aspects of my music. The first is the ideas, the concept, and the self-imposed rules that I gave to myself and developed over the past years. The other is the emotive charge of my work. On this record, I pushed myself to the breaking point, where I wasn’t able to make any musical moves to the track in one direction or the other. I felt checkmated and after that, I found the title, Scacco Matto – ‘checkmate’ in Italian. I knew that this idea needed to be emphasised and that was the idea behind what I was doing – pushing everything I learned in the past years and with the previous records in multiple directions as much as I could.
How has your creative process evolved or changed from your first record, Quantum Jelly, to now?
Lorenzo Senni: Quantum Jelly was a lot about the process and showed clearly through the music what my approach was, especially with trance. I was the first exploring that vile genre that literally no one even wanted to speak about. After that with Superimpositions, Persona, and The Shape of Trance to Come, I think I always challenged myself and my music in different ways, and now I’m definitely attracted to more structured and song oriented Rave-Voyeuristic tracks.
“I pushed myself to the breaking point, where I wasn’t able to make any musical moves to the track in one direction or the other. I felt checkmated and after that, I found the title, Scacco Matto – ‘checkmate’ in Italian” – Lorenzo Senni
What track are you most excited for people to hear, and why?
Lorenzo Senni: All of them. I want to see the comments. I have a small group of fans – but wow, they are hardcore. They are more prepared for my music than me. This really helps me to develop the ideas and make everything coherent. I need people that love my music to the point they need to intervene if they feel something does not work. This is also me with my music heroes.
What have you been drawing inspiration from recently?
Lorenzo Senni: Photography, always my first inspiration. My mentor, Guido Guidi, is the most important living Italian photographer, and I spent three years of my life with him. I often say that I’m a photographer that survives making music. With this record I’m very happy I could involve one of my longtime heroes, the American photographer John Divola, who contributed the front cover image and took photos of me in Los Angeles.
Are your expectations for yourself realistic?
Lorenzo Senni: If I were realistic, I should perhaps stop doing what I do.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Lorenzo Senni: Move in silence; only speak when it’s time to say checkmate.
Are there any other artists you’re excited by that you want to shout out?
Lorenzo Senni: I have a small label, Presto!?, that I’ve been running more than ten years now. There is this guy Ivan from Vladivostok, Russia deep east, who is amazing; his alias is Regular Citizen, and unfortunately he is stuck up there and it isn’t easy to bring him to Europe. I can’t wait to share his new record. He has been clearly influenced with what I do, but unlike others who just copy and do bad versions of my music, he has a very fresh personal approach.
What’s happening in this Dazed Mix?
Lorenzo Senni: I don’t DJ. I don’t know how to turn on a CDJ. My mixes are build-ups and sections of tracks with a certain amount of ‘tension’ that I put together on a timeline and I try to make it work. At the beginning, I was focused only on trance, but in the last few years I’m including other genres and stuff that shares similar characteristics.
What are your plans for the future with your new music, now that touring has been put on hold?
Lorenzo Senni: It is very difficult to say now. I know that I don’t want to play live online. I used to be on-stage with bands since when I was 14; I was not hiding behind the console when I was a teenager. I love the feeling of being on stage and I will do everything I can to get back there.