DINO LENNY Q&A
Having just released his new single ‘West End Girls’, we catch up with DJ, producer and singer Dino Lenny to get the lowdown on who he is, the music he produces, his collaboration with Madonna, his Beatport success, his relationship with Prince and much more.
Hi Dino, where are you at the moment and what have you been up to?
I'm in Italy at the moment enjoying my new house. For the last six months I've been mainly working on my Strictly Rhythm project and I have also been writing a lot of new material that is more song based than usual, but I'm also feeding a lot my dog, my cats and my wife! But I only cook for my wife; the pets are happy enough with Tin food and biscuits.
Tell us how it all started. How did you get into music?
I was a promising student but I wasn't that attracted to studying so I started working for a local Radio station in Cassino. A year later I became a very bad student and a quite good DJ after finding the magic ingredient of life, 'Music'. Since then my school career went down the toilet.
How would you describe the sound you produce today, would you say it has differed a lot from when you started?
Loud adventurous dance music with a lot of Dino Lenny in it. There is only one common denominator in all my records, which is the fun element. That doesn't mean you are going to enjoy yourself listening to my records but only that I had fun making them. So I basically make records for myself. Then if someone happens to like it too it's a good day. I don't understand why producers are so insecure about their projects these days. "Maybe it does not respect my style, it's a little bit too big room, not sure about that label". Guys you are taking it too seriously you're just turning knobs. Prince is a genius, you are not. Just make them dance and bloody have fun! In six months time a new kid is going to kick your butt and same thing will happen to him. Be original, be yourself. Sorry about that but I think it's a good tip. Well I'm still here after 20 years so you can trust me.
How is the house scene in Italy at the moment?
We have some great producers around. It’s a shame that they do not collaborate with each other, but this is all about to change, hold tight. Because I'm on a mission, we are going to rule the world. Well Europe, or maybe the UK. I guess a couple of spins on Kiss FM will do then.
Is it true Madonna used your song Feels Like Home in a mash up with her song Like A Prayer on her Sticky & Sweet Tour? How did this come about?
Yes she used my vocal and the felix Riff from the mighty Meck ft Dino record. Meck aka Craig Dimech (love that guy) was in touch with M's management and they asked for the samples because they wanted to use it in the mashup. We both said "Yeah right as it's ever going to happen" until the day I was in desert hot Cassino and checked on Youtube her first concert of the tour that started with me doing a virtual duet with her singing Feels like Home. I called my parents told them the story. They still think I was on drugs.
You've spent your time between Italy and the UK, where is home for you and what do you miss about each one when you are not there.
I'm 50/50 really, was born in Lewisham and now live in Chelsea, my parents are Italian and from the age of 6 till 26 I lived in Italy. Too difficult to say what I like. It’s probably easier to start with what I don't like. I don't like Italian music. Well let's say I don't like the use of the Italian language over music in general apart from Opera, which I don't like overall but at least it makes sense. I hate the fact that most of the Italians think that nothing is going to change and that politicians are all the same. Well I'd like them to be a little more active "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem". Of course I love Italian food, but I love the choice of restaurants and the fusion of international cuisine that London has managed to create starting from a Steak pie. I love going to the cinema in Chelsea. I like showers and not baths and I do appreciate a nice bidet when needed. Now that is something the UK needs to work on soon (search for the word 'Bidet' on the net if you have never heard of it - and no it's not for washing socks).
Your release I Wanna Be Like Talking Heads, was a great success and stayed in the Beatport Top 100 for months, were you surprised at the success of the single? What gave you the idea to mash up Talking Heads with the Strictly classic Deep Inside by Hardrive?
I wasn't surprised about the success; I was surprised that I didn't win a Grammy! Well I always thought that most Djs are frustrated musicians; actually take out the musicians bit. Everybody that has an idea about "cool" knows that David Byrne is the man, so I mixed a Dj classic "Deep Inside" with Psycho killer singing my story over it.
All Djs want to be Rockstars, they crowd surf, they play on massive stages for thousands, sometimes they pretend they are mixing but they are not, sometimes they are so good they don't even make their own records; fucking genius! You are not a musician you are a magician. Of course I'm joking. Am I? But 90% of the Djs I know highly respect real music which includes of course also electronic music, and like me they know only two types of music; good music & bad music. That's because they are old school like me and they know the full story.
So is Dino Lenny having an identity crisis? Are you just a DJ deep down inside or do you really want to be like Talking Heads?
Talking Heads are heroes like a lot of bands that I love. Being a Dj gave me the chance to make a living by having fun everyday. But really, music is the answer.
Your new single is a remake of the Pet Shop Boys single West End Girls, what made you pick this classic track? What do you take into consideration before reworking and covering a track?
Well you see, when I started playing records, there was no House Music (gosh am I Dino from the Flintstones?) so every song was unique, of course there were styles, but tracks were so different from each other that mixing them together was actually quite hard. Most of the tracks were not produced with a sequencer so the challenge was to do a good mix without killing anybody on the dancefloor. But each time I played West End Girls something special happened. And it still does even with my own version. I'm so proud of it and this is why I make these kind of records, because they make me feel alive.
You have collaborated with a lot of big names in the industry such as Planet Funk, Sciccor Sisters, Timbaland, Benny Benassi and Tiesto & Mark Knight to name a few. Is there anyone you would like to work with in 2013?
Prince. I'm trying from every angle. When we licensed I feel Stereo to Deep Dish's Yoshitoshi label they forgot to replace the bootleg mix with the clean version without the Chaka Khan bit taken from I Feel For You that Prince wrote. So Prince heard that version in the US and decided to stop my PRS and registered the work claiming 50%. I never went through any legal procedures because I thought it was so cool to have on the credits "Written by Dino Lenny & Prince Rogers Nelson". Let's see if he pops out for a cover of Sign Of The Times I'm releasing this year; it's coming out soon.
You have played in clubs around the world; do you have any memorable moments you would like to share with us?
I lost most of my memories about the early clubbing days; they must have had some strong stuff going around those days. I hardly remember anything. But playing for Made in Italy in Ibiza at Amnesia and Space. Yes those were quite incredible nights, or at least that's what they keep on saying.
Where is your favorite club to DJ in and why?
Could be anywhere it really doesn't matter if the club is big or famous and how much they paid you or how important it is. I had great nights in Ibiza but also fantastic and incredible nights in Malta, Dublin or even Iceland; well that one was mad but unforgettable.
What songs did you spin the most in 2012?
Julio Bashmore 'Au Seve', Pirupa 'Party non Stop'
Tell us about your label, Frenetica. What do you look for in up and coming producers?
I am trying to push as much as possible Italian artists as Amnesia, Lino Di Meglio, Savino Martinez, Little Nancy, Emanuele Esposito, Marco Corvino and some fresh talent from Naples.
What else can we expect from you in 2013?
A lot of records and collaborations, a lot of love & more friends! Peace.