A lifelong artist, and on time stage magician, Anthony Pappa has remained fervently attuned to the enigmas of what makes the floor move, having built a solid career in the world of DJing, so not an altogether ill-fitting moniker for someone with a strong belief in sustaining and having a lengthy career in dance music and the name of Black Sabbath of Prog.
The pulse, sizzle and raw electric charge of Pappa’s self-designed dreams are on grand display with years and years of dropping DJ sets across the world that dove into expansive neo-cosmic dreamscapes, as well as focusing his energies on the bristling energy of early Techno/ Progressive House. After having waited several months for the right moment where the ever busy musical man sits down to talk about his work, his gear and the magic of both, my excitement is palpable. It’s a mega special interview when I catch one of the most prolific DJs of the dance music scene. Not only do I get to chat with someone I have admired for years, this is also a piece for the fresh new Decoded Magazine Australia come out, so hurrah!!
The spot shone on the man as soon as he burst in to the lime light with the highly revered Nu Breed series from Global Underground in 2000. On top of that he is the star who made tracks such as – “Outback”, “Blending With the Ether” and “Vamoosh” among many others that bear a stamp on club land.
It makes you want to ask this legendary figure from Australia as to, what made him take the long road and move to the UK back in the day and Anthony muses – “I started DJing at the early age of 13. By the time l was 21 l had played in all the prolific clubs in my hometown Melbourne and all over Australia and thereafter l moved to the UK to take my career to the next level and to have a go at making it as an international DJ”. As all the while he was starting out he got to hear DJ mixes of the time and concluded that putting together a handful of tracks to be cool, I take him even further back to ask what records he happened to be listening to of the time and he say’s – Growing up l listened to Funk, Hip Hop, Disco and House music when it first started. I discovered this music by listening to dance shows on the radio. I started buying records that l recognised from the radio show and started to build my collection”.
From a part time job on Saturday nights on to doing another on a Sunday evening he went on to learning Drums all the while saving money to buy turn tables which he got by the time he turned 13 years of age, it’s easy to understand that he truly fell in love with the art, and then to the road where he won DMC DJ championships and what followed afterward, it’s just necessary to ask him to describe those days in brief – “I entered the DMC Mix competition when l was 15. I was runner up in my first attempt then later went on to win it. It was a good thing as it got me my first club residency at The Metro Nightclub in Melbourne every Friday night to 5,000 people. I was 18 when this happened”. And then the thoughts of who might have influenced him during this phase and he is quick to reply – “Locally in Melbourne it was John Coarse and internationally it was Sasha”.
“I’ve always played music that l believe in and that l am into. By doing this it has created my style and sound which always worked well with the Renaissance, Global Underground and Balance Series”,
I turn to a defining moment in our lives when Anthony’s name started getting written with the lights because Global Underground released him with the Nu Breed series, would he consider it a defining moment in his career that firmly cemented him in the dance music halls forever and Pappa simply explains – “It had been building a few years prior to that with Renaissance in the UK. Being resident DJ at their night and also having a mix CD out on Renaissance then after that l did the Global Underground CD Nu Breed and then it all went to another level”. Even for that matter his music with Renaissance and then Balance, did he have a signature Anthony Pappa sound in mind while making them or a vibe that he wanted to showcase and he is no nonsense with his remark – “I’ve always played music that l believe in and that l am into. By doing this it has created my style and sound which always worked well with the Renaissance, Global Underground and Balance Series”, and when I inquire about whether he has all those records in a career that spans more than two decades he lights up with – “Yes l do. I have approximately 35,000 records in my collection”.
When I ask him about his move back to Australia, does he see any changes in the dance music scene vis a vis to when he lived there in his younger years, and if the rest of Europe musically has in any way affected or influenced the city he lives in now he patiently tells me – “Yes l have moved back to Australia now. I lived in the UK for 20 years and felt like it was time to come back to my native land. Music is such a global thing these days and DJ’s are travelling and playing all over the world which is why l do my thing and DJ in my style no matter where l play in the world”. I recall the days of his seminal hit anthem – Skydive to making music in the here and now, has the process of producing a track changed, given the fact that there are more machines and technology to help along the way and he is matter of fact – “No not really. You need to have a good idea when entering the studio. A vision of what your wants are to achieve and even though the technology has advanced and changed and is a lot easier and quicker to write music the idea still needs to be solid and that part will never change”.
Every producer/DJ worth their salt, seem to know how to play an instrument and it’s interesting to find out what the main man’s expertise lies in and he quips – “I can also play keyboards so between the drums and the keys that’s enough for me”. And when I goad him to give me his favourite piece of equipment he mutters – “Ableton Live”.
With loads of lineage and anthemic work in his productions, are vocals in tracks big for him and he replies – “Yes if they are the right kind of vocal in the style that l play”.
As with all musicians down time plays a huge role in cementing back strength, and spent out days means getting back to reality and getting that energy back to go on, which is to say does he have any other pursuits and he is quick to respond – “Music is my life and hobby other than that it’s all about quality family time”.
“I do like working and collaborating with other artists as much as l do with the solo projects. It’s the same approach for me no matter if it’s a remix or a single. It’s all about making the best tune possible that sounds great and will work on the dance floor”.
It’s hard to imagine that a massive name such as Anthony Pappa would lead himself to collaborate with other artists, when particular music strains that he has come to be known gives way to several collaborative efforts with other artists such as Quivver, Alex Di Stefano, King Unique to name some, I have to know if he enjoys the process of putting heads together and making something out of it and also to do remixes, I wondered aloud if relinquishing some musical responsibilities and trusting other producers, need a head space that’s different and then there’s the approach to an original which is markedly different from remix work and Anthony very surely say’s – “I do like working and collaborating with other artists as much as l do with the solo projects. It’s the same approach for me no matter if it’s a remix or a single. It’s all about making the best tune possible that sounds great and will work on the dance floor”.
Scratch the surface of a travelling DJ playing at some of the best venues of the world and surely here he must have a favourite club where the vibe, crowd reception and sound/lights just complete the entire outing and Pappa doesn’t waste time to matter of flatly mention Argentina no matter which club and goes on to add – “Rather than say favourite venue but my favourite place in the world to DJ is that country. The crowd are amazing to play to and they are very receptive to quality underground music, its DJ heaven for me as l am sure it is for many other performers too.
“Believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, try to have your own sound and style and work hard and never give up on your dreams and aspirations”.
The enigmatic DJ also has this to share when I want to know whether with years of experience behind him if the dance music scene is at a good place right now and his thoughts on the world going digital, and also if he in any way feels that the art of DJing has perhaps gotten too mechanised and robotic in terms of going to a club and playing music – “Yes l think dance music is in a very good place. For a while it was all a bit up in the air with things going digital but l think now people/DJ’s have embraced the new technology and things have settled down with DJ’s choosing their preferred format to DJ as there are so many options now but the art of DJing isn’t about how good the equipment and technology is, it’s still got to have that human touch which will always be the true art of DJing which is programming an outing, knowing how to build your set and take the music through a journey and also play the right track at the right moment by reading the crowd and atmosphere in the room, something that computers will never do.
And how does he after so many years in the business feel about the down sides to all the hectic travelling, gigs in different cities and different beds, has it in any way diminished the excitement, ever felt man I need a break, or is he the kinds who can go away, shut down for a few days and then get back in again and he shuffles about with – “the travel part and touring for a DJ as glamorous as it all appears is in my opinion probably the hardest part of being a DJ. It’s a sacrifice that DJ’s make being away from their home and family. You get used to it but that does not mean that it gets any easier. Depending on your schedule it can all get a bit much and you will sometimes feel like l need a break and if that’s the case my advice is to choose you dates wisely and don’t burn yourself out “and when I get to the part where he has ever gotten stage fright, the answer is an emphatic – “no”.
Time to get the piece to its close and here’s what fans and followers of Pappa will be acutely waiting on to hear what he is working on at the moment and it’s good news for all you peeps – “I’m currently working on new material with a good friend of mine Gab Oliver from (Narcotik), also working on a new single with Quivver and an older track of mine Freefall Feat. Jan Johnston – “Skydive” is being re-released with new remixes”. Plus New Zealanders rejoice because Anthony Pappa closes the year out at – AUM Festival in Auckland.
Lastly when I coax him to give an impactful piece of advice for aspiring DJs starting out, here’s what the man truly extolls one should do – “Believe in yourself, stay true to yourself, try to have your own sound and style and work hard and never give up on your dreams and aspirations”.
You can find Anthony Pappa, along with Charlotte De Witte, Oliver Huntemann, Manuel De La Mare and more at Circus Paradise Festival. Thank you to our friends at Kiss FM for their support and for the use of the Anthony Pappa mix