Today we sit down with the rising talent Tommaso Pizzelli to talk about his life, influences and passions. The young Italian has recently moved to Amsterdam, and we were interested to hear what his experiences are compared to his hometown Milano. Also, we will be diving into his production process, growth and work-flow to dissect his track Scissors on the newly released VA Amplify.
Welcome Tommaso, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us! We are extremely curious about who you are, so let’s start with that?
Hey it’s my pleasure to be here. I am Tommaso Pizzelli, 23 years old and I am a producer/DJ from Milan, Italy. I moved to Amsterdam as soon as I could, because the music scene and open-mindedness is something I never experienced somewhere else. I always knew that I didn’t want to stay in Italy forever and Amsterdam appealed to me when I was around 18 years old. It took a while to learn how the country and administration works to be able to live in the Netherlands, as it is different than living in Italy. However, I am an active person, that likes to challenge myself and be interested in many things. I try to learn a little bit of everything. Nothing perfectly, but a bit of everything is what I like.
When did you move to Amsterdam? Why was this as soon as you could?
I moved here in 2017, because I still needed to make some connections first to be able to live comfortably. The city always spoke to me, and I was looking for something different back then. The musical side of the city, however, I only truly discovered once I was living here. The city is so colorful and creative, that it makes me smile. Milano may seem like an international city but in general, I find that with art and culture, it is not moving anywhere and a bit closed-minded compared to the Netherlands. I felt like I had to watch out who I was talking to in a certain way in Milano, being afraid of prejudice and that did not help my career as a producer and DJ.
I can understand that the nightlife culture in Milan is probably also highly influenced by fashion, which is known for this sort of “prejudice” you are talking about. Did you live in Milano all your life before the move to the Dam?
I was born in Milano, but when I was 5 months old, my parents had decided to move to Brazil. So, for the first 5 years of my life I was living in Brazil actually. I was speaking Portuguese and my parents were starting to get concerned about my education. At the time, compared to Italy, Brazil had a fairly low education standard and my parents wanted a better future for me and moved back to Italy. In 2019 my girlfriend helped me to finally decide to also start the SAE course and I learned a lot from my time there.
When did the music really start for you? During SAE? Or already in Milano?
I was DJing in Milano already and I was involved with music already at a young age through my parents always surrounding themselves with music in the house. Electronic music, I discovered around 14-15. I had a friend who showed me some Tech-House and House music in general and sparked an interest right away. A few weeks later he asked me to come backstage at Amnesia Milano where Carl-Cox was playing 3 Hours. I was immediately convinced when I saw him play and the crowd. I wanted to do this too, and got my first controller and decks to learn how to do it. Something went Click in my head that night, and I never looked back. It was hard to find the right contacts and I was able to play a few gigs in Milano, but then struggled to find my place in the city. With the production side I want to now make my own sound that I can play in clubs, so I am looking at it from a different perspective then I did 3-4 years ago with DJing. Before SAE, I tried to look at how FL studios works, but gave it up very quickly. The real things like mixdown, mastering and Ableton techniques I learnt during the 4 months course. That time at SAE was really interesting for me to finally learn how to translate my ideas into music and projects.
Wow, I did not expect to hear you say you’ve only been producing one and a half years, your sound is already well received and very refined. How are you developing your sound? And how did this process go? And how did you come to the sound you are having now?
At first it was not easy, doing the courses at SAE and not knowing the DAW 100%. I had a lot of ideas in my head, and slowly but gradually I progressed in the courses to find new possibilities. I really tried to make everything in the beginning just to see where the sound can go. When it comes to specific characteristics of my sound, I think for me it is really about the groove. An element that even without a kick, can make you go on and on. I try to find that element in every track I make. To achieve this, in my opinion, I make really specific, standout basslines to carry the arrangement and make it flow and move the way I would like it to move. I also love dub chords that provides a spaced-out vibe to the track and kind of wraps around you like a comfortable blanket. Programming drums in a specific way that I can combine 2-step funky vibes with my deeper, dubby, minimal arrangement and glue them together.
I can definitely hear those influences back in your tracks. However, I’m actually more referring to how your musical interest has developed over time and how you came to the sounds that you produce? Maybe what is interesting to me is to first define the sound that you make?
How would I describe it? Yeah, Minimal/Deep Tech, I would say. I find it is usually quite dubby, pretty dance floor oriented Minimal/Deep Tech. How I got into this genre? Yeah, let’s say that at first, when I first started going to parties and clubbing, maybe it was a bit more Techy. Tech House. However, I always liked the house vibes in the tracks so I started looking for more underground parties that represented this minimal sound. The subtleties within the music surprised me and I wanted to make music like that.
Do other genres, besides House, inspire you? Do you listen to other music when you are not producing?
I grew up buying a lot of old-school Hip Hop and it was always in my life, but also RnB, Funk and some UKG are part of my bigger collection of music for sure. I like to do different things and I believe it’s important to train your ear with different music and genres. To understand how bongos sound natural, you need to listen to live recordings and tracks that use the drum, to understand what sounds good and fitting for the production.
The crunchy, atmospheric pad chords and energetic drum programming of your tracks are definitely stemming from RnB and Garage. How do you think that these influences contribute to the music that you make?
Yes, lately I am downloading a lot of old school samples from jazz, jungle, break-beat and those kinds of genres to get a certain crunch like you mentioned. Even from YouTube, I sometimes download the samples, because for me it doesn’t always have to be high-end sound to become an element in my arrangement. I sometimes like to keep it raw.
You’ve briefly touched up on your productions, but let’s dive deeper into your workflow. So, whenever you sit down to make a track, how does your workflow or creative process look like? How does this go for you?
I always have a basic vibe or idea in my head, which usually comes from a rhythm that is in my mind. Sometimes, I also hear a melody in another song and try to recreate it and tweak it a bit to my liking. I start with a loop of drums and some melody and try to fit in the bassline afterwards. The first loop needs to feel solid and good to my ears in order for me to continue and arrange it. Sometimes I use a sequencer to shuffle things up a bit and find new ideas in the process, but the foundation is really the drums for me and they need to sound interesting enough to continue.
You mentioned you use Ableton earlier, do you draw out everything yourself in the box or do you also use hardware? Did you play any instruments before starting with Ableton?
I played a bit of electric guitar, bass and keyboard, but never professionally. I was curious to learn a bit of everything, but never took lessons later in life.
Most of it what I make is by hand indeed, except when I use the sequencer then it draws it for me, but I only have a Native Instruments Machine and a small midi keyboard that I rarely use. I also don’t use external plugins and VST’s so I do everything in Ableton with their factory filters. The MK-16 sequencer, resonance, and filters I use mostly.
You are building a solid foundation of sound, with basic tools, which I find extremely interesting and smart. It’s like learning to DJ on an old mixer, that when you work with a high-end mixer, you will be so much better.
Thank you yeah, I like that approach a lot.
Next to your DAW’s functionalities you mentioned samples earlier as well. Do you use a lot of sample packs?
I like to creatively work with samples, yes. However, I find that often it starts sounding like a lot of music that is already out there and I miss the personal touch. I often find myself scrolling through preset sounds that do or don’t fit to an idea in my head. It really depends on the scenario or vibe I want to achieve. I am trying to incorporate more and more fine selected samples to build a solid library of sound, because I think it helps me progress creatively.
When talking about progression and learning, SAE was the kick-start of your knowledge. How do you develop further these days?
The mixing side of tracks I learned the basics at SAE. After that, DeMarzo’s group EMC has helped me greatly to receive solid feedback from producers I really look up to. Sending tracks to Toman, DeMarzo and also Aron Volta helped me understand areas of my production where I was previously not aware of. I learned how to visualize my elements like an orchestra. To give my elements space, there is a front, middle and back of my arrangement. You wouldn’t want a loud tuba in the front row of your orchestra for example.
I see, so when breaking the initial loop apart and arranging it into a longer track, you go from block to block and change it? Do you take the DJ-mixability into account? Do you take into consideration whether this is a track that works great in DJ sets?
Yeah, I try to think about it in the intro and outro, but the arranging really starts from the first drop. Block by block I change and arrange until I am happy with the way it sounds and progresses.
It’s interesting to get to know your process and this topic flows over nicely to our last topic, which is your track Scissors on our newly released Various Artist EP AMPLIFY. It’s an interesting track, because it just unexpectedly drops into break-beat which made our whole team get up from their seats and scream. Was this the kind of reaction you were looking for?
Hahaha, thank you yes this was my first project where I started to get into more experimental sounds and play around with the arrangement to make it feel like it’s never dropping while still dropping hard. I imagined myself being on the dance floor and how it will surprise me yet create euphoria because of the unexpected.
It really got us going here at UNMUTE and this brings us conveniently to our last question. Which ideal situation or venue do you see your track being played?
Hmm I don’t know, maybe like a dark club I could see this track working wonderfully, I don’t know where specifically but like a place where the only thing you can smell is the sweat of the people. I strangely miss that a lot.
I can see that too. Thank you so much for taking the time to give us an interesting insight into who you are and how you make music.
Scissors (Original Mix) is one of the tracks on AMPLIFY out now on all stores.
Sign up for our newsletters and receive exclusive offers and news