Italo and Funk! A long-standing relationship that stems from American R&B artists appealing to Italian audiences in the 60’s. At that time, the Italian music market was still globally influential, and you could find an artist like Wilson Pickett singing in Italian at the Sanremo Festival in 1968 (with a quite puzzling accent!). The song he performed, Un’Avventura, was written by Lucio Battisti. Battisti was the biggest Italian pop star of all time, a lover of all Black-American music, a talent who has recently been re-discovered by global diggers alike for his psychedelic, Latin, funky output in the late 70’s. But at the time, the market was ready for that real funk: in 1971 James Brown performed Sex Machine live on national TV. Then in 1973, Umbria Jazz festival opened for business bringing the likes of Weather Report and Horace Silver to the more intellectually inclined listener. Whilst at the same time, the mainstream crowd embraced the orchestral funk of masters like Piero Umiliani, Piero Piccioni and Armando Trovajoli and their soundtracks of the ‘Poliziotteschi’ B-Movies.
With the 70’s giving us the Mediterranean soul-funk of Napoli Centrale, directly influenced by the dwellers of nearby NATO American military bases, the picture was complete: it was time for the Disco revolution! From Moroder to Mauro Boncaldi the list of Italian pioneers that molded dance music into a new hybrid of electronic bass-lines and over the top melodies is seemingly endless. The enormous international success of Italo Disco created a market of independent labels and distributors that served as the foundation for the next mutation of funky dance music: House. Italo Disco influenced the birth of House in America, and later, House came back to Italy to give a new generation of producers the kick in the ass they needed to shape their own new sound.
And here we are today with this bunch of friends, mostly born out of the underground scene of the 90’s. DJs and producers who don’t fit into any conventional music scene, but who's sound was formed by listening to avant-garde shades of Italo house, or by traveling abroad, in search of more daring sides of electronic boogie.
When I first met Christian from BOOT & TAX in the mid-90’s he was a devoted fan of the funkiest U.S. house music, he would later go on to discover some of the craziest and most psychedelic sides of machine produced music. ROCCA is also part of this mid-90’s group of visionaries; we would travel the A1 every week, I would go down to the legendary Maffia club in Reggio Emilia, where he was head booker and resident DJ, and he would come up to Tunnel in Milan, where I was pushing all sorts of modern and alternative dance music. Age-wise, LOWHEADS could be Rocca’s kids... and also coming from Reggio Emilia….well, you never know! They are at the forefront of the new Italian deep house scene.
Only a few miles away, we enter the city of Bologna, Italy’s long-time capital, a city rife with students and with that, young, boundless creative energy. If you stop a random dance music fan on the street and ask him to solve the equation Bologna + House Music equals what?.. the answer will be: Pastaboys. The rulers of soul, funk and latin intoxicated house in the 90’s are here represented by MEMORYMAN (aka UOVO) and Rame in the ‘live musicians meets DJ culture’ project CAPOFORTUNA. The ‘live’ side of Capofortuna are FUNK RIMINI, named for their love of the genre and their hometown, they also deliver a track for the comp. From the end of the 70’s up until the early 00’s the Adriatic summer clubbing season was invaluably influential in bringing the electronic underground dance sound to the masses, so it’s not a surprise to find another artist on this compilation coming from that area: DEEP88, a true analog house master.
Now It’s time to catch a motorway: which one? Any! As you all know, all the streets lead to Rome! So it’s time to meet the sample-heavy sounds of TIGER & WOODS a studio recording and live project founded by cats that were laying down the best underground tunes just seconds after the rave craze hit the capital city in the early 90’s. True music lovers and respected diggers, the T&W sound is rooted in crazy samples, mostly coming from the heritage of Italo disco, or on this comp, 80’s Chicago. I first met southern wonder kid JOLLY MARE in NYC a few years ago, he was attending RBMA and playing for the first time there opening up for his childhood heroes Masters At Work. I believe he was the most excited man on earth but you couldn’t tell because Jolly is cool on every occasion. It’s that coolness and a love for freeform lunacy that makes him a perfect inheritor of the 70’s Italian soundtrack masters, most evident through his playful percussion and sampling.
Ah, last but not least, myself: I had the luck and honor of spending hours with most of these gents over nearly 25 years behind all sorts of mixers trying to push what I always felt was quality, mind-bendingly danceable, AND un-danceable music. Here you can listen to my tribute to soulful stepping American funk, a sound that I love in all shapes and forms. Quite strangely, I already gave the title "Proud To Present" to the track long before my great friend, and music comrade, ELI from SOUL CLAP asked me to contribute a song for this record, and eventually to write these liner notes. So, many, many thanks Eli for releasing this compilation and bringing light to some of today’s most notable Italian funk purveyors, I am really proud to present it!