While at a photo shot in Principe Maurice’s suggestive apartment in Palazzo Dona’ delle Rose, I had the unforgettable opportunity to meet with the histrionic Venetian performer and interview two trend-setting music legends, Ciro and Stefano, better known as ‘Datura’. During the photo session, these stars were busy creating images that would soon be used to promote their new radio show called ‘ReMemo’, broadcast on M20 Network.
‘ReMemo’ is a trip down music memory lane…
And it’s precisely power of memory that pushed us to emphasize Datura’s connection with the golden age of nightlife in Venice, Jesolo and the whole of the Veneto, where they proved extremely influential. Reflecting upon recent vicissitudes and the closed-minded attitude that institutions often show toward youth culture, we fear that this kind of golden age is destined to remain nothing more than a memory.
We interviewed the duo in hopes of understanding how they’ve evolved over the years and how they currently experience this challenging national situation.
For those few who have never heard of them, we’ll briefly tell the story of these forever-young men from Bologna who invented a certain genre of Italian music, bringing it forth into the world.
‘Datura’ is a magic plant that grows in the highlands of northern Mexico which Yaqui medicine men have always used in their rituals as a way of moving closer to Knowledge. They found out about this plant thanks to the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Tex Willer comics and it inspired the duo’s name. Ciro Pagano and Stefano Mazzavillani started this recording project in 1991 at Bologna’s Coco Studio; in its initial stages, the plan also involved two fundamental DJs, Ricci and Cirillo. Fascinated by the mystery of religion and cognitive processes that reach beyond scientific reasoning, Datura has always used its music to explore the parallel subterranean worlds that crowd the mind. From October 1991 to the summer of 2004, they released one album and 18 singles, earning various awards including a Golden Record. Their singles have climbed to the top of the charts in both Italy and abroad and their hits include ‘Yerba del Diablo’, ‘Eternity’, ‘El Sueño’, ‘Infinity’, ‘Angeli Demoni’, ‘Will Be One’ and ‘Summer of Energy’…just to name a few.
Creating re-mixes and new productions, the duo has collaborated with various artists such as
Billie Ray Martin, Visage’s Steve Strange, Ben Volpelier Pierrot from Curiosity Killed The Cat, Scooter, Spagna, CSI and Danny Losito. They’ve worked with DJs like Ralph, Ricky Montanari, Flavio Vecchi, Molella, Albertino and Gigi D’Agostino. In the 1990s, Datura created two record labels: ‘Trance Records’ which launched Datura’s productions until 1995, and ‘Absolut Joy’ linked to the fashion brand by the same name. The latter published various hits, including Masoko Solo. Their completely live discotheque shows have gone down in history. Since 2006, Datura has made its way to the console, proposing DJ sets centered entirely around music from the 1990s, giving rise to the project ‘PEZZI DA 90’, a retrospective which includes discotheque events, compilations, and programs for both radio and television. Since June 26, they’ve been on the air with the show, ‘REMEMO’, broadcast on M2O. Though it still has a nineties focus, this time, their slant spotlights trend-setting trance and techno music. DATURA’S musical selection is presented by narrative talent PRINCIPE MAURICE. Today, like yesterday, bad Yerba NEVER dies…’
D. You’re in Venice with Principe Maurice in efforts to popularize a new radio product that draws on people’s memories. Tell us more about it.
A while ago, we met up with Principe Maurice for several performances and DJ sets dedicated entirely to techno/trance music from the ‘90s. As always happens at these types of events, the energy of the music and the people present were truly unique and exhilarating. During one of those times, we came up with the idea of a radio project designed to bring back that same atmosphere and re-kindle the power this kind of music had generated both on and off the dance floor. We wanted a program capable of spotlighting the ‘90s, which would showcase trend-setting trance and techno music selected by us, Datura. PRINCIPE MAURICE would be the presenter. And, as we say in our press release, we have tried to create a program capable of leading us into ‘the realm of memory’ as we evoke the extraordinary soundtrack and flair of those unforgettable years where club music made its mark on our lives on a daily basis.
It’s a program that’s capable of re-proposing primarily European underground music that gave rise to the sounds and trends which would later deeply influence pop music. It’s a program that may well become a ‘realm of memory’ for all those who experienced this music at the time. Even those who weren’t around yet because of their age can get to know this music and immerse themselves in that unique unrepeatable environment.’ We needed a name—a name that would spark memories linked to that era, and wherever there’s a Prince, there’s also a King…so, welcome to the Kingdom of REMEMO…
D. What situation characterizes Italy today and, what differences do you encounter when you go on tour abroad?
To tell you the truth, our releases abroad are far more sporadic than they were in the past. What’s clear, however, is that in Italy—for a whole series of reasons—club music has always been relegated to a minor role that fails to reflect its paramount importance. Things played out quite differently abroad where great club-hits, like techno and trance musical scores, were considered pop music. In Italy, this possibility was squelched by the strong agreements linking all major record companies and large radio and television networks. The fact that this music was released by independent labels didn’t generate sufficient business to spark the interest of major companies. As time passed, said companies took the stance of ‘defending themselves’ from the club-music invasion, rather than jumping on the bandwagon and releasing it, like in other countries. Just think—in Italy, trance music was totally ignored. Obviously, all of this created repercussions for the entire music and dance industry, bringing about the far-reaching crisis we witnessed during the few years of the new millennium. Overall, the greatest difference lies in the fact that this type of music hasn’t been given its rightful place. But now, REMEMO is on its way!
D. In your opinion, who is responsible for this dark moment affecting an environment that was trend-setting for music, customs and society, until becoming an authentic genre, recognized on an artistic and historical level?
Like we said, there’s no one person who can be held responsible. We’re talking about a way of thinking about show business in general; it’s a mentality that generated a gradual downfall or ‘dark moment’, if you will. In Italy, many producers and DJs weren’t able to continue searching for new alternative sound solutions and, with time, this fostered a lack of new ideas within the music scene. During the second half of the 90s, music in Italy started to succumb to the needs of the record producing market, which, in turn, was subject to the requirements of radio networks. So, a little at a time, the ‘flair’ and pleasure sparked by experimentation began to get lost in the mix, and this is the vital lymph of music or any other form of creativity. All this gave rise to what we consider an obvious end-result: the drop in sales that engendered today’s situation.
This crisis is deeply intertwined with whatever’s going on in the music industry. If we are lacking a ‘music-based culture’, then culture will be lacking when it comes to music and this lack makes its own mark on the world.
D. What steps are you taking and what do you suggest doing to re-kindle the passion that once characterized the youth culture and nightlife, in general?
We believe that, in the 1990s, club music reached its maximum form of expression, so that’s where we sought out our starting point a few years ago. Music is passion and as such, it needs to be surrounded by passion—whether your creating it, playing it, listening to it or dancing. In the 1990s, clubs would fill up because of the passion that this kind of music generated. Today, that same level of passion is necessary to revive nightlife and we’re ready to make that happen…as always…
D. What are your upcoming projects?
For several years now, we’ve been working on various fronts to promote music from the ‘90s among younger crowds as well as re-proposing it to those who once considered this music part of their lives’ sound-track. In addition to producing the show REMEMO with Principe Maurice, we are also working on another project called ‘PEZZI DA 90’ which showcases music linked to that period—and not just the trend-setters. It includes a radio segment and a television program (broadcast on Enjoy Television) and a series of compilations. We’ve already launched Volume 5. Additionally, we’re proposing our DJ-set in various clubs and currently collaborating closely with Rudeejay in order to create new products and foster perfect synergy.
D. How do you create your musical products?
We have always produced music inside our studio. Not only have we created all of our singles there, we also use the studio when creating our productions and re-mixes. Once we’ve found an idea we want to work on, it’s where we look for melodies, sounds, arrangements and compositions to ‘dress’ our original idea as best we can. Once we’re convinced of its value, the piece is ready.
D. What are your sources of inspiration?
It’s difficult to define the things that might inspire a piece of music. Certainly, in terms of listening, we have a background in European electronic music, in addition to New Wave and Rock, released at the end of the ‘70s and the beginning of the ‘80s—that’s the music we grew up on. Sometimes, we are inspired by a melody, other times by a sound, or by the purchase of a new musical instrument. Otherwise, you can be inspired by an environment, a book, a movie, a story or a dialogue. It may seem strange, but that’s the way it is; in order to become inspired to create a piece of music you need a certain level of attention and curiosity. It’s an enormous library of Babel where everything already exists—but things have to be continuously re-created and re-read according to new interpretations.
D. Where does Principe Maurice come into all this?
With Principe Maurice, we’ve always just missed each other, having lived through the same years, frequenting the same clubs, listening to the same music and meeting with mutual friends, but without really doing anything together. With REMEMO, we’ve had the great pleasure of meeting up with him and finally creating a collaborative project, so that we can share our past and explore the future. Principe Maurice has always had a lot to do with this …
D. Will we see you again in Venice?
Of course, when Venice calls, Datura won’t fail to answer!
It was interesting to hear the voice of two absolute protagonists of the trend-setting music scene as they spoke about strict regulations currently enforced, regarding scheduling and volume for events and evening events in city clubs, on the beaches and in Venice’s discotheques. The same applies to the region and the rest of Italy. We hope that it will also be useful to those who nurture an aversion for expressions of a culture they don’t understand, consequently attacking them. Our hope is that we can find a way to avoid repression, fostering, instead, mutual respect.